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.

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?