3 Ways to Feed the Souls of Teenagers and Emerging Adults

The following is an excerpt from Kim Kurtz’s upcoming book, Pouring In, Instilling a Personal, Passionate and Permanent Faith in the Next Generation.

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Pouring in is probing. Pouring in is listening. Pouring in is seeking to know our kids at a soul level. It is searching for the child of God that is in each one of our kids.

In addition to being loved, three of the greatest longings of the human soul are to be seen, heard and known. It is no different for our kids, whether they are five, fifteen, or twenty five.

1) The human soul longs to be SEEN. God sees us.

Whether it is in the joys and the celebrations of the soul, or in the difficult times of life, we all long to be seen. This desire makes us human and unites us all.

I recently watched the movie, Hidden Figures, about African American women mathematicians who worked at NASA in 1961. They were “computers” before there were computers. Three in particular were pivotal to the space program, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan.

At the time, however, segregation was still very much a part of American society. What must it have felt like to be these brilliant woman and not be seen? Or, not be recognized for their contributions?

Every human being longs to be seen. God made us that way and He sees us.

Or in the movie, Avatar, the Na’vi people who inhabit the alien world of Pandora, say “I see you” instead of “I love you.” This shows the power of being seen. Being seen is equated with love.

There are many names of God, however, the most beautiful to me is El Roi, The God who Sees.

This is illustrated in the story in Genesis where Sarai couldn’t conceive a child and in desperation, offers, Hagar, her slave, to her husband, Abram.

What ensues is a mess, which is usually what happens when we take matters into our own hands instead of waiting on God.

Sarai mistreats Hagar, so she flees. And God finds her beside a desert spring.

After a conversation with God, Hagar calls Him, El Roi, The God Who sees. She was the only person in scripture to give God a name.

He sees me, and He sees you.

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9

We need to make an effort to really see our teenagers and young people in the church and the community. They are beautiful souls made in the image of God.

Young people . . . don’t want to sit passively on the sidelines but are drawn to churches and leaders who help them get in the game.
—Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin, Growing Young

 

2) The human soul longs to be HEARD. God hears us.

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them.  Psalm 34:17

I was with a friend recently who had just been to at a family reunion. She teared up when she told me that she often spends days with her family without anyone asking her what is going on in her life. She said “Not being heard crushes your soul.”

According to writer and speaker, Steven Argue, who has a PhD from Michigan State University and is the Applied Research Strategist for the Fuller Youth Institute, the three most important words to use with our children and youth in general, are “Tell me more.”

I think we need to remember as parents that the first question isn’t as important as the second or third question. A first question usually comes from our own agenda—we want information, clarity, or context. Second and third questions are responsive questions that emerge from the conversation. They show our kids how well we’re listening and really seeking to understand, rather than just interrogate. . . . Maybe for us, “Tell me more” is more of a posture than a solo question!

We must hear our kids. This means not just listening, but hearing and sometimes probing. We must turn off our devices, or the TV when our kids are talking to us. They deserve our time and undivided attention. This is how we feed their soul.

And young people must be heard in our churches.

3) The human soul longs to be KNOWN. God knows us.

The human soul longs to be known. Known to our bones. We want someone to know the good, the bad, and the ugly of who we are and still love us.

We don’t have to hide with God, because he knows us intimately.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. Jeremiah 1:5

Being truly known, loved, and accepted is what we all long for.  —David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, Good Faith, Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Being Irrelevant and Extreme

Do we take the time to really know our kids? Do we seek to know our teenagers? Do we desire to know the young people at our churches? Or, do we dismiss them because they are young?


Pouring into our kids requires that we see them. It requires that we hear them. And it requires that we seek to really know them. These are the things that will feed their soul, and cause them to be open to the gospel.

Look for Pouring In, Instilling a Personal, Passionate and Permanent Faith in the Next Generation in bookstores this fall.

3 Things We Told Our Teenager When She Got Her Driver’s License

My daughter recently got her driver’s license. For me, this milestone in parenting has been about as much fun as potty training. It’s been nerve racking, stressful, and sometimes has caused contention between my daughter and I.

My husband once told me about a boss he had who gave his kids a brand new car at sixteen and said “here, go do your stuff.” In other words he was tired of driving them everywhere.

I’m sure he wasn’t quite so callous when he said it. And, I get it—driving our kids around is exhausting. I have two teenagers who always want to go somewhere. The requests are endless. And it feels like you live in your car.

So it is tempting to let your kids get their driver’s license without giving it much thought. That is what we did with our oldest daughter.

However, I realized something. As parents, we do not owe our kids a driver’s license simply because they turn sixteen. As far as teenagers go, driving is a privilege, not a right. And many factors play into the decision of whether kids should get a driver’s license or not.

As long as teenagers live in their parents’ home, driving is a privilege, not a right.

Looking back, I wish I would have slowed things down a bit and thought things through. I wish I would have thought about what I could leverage for the privilege of driving our car. Car keys are a great leveraging tool. And, oh, the lessons that come with car keys!

Here are three things we told our daughter when she got her driver’s license.

1. If you want the privilege of driving our car, you are expected to go to church and youth group.

When our kids are practically adults (16 or 17), it is often no longer productive to force them to go to church. Teenagers often become resentful if they are forced to go. And, at this age, they must start taking ownership of their faith.

Telling them that driving the car and going to church go hand in hand might alleviate stress on Sunday mornings. If they choose not to go to church, than they choose not to drive the car that week. But the main point is, it’s their choice.

Teenagers feel more empowered if they are given choices. If they can choose whether they go to church or not, it is more likely to be a positive, not a negative.

2. If you drive to school with a car we have provided, you will drive your siblings as well.

It seems like my oldest daughter wants everything to be perfectly “fair” between her and her sister. And it isn’t “fair” that her younger sister doesn’t have to ride the bus as a freshmen like she did. Therefore, she didn’t want to give her a ride.

What a perfect time to dispel the “everything has to be fair” myth. Life isn’t fair. The earlier our kids learn that, the better off they will be. Maturity is accepting life as it is, which is less than ideal.

As long as we have provided a car to drive to school, she is not going to leave the house without her sister. Especially since they go to the same school.

3. You will obey ALL of the laws regardless of how stupid you think they are.

When my daughter got her driver’s license, we learned that there are a lot of probationary restrictions right off the bat. In Indiana, teenagers can’t drive with anyone other than their family members for the first six months. They also have curfew. And they aren’t allowed to use a device, such as a phone, in the car.

My daughter complained about these rules saying, “that’s dumb,” or “nobody else cares about that rule.” With this attitude came a lot of teaching moments.

In this country, we don’t get to pick and choose which laws we follow. We are expected to follow all of them or face the the consequences. If my daughter is pulled over, a cop will never say, “Oh, you think that law is dumb, OK, then you can go.” Or, “Oh, you’re right, no one else pays attention to that law, never mind then.” Cops don’t care if you like or agree with any law, they only care if you break it.

Parents often make the mistake of assuming that once their kids are sixteen, they have the right to drive a car. Driving, for teenagers, is a privilege. Parents can leverage it, and use it in positive ways to reinforce mature behavior.

Sexing Up Our Teenagers

I sit in my sun porch as the warm breeze caresses my face. It has been deliciously warm and sunny the last couple weeks. The birds sing their lovely melody, the trees rustle in the wind, and the smell of freshly cut grass fills the air. And life emerges once again.

As I breathe in the delightful air, I think to myself, “What could spoil this perfect spring day?” And then my teenage daughter walks in and tells me she wants to go swimsuit shopping. And it hits me. “Oh yeah . . . swimsuit season, that’s what!”

I dread swimsuit season. And not just because I am a middle age woman who has birthed 2 kids (that’s another post altogether!), but because I have teenage daughters.

I don’t need to tell you that modesty is not a culturally popular concept in this country. Anyone who walks the streets, watches tv or social media, or goes in the juniors department of a clothing store, can see it.

Much like chivalry, modesty is a lost art. Super sexy, super skimpy swimsuits and shorts fill the shelves at stores where teenagers shop. And the sexy stuff is always in the juniors departments. Is it just me, or is this totally backwards?!

Why does our culture want teenage girls to be super sexy and show as much skin as possible? It doesn’t make sense.

Most people would probably agree that we shouldn’t be encouraging teenagers to have sex. Yet, the message that we put out there says the exact opposite. Why do we market the sexiest things to teenagers?! It’s crazy!

Being a conservative Christian family, we talk about God’s model for sex in marriage. Let’s go a step further and say that “sexy” not just “sex” is for marriage too.

“Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.”  1 Timothy 2:9-10

Teenagers flaunting their sexuality just invites trouble.  Let’s not encourage our daughters to hang out on the cliff of temptation.

The last thing parents want to do is create an environment where teenagers are constantly thinking about sex. But, that is exactly what we are doing.  Young girls in skin tight jeans, ridiculously short shorts, and yoga pants that leave nothing to the imagination are the norm. This only creates distraction for the boys and objectifies the girls.

What does God’s Word have to say about modesty?

pig-nose-ringLike a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.  Proverbs 11:22

I don’t think that any teenage girl would appreciate being compared to something in a pig’s snout! Ha!

Most teenage girls have adorable, cute bodies. Ahhh, I remember those days! Perfect time to show it off, right?! Wrong! We want our daughters to become women of character. And modesty will get them there.

Teenage girls need to learn that even though they could wear the shortest shorts or the string bikini and look sexy, it is far more valuable to be a young woman of character.  “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” the old adage says.

Wearing skimpy and provacative clothes can lead to a misguided self-worth.  If girls are getting a lot of attention because of their bodies or their pretty face at a young age, they may never really learn their God-given value. And they may struggle with their identity for the rest of their lives.

This has been a huge struggle in my life. And, to this day, I have a really difficult time feeling like I have value beyond my appearance. It is sad. And I don’t want my girls to struggle like I have.

Teenage girls need to know that they don’t have to show off their bodies to be OK.

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”  Proverbs 31:30

My daughters, however, see what the stores sell and what most of their friends wear. They wonder, “Why shouldn’t I be able to wear a bikini when everyone else is?” I wonder, “Why aren’t there modest choices?”

As a parent of teenage girls, I feel like David and Goliath when it comes to modesty. And I’m not sure the slingshot is going to do the trick.

In the midst of our sex-crazed society, how do we teach our daughters the importance of modesty?

Passing On Our Faith: The Danger Of Complacency

I was recently talking with a good friend of mine. I wanted to get her thoughts on the issue of passing on our faith to our children. She is a great mom, which is evident if you look at her kids. Not only is she a great mom, but she is a single parent. I have great admiration for people who parent alone, yet still parent well. Parenting is hard enough without having to do it alone.

She comes from a long line of faithful people in her family. Her parents raised her to value her faith. But more importantly, to live her faith. They raised her to treasure scripture and to spend a lot of time on her knees. The legacy passed from generation to generation in her family was a legacy of a strong and active faith.

A couple years ago I was doing a Beth Moore Bible study. The topic of the study had to do with breaking strongholds. One particular section was talking about family legacies and how to break free from them; family legacies that included things like abuse, rage, alcoholism, and unforgiveness.

We were asked to think about what our family legacy was.

Although my family history included some brokenness and dysfunction, it did not include abuse, or problems with drugs/alcohol, or anything quite so extreme. The legacy that my family passed down from generation to generation was a legacy of complacency. Basic faith may have been passed down through the generations in my family, but not a radical surrender to a living God.

Although, not as obviously destructive as some of these other strongholds, complacency is a detestable thing.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:15-16

Satan has many tools in his toolbox. Obviously, he is pleased with the abuse, neglect and dysfunction of so many families across the country. However, maybe even more dangerous are the tools that we don’t see or recognize. The ones that lurk just under our radar. Ones like complacency.

Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.   Ephesians 5:14

I very much desire to pass on a radical, deep, surrendered faith in Christ to my kids, but have felt woefully unequipped in the past. I had the legacy of complacency in my family of origin. I wasn’t mentored, or encouraged to be a disciple, and I certainly wasn’t shown how to pass on a legacy of passionate faith to my children.

Many of us were not brought up in a passionately faithful family.

Is it possible to change a family legacy? Is it possible for people with my family history to raise kids who radically and passionately seek Christ?

With Christ, there is always hope. With Christ, anything is possible.

There are two aspects of passing on our faith to our kids that we need to address. First, what are we speaking into our kids’ lives? And second, what they are hearing and perceiving?

The following is a student quote from David Kinnaman’s book, You Lost Me.

I want you to be someone I want to grow up to be like. I want you to step up and live by the Bible’s standards. I want you to be inexplicably generous, unbelievably faithful, Untitled design (28)and radically committed. I want you to be a noticeably better person than my humanist teacher, than my atheist doctor, than my Hindu next-door neighbor. I want you to sell all you have and give it to the poor. I want you to not worry about your health like you’re afraid of dying. I want you to live like you actually believe in the God you preach about. I don’t want you to be like me; I want you to be like Jesus. That’s when I’ll start listening.  -Emma Smith

Doesn’t this quote just say it all? How does such simple truth evade us? She is telling us the very way in which we get our youth to listen to us. And not just listen, we want them to hear the truth.

Will we listen? Will we respond? Will we choose to be. . . .

  • radically committed to Christ?
  • radically generous?
  • radically faithful?
  • radically committed?
  • unconsumed with the worries of this world?

In short, we must be like Jesus if we want to pass on our faith to our kids.

Complacency in our faith is a dangerous thing. We must fight it, if for no other reason than the spiritual fate of our children. And in Christ, we have the power to change our family legacy to one that passionately follows Christ.


This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Pouring In, Instilling A Personal, Passionate, And Permanent Faith In The Next Generation due to come out this fall.

A Plea To Parents of Teenage Boys

A month ago, Jessica my youngest, a freshman in high school, rode the bus to school. It was a very cold morning with wind chills in the single digits. As she was waiting in line for the bus, shivering, a bunch of boys walked up and cut in front of her in line. I guess they were joining their friend who was already in line ahead of her. The boys got on the bus first, one by one, as she waited behind them shivering in the freezing cold.

Gone are the days of chivalry. Gone are the days of teaching boys to be respectful to girls and women.

There is more to being a young man of integrity than holding the door open. Although a good thing for boys to be taught to do, young boys need to be taught to treat girls delicately and respectfully.

Chivalry starts with opening doors, and occasionally letting a girl go first in line. Or giving up their seat for a female classmate. And they should never push or shove girls in the hallways of schools.

“What is she smoking?” you might be thinking. This is 2017, chivalry went out the window a long time ago. 

A majority of what I have seen through my daughters is teenage boys treating teenage girls like objects for their enjoyment. Teenage girls are not treated with respect. What I have seen is boys hurting and taking advantage of girls, not protecting them or keeping them safe.

Did you know that according to Kholofelo Mashiloane, “The term (chivalry) was originally coined in Medieval times, describing a knight who followed a code of conduct. That code had far less to do with the doors he opened, the bills he paid, or the romantic words that gushed from his mouth–and far more to do with his character and his heart.”

A true man of chivalry was a man who protected the rights of the weak, displayed strength, character and courage. A man of chivalry was known for his integrity, his loyalty, his faith, and the way he feared his God. A man of chivalry was defined by his respect and honor for women, and his willingness to lay down his rights.  ~Kholofelo Mashiloane

And how does a man get to be a true man of chivalry? He needs to be taught these things, as a boy, primarily by his father.

Fathers need to step it up. It is my plea. Please, fathers, teach your sons the right way to treat girls. Teach them to cherish, value and protect them. Not to use them. Teach them to see teenage girls through God’s eyes. I beg you, as a mother of two teenage girls.

Are fathers of boys teaching them chivalry? Are they teaching their sons the correct way to treat girls? Are fathers teaching boys how to be Godly men?

I don’t see it.

Don’t get me wrong, teenage girls can be pretty awful too; to each other and to boys. But when it comes to matters of the heart, girls are often preyed upon. The heart of a teenage girl is so fragile, so tender. And I have seen teenage boys stomp all over a girl’s heart when he is bored of her.

And I am not just talking about unchurched boys.

Currently, I am writing a chapter entitled, “Are we Different?” for my book, Pouring In, exploring that very question. Most teenage boys in the church and probably girls too are not different because of their faith. Our teenagers have blended into the culture . . . just like we have.

What if there are boys who are predators within the youth group at church? Who is going to protect the girls in the church from the boys? Do we have a responsibility to protect them?

A friend of mine from church who has all boys once said to me. “I really wish parents of teenage girls would make them dress modestly. It’s really hard for teenage boys when girls walk around in next to nothing!”

Ever since she said that, I have tried to enforce rules of dressing modestly for my girls. I have tried to support her as a mother of teenage boys. Parents of girls should be teaching them about the importance of not causing their brothers in Christ to sin. That is my job as a mother of girls.

Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.  1 Corinthians 8:13

It seems to me, at 14 and 16, Christian boys—boys in the church—should be treating girls with more dignity and respect. They are old enough to have been taught what it means to be a young man. They are old enough to handle relationships in a more mature manner.

But, I don’t see it.

Kholofelo Mashiloane writes in his blog post, “A Real Man Of CHIVALRY,” the following.

A real man may open your door but more importantly, he opens his heart, his feelings, and gives of his life.
A real man may pay for your meal but he’s also willing to selflessly lay down his rights.
A real man may carry your bag but more than that he will gently hold your heart.
A real man may offer you his coat in the cold but he will ultimately offer you his respect, honor, and loyalty that’s displayed in how he lives his life.
A real man is one who imitates Christ in the way he loves.

Christian fathers must teach their teenage boys what it means to be “a real man.” If fathers are silent about this, the world will teach them plenty. And that’s mostly what we see. Boys misusing their sexuality and taking advantage of girls.

So, my plea is to fathers of teenage boys. It is up to YOU to teach your son the appropriate way to treat girls. It is up to YOU to teach your son how to treat a girl in a dating relationship. It is up to YOU to teach your son how to restrain his sexuality, and to protect and preserve the purity of girls around them.

I write this out of desperation, out of frustration, and out of anger for how boys have treated my daughters, boys in the school and in the church. I feel helpless and sad for them that this is the world I have brought them into. A world where a majority of teenage boys are selfish at best and predators at worst.

 

To Date or Not To Date

Just when you think you know what you are doing as a parent. Just when you think “I’ve got this.” Just when you think you are a decent parent, your kids start dating. Then everything you thought you knew goes out the window. And you start over from square one.

Should we let our teenagers date? How old is old enough?

Kids in this country often start dating at such as young age. Kids are “dating” in middle school and even elementary. And by high school, they are playing house.

American culture has defined dating for teenagers as kissing, having sex, and using the word “babe” after every sentence. They try to act like they are practically married. It’s scary that this is the “norm.”

The emphasis of dating is on the physical not the relational or the spiritual.

A girl should get so lost in God, that a guy has to seek Him to find her.
~John Piper, Desiring God

There are two reasons why teenagers shouldn’t date in high school.

First, the obvious reason of teens and sex. It is hard to think of how many years my girls have before they will likely marry. If they get married at the same age I did, it will be in eight to ten years. That is a long time not to have sex in this culture.

Unless you live under a rock you probably know that most teens are having sex. And that includes those in the church. A significant number of kids from Christian households are growing up and deciding to have sex before marriage.

“80 percent of unmarried evangelical young adults (18 to 29) said that they have had sex.” ~John Blake, CNN, “Why young Christians aren’t waiting anymore”

We are such a sex crazed nation. We have so perverted sex that it doesn’t seem to even resemble what God designed it to be. How do you come back from that? Is there any hope for our kids to remain pure?

Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, not to awaken love until the time is right.  Song of Solomon 8:4

If our kids awaken love at an early age, they may do things that they will later regret.

Second, we shouldn’t let our teenagers date in high school because it takes their focus off of God, family and school. Our kids’ jobs as teenagers is to love and obey God and His Son Jesus, to love their family, and to learn a skill or trade (go to school!). That’s pretty much it!

Same sex friends and church are also an important part of our teenagers’ lives. They need to be learning how to love others and participate in a community.

Anything else is pretty much a distraction at their age.

However, each parent has to decide what is best for their kids and their family. You know your teen. If you don’t let them date, are they likely to withdraw from you and sneak around? Or, will they be upset at first, but basically obey you? We should consider these things when making our decision.

We must weigh the risk of a breakdown of communication with our kids. Fostering open communication with our teenagers is crucial. Parenting teens requires a delicate balance. It is like walking a tightrope over a very deep canyon. If you get it wrong, you can fall to your death.

I am not saying that we should parent out of fear. However, very few of the issues parents face with teenagers are black and white.

Sometimes I miss the days when my girls were little and right and wrong was clear and obvious. I was an awesome parent then! But now I realize, even though young parents are physically exhausted and don’t have much time for themselves, it is much easier to know what to do. My husband and I have faced so many gray areas in our parenting lately that we have forgotten what black and white look like! It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting.

I am in no way judging parents who do let their kids date in high school. We did. However, I am realizing that the ideal would have been for our kids to have waited to date. That would have been the ideal.

However, how much of life is ideal? Not much, I find. Especially in parenting teenagers in America in 2017! We do the very best we can, and realize that we are not perfect parents. I am not even close!

Ultimately, only God knows what twists and turns our kids will make on their way to the cross.

But, we can pray, and teach them that there isn’t anything that can separate them from the love of God. And that there is nothing they can do to earn, or lose, the grace that has been freely given to them.

A man 2,000 years ago hung on a cross, bloodied and beaten, for your kids and mine. Their sins have been redeemed by the blood of the lamb. That is all the hope we need.


Kim Kurtz is writing a book called, Pouring In: Instilling a Personal, Passionate, and Permanent Faith in the Next Generation, due to come out this fall. A majority of Christian kids leave the faith after they leave home. She explores why this is happening and what Christian parents can do differently to change the outcome for their kids.

 

Is Your Faith Contagious? 3 Things Teenagers Need To See In Their Parents

On a mission, I grabbed the Clorox wipes and hurried to the kitchen. All I could see was a teeming cesspool of germs. My daughter had just gotten over the flu and strep. So, I wiped down the refrigerator handles, the microwave, the faucets, door handles, and the knobs on the stove.

It has been a rough winter in our household. We have all been sick a lot. Thank goodness for the MinuteClinic! In-out-on antibiotics-and back to bed! And just my style . . . . no doctors!

Just like those pesky germs, our character, who we are, is likely to be contagious. Contagious to those around us, and contagious to our kids.

Think about it, have you ever caught yourself mimicking things your parents said or did during your childhood? We all have.

Our character is contagious. And if we are living a life in obedience to Christ, our faith will be contagious as well.

We, as Christian parents, are the first step in the equation of our kids’ faith. Whether our kids develop a personal, and passionate faith, or a casual, watered down faith, depends a great deal on the faith and character of Mom and Dad.

We are told that if we live by the Spirit we will bear fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Galatians 5:22–23

If we long to reflect the image of Jesus in front of our kids, all of these characteristics should be our goal. However, there are three overarching themes in the character of Christ, under which everything else falls.

There are three characteristics of Christ that teenagers need to see in their parents to make following Him irresistible.

They must see . . .

1) Love

Kids must see their parents being people that love much. Love God, love their kids, and love others.

If someone asked you if you loved God, you would probably say, yes. We all would. But what does it really mean to love God? Love is not a feeling or a fact. As DC Talk sang back in the ‘90s, “Luv is a Verb.”

As disciples of Christ, we must actively, willfully, deliberately, intentionally, and fully love God and His Son, Jesus Christ above all else.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30-31

Michael Smalley posed this question during the sermon he gave at our church this Sunday. “What was Jesus’ love language?”

We all know the love languages from Gary Chapman’s 1995 book, The Five Love Languages.

  1. receiving gifts
  2. quality time
  3. words of affirmation
  4. acts of service
  5. physical touch

“What was Jesus’ love language?” I repeated in my head. I figured it was a trick question. All of them?

Michael went on to say that Jesus’ love language was obedience. Of course!

“If you love me, obey my commandments . . . Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.”  John 14:15,21

Our kids will see that we love Jesus if we are obeying his commands. It’s that simple.

Our kids will also see if we are a people who “love much” based on how we love them. We must be continually pouring love into them.

And, this one will seal the deal on what our kids think about us. Our kids must see us love others. Are we loving our neighbors? Are we loving difficult people? Are we loving our enemies?

2) Humility

The strongest defining characteristic of Jesus after love, was humility. No one has ever been higher or more worthy of praise that walked this earth than Jesus Christ. And no one has ever been more humble.

I have often thought that if I found out someday that Christianity wasn’t true, following Jesus would still have been the right way to live. Because of the call to humility.

When we put ourselves below others, they are lifted up. If we all lived like Jesus, we would be loving others and lifting each other up. Talk about an ideal society!

If you want your kids to have faith in Christ, there is nothing that can make Him more attractive than a display of humility in you.

3) Surrender

Many Christian kids growing up in the church never experience parents who surrender their lives to Christ. No wonder they are walking away.

If we don’t follow Christ with reckless abandon, then we might as well forget about passing on our faith at all. Why would we want to anyway? If we are not seeking to surrender our lives to Christ, then, He must not be that important to us. At least not important enough to do what He says.

If we want to show our kids a loving, good God, then we must surrender to Him first.

Love first, humility second, and surrender third. These are the ingredients that make our faith contagious.

It might be time to take inventory. As Christian parents, we must look in the mirror from time to time. Am I a loving person? Do I put other’s first? And, have I given everything I have and everything I am to God?

If you are brave enough, ask your kids what they see in you. You might be surprised by what they say.

Pumping Up Young People On The Drug Of Faith

I recently read Addie Zierman’s book, When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over. I adore Addie. She writes with such warmth. And though there is a slight difference in age between us, our stories are very similar. We both grew up fully immersed in the Evangelical life.

I could relate to the rituals and cliches of growing up in church. I could relate to the camps and mission trips. And I was all about my youth group friends and youth group crushes.

I could also relate to the disillusionment in my faith I experienced as I got older.

I was sprinkled as a baby, born again when I gave my life to Christ at church camp, and confirmed as a teenager. And I never missed a youth group activity, retreat or mission trip.

When Petra, Newsboys, WhiteHeart, DeGarmo and Key, Audio Adrenaline, and Jars of Clay, hit the radio waves in the ‘80s and ‘90s, that was all I listened to.

The band that rocked my world was DC Talk. Their first cassette (yea, I know, I’m old!), Heavenbound, was the first of its kind. It wasn’t just Christian rock, it was Christian rap! Finally, as a teenager, I could listen to the type of music I loved! And my parents approved.

I was really bummed when in 2000, Toby McKeehan (TobyMac), Kevin Max, and Michael Tate decided to break up and pursue solo careers. According to Wikipedia in 2002, the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music called DC Talk “the most popular overtly Christian act of all time.”

Along with DC Talk, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, and Sandy Patti were also my favorites. Many nights I could be found in my room belting out Sandy Patti songs like, Another Time and Another Place or We Shall Behold Him.

What I remember looking forward to most about youth group were the boys. It was about who was hooking up with who. And youth group retreats were a hotbed of raging hormones.

Aaaahhhh, the magic of the Evangelical childhood.

It was the emotional rush of that last night of camp around the campfire. It was the spiritual high at concerts and during youth group worship. It was the mountaintop experience of summer camps and mission trips that kept me spiritually floating on air. As a youth in the church, Christianity, was one emotional or spiritual high after another.

When I left home and went to college, however, the highs ended and real life kicked in. The faith of my childhood and the world I later encountered were not in sync. They didn’t seem to fit together. They were like two positive ends of a magnet. So I did what most youth group graduates did, and left my faith behind.

Matt Bays expressed similar disillusionment with the faith from growing up in the church in his book, Finding God in the Ruins.

In time it would seem as though we’d all been given free tickets to The Greatest Show on Earth, and then when we arrived, nothing. No popcorn or lions. No ringmaster with a long whip strapped to his side. No trapeze, no high dive, no clowns, and no one being shot out of a cannon. Before we were saved, the preshow was exciting. But once we entered the big top, we found less pomp and more circumstance. We’d been had.

As young people, we were pumped up on the drug of faith. And we had our high. But it didn’t take long to come crashing down. All we knew was a kind of honeymoon phase of our faith. And nobody told us that the honeymoon would end.

Somehow, the message of the gospel got lost in translation for many Gen X’ers like Addie, Matt, and myself. It was one high after another. The Christianity that we came to know didn’t prepare us for a life of following Christ in the real world.

So, what can we learn from my and so many others’ experiences of growing up in the church?

We must be so careful not to pass on a superficial faith to our kids. It is a betrayal of the gospel. There is a misconception that in order to win kids to Christ, we have to misrepresent what it means to follow Him.

We don’t have to hide the truth of the gospel. We don’t have to constantly impress or entertain our youth. The true person of Jesus Christ, Himself, is captivating enough. We don’t need to dress Him up in order to make Him attractive. The gospel, in and of itself, is irresistible when it is truly understood.

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.  Philippians 3:8


I would love to hear what your experience was like growing up in the church. Did it prepare you to carry your faith into adulthood?

Comment and subscribe now and join the conversation!

 

Counting the Cost of Parenting

One of the few nuggets of information that I retained from business college was the concept of opportunity cost. According to Investopedia.com, opportunity cost refers to a benefit that a person could have received, but gave up, to take another course of action.

When making decisions concerning our time and money we must consider the opportunity cost. Most of us do this in the decisions we make everyday.

If I work full time, than I won’t be there when the kids get home from school.
If my kids play sports, we will frequently have to miss church.
If I teach this class, I won’t be home on Wednesday nights.

There is a cost to parenting. Just as God sent His Son to pay the price for our sins. And just as there is a cost to following Christ. Having kids also costs us something.

The question is, who will pay?

I recently heard about a friend of the family I hadn’t seen in a long time. He and his wife have a four-year-old daughter and a baby. Let’s call him Max.

Max had lofty career goals from the beginning. After college, he attended one of the most prestigious, and the most expensive business schools in the country. When all was said and done, he had student loans in the ballpark of $100,000!

He got a job working for one of the most prominent consulting companies in the country. It required travel which meant he would be gone Monday through Thursday just about every week.

After being out of town for a project, he noticed his relationship with his four-year-old daughter was suffering. Max wasn’t home very much, and when he was, he felt like he was constantly disciplining her. They were having very little positive daddy-daughter time. So, he requested to be put on local projects, and their relationship improved.

It’s not just quality time that matters, because . . .  it takes quantity to get to quality.

Max’s next project was only for two weeks. But the project was in Paris. This highly prestigious job was sought after by most of his colleagues, and the competition was fierce. It was the chance of a lifetime and he couldn’t give it up.

So Max went. And he traveled again, and again.

Max’s daughter suffered when she didn’t see daddy for long periods of time. There was a cost, and she was paying it.

There is a sacrifice required when we have kids. If we, as parents, aren’t feeling the pain of sacrifice, than our kids probably are.

Let’s look at another family. Let’s call them Jack and Diane.

Jack is a an I.T. guy at a consulting company. Diane is a partner at a prominent law firm. They have two boys approaching the teen years. Most of their money is tied up in their trendy, suburban, house, and Diane likes to shop for new clothes, new furniture, and new cars. Their lifestyle requires both of their high incomes.

The oldest son is having difficulty in school. He doesn’t fit in and is having a hard time making friends. He experiences bullying at school and doesn’t feel like his parents listen to him. What’s most alarming, however, is that he recently threatened suicide. 

A threat of suicide should never be taken lightly. It’s true, you know your kid best, and every adolescent is different. Some fully intend to follow through and some don’t. However, we must err on the side of caution. We must err on the side of life.

Never ignore a threat of suicide.

If your kid is getting bullied at school and it is affecting him enough to threaten suicide, drastic measures must be taken. Parents must do whatever it takes to help their children out of despair. If parents won’t, who will?

For Jack and Diane, this may mean that one of them quits their job and homeschools their troubled son. Or, they may need to move so he can go to a different school and have a fresh start.

When parents sacrifice for their kids, they feel valued. When parents don’t sacrifice for their kids, they feel worthless.

If we are unwilling to sacrifice for our children, they will likely suffer.

If we want to give our kids the very best, we must be willing to do radical things. Are we willing to sacrifice for our kids? Are we willing to give up our career and/or dreams temporarily so our kids can thrive?

There is a cost to parenting. Will we, as parents, sacrifice for our kids? Or, will we put the “sacrifice” on them?

I am not saying that both parents working is wrong in every situation. Parents know their children, and their needs. And every family is different.

However . . . .

If we, as parents, are not feeling the pain of sacrifice in our parenting, then it’s possible our kids are feeling it.

What are we giving up to be a parent?

Blasting Off to My Greatest Adventure

This morning I pushed the “red button” to launch and signed a book contract. In the next nine to twelve months, Pouring In, Instilling a Personal, Passionate, and Permanent Faith in the Next Generation will be on bookstore shelves and on Amazon! Praise God! It’s been a long time coming.

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:6

I didn’t make this decision lightly. As I prayed about it for two weeks, I heard God say, “What are you afraid of? I gave you this book.” . . . or, did I? or, Was I just hearing what I wanted to hear God say? or, Was it just the voices in my head?

As I celebrated with family and friends, I could hear the subtle whisper of doubt in my ear.

Although the excitement of signing a book contract is overwhelming, so is the fear. What if no one buys my book? What if I can’t finish it on time? What if I FAIL?!

The fear of failure can be paralyzing.

I was watching William Lane Craig’s Defenders class on YouTube a couple months ago when he said, “Failure might be God’s will for your life.”

God’s will for your life can be that you fail. God can lead you into failure. Because he has things to teach you through failure that you can’t learn through success.  ~WLC

I had to stop and sit with that for a while. That thought has never crossed my mind.

Is it OK if failure is in God’s will for your life or for mine?

Obviously we won’t fail spiritually if we are following Christ. And we won’t fail when it comes to eternity. We have victory in Christ and nothing can change that. Amen!

But, what if it is not in His plan for me to be successful? Ever?! Would I be OK with that?

Again, I sat with it.

Part of me wanted to just jump up and appear holy and righteous by saying, “Whatever Thou willeth I will doeth with joyeth!” But, is that real? Could I really rejoice in that?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that failure and success are a state of mind. They are an attitude not an absolute.

My soul longs to love Jesus Christ and to follow Him with reckless abandon.

If we pursue Jesus as though He is the only thing that we are chasing, nothing else matters. If we surrender our lives to Christ, then success or failure become irrelevant.

Therefore, it doesn’t matter if my book succeeds or fails. All that matters is if it brings glory to God and His Son Jesus Christ. It’s all about Him.

A friend of mine who was about to start fundraising for her new ministry once told me, “don’t chase after the money . . . . chase after the mission, and God will provide.”

As I rest on the threshold of this extraordinary adventure, this is my prayer.

Dear Abba, Father,

Lord, you are so good and so loving. Thank you for your Word and the promise that You will never leave me. You are always by side. Therefore, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Keep my eyes always on You as I venture out into the great unknown. Build my trust day by day, and keep my spirit open to your Word. Help me stay connected to the vine, Lord, because YOU are my lifeblood, YOU are the air I breathe, and YOU are my everything. In Your Son’s precious name. Amen.

To God be the glory!  Here we go!