Our Kids’ Identity Crisis: Equipping Hearts for Jesus

342023268_640Where do your kids find their identity? What are you doing to lead your kids to an identity in Christ? Today’s culture leads our kids towards finding identity in relationships, sports, school, or entertainment. It is easy to connect with a movie character or find our identity in what is popular. Because of this, we desire to establish relationships similar to the ones portrayed in Hollywood. Our kids begin talking and acting like the kids in every Disney show, singing the songs that are on Top 40 radio stations, and living out of pursuit of popularity instead of the pursuit of Jesus Christ! I have seen my kids find their identity in their gifts, abilities, and talents. Landon, our 7-year old son, is an excellent baseball player who often centers who he is on his success or failures on the field. If he has a great game – he is a great person to be around; if he struggles, watch out! Our girls struggle to identify with anything beyond what they see on television, hear on the radio, or learn those around them. While establishing a culture of discipleship within our families is of the utmost importance, I do not believe secluding our kids completely from culture and the world around us accomplishes what God desires. This often leads to an identity in legalism or established religion, instead of in a relationship with Christ! As we live out the truth of God’s Word and speak life into your kids, they will begin experiencing identity in Christ! Here are three practical keys to leading your kids

  1. Speak words of affirmation & self-worth – Our kids need to hear words of encouragement, love, and grace. We must use our words wisely as we live out the responsibilities of parenthood. So much of culture preaches and teaches that affirmation and worth are found in success and relationships. Our kids need to know that they are God’s creation, made in His image, and designed to bring Him honor and glory. They do not need to accomplish a list of 100 things to obtain God’s love. It is available to anybody who believes in Him! I have seen so many teenage girls run to a relationship to experience love and self-worth. What are we doing to establish a life of worthiness in a relationship with Christ? Are you speaking words of defamation or words of affirmation?
  2. Establish cultural boundaries – I do not believe that God has called us to seclude ourselves from the entire world. He has not only called us to be in the world, but has also given us the responsibility to reach the world. The Village, one of my favorite movies of all-time, is about a countryside town that isolates itself from the surrounding world. They missed their purpose and placed their identity in their cultural traditions. Within modern Christianity, this can often lead to a legalistic relationship based on rituals, tradition, and rules. It causes us to miss the incredible love, grace, and compassion offered to us in a relationship with Christ! At the same time, I see incredible value in setting boundaries around our kids’ interactions with culture. There are certain shows our children are not allowed to watch. There are certain types of music that we do not listen to. We do not have cable, do not allow our kids to stay the night at a random friend’ house, and do not own a video game system. As our girls get older we will begin working towards a life of modesty and purity, and as our boys mature we will work to impart a life of love and respect. Most importantly, we believe training our children in the admonition of the Lord will help instill an identity in Christ, not culture!
  3. Approach the Heart – I wish I could say I have this one mastered! I want my kids to obey and immediately do what I have asked them to do. I often become so focused on the actions and attitudes that I miss the heart! I want my kids to have the knowledge of who God is, but I often skip from their hearts and go straight from the heads to their hands. We cannot miss our kids’ hearts! There is a time and place for discipline and a time and place to approach the actions, but we cannot miss the attitude of the heart. As we accomplish this, their actions will become a representation of their authentic love for God!

Romans 5:6-11 – You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Are we living out these words of Paul in front of our kids? Do we believe that while ‘we were still powerless, Christ died for’ us? It is only through a relationship with Christ that we can experience true reconciliation! His love is more affirming than any relationship we will ever know. Abiding in Him gives us purpose and worth that goes beyond anything we could ever imagine. Our kids need to hear these words as well! Lead by example and speak life into your children every chance you get!

Parenting With Grace in Moments of Truth

Give-Them-GraceThere were times growing up that I was a horrible child. Whether I was running away from my mom as she was trying to speak truth into my life, sneaking out of the house late at night, or lying about where I was going on the weekend, I was always stirring up trouble. As I look back on my childhood, I am so grateful of the grace-filled life my mother lived! She put up with my craziness, was always full of forgiveness, and showered me with love and mercy that I did not deserve. She modeled what it means to parent with grace!

The older I become, the more I realize how difficult it must have been for my mom. I absolutely love my children and would give up anything for them, but there are moments in parenting that a grace-filled life is extremely difficult to live out. My five children need my love, compassion, and forgiveness more than they need a stern attitude, harsh tone, or constant nagging personality. It has taken me far too long to realize the importance of parenting with grace!

As we grasp our identity in Christ, we realize the grace and mercy that is poured out to us each and every day! As parents, we must constantly be showering our children with words of encouragement and love. Even in moments when discipline is necessary, our goal must be to reach our kids’ hearts. In order to accomplish this, we must teach with words of affirmation and maintain a spirit of patience. One of the best ways to practice this involves time and space. I do not believe we should ever allow the sun to go down on our anger, but there may be times where we have to step away from the situation in order to parent with grace. If we have a tendency to react out of anger, we must create boundaries and accountability that will enable us to step away from the situation, creating space for grace and forgiveness.

I have found out the hard way that my kiddos react best to a calm voice that is full of patience and love. Most kids tend to close up and establish defense mechanisms or act out when spoken to harshly. As humans, we have the innate desire to be loved – both through words and deeds. We tend to react much better when people critique us or hold us accountable out of a patient and forgiving spirit. Please don’t hear me wrong – I believe in discipline. Our children need to clearly understand the difference between right and wrong based on the truth of God’s Word! There must be consequences for sin, just like there are consequences for disobeying the speed limit. But truth cannot be told without it being full of grace.  In the same way, we cannot live grace-filled lives if we are not speaking out of the truth of God’s Word!

John 1:14-18 – 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Twice in this passage, Jesus is referred to as the one who comes full of both grace and truth. Is our love for our children seen through this same lens?

One of the most important ways we can parent with grace is through scripture. My wife very rarely ever disciplines or teaches our kids without using Scripture! She lives and breathes God’s Word to our children every single day! There is more power in quoting Scripture to our children than we could ever imagine. As we speak God’s Word to our kids, we will ultimately be sharing the greatest story of grace ever told!

I am grateful for the grace that is poured out to me every single day! I deserve nothing, but am blessed in more ways than I could ever imagine. I thank God for giving me a mother than not only put up with my stupidity, but showered me with more grace and truth than I could handle. I am thankful for a wife that models exactly what it means to live out Christ-like patience, love, and forgiveness towards my children and me.

As we parent with grace, our children will not see us – they will see Christ in us, and our ultimate goal as parents must be to live lives worth imitating for the cause of Christ!

Here are a couple of great resources in regards to grace-filled parenting..

Steps Towards Living as a Family on Mission: Part 2

Lord of the Sabbath_T_nvFirst, checkout Steps Towards Living as a Family on Mission: Part 1 from Monday, March 3rd!

3. Family Meetings – Family meetings with 5 children can be very interesting, but are extremely important to the dynamics of our family. It is significant to include your entire family on important decisions – giving them ownership and responsibility in the decision-making process. Whether it is a weekly or monthly meeting, it is good to get everybody in the same room to talk through life, liberty, and the pursuit of family on mission. This can be an exciting, high-energy time together or serious conversations in regards to important decisions. The biggest key is to be intentional when getting everybody together.

4. Serving Together – Each of us has our strengths when it comes to serving in the community or local church. But what if we were to find a specific area where our entire family could serve collectively? Maybe this is within your church’s children’s ministry or at the local soup kitchen. The key is to find somewhere where the majority of your family is able to serve together. With young kids this can often be extremely difficult. In that case, it may mean baking cookies and passing them out within your neighborhood or making a meal for the local fire station. Whatever this looks like, it is important for our kids to understand how to show the love of Christ to others.

5. Worship Together – I understand why churches keep children and adults separate during Sunday morning worship services, but I wish there were more space created for our families to be able to worship together. It is important for our kids to see a true heart of worship. So often I have experienced community groups that completely segregate all ages. In other words, the kids go in one room while the parents attempt to study the Bible or watch a video. I understand the purpose behind this, but what if we changed our focus, brought the entire family together, and studied God’s Word collectively? Imagine the impact this could have on our kids when they are older!

Again, don’t miss hear me. I believe there is a time and place for children and adults to experience their own worship service, but I also see incredible value in the entire family worshipping together. I understand how chaotic it can be to have kids in a worship service, but what a beautiful picture that paints for the future generations! Jesus talked a lot about bringing the children unto Him. He did not want the kids in a separate room, but instead, right at His feet! What if we created space for our children to sit at the feet of Jesus, right alongside the entire family?

From daily rhythms to worshipping together, it is important for us to catch the vision of living as a family on mission! I will repeat what I wrote yesterday – I am nowhere near perfect when it comes to implementing these 5 steps, but God is challenging me in incredible ways to become the father and husband He has called me to be! Intentionality is huge in regards to all 5 of these areas. If we are not intentional with our time, energy, and resources, it is going to be difficult to maintain purpose in our mission as a family.

I hope these words bring encouragement to you! I would love to hear some of the practical things your family has put in place to strive after living as a family on mission.