Send Him on His Way: Sons and Vocation

Posted by on Feb 28, 2015 in Fathers

Hint: Yesterday’s article focused on daughters. Today’s focuses on sons. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take all this stuff here and apply it to your daughter. Everything below I’ve done with my two daughters as well.

Hammers, saws, guitars, drums, stethoscopes, and Bibles are all things my son sneaks into his backpack to take to preschool. They are his go to pay items: I mean, besides Iron Man, Captain America, Spiderman, Tigger, and Pluto.

And almost every day he tells me one of three things. I want to be at Grandpa and Grandma’s. I want to be at Disney World. Or I want to be…Handy Manny, a doctor, a guitar player, or a pastor.

I guess this could go any number of ways. He could do a combo of doctor and handy man and be a surgeon. I’ve suggested that. He’s got a really steady hand, but he doesn’t like the idea of cutting into flesh. I’ve suggested a worship pastor. He’s still trying to wrap his brain around what that is. He is only three after all.

No matter what he does, I’m going to be super proud of him. Why? Because he’s my son. You know what I mean.

As I think about helping your son figure out his vocation — I can’t help but think that it doesn’t matter how young they are — they’re never too young to coach them and help think through what they love to do and what they might do for a lifetime.

Here’s a few things I’ve done with my three year old boy.

1. Take him to work.

Remember to take your kid to work day. I do. I loved doing this with my dad. A couple times a year, I’ve taken Asher with me on a road trip of meetings. Last year we went to Evanston to meet our churches church planter there. This year I took him on a tour of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and to meet a friend of mine in Libertyville that also is interested in church planting. Both times were a lot of fun for the two of us. He loved being with dad for a day, and everyone we met loved seeing him. It was fun.

2. Encourage him with his interests.

Is your son interested in tools, musical instrument, books, planes? Whatever he is interested in make sure to reinforce it by giving him access to play, imagine, create with those things. Let his excitement grow and see what stuff he holds interest and what stuff he loses interest in. It’s entertaining to see the cycles, to see what enflames their interests, and help them manage the feeling when interest wanes.

3. Show him the opportunities.

When your son develops interest in a new hobby or has a new idea about a vocation, find ways to open up his world to that hobby or vocation. Look for YouTube videos or shows that talk about that vocation or hobby. Take him to see and meet real people doing that work. When you’re driving and he sees a firetruck, dump truck, train, or plane, go vocation chasing with him. And if he wants to be a storm chaser, use caution my friend. Don’t get too close to a twister.

And don’t forget to expand his world on vocations. Show him about space because we’re going to Mars now and we need more pilots to get us all there. Help him see the power of computers, engineering, the sciences, and the arts. Take him to museums, the zoo, amusement parks, and sporting venues. A lot of these things you might already be doing. Just do them and plant seeds as you do. Ask questions about his interest or what he thinks about the profession or event. Find out what sparks his interest more.

Proverbs 22:6 and Vocation

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

Your role as a dad is helping your children in the way that they should go. Yes, altogether too often this text is compartmentalized to the aspect of vocation. That is grievous. This verse is about so much more than vocation. It’s about being a son of God, a husband, a father, and a worker. It’s a holistic verse that covers all of life.

Nonetheless, it is not that it has nothing to do with vocation either. This verse is critically point to the role of a parent to love his or her children and raise them to honor God and his or her family. That includes finding a vocation and following the call of that vocation.

This post first appeared at Joey’s blog and is posted here with his permission.

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When She Asks, “Daddy, How Do I Look?”

Posted by on Feb 27, 2015 in Fathers

“Daddy, how do I look?”

This is a common refrain of any little girl. She’ll say this after dressing up in her favorite princess dress, putting as many bows in her hair as possible, and all of the costume jewelry she can find. After having completed her adornment she’ll traipse up to you and sweetly but inquisitively ask this question.

You’ll experience a whole cycle of princess dresses from Snow White to Elsa. Those early times of inquisition you’ll be delighted, attentive, affirming.

“Oh my, what a beautiful princess!”

You’ll hem and haw over her. You’ll fill that much needed tank of approval. She’ll squeal with delight and go back off to her room for another wardrobe change, just to play it all over again for you.

Over time, over the years, the scenario begins to play out even more. But both of you will see it differently. It’s possible that she’ll notice you’ve become less enthusiastic, less attentive. You didn’t mean for it to be this way. You’re not any less affirming then you’ve always been. You’re simply distracted.

You’ll probably be sitting at the kitchen table some morning, scarfing down a quick bowl of cereal and burning your throat as you chug down a hot cup of coffee.

You’ll likely be thinking, “I need to get out this door and get to work. I’ve got a long day ahead.”

And then here she comes. But now she’s not in a princess dress. She’s in a blouse with a cardigan, a very cute and ruffly color-coordinated skirt, a pair of tights, her most recent size of winter boots, all accented with an infinity scarf. She’s dressed both smart and modest, sophisticated and stylish.

She might be 5, 5th grade, or fifteen. Regardless, what you say and how you give her attention in this moment matters. If you’re fortunate, in the moment of your distracted breakfast when all this takes place, you’ll have an equally loving wife in the background to remind you:

“Honey, always remember, always remember, how you respond to her when she asks that is crucial.”

And it is crucial! Your daughter craves your approval. Not because that’s where she gets her significance, but because it is a storehouse for honor. She brings honor to you and your family when she models modesty and beauty in tandem. She reflects your family’s values. She reflects her desire to honor her King.

You dad, are given these opportunities, not just to approve your daughter, but to approve and applaud God for the beauty found in one of his precious creatures.

She’s not a distraction; she’s an attraction.

And if you, dad, have emphasized noble character, including modesty and beauty, internal and external, then she will not attract to herself. She’ll attract others to God.

Approve and applaud loudly, enthusiastically, and with gusto every day of your life. She’ll keep returning to this well for water and will not seek after another.

This post first appeared at Joey’s blog and is posted here with his permission.

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Five Ways Parents Can Speak to Their Children About the Evils of Pornography

Posted by on Feb 26, 2015 in Featured, Godly legacy

Five Ways Parents Can Speak to Their Children About the Evils of Pornography

Kayaking_in_Glacier_Bay_Alaska1-1024x744-300x217-27601_300x200For all you parents out there, please pay attention to this post as I am going to share something that is quite frightening, something, which you might be turning a blind eye to or are completely unaware could be taking place in your home. What is this horrible issue you might ask? Your child is almost assuredly being exposed to porn.

I hope that caught your attention. Now an understandable response is “That is impossible. We do not watch porn in our home and we ensure that no inappropriate programming is allowed.” I get that; however, your child is almost assuredly being exposed to porn. How can I make that claim? I can make it from personal experience.

In my home, we do not even have cable or satellite television. Late in 2014, we made the decision to view whatever channels we could obtain via an indoor television antenna. We also subscribe to Netflix and Amazon Prime which allows us to oversee and monitor what is viewed in our home. Even with those moves and this level of oversight, the ability to access porn remains. We are big users of mobile electronic devices, specifically the Amazon Kindle Fire HD. My wife has one. I have one. Our daughter has one. The good news is they are all connected to the same account and thus, we have the ability to monitor what has been viewed. It came to our attention that the filtering and parental controls on this device are insufficient when it comes to blocking unsavory content.

Our daughter likes to watch videos on YouTube that are about different ways to decorate her room. Even when she inputs a search for something completely benign, within a couple of clicks on various videos, more often than not, something perverted is available for the taking in the list of recommended viewing options. I hasten to imagine what would appear if our daughter searched for a meatloaf recipe.

After taking a look at the viewing history on our daughter’s Kindle, we noticed she had clicked on a number of videos that were far from something that glorifies God. We are convinced those viewing choices were not deliberate. Even still, it was disturbing, frightening, and disappointing all rolled into one bundle of emotions. This situation afforded us the opportunity to have a discussion with our daughter regarding godly and ungodly viewing habits and the reality that perverts in the world are preying on young people in an attempt to get them addicted to this type of material. Cleverly, those who peddle such perversion have purposefully tagged certain videos, which in turn results in their filth appearing as a viewing option even when the most innocent of search criteria is entered. Given the heart is exceedingly wicked and curiosity will often draw young minds to view such filth, the reality is your child will click on that garbage and will have their hearts and minds muddied by the grotesque and twisted waters of porn.

Outside of completely cutting yourself off from the outside world, what are the options for parents when access to porn is just a click away on any and every electronic device in your home? Is this a lost cause? Should parents just throw their hands up in defeat with the attitude that we cannot control everything our children do, so if they view such filth, we hope it is minimal at best? Or is there a better way, a more balanced approach that allows for access to technology yet ensures with the utmost care and oversight that our children’s viewing habits are not being drawn to the rotten garbage of porn?

I suggest throwing your hands in the air in a state of defeatism is not the answer. I also suggest that complete withdrawal from everything electronics related is not the answer. The answer is for parents to be parents, to provide guidance, oversight, and accountability for their children. Below are five ways to provide a needed covering to shield your children from porn. These five ways will provide opportunities to teach your children the difference between how to be holy in a world determined to suck your children into the dark side of pornographic addiction.

First, have an open and honest discussion with your children. When we discovered that unsavory material was being viewed by our daughter, we sat down with her and explained the dangers. We told her that it is our job to be the covering for her in all matters. This was not a yelling conversation. Make no mistake though, we told her that viewing such nonsense was wrong and that if we observed such viewing habits in the future, her access to the internet would be restricted. In addition to that, we used this opportunity as a teaching moment, a chance to help her better understand the world we live in and those who prey upon young adult minds. We talked with her about what godly behavior patterns are all about and the battle we all face with the temptation to walk down the path of unrighteousness.

Second, set the example. There is nothing worse that extolling the virtues of righteous living while you as parents do the complete opposite. If you are reading 50 Shades of Grey, stop immediately and burn that book. If you have inappropriate music and movies in your home that are not God honoring, destroy them immediately. Demonstrate to your children by your own actions what godly viewing habit are all about.

Third, utilize filtering software. This is something my wife and I will be exploring. Covenant Eyes does an excellent job from what I am told. Additional suggestions include using parental controls on devices such as iPads, Kindles, smart phones, and all other electronic devices. When you install such controls, make sure you discuss why you are doing this with your children. Ensure you have shared with them it is for their own protection.

Fourth, pray. It is of the utmost necessity that you pray for your children. We live in a world full of sinful people. As Christians, we are engaged against an enemy in Satan and his minions that has as their sole purpose in life, the destruction of your children. Do not turn a blind eye to that reality, thinking everything will be okay and that harm will never befall your children. Pray for your children and most importantly, pray with your children.

Fifth, be committed as a family to the reading of God’s Word. There is nothing better than turning off the television, shutting down the computer, or putting that gaming device on pause and spending time as a family reading, studying, and meditating on God’s Word. As the old saying goes – garbage in; garbage out. If we are feeding our minds and hearts with garbage, the desire for more garbage will be the result. Conversely, if we are filling our hearts and minds with the truth and light of God’s Word, we will be equipped as a family to identify truth from error. As parents in encouraging regularly Bible reading, you will be fulfilling your God given mandate to train up your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

Finally, this is a battle. Do not sit on the sidelines. Be active in the lives of your children by identifying what they are watching, what websites they are visiting, and what they are feeding their minds with regardless of the medium they are using. Talk with your children about the dangers of porn. The filth available to even the youngest of children today is addictive, destructive, and is within the reach of your children. Be aware, be active, and be godly parents. Your children deserve it and God commands it.

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Men’s Ministry and the Word of God

Posted by on Feb 25, 2015 in Featured, Men's Ministry

Men’s Ministry and the Word of God

Old_Bibles-1One of the most neglected ministries in the Church today is the Men’s Ministry. At my local church—Ustick Baptist Church in Boise, Idaho—this is changing by God’s grace. Very often, however, Men’s ministries are viewed as an add-on ministry in the church. While they (men’s ministries) are viewed as important ministries, the teaching therein is often shallow, sporadic, and typically focused more on “principles” men are supposed to be employing in their marriages, with very little emphasis on discipling one another intentionally from the Word of God. Alternatively, there is also a view out there (in the Church as a whole) that upholds the “Men’s Ministry” as a vessel for the catalyst required for revival in our country.

While revival may be an elusive idealism, I believe men are to be the leaders in the home and the church. After all, as Jonathan Edwards taught the home is to be a mini-church. To say, as some do, that men “waking up” and being the leaders (both within the Church and in the home) is the catalyst for revival is to use imprecise theological language, and though perhaps not intentionally misleading people, does teach them that revival is man’s work not God’s doing through His Word. To combat both the error of false revival and the over-emphasis of a principle-driven men’s ministry, what we require is a better model: open the Bible, teach from it (without adding to or distracting from its meaning), and help other men learn to do the same.

I have been entrusted with the great honor of leading the Men’s Evening Bible Study at my local church. I’ve been doing this now since last September. The emphasis of the Men’s Evening Bible Study is on caring for one another (through praying for one another’s needs), instruction from the Word of God (through a short message prepared by the evening speaker), and engaging one another in meaningful discussion regarding the topic of study that night. This may not be the best format for everyone, but I’ve found it works for our group at Ustick Baptist Church. Whether your Men’s ministry uses this model or another one for ministry, the focus of all Men’s ministry events should be the Word of God. At my church, we have a monthly Men’s event where we focus on fellowship. While we also have a time of sharing, it is not the focus during these events; our group intentionally decided to keep it open-ended. Often we will minister to one another, and/or just to get to know one another better through fellowship. While each church’s “Men’s ministry” goals may be different, we’ve found that men respond well to this and even had a few men who have become more involved in the church as a result. We’re also working hard at our church to make sure older men interact with younger men—an attempt to bridge the generation gap that can often cause great separation or exclusionism. The young adult ministry intersects with the Men’s Ministry by supporting the events that the Men’s Ministry sponsors. Even the Women’s Ministry has helped support the Men’s Ministry by encouraging the ladies to bring their husbands on Wednesday evenings, since both groups have a bible study during the same hour.

While I understand why many emphasize that revival may be caused by men rising up and leading in the home/church/society, and believe this is vital for biblical manhood, I disagree. I disagree with the verbiage used to describe this, because the reason men desire to lead their families and the church is because of God’s grace; it’s not something they desire to accomplish on their own accord (no matter how many Bible studies they attend). God moves on men’s hearts causing them to want to lead. It is God’s work in men’s hearts and not men “rising up” that causes true revival. The imprecision of language used when talking about Men’s ministry is often “man-driven”. We need to repent of this imprecision of language for two reasons: a) it matters how we say things, and b) we will be held accountable for what we say. God alone can cause a revival—He only asks us to do as He has instructed; which is the sole reason any men’s ministry exists.

My encouragement to those of you who are pastors and or ministry leaders in the local church is to teach the men the Word of God, even if you don’t believe in (or agree with) everything I’ve written here. Find other trustworthy men to teach in the Men’s ministry at your church. Be intentional about being intergenerational with the men in the church—encourage young adults to come to the Men’s events, and engage older men on the topic of mentoring younger men. There is such a need when it comes to Men’s ministries in the Church. At our church, we’ve only started to improve the Men’s Ministry, but I’m very thankful for what God is doing in our midst. I’m encouraged by how the Lord is bringing men to our times of fellowship and Bible studies; God is certainly doing a work of His grace in our midst!

With all of that said, as the Church we need to change the way we approach Men’s ministry. Rather than being principle and/or topic oriented, we need to be Bible-saturated/Bible-oriented. We need to open the Bible together, hear it taught, engage our minds in what it says, and respond, by His grace, in obedience to the truth therein. The gospel calls us to this kind of obedience—it calls us to obey because of the grace of God. This is the reason why Men’s ministry (as an entity) needs to change. If we really want to see revival happen, it will happen as it did in Ezra 7-10, as men and women heard the Word of God and responded to what it says. That is the true cause of revival—being doers of the Word via the outworking of the Holy Spirit.

The next time you talk about revival, don’t make yourself or what you’re doing the focus; instead, make Jesus the focus of your Men’s ministry gatherings. Jesus is the only One who can bring revival. Yes, we are the means by which He chooses to do this—ordinary people like you and me. He primarily uses the preaching and teaching of His Word. Revival occurs when the Holy Spirit enflames the message of the Bible within men’s and women’s hearts, bringing about true change. This is why we should commit the teaching of the Word to trustworthy (godly) men in our midst. The Spirit uses godly, qualified men to bring forth the teaching and preaching of His Word. Revival is ultimately up to God; none of it can be planned—it will happen in God’s timing and for His glory. Let us therefore be faithful as men to teach others in our churches, both young and old. Let us rise up and teach the Word of God, praying that the Holy Spirit will blow a mighty wind of revival through the teaching of His Word, so that our land may repent and turn to Him and be healed, in His time and for His glory.

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Three Ways to Pursue Purity

Posted by on Feb 6, 2015 in Featured, Holiness, Sexual Sin

Three Ways to Pursue Purity

Editors note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers think through what prayer is and how they can improve their prayer lives.

holiness1Christians have been called out of darkness and into Light. As such they are to put off the flesh and put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14). As a result of being placed in Christ through the finished work of Christ—God calls His people to put to death sin and pursue purity. While our culture encourages men to be passive—God calls them to run the race towards Him (1 Corinthians 9:24-26).

In my teen years to early twenties I struggled with pornography. As soon as I came to see the cosmic treason I was committing, I turned away from pornography and to Jesus. At that moment, I realized that Jesus makes all things new, including my purity and thoughts. While I was formerly impure, I no longer have to live in that impurity. Impurity defined me in my past, but it doesn’t define my life now. The gospel wipes away the record of my sin, but I must deal with the consequences of it. In this post, we will consider three ways to pursue purity by the grace of God.

Idolatry

When I came to see that my impurity was at its root idolatry, I came to see my sexual sin as an act that violated God’s law. I was engaging in this activity for my own benefit because I didn’t treasure the perfection of God’s holiness. By recognizing sexual sin as idolatry, we see the nature of this sin. This sin not only diminishes the beauty of the opposite sex, but also the glory of God.

The gospel

I minister to men week in and week out at my local church. I also receive emails from men the world over about their problems with pornography. I know, however, from my studies on sexual sin that women also struggle. The sexual addict lives in a world where shame and guilt reign supreme instead of the supremacy of Christ. The gospel is good news for all people, especially for those living with the weight of sexual sin. Jesus took on our shame and guilt, and there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). This is good news for the addict because they don’t have to continue the vicious cycle of feeling guilt and shame—but instead turn away from sexual sin and to Jesus, who wipes away the record of their sin against Him with His shed blood.

Purity Software and Accountability

J.C. Ryle said, “The true Christian hates sin, flees from it, fights against it, considers it his greatest plague.” In order to guard myself against sexual sin, I protect myself by using Covenant Eyes. I not only utilize the software, but also have content filtering. The content filtering blocks any attempt to look at anything impure (or negatively rated). This stops me in my tracks and causes me to think twice about looking at anything impure since my accountability team will be able to see anything I view.

Christians have been transferred from the Kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. This means we’re no longer controlled by sin; instead, we are upheld by the Master, Jesus Christ. Your hearts of stone are replaced with a new heart, with new desires, new affections,a new identity in Christ, and the message and purpose of the gospel.

All of this means that you and I can pursue purity with 100% dedication and carefree abandon. Corrie Ten Boom said, “Jesus takes your sin, past, present and future, dumps it in the ocean and puts up a sign that reads ‘No Fishing Allowed.'” God calls Christians to purity – to live in the freedom of our new identity. No matter what has transpired in the past, the Lord can and does make all things new.

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Marriage is a gospel issue

Posted by on Jan 17, 2015 in Featured, Leadership

Marriage is a gospel issue

indexIf there is one thing I’ve learned about culture it is this: most of what comes out of places like Hollywood is highly idealized fantasy (this of course being the world that pornography swims in). From romantic comedies to reality television, there is a trend in culture that says there is a person out there who is perfect for you if you simply look hard or wait. More on this in a moment.

The statistics are in regarding marriage and family and they are not good. The divorce rate is at an all-time high. 65 percent of women and 55 percent of men will have an adulterous affair by the age of 40. In 1970, 89 percent of all births were to married parents, but today only 60 percent are. Over 72 percent of American adults were marred in 1960, but only 50 percent were in 2008. (You can find these statistics just about anywhere, but I cite these from places like the National Marriage Project at University of Virginia.)

This can get somewhat overwhelming, but there is hope because marriages, though typically in decline as many are opting for cohabitation, are still going strong and the divorce rate is markedly lower in Christian circles (as well as those of other faith traditions). The common assumption that the divorce rate for Christians is just as high as secular culture is absolutely false (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/january/21.34.html).

Enter Jesus. The Apostle Paul explains in Ephesians 5:32 that marriage is a gospel issue. He likens the relationship between a husband and wife to that of Jesus and the Church. This model helps us learn more and more about what it means to be married. It means for husbands to lead their wives through servant leadership (like Jesus), while wives are to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:20-33; cf. Titus 2; Colossians 3:18-24). It means that spouses should never love themselves more than they do the other person or Jesus. It means that marriage itself is a picture of a greater reality that can only be the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. This gospel is the reality that you and I are more sinful than we could have ever imagined or admit, yet more loved than we could ever dare hope. This is the power and pattern for marriage.

You never marry the “right” person because there is no “perfect” person; marriage changes you and since we are all on a level playing field (meaning we’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory), there is no possible way for you to find someone who will fit everything on your “list”. That person does not exist. Don’t believe Hollywood. Nobody will ever measure up to your expectations. Marriage isn’t 50/50. It is 100/0. You go in expecting nothing yet willing to give everything.

This is the gospel-centered marriage. One that looks at the other spouse and sees that person through the lens of the gospel. Keep short accounts of sin because Jesus has wiped your account clean; never speak ill of your spouse because Jesus intercedes for us daily speaking heavenly words to the Father. You need the gospel every single day in order for your marriage to work and not turn out as another statistic. Believe the gospel, not the lies.

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