Teenagers & Parenting

It is about time for me (Adrian) to open an IRA account, or maybe I should have already taken care of that. To some people my age it may seem too premature to think about what will happen when they retire; but if they don’t begin thinking about it now, it will at some point be too late. In Sunday’s message I referred to raising Godly loving teens in comparison to an IRA account; you see little growth day in and day out, but over time what you put in adds up, and when it has had time to reach maturity, what you invested made a huge difference. Raising teenagers means you will you see occasional growth, at other times there will be setbacks, but over time the investment you’ve made in your teenager (or any aged kid) makes a tremendous difference in their life.

Raising God-loving teens may often seem like a daunting task, but as the parent you are the primary influencer. Here are 5 simple ways you can disciple your kid of any age.

  • Model it. The walk with Christ you want for your kids will be heavily influenced by the life you live.
  • Teach it. Not only should you model the life you want, but take & use everyday moments to teach your kid what it means to walk with Christ.
  • Facilitate it. Be proactive about your kid’s walk with Jesus. Look for ways to create conversations about their spiritual life. Perhaps that means reading and discussing the same scripture, devotional, or Christian book together. This will also mean helping to guide and influence decision-making.
  • Simplify it. Don’t think you must create a worship service everyday. Jesus used simple methods from everyday life to impact and lead His disciples. Be intentional, but not overly organized.
  • Delegate it. Your kids need more than just you. Though you are the primary influencer, one of the roles of the church is to come alongside families in raising their kids. Kids need multiple people teaching them on multiple levels (sports, academics, music, etc.) and walking with Christ is no different. They need trusted people pouring into their life.

Though I did not mention it the above 5; the best and most important act you can do for your kid or teenager is pray for them. Go to God daily on behalf of your child and plead with Him to make them into the Godly person He wants them to be.

Here is a link to Sunday’s sermon from the website in case you missed it. http://graceforall.org/grace-sermons/

My prayer is that God will use parents to raise up a generation of God-loving, Christ-exalting teenagers.

10 Commandments of Technology

1) Thou shalt have a technology fast – choose a day or time of day to be together without technology; I promise you won’t fall behind what’s trending.

Idea: Set time of day restrictions on devices – kitchen counter, not in bedroom

 

2) Thou shalt have boundaries on where devices may be used:

Ideas: No phones in bedrooms; no devices at the dinner table; no phones at the restaurant; regulate use of devices on vacations

 

3) Thou shalt teach kids to use technology wisely:

Idea: Remind them that digital reputations last a lifetime; it’s impossible to express yourself in 140 characters or less

 

4) Thou shalt hold kids accountable, but with grace.

 

5) Thou shalt not replace conversation with connectivity – emotional connection is lost with text

Ideas: No devices over conversation; avoid using technology in place of convo or community; no texting or talking on phone over important personal issues; no texting when you’re all together at home or in the same room; don’t allow technology to babysit your kids

 

6) Thou shalt watch out for media isolation – it’s easy to become isolated from human interaction while being connected to everyone online

 

7) Thou shalt not discourage technology

Ideas: Kids will need skills for the future, so actively engage them in the use of technology

 

8) Thou shalt provide a safe environment for media consumption

Ideas: Set age restrictions for social media; set limits on TV or computer games (3 days a week; movie ratings, etc.); place filters on technology

 

9) Thou shalt teach and show your children that self-worth is not calculated by number of likes, shares or retweets.

 

10) Thou shalt model the behavior you want from your kids

 

 

*Much of this material was taken from Family Life Today & Focus on the Family.

Christ The Lord, an Unexpected Hero

10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

The very fact that Jesus was born in Bethlehem is telling of how God decided to reveal the Savior. Micah 5:2 tells us about Bethlehem: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

Like today, people in the 1st century weren’t expecting a hero to come from no name parents, born in a no name town. Heroes are supposed to be strong, charismatic, and visibly powerful. One of my favorite characters in all movies is Batman. Batman is a billionaire by day, and come nighttime he turns into a powerful caped hero who saves the city of Gotham by his mere strength, technology, and shear power. When the city of Gotham is in trouble they expect Batman to rise to the occasion and save them.

First century Israel was looking for someone to sweep in and take over the Roman Empire, and establish an earthly kingdom. They were expecting you could say, a hero like Batman. One who could come to destroy their enemies. What they didn’t know is that the child born in Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger did come to destroy their enemy, just not the Romans. The enemy this child came to defeat was humanity’s greatest enemy, sin and death. Jesus was born in an unexpected town to unexpected parents for a seemingly unexpected mission. Like first century Israel, people in the 21st century seem to expect their savior to be something other than a baby born in a lowly manger.

That baby who is Christ the Lord is the only true hero of the universe. The only place we can look for hope in our hopelessness, Christ The Lord… When our battles seem unbeatable, we trust Christ The Lord… When loneliness sets in, we know we have a friend in Christ The Lord… The fears in life often cause anxiety, but there is peace in Christ The Lord… Pain and suffering is a present reality, but those will one day forever be no more in Christ The Lord!

On this Christmas day, celebrate the unexpected King, Christ The Lord!

Merry Christmas

He Shall Reign Forevermore

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. -Isaiah 9:6-7

We typically do not think of babies are reigning. Crying maybe; unable to take care of themselves; cute and cuddly, but by no means in charge of anything. What then makes the baby in Isaiah 9 any different? What baby could handle the responsibility of ruling any government on the face of the earth? A typical child can only cry and let their parents know they need something… But not this baby. Although this child was born on this earth with needs as most children have, he was ultimately born to supply our needs. This baby would be birthed into this world crying as most children do, but this child would ultimately cry from a wooden cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” and “It is finished.” This child was born into a world of turmoil and moral decay, but one day he will rid the world of sin and establish a new kingdom of perfection for all of His followers to dwell with Him. This child was born to be king. He was born to reign forever. This baby who was born had several attributes Isaiah wanted us to know about.

Wonderful counselor. Everything that comes from this child’s mouth is true and can ultimately be trusted. Trust Jesus to give you His perfect wisdom. James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

Mighty God. There is nothing this king cannot do. He is able, He is capable, and He rules with unparalleled power and might. This king will fight your battles. Psalm 24:8 “Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle!”

Everlasting Father. This is a comforting attribute. This king is our daddy, forever. Despite lies from the enemy, God is always there for you. John 10:29 “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Hebrews 13:5 “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Prince of Peace. The king’s reign will bring peace. Revelation 21:4 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” That’s a kingdom we all long for.

This child born is JESUS!

As you think of Him this Christmas season, praise the Lord of Heaven, the king who reigns forever. Allow the words of Philippians 2:9-11 to ring true for you: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

 

Be Strong… Be Courageous!

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (ESV)

Let these words sink in, as a matter of fact let’s read them again: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

This is God speaking to Joshua just after he assumed the leadership responsibility of Israel. Here is some context to Joshua’s situation. His mentor and Israel’s first great leader Moses has just died. The Israelites are also on the verge of entering the Promised Land, but what stands in their way are the people living there.

Think of the potential fear & anxiety Joshua is stepping into. The people he is about to lead may question his leadership, there may be some grumbling about he as leader, and there is obvious fear about conquering the Promised Land. We know Joshua is fearful of his new position and task  because three times in the first nine verses we see the words, “be strong and courageous.” But in the midst of fear, anxiety, and not knowing about the future, God gives the comforting words, “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed (thoroughly disheartened).” How can Joshua not be scared? How can he not be disheartened? He is facing the greatest challenge of his life and God says, don’t be afraid…? What are Joshua’s grounds for not being afraid? We find it in the last part of our verse: “for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” The reason Joshua doesn’t have to fear is because God is with him. Joshua may look at his challenges as monumental, but he is serving a God who can move mountains! Joshua may not know how best to lead, but he is trusting in an inexhaustible God! Joshua may not know what the future holds, but he is walking with a God who is not caught off guard by anything he will face!

As you read this, there may be coming to mind a situation you’re facing, about to face, or something that has your worried, scared, or possibly dismayed. Whatever it is that you’re facing, pray and ask God for strength and courage… Give your situation over to God because it is only when you trust in Him to lead and guide you through what you face that verse nine is true for you.

Discussion: Parents, ask your kids about something they’re afraid of; pray with them, having them give their situation over to The Lord. As they do this, do the same also; let them see that you are often scared of certain things, but model for and encourage them to live in light of Joshua 1:9.

Idol Factory

From this we may gather that man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols… – John Calvin

It was this quote by John Calvin that captured the idea that our hearts are idol factories, always finding things other than God to be our ultimate satisfaction. Though this quote dates back to the 16th century, idolatry is something that has been going on from the beginning of time. We see idolatry in Exodus 32 when God’s people make for themselves an idol of Gold, taking the form of a calf.

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

These are the same people who had seen God deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians; the same people who had experienced God passing over them in the land of Egypt; the same people who had witnessed the parting of the Red Sea; and the same people who had been given God’s Word through the Ten Commandments. The problem is, it didn’t take long for them to find their satisfaction in objects other than God alone.

Our culture thinks of idolatry as primitive statues or images that people worship like in the story of Exodus 32, but idols are anything we have in our lives that we feel as though we cannot live without. To identify an idol you can ask yourself the questions: “What do I feel as though I cannot live without?” Or “my life would be complete if only I could get/have ______?” “If I had _____ my life would have purpose.”

If an idol is something we feel we can’t live without, it could take many forms. Idols can be power, acceptance, romantic relationships, or anything that we think will bring us ultimate fulfillment. None of these mentioned are bad things, but what we do is turn good things into God things. We think the gifts God has given will bring the fulfillment that only He can bring. His gifts are simply that, gifts. We must learn to love the giver more than the gift.

Question: Are you able to see the idols you have in your own heart? What things do you think will bring you the fulfillment your heart desires? When your mind wanders, what does it go to? This is often a sign of an idol.

The problem with idols is that they will always come up short. In his book Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller states, “If we look to some created thing to give us the meaning, hope, and happiness that only God himself can give, it will eventually fail to deliver and break our hearts.”

While an idol will always come up short, The Lord Jesus Christ will never leave us hanging. He lived idol free, died for our idols, and ultimately paid the price for our idolatry so that we could be set free from looking to other things for fulfillment.

As you go throughout your day make this your prayer today: “God, help me identify idols in my heart, and may you set me free from looking to anything other than you for fulfillment and satisfaction.”

A Multiplying Ministry

13 The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; 16 when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.” 17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. 19 Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, 20 and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. 21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”

Moses is leading the people God called him to lead. He is serving as judge in every civil case. That’s ok because it’s what God called him to do right? Jethro, his father-in-law sees a different picture. Moses is doing what God called him to do but now the task is too great because there are so many people, and in order for his ministry to grow larger and multiply there must be a change.

Jethro’s advice is to multiply leaders. His advice is to train new leaders to lead and serve in ministry. The ministry of Moses Goes from slow and stale to growing and vibrant, all because he listened to great advice and he equipped new leaders.

If you’re a current leader in ministry, who can you find to begin training to help lead that area of ministry? God does not want, nor expect you to do it alone; instead his desire is for your ministry to multiply.

If you are not leading a particular area of ministry, where can you begin looking for opportunities to serve and help shoulder the load of someone else? God does want and expect that from all of us.

The body of Christ will grow from a multiplying ministry.

Ephesians 4:11-12 – “11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”

Who am I? Who are you?

In Exodus chapter 3 Moses experiences something like never before. He’s on the backside of a desert tending the flock of his father-in-law when he steps outside and sees a crazy sight. He notices there is a bush on fire but it’s not burning up. A voice comes from the bush speaking to Moses and realizes he is in the presence of God.

Verse 7 says, “Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hands of Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” Verse 9 states – “And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” God hears the suffering of His people and decides to act. What a wonderful truth, God acts on behalf of His people!

Moses has a response much like one we may have. He asks in verse 11, “who I am that I should go? Who should I say sent me?” He questions whether or not he is capable of going… He wonders if he can do what God asks… Moses reveals his insecurity.

What’s interesting is God’s response: God says to Moses, “I Am who I Am… Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I Am has sent me to you.’” God tells Moses not to worry about what he can’t do, rather rely on who God is! When Moses questions his own ability, God tells Moses; you don’t have to sweat anything because I Am.

When you question your own insecurities & wonder if God can use you, He replies, I Am. JD Greear, pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh preached a sermon recently about the name of God. He finished his sermon by preaching these statements… To those who often give excuses, God promises to be all we need.

Here are his statements:

“God I am not very skilled, I know, I Am… Who could possibly be smart enough to figure this all out? I Am… How am I supposed to know which way to go? I Am… Who can I trust? I Am… I’m not sure who is really on my team? I Am… Nobody is listening to me, I Am… My marriage is crashing and I do not know where to turn, I Am… I’m 50 years old and I feel like I am starting all over, I Am… Everybody thinks I can’t do it, I Am… What if I fail again? I Am… I’m not sure I believe anymore, I Am… I can’t hold on, I Am… I am tired, I Am… I quit, I Am… I need a fresh start, I Am… Whatever you’re not, whatever you need, whatever you did not get from your parents or your teachers, what you are not getting from someone else, I AM!!!”

Today, know that whatever you’re afraid of, worried about, suffering from, or in need of… God says I AM.

A Leader is Born

1 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.” (Exodus 2:1-10 ESV)

The people of Israel have now spent many years in the land of Egypt. What once was a great place for them to live has now turned into a place of oppression and distress. The Israelites are slaves being held captive, and God sees that His people are in need of help.  They need someone who will plead for them, serve them, and ultimately guide them through their affliction. Israel needs a leader, so God sends one. Even from the birth of Moses we see God’s sovereign hand playing a key role in his life.

Pharaoh had issued an order that all male Hebrew babies be thrown into the Nile River. Moses’s mother, afraid for his life hid him for three months before finally making a basket and sending her baby down the river. Along the way the daughter of Pharaoh discovered crying Moses in the basket and sent for a woman to nurse and take care of him. Moses’s nurse ended up being his own mother, and the child she was willing to relinquish was the child she began to see grow into God’s chosen man to lead His people.

Parents: Throughout our church’s current sermon series we have seen that kids are to parents like arrows in the hands of a warrior; they are to be sent as ‘weapons’ for God’s Kingdom. The mother of Moses risked so much in letting her child go. Moses could have been harmed or even killed, but the only way he could fulfill God’s purpose was to let him go and see God use Him. While she didn’t know the fullest extent of how God would use him, she took the risk anyway.

Challenge: will you commit to praying that your children will be like arrows in the hand of a warrior (Psalm 127:4)? Not to live a secured & protected life, but rather that you could raise them in such a way that builds God’s Kingdom?

For the rest of you: what are you willing to risk to serve God’s mission? With risk often comes great reward. A great leader was born and raised by the risk of a faithful woman; do you have this same potential? What is God calling you into that seems risky? Remember, in serving Christ the reward ALWAYS outweighs the risk.

Abraham and Isaac, God’s Provision

1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.

God had given Abraham his promised heir, Isaac. But now God was asking Abraham to do something outrageous. Take Isaac on a mountain and sacrifice the one son whose offspring is to lead to a multitude of nations. How can God’s promise to Abraham be fulfilled if the son of promise is dead? Multitudes don’t come from dead promises.

Abraham is faced with a dilemma… Trust God to come through on his promise despite the death of his son; or choose his own alternate path because it seems like a better way. There is no way God would call him to do something so radical because after all, God promised Isaac. Abraham is faced with the choice of trusting God’s provision, or trusting in his own.

Discussion: Is choosing to trust God’s provision more difficult than trusting our own? Why or why not? Why would God ask this of Abraham?

Talking points: God wanted to see Abraham’s faith in action. God wants to see faith in action. God was looking to see if Abraham trusted in His divine provision or trusted in his own.

13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

Abraham trusted in God’s deliverance, and Hebrews 11:19 states that Abraham believed God would raise Isaac from the dead to deliver on His promise, so he went up on the mountain.

Abraham’s faith was counted to him as righteousness, not b/c he was such a good man, but because he trusted in God’s provision. Abraham trusted in God’s provision so much that as he was about to go through with the sacrifice of his son, God in his grace provided a substitute. Isaac therefore received life and the ram God provided in the thicket was sacrificed in his place.

Years later God would take a boy, an innocent boy of promise; one who was to give life to a multitude of people just as Isaac was to do. This time however when this boy was offered up as a sacrifice on Mount Calvary, God was providing His substitute so that His heirs could receive life. In Genesis 22 we see the grace of God in the gift of a ram in a thicket. At the crucifixion we see the grace of God in the gift of His son Jesus. Jesus became our substitute. Jesus is God’s provision for our life and salvation.

Discussion: How does the phrase “Jesus in my place” change how you look at your life?

Discussion: What do you need to trust in God to provide for you?