Hardwiring Your Child’s Heart

There has been a parenting movement in our nation over the past few decades that encourages parents to let their children find their own way.  This philosophy urges parents to provide a safe environment for children but not to be overly pushy.   Don’t try to impose your beliefs on your children, just allow them to find their own way.   As a Christian parent the bible teaches me that this new philosophy of parenting is, as my dad would say, “HOGWASH!”  As a parent it is vital to attempt to build values and convictions into your children so that they will become all that God desires them to become.   Much of the book of Proverbs was written as a father to a son.   Over and over again in the book the author reminds the reader to “listen,” “remember,” and “bind my teachings around your neck.”   The truths in Proverbs are truths that the author knew his son must absorb into his mind and heart. photography-wallpapers-love-heart-love-fire-allneed-pics

As a parent there are certain truths that I must do everything in my power to ingrain within the minds and hearts of my little ones.  To fail in this area of parenting could have eternal consequences for my child.  I want my children to know truths because they have heard them so often that they become second nature.  I want God’s truths to be hardwired into their hearts.

If you have multiple children you know that each one of your children is wired very differently.  It is a process getting to know how each child learns and the specific needs and gifts of each child.  My oldest son, Ty, is 6 years old.  Each day I take him to school and have a few vital moments to speak truth into his life.  On our drive, or when I eat breakfast with him at school, these are the things I try to tell him every day.

I tell him that Jesus and his parents love him dearly.   I want Ty to know that whatever happens, whatever he does, not matter how bad he blows it, he has a father who will always love him.   I love him because he is my son.   My love for him is not conditional.  I am clear to him everyday that I love him not based on his performance.  I love him simply because he is my son.   We are all more suited for life when we know we are unconditionally loved.

I tell him God has a plan for his life.  I want it to be ingrained in his head that he is not an accident.  He is not a result of a random chance.  He is a special creation of God.  He was put here by God to accomplish a great purpose for the kingdom of God.  I want him to learn that he has gifts and abilities that are given to him for the purpose of God’s glory.

I tell him that even if things don’t go well at school and people don’t treat him with kindness that he fits at home. School is tough.  Kids make fun of you.   Kids are cruel and mean.   We cannot shield our children from these truths.   I believe home must be a safe haven where every child fits and every child is accepted.

I tell him to think of others as more important than himself.  The foundational principle of the Christian life is humility.  The highest value I can teach him is humility.  Each day Ty quotes Philippians 2:3 to me in order to remind himself and his dad to “think of others as more important than yourself.”

I ask him: What is the most important thing in life?   The question is the same and the answer is the same.   His answer, “To love God.”  To which I say, “Correct, son.”  Teaching him to draw is awesome.  Listening to him read is so cool.   Throwing the football with him is epic, but teaching him that loving God is the most important thing is absolutely critical.

I am working on different ways to communicate the same truths to my little girls.   Karis is my diva who really struggles with having a bad attitude.  Each day I get her to repeat after me: “My attitude determines my joy.   I will choose today to have a good attitude.”   For a four year old this is probably not sinking in.  But I know that if I am diligent now when she is young, when she is grow that statement may just make up the DNA of her life.

I am still working on how I need to speak to Katie and Joy.   I am seeking to know my children better every day.

What do you tell your children everyday?  What do you desire to build into their DNA?

The Magic Key to Raising Children Who Will Not Abandon the Faith

Deuteronomy 6:And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them 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. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. 

I am getting old.   I have been in vocational ministry for 13 years now and have four children of my own.  Man…life comes at you fast.  As I have gotten older I have had the opportunity to see more long-term results of the lives of the people I have had the chance to minister to.   About 10 of the 13 years I have spent in ministry have been in youth ministry.  I worked with students ages 11-19.   Now that I can look back and see the lives of these young people as adults I can see which ones are following Christ and which ones have unfortunately fallen by the wayside.   As I have looked at the lives of these young adults there has been one very BIG yet almost obvious conclusion I have come to.

The adults who are faithfully following Jesus had parents that modeled the Gospel at home!  

Wow! There it is!  This fact was a big part of the reason that I felt like it was time to leave youth ministry and become a pastor.   I did not leave youth ministry because I loved youth any less, had my fill of pizza, or because I could not grow facial hair. I left because I felt like if I loved them then I could better affect change in their lives by investing in their parents.   If I could get a platform in the church to help parents grasp the great big foundational Biblical truth that it is their job, calling, and mission to disciple their children then perhaps they could raise spiritual giants.  The Bible is so clear that parents are to pass on their faith heritage to their children.

Train up a child in the way he should go; when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6

WHAT I LEARNED IN YOUTH MINISTRY

Yes, there were kids who came from awful homes that are still loving and serving Jesus and yes there were those kids that seemed to have awesome Christian homes and yet have grown up to walk away from Jesus.   However, there is very clear principle that CANNOT BE MISSED: 

Christian parents who live their faith will produce Christian children who follow their example.

As a youth pastor I cannot tell you the hours I invested in “fringe kids.” You know, those young guys that had no real father figure to look up to.  I would spend time with them, hang out with them, and try to teach them what it meant to be a Christian.   To my heartbreak most (not all) of those kids, when they left the student ministry would fall right back into the same ditch they had been pulled out of. Then there were the others…

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4 OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE ONES WHO ARE STILL IN THE CHURCH

1) THEY WERE ALWAYS IN CHURCH – You know the kids.  Their parents had them at church every time the doors were open.   These kids were sunshine singers in the children’s choir; they were at VBS, AWANA, or RA’s and GA’s. They were at every lock in, every youth camp and every mission trip.   Their life and the life of their family revolved around church.   I have a news flash! THE CHURCH KIDS ARE STILL IN THE CHURCH.  In fact I am so encouraged to see some of the awesome young spiritual champions they are becoming.   Many of them are in Bible College or are serving the church in ministry in someway.  One of them (Josh Ellis) now serves as the youth pastor for the church that I pastor (this is super cool by the way). For these kids church was never an option.

These kids did not always like it but their parents thought their spiritual formation was more important than their child’s feelings at the time.  My parents were good examples of this.   Church in our home was never optional.  It was who we were.   I have heard many people make statements like this, “I don’t want to make little Johnny go to church because he says he doesn’t like it.”   This is ludicrous!   You make Johnny go to school when he doesn’t like it.  You make Johnny eat his vegetables when he doesn’t like it.  You make Johnny brush his teeth when he doesn’t want to and you make him go to bed when he is not ready.   If you do not do these things then it is obvious you are not a good parent.   HOW MUCH MORE IMPORTANT IS IT THAT YOU MAKE JOHNNY LEARN ABOUT JESUS AND ETERNITY!   Stop your stinking thinking!  When Johnny is under your roof you better make sure he knows that being part of the church is not an option.

2)THEIR PARENTS LIVED THEIR FAITH – It was not a Sunday only deal.  The Children who are living for Christ had parents that were active in ministry.  The parents were usually active in the youth ministry.  These parents were the kind of parents that were Sunday school teachers, deacons, greeters, and 1000 other things.  They showed up for church and they always brought their children with them

3) THEIR PARENTS SHARED THEIR FAITH – If there is one single indicator of children growing up to love and serve Jesus it may be that they have parents who are personal evangelists.   Parents who share their faith will have kids who believe their faith, almost without exception.

4) DAD LOVED JESUS – I do not write this to discourage single mothers who are doing their best but to encourage dads to be what they need to be.   There is a clear correlation in my experience with children more readily following Christ when the Father of the home led the way.

If you have small children or teenagers how are you doing in these three areas?  I would encourage you to step up your game.  There is nothing more important then your child’s spiritual formation.

My Crown

Proverbs 12:4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.

The Bible says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”

It is easy to complain about our spouse’s.  We all have issues we are working on but if we will take a moment to see all that they are instead of all that they aren’t we will be overwhelmingly thankful.  I have found the proverb to be more than true that I listed above.  I took the time to write down why my wife is such a GOOD THING.   Here are a few things this amazing woman does.

My wife gives her life for others.

My wife has given up much of her body for our children.

My wife gives hugs and kisses in abundance everyday.

My wife gives listening ears to so many women who are struggling with marriage, children and business.

My wife is a teacher that takes time each night to help our son with his homework.

My wife hosts tea parties for our twin girls.

My wife is a chef who is in charge of feeding children all day long.

My wife is the operator of the complaints department at the Hermann House.

My wife is picks up clothes, dolls, ninja turtles, books and 1000 other things 15 times a day.

My wife wipes everything…countertops, noses, furniture and hinnies’.

My wife gives wise counsel.

My wife listens to me when I need to complain or vent.

My wife pays the bills on time.

My wife has her own business and significantly helps fund our family.

My wife gives money sacrificially to more people and causes than just about anyone I know.

My wife is now a physical therapist for our little girl Joy with Down syndrome.

My wife sings with the sincere voice of a precious angel.

My wife cries when other people hurt.

My wife washes clothes…all day everyday…or at least it seems that way.

My wife is the chief advocate for our children.

My wife loves me…even when she doesn’t feel like it.

My wife is beautiful inside and out.

My wife is a jewelry wearing diva.

My wife is the most loyal woman I know.

This list could go on forever but I think you get the idea. IMG_2244

My wife is an amazing woman!  I am so thankful for the gift I have been given in Charyl.

Glimmers of Hope in a Dark World

We are inspired when people take difficult situations and make the best of them, those who take their proverbial lemons of life and make lemonade.

I have been inspired this week by a few stories that I have been keeping up with through social media.   They have not been stories of athletic accomplishment, famous raunchiness, or beautiful bodies.

Stories that have inspired me are those stories that have reminded me of the goodness of God in the presence of people in this wicked world.  They have been heart stories.

With the diagnosis of my youngest Daughter’s Down Syndrome God has given me a new sense of compassion for those with special needs (or special abilities as I like to call them).   The more I have thought about it the more I realize that we all have special needs, we all have flaws, and limitations and it is precisely those limitations that often gives us a platform for the Kingdom of God.

To watch the links below will take about 20 well used minutes of your life.

The first story that grabbed my attention was the beautiful ugly woman.  This woman was born with a disability that prevents her from gaining weight and at first glance she is not pleasant to look at.   If you look deeper, if you take the time to hear her message it is one that reminds us that the value of a person is not on the outside but on the inside.  Check out her story here: http://www.superstarmagazine.com/labelled-the-worlds-ugliest-woman-lizzie-talks-about-beauty-happiness/

The second story that inspired me is one that touches very close to home.  It is about a family who un-expectantly had a child with Down syndrome.   They talk about how over time what was first very hard to accept has become one of life’s greatest blessings to which they do not feel worthy.  Isn’t that the way God is?  He gives beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for morning, and peace for despair.   If we will just allow Him to walk us through the storm He will work all things for good.  Check out the Page family’s story here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgolwex1zxo

The third story is another reminder that every life is valuable.  A Pastor in Seoul, South Korea has a burden for abandoned children that are left to die so he takes it upon himself to do something about it.   Watch his story here: http://vimeo.com/41412962

These three stories reminded me that God is still deeply at work in this world.  People are making a difference by taking their situation and finding ways to honor God in it.

What difference can you make where you are with the gifts you have been given?  Extraordinary people are those who take what they have been given and give it back to the Lord in service and ministry.   Go be a blessing to someone today.

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I love this quote, “The only real disability in life is a bad attitude.”

A Dad’s Proverbs 7 to His Girls

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Proverbs is one of my favorite books of the Bible.  It gives so much wisdom on how to live the day-to-day life.   Proverbs gives particular insight to young men and how to watch out for sexual temptation (Chapters 5 and 7) that could derail their lives and ultimately kill them.

I wish there was a chapter in the Bible like that for girls.   I have 3 girls that I want to be pure young ladies.   I want them to know what to watch out for.  I am writing this as an open letter for my girls to read and if you would like you can read it as well.  I am in no way comparing what I write to scripture.  These are just a few of my thoughts that I want my girls to consider as they grow up.

WATCH OUT FOR BOYS!  A COUPLE OF DON’TS!

Yong men have a deep sexual desire, especially in their teens, that they have not yet learned to control.  Because of this you must be wise and discerning.  Here are a few things you should not do.

Don’t sit on their laps.

Don’t kiss them.

Don’t give them full frontal hugs.

Don’t be alone with them.

Don’t share a blanket with them.  A lot can happen under a blanket.

Don’t start something you do not intend to finish.

Don’t start ‘dating’ until you are in a season of life where you are ready for marriage.  This is NOT 16 for most girls.   Do not awaken love until its time.

Don’t listen to them.  They will say whatever they have to in order to get you to make them feel sexual pleasure.   Their words, although they make you feel good, are shallow.  They have not had time to develop character that you will desire in a husband.   The man you want to marry will be a man who will seek first to honor God and then you and only after marriage will he one day be intimate with you.

YOU ARE SO VALUABLE!

God says you are valuable and I say you are valuable!  It is hard for a young man to see past your exterior.  Your body is one of the greatest gifts you will ever give.   The times we live in have cheapened sex to be as random as a hug or handshake but God never meant it to be so.   God meant it to be a mingling of two souls.   He wired your body and soul together.  You will have a deep emotional attachment to whomever you share your body with.   Save your body for your spouse.   Wait until marriage to have sex.  This will strengthen your marriage in years to come in a way that you cannot imagine at the present time.

BE CAREFUL

Be careful of the Internet.  Facebook, snapchat, twitter, and the 1000 other things that will be invented before you read this could be your undoing.  Don’t take a picture of yourself and put it online unless your dad has approved it.  Never take a picture of yourself and send it to a boy.   You never know where it may resurface.   I will help you with this.  Pictures and comments will be online for eternity and they could harm your future.

YOUR DRESS

The way you dress is a reflection of your heart.   If you dress provocatively it is a clear picture that you need attention and you will do whatever you have to in order to get attention.  Do not worry about how the other girls dress.   If you are a Godly woman with character then the right man WILL notice you at the right time.   Modesty does not hide a beautiful woman — it reveals her.  Your mother is a gorgeous modest woman and she can help you find modest fashion.  If you are ever in doubt about whether you should or should not wear something, ask me.   I will give you an honest answer.

A BIG CHOICE

Choosing a spouse is the second most important decision you will make in your life after choosing your God.   If you believe your mother and I love you then allow us to have a very strong voice in helping you choose who you will date and marry.  No one loves you like your mother and I and we may be able to see things in your potential suitors that you may be blind to because of infatuation.

LOOK DEEP

We are all somewhat superficial.  Please look at a man’s character more than his appearance.  As a young person I am sure you desire a man who will be attractive to you.  I can promise you that if you marry a man who loves Jesus with all his heart, over time, he will become your “Prince Charming.”   Proverbs 31 says of a woman that, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”   The same can be said of a man.  Look for a man who fears the Lord.

GRACE COVERS ALL SINS

Remember that Daddy and Mommy are praying for you.  No matter what decision you make in regard to your future husband please know that I am praying for you and for him.  I am praying God will give you wisdom and discernment that one day, if the Lord wills, you will find a man who loves you as much as I do…that might be impossible.