Feeding Our Kids A Law-Based Faith

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Pouring In; Instilling a Personal, Powerful, Passionate, and Permanent Faith in The Next Generation.


Sam Williamson, who writes for The Noble Heart, said, “It’s virtually one hundred percent predictable that we are converted by one message and then preach another. We are converted by the unbelievable hope of God’s love for the undeserving, but we lecture on behavior.”

I am so glad there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Praise God! There would be no hope for me if it weren’t for grace. I would be hopelessly heading to Hell. And so would you. And, so would our kids. We can’t save ourselves from our humanity. We all need a Savior.

The story of Jesus’ life is about a love so great that we can hardly fathom and a pardon so outrageous that none of us deserve.

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 6:14

Robin Roberts from the morning show, Good Morning America, recently quoted her mother as saying, “God does not love us because of who we are, God loves us because of who He is.” Wow! Right on Robin’s Mom!

There isn’t anything greater in this world than God’s love and grace we have been freely given in Jesus Christ. The gospel is about God’s love and grace. Grace is everything. Let’s celebrate that in our homes and in our churches.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:11-12

It is the foolishness and simplicity of the gospel that makes it irresistible. A man died in my place, and therefore, I live. It’s lunacy! It’s the crazy, radical love that God has for us.

As Christian parents, we seem to focus on what our kids should or shouldn’t do when it comes to the faith. I have fallen into this trap myself. Why? Do we focus on the law in our own relationship with God? I certainly don’t.

It’s natural for parents to lay down the law. That is what we do. We keep our kids from breaking the law, eating themselves to death, and flunking out of school. They have to follow rules, eat in moderation, and study, study, study!

We do this out of love. And we do it because we know what’s best for them. However, when it comes to teaching our kids faith, we have to take a different approach.

A couple years ago, Emily and I were fighting about what she was allowed to wear to school. Yoga pants and leggings have been the bane of my existence since my girls were in middle school! We have struggled and fought with our girls for years about dressing modestly. Modesty is not a popular concept.

Emily was really into hair, makeup, and fashion then. She put a lot of time and energy into her beauty regimen and it concerned me. I didn’t want her to mistakenly think that she was in any way defined by her beauty. Or that her beauty brought her power.

During our devotions one Saturday, I decided to have us study Isaiah 3:16–17.

The Lord says, “The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, strutting along with swaying hips, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. Therefore, the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the Lord will make their scalps bald.”

The passage goes on to talk about how vain and seductive women can be. It talks about how women use their beauty as a source of power.

You can imagine how well that went over. It was clear to whom I was directing this teaching. Dumb!! I should have known better.

A couple weeks later, I realized that I was teaching her a law-based faith. I went up to her room and I apologized for focusing on what she was doing wrong.

It’s so hard as parents not to make this mistake. What is parenting for the first decade of our kids’ lives if not teaching them right from wrong?

Obedience to Christ must be taught within the context of extreme love and grace.

Kara Powell, coauthor of Growing Young, discusses a helpful method for teaching kids faith that avoids the behavior-based model. She takes the basic “Guilt—Grace—Gratitude” model of the Heidelberg Catechism from Reformed theology, and adds the topics, God’s Goodness, God’s People and God’s Vision, to make it a complete picture of the gospel. She calls it “grounding moral obedience in the invitation of grace.”

Guilt is only one small part of the gospel story. We must overwhelm our kids with the message of God’s love and grace through the blood of Jesus. And teach them all aspects of the gospel story.

Powell’s method is a great way to teach the gospel to our kids. If we try to keep this progression in mind, they might have a better chance of understanding the true gospel.

All aspects of the faith are important. We must not get stuck on guilt and obedience.

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. 2 Timothy 1:9

We must demonstrate the beauty of grace in our parenting. This is crucial. Just as the king forgave the debt of his servant who owed him money in Matthew 18, we must extend grace to our kids.

Young people won’t be won to Christ by pounding the rules into their heads. Or, by shaming them. It’s our job to teach them about God’s abundant love and grace. We must show them the beauty of the gospel.

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.

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.

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!