Worth Your Time 4/10/15

Each Friday I try to provide a few articles that are worth the time of parents and youth workers. These articles span a number of issues, and not all are written by Christians, but they are all “worth your time.” Here’s the latest edition:

The Most Important Thing My Parents Did, by Tim Challies (Challies)
“I ask the question from time-to-time. Why are all five of my parents’ kids following the Lord, while so many of our friends and their families are not? Obviously I have no ability to peer into God’s sovereignty and come to any firm conclusions. But as I think back, I can think of one great difference between my home and my friends’ homes—at least the homes of my friends who have since walked away from the Lord and his church.”

Kids, Marijuana, and Reasoning Through the Dangers, by Walt Mueller (CPYU)
“In this case, the culture isn’t doing any favors for those of us who want to steer kids away from that which can cause harm of all kinds. Even when science offers compelling evidence, a growing number of kids are recklessly, impulsively, and foolishly choosing to do long-term harm to themselves. . . and justifying it all as benign.”

Do You Believe in Confirmation Bias, by Kenneth R. Morefield (Christianity Today)
“If Do You Believe? sometimes feels less tribal and triumphal than God’s Not Dead, it’s probably because Bobby’s story and the doctor’s story aren’t the center of the film (like Radisson’s), since they’re interwoven with several other storylines. …When [Christian movies] represent Christians interacting with other Christians or depict Christians struggling with internal conflicts, they are rarely culturally offensive and often inspiring or uplifting. But when they portray Christians interacting with non-Christians, they rely too much on flat, stereotypical villains whose only real function is to deliver rhetorical equivalents of slow, hanging curveballs for the Christian heroes to knock out of the park.”

The Most Widely Misunderstood Story in the Bible, by Lyndon Unger (Cripplegate)
“I’d suggest that the most widely known is probably the story of David and Goliath, and that story is always misunderstood…hence the title. Usually, the story is generally taken as some sort of underdog tale meant to encourage people to tackle impossible odds, or something along those lines. Sorry. That is not what it’s about.”

Never Sorry Enough, by Tim Challies (Challies)
“My friend expressed remorse and asked forgiveness, just like he should have. There were no amends he could make and no further actions he could take to make things right—that was not the nature of this offense. So he moved on. We remained friends. … But sometimes that old hurt would creep up. Sometimes I would find myself hurt all over again by that old offense. … I had judged his apology sincere but insufficient, well-intentioned but trite…. I had to see that no one can ever be sorry enough. No one can ever be contrite enough. Not him, and not me.

What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality?, by Kevin DeYoung (DeYoung @ The Gospel Coalition)
You can find a number of helpful resources here about the forthcoming book, “What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality?” on this page.

Worth Your Time 3/20/15

Each Friday I try to provide a few articles that are worth the time of parents and youth workers. These articles span a number of issues, and not all are written by Christians, but they are all “worth your time.” Here’s the latest edition:

Things I Would Do Differently if I Were Raising My Children Again, by Mark Altrogge (The Blazing Center)
“My children are adults now and several have children of their own. We had lots of fun as a family, and I have lots of great memories of raising our kids. But in retrospect, I think I would have done a number of things differently. So I share them in hopes that younger parents might benefit and not make some of the mistakes I did. Some things I would do differently…”

How to Read Your Bible for Yourself, by John Piper (Desiring God)
Look at the Book is John Piper’s latest effort to help teach people to read the Bible for themselves. It’s an ongoing series of 8–12 minute videos in which the camera is on the text, not the teacher.”

Why Our Children Don’t Think There are Moral Facts, by Justin McBrayer (New York Times)
“…if students are already showing up to college with this view of morality, it’s very unlikely that it’s the result of what professional philosophers are teaching. So where is the view coming from?

A few weeks ago, I learned that students are exposed to this sort of thinking well before crossing the threshold of higher education. When I went to visit my son’s second grade open house, I found a troubling pair of signs hanging over the bulletin board.”

What Not to Ask Someone Suffering, by Nancy Guthrie (Desiring God)
“People ask me all the time what to say and what to do for people who are grieving the death of someone they love. And I’m glad they ask. I’m glad they want to know what is really helpful and meaningful, and what is completely unhelpful and actually hurtful. And I wish I could tell you that I always know myself what to say. But sometimes words fail me. And I wish I could tell you that I never say the wrong thing. But I do. In fact, a few days ago, I made the mistake I often tell other people not to make.”

It’s the Little Things, by Nicholas Batzig (Ligonier)
“God loves to bless the little things His people do. Sometimes they are small acts, and sometimes they only appear to be so. Jesus cares deeply about the little things that His people do to bless others in His church. He takes note of them as precious acts of service. He uses the little things that His people do to carry on His work in the world through His church. May God give all of us grace to cultivate faithfulness in the little things that we do.”

3 Wrong Things That Some Christians Think About Heaven, by Justin Taylor (The Gospel Coalition)
“Davis shows that the following ideas, even though they are common, are unbiblical:

  1. Heaven is only future.
  2. Heaven is only spiritual.
  3. Heaven is inaccessible.”

Worth Your Time 3/13/15

Each Friday I try to provide a few articles that are worth the time of parents and youth workers. These articles span a number of issues, and not all are written by Christians, but they are all “worth your time.” Here’s the latest edition:

Don’t Follow Your Heart, by Jon Bloom (Desiring God)
“The truth is, no one lies to us more than our own hearts. No one. If our hearts are compasses, they are Jack Sparrow compasses. They don’t tell us the truth, they just tell us what we want. If our hearts are guides, they are Gothels. They are not benevolent, they are pathologically selfish. In fact, if we do what our hearts tell us to do we will pervert and impoverish every desire, every beauty, every person, every wonder, and every joy. Our hearts want to consume these things for our own self-glory and self-indulgence.”

Parenting Well in a Digital World, by Tim Challies (Challies.com)
“We tend to think that no one has ever endured what we are enduring today. The truth is, this is a recurring pattern. Time and time again the world has witnessed technological explosions that have changed everything. Today we are at a new frontier, and we—you and I—have to do the difficult work of learning to use these things well. Instead of choosing fear, we need to choose familiarity. Instead of fearing new technologies, let’s investigate them and look for ways we can use them to advance God’s cause. Let’s investigate the benefits and the risks, and learn how to use these things to carry out God’s calling. And then let’s put them to work in doing good for others and bringing glory to God.”

The Cost of Relativism, by David Brooks (New York Times)
“….We now have multiple generations of people caught in recurring feedback loops of economic stress and family breakdown, often leading to something approaching an anarchy of the intimate life.

“But it’s increasingly clear that sympathy is not enough. It’s not only money and better policy that are missing in these circles; it’s norms. The health of society is primarily determined by the habits and virtues of its citizens. In many parts of America there are no minimally agreed upon standards for what it means to be a father. There are no basic codes and rules woven into daily life, which people can absorb unconsciously and follow automatically.”

Is Your Gospel Too Small?, by Amy L. Sherman (The Gospel Coalition)
“With a theology that’s all about getting a ticket to heaven for when I die, it’s not surprising that many Christians don’t show much interest in the question of how to live life now, inthis world. When our churches teach a salvation that is only from (from sin and death), it’s not hard to understand why so many believers don’t seem to know what salvation is for. And if we preach a gospel that is only, or mainly, about “saving souls,” we shouldn’t be shocked if we end up with congregations that are not very motivated to care for bodies and material needs.”

Canadian Parents Forced to Talk About Sex, by Jonathan McKee (JonathanMcKeeWrites.com
“Last week I flew to Toronto for a timely interview about my new book More Than Just the Talk on the Canadian TV show 100 Huntley Street (airing late March). This new book asserts, ‘parents need to create a comfortable climate of continual conversations about sex’ … a sore subject for Canadian parents right now, who feel their hand is being forced by this new curriculum.

“The interview was intriguing. I can’t say I disagreed with their frustration with ‘Big Brother’ stepping in and saying, ‘We’re going to teach your kids about sex because you don’t!’

“But it really raises the question: How come so many parents ‘don’t’?”

6 Reasons Why Sexual Predators Target Churches, by Tim Challies (Challies.com)
“It is terrible but true—sexual predators target churches. In the mind of a predator, a church offers a compelling target and, too often, an easy target. I recently worked my way through On Guard by Deepak Reju and learned that there are at least 6 reasons why sexual predators specifically target churches.”

Worth Your Time 3/6/15

Each Friday I try to provide a few articles that are worth the time of parents and youth workers. These articles span a number of issues, and not all are written by Christians, but they are all “worth your time.” Here’s the latest edition:

Battling Pornography… by Walt Mueller (CPYU)
“Over the course of the last couple of weeks I’ve had several people ask me this question: ‘What do think is the biggest challenge facing children and teens today?’ That’s a tough question to answer. Without a doubt, today’s ‘biggest challenge’ is nothing new. It’s a challenge shared by every human being who has drawn breath in our post-Genesis 3:6 world. It’s our brokenness and sin. Still, the question asks about how our sin is nuanced in our culture, our times, and our lives. My answer, with little hesitation, has to be ‘pornography.'”

Abusing Grace: Finding the Line Between “Guilt Trip” and “It’s All Good” by Tim Downey (Leadertreks)
“Those who abuse grace respond quickly: ‘I don’t have to live under a legalistic set of rules any longer. I’m free in Christ.’ But are they living in true freedom? Christians do not earn grace through actions, but Christ purchased for us freedomfrom sin, not freedom to sin. We must ask ourselves one simple question: Has the ‘freedom’ we have embraced brought us liberty or bondage (Gal. 5:13)?”

Francis Chan: Church Wastes Too Much Time Waiting on God’s Voice, Christians Getting Too Fat on the Word by Stephanie Samuel (Christian Post)
“Chan explained that continually listening to the Word without applying it has made Christians’ ears dull to God’s call. “That’s the first thing I was taught in seminary before we even started classes: the president of the seminary said, ‘look be careful because once you can hear the word of God and do nothing in response then the next time you hear it, it’ll get easier, and the next time and pretty soon it becomes a habit and a pattern of you’re able to hear the Word of God without a practical response,’ said Chan.”

Why an Actual Infinity Cannot Exist and Therefore We Know That The Universe Had a Beginning by Justin Taylor (Gospel Coalition)
“Philosopher William Lane Craig has done more than any other contemporary to popularize and develop the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which is simple to formulate and difficult to refute. The premises of the argument are as follows:

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe begins to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.”

Parenting Means Wrestling Demons by Jonathan Parnell (Desiring God)
“There is a war on children, and we are all, in one way or another, playing some role in it. Every time we move forward as faithful parents (or care for kids in any capacity, including advocating for the voiceless not yet born, and volunteering for nursery duty on Sundays), we are wrestling demons — because there is little the demons hate more than little children.”

The Gospel is the Heart of Discipline

I’ve read a lot of parenting this books this year… my estimate is at least 12 in the last 12 months.  (I’m not that insecure in my parenting, they’re “research” for my D.Min. thesis – but they’ve been VERY helpful personally as I have a 4 year old and a 1 year old at home.)  Gospel-Powered Parenting by William Farley is easily the best parenting book I’ve come across so far (with the possible tie of “Age of Opportunity” by Paul David Tripp, but Tripp’s book is focused on parenting teenagers so while it’s more directly applicable to my studies it’s not as personally applicable… yet!).

Here’s the latest nugget I’ve been chewing on today:

The gospel should be at the heart of all attempts to discipline children.  The gospel affects discipline in two ways.  First, it motivates our discipline.  Second, communicating the gospel become the end of effective Christian discipline.

Effective discipline requires great resolve and perseverance.  No parent is equal to the task.  Some children require five spankings in a lifetime, others five every morning.

… Understanding the gospel and its implications for disciplining our children fortified Judy and me through these trials.  It helped in several ways:

  • The gospel convinced us that indwelling sin was our children’s problem.
  • The gospel convinced us that authority is a crucial parental issue.
  • The gospel instructed us to pursue our children’s hearts rather than their behavior.
  • The gospel motivated us to use discipline to preach the gospel to our children.
  • The gospel motivated us to fear God.
  • The gospel helped Judy and me to grow in humility and sincerity.

Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again) & Ministry to Parents

Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again) by Wayne Rice is one of the best Youth Ministry books I’ve read in years.  Rice has been credited as the “co-founder” of American Youth Ministry (along with Mike Yaconelli), so he certainly has the experience, wisdom, and credibility to provide such a critique of modern-day Youth Ministry.  Not only was did the book provide many behind-the-scenes looks at the history of Youth Specialties, but it raised many good and hard questions that every youth worker should be asking.  Despite being a fairly slow reader, even I read it in only three days – I just couldn’t put it down and kept picking it up whenever I had an extra 15 minutes.

It seems like one of the most “trendy” topics today in youth ministry is ministry to parents, and yet, it doesn’t really seem like anyone knows how to actually do it effectively.  I’ve read a fair number of books lately on churches (youth ministries in particular) and parents partnering together, and I think this book makes one of the best and most persuasive cases for how important it is for youth ministries to be partnering with parents.

Just yesterday on the Youth Ministry 360 Blog, Andy Blanks asks a great question (which has prompted this book review).  Here’s his question:

As youth workers, should the burden fall on us to train and equip our students’ parents to lead them in discipleship?

I think Rice’s book addresses this from a number of perspectives.  Ultimately, I’m convinced that the church ought to be equipping parents to disciple their children/teens.  Unfortunately, too often discipleship is often a litany of unstructured Bible-Studies which focus simply on the adults and rarely make the jump to help parents be equipped to teach and discuss such important truths with their children.  Therefore, many youth workers feel that if they don’t equip parents to disciple their teens, who will?

Here are a number of my favorite quotations from Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again):

“I have all the respect in the world for youth workers in the church, but I’ve become more and more convinced over the years that God never gave to youth workers the responsibility for making disciples of other people’s kids.” (p.24)

“It’s not youth ministry’s fault that we’re losing so many kids. …While youth ministry may serve as a convenient scape-goat, it is not the culprit here.” (p.11)

“That our youth are not getting the message is not necessarily because they haven’t heard it or aren’t being taught it.  But perhaps we’re sending other messages to teenagers that are just coming across a lot louder and clearer than the message we want them to hear.  The wholesale conversion of our teenager to a religion like MTD may be nothing more than the unintended result of a systematic weakness in how we pass faith on to the next generation.” (p. 67)

“The mistake we made in the past wasn’t so much the kind of programs we ran but in our reliance on them to keep kids coming to our youth groups.  Programs may keep kids coming, but they won’t keep them connected.  Truth is, they may even be counter-productive.” (p.101)

“I believe that the primary role of the youth pastor today should be focused more on equipping adults rather than teenagers.  If we truly want better long-term results and a youth ministry that won’t collapse when we leave, we must learn to work with adults – especially parents.” (p.124)

“I know that senior pastors usually have their plates full, but the vision and mission for youth ministry in a local church must come from the top.” (p.149)

“The church and the family are two of the most powerful and important institutions on the earth, both of them ordained by God to preserve and pass on the faith to each generation.  If we can get them working together in harmony, kids are not only going to be more likely to adopt the faith of their parents but hang onto it long after they leave home.” (p.170)

“Many churches, in their efforts to be relevant and responsive to the needs of young adults have marginalized and abandoned their old folks. … What bothers me is that the young people of the church are missing out on the incredible vitality and wisdom and spiritual strength of people like my aunt Mabel and other members of her generation who are no longer considered an important part of the church.” (p.181-2)

I know that’s a lot, but it provides a great snapshot to tell you why the whole book is worth the $12 and the time you’ll invest in reading it.  Rice’s reflections on the past four decades of youth ministry and the questions he asks about its future are significant for both youth workers, parents, and all church-leaders to consider.  Seriously, just read the book, you’ll be glad you did.

Daddy Lesson: We’re All Selfish

My son is four years old and he’s got a ton of energy.  I love him to death, he’s just amazing and great… and exhausting.  He doesn’t really like to share his toys with his little sister and isn’t the biggest fan of having to obey his mom and dad (even though they’re amazingly brilliant and wise, of course).  We’ve been talking a lot about needing to share and be gentle when you don’t get what you want.

This leads to a conversation he had with my wife (his mom) the other day, completely out of the blue while they were doing something:

Son: It’s really hard for me.
Mom: What is, honey?
Son: I’ve been thinking about it.  It’s hard for me to when my friends at school say “no” when I ask if I can have their toys.
Mom: Oh… (dumbounded that a four-year-old was psychoanalyzing himself like that)…

Yeah… that conversation actually happened the other day.  But it got me to thinking – how much different is he really from the rest of us?  I’m just as selfish as he is – I don’t like it when I don’t get my way; I don’t like to take orders from other people when I’m in the middle of doing something I like doing; I want what I want when I want it.  I’ve just learned how to cope with the reality that I can’t actually get/do what I want all the time, and I’ve learned how to mask my selfishness so it doesn’t look as ugly as it really is.

So here’s my latest daddy lesson that I think is good for all us parents to remember (whether your kids are young like mine or teenagers, or older): You’re just as selfish as your kids are.  Maybe you’ve learned to suppress your selfishness and God has changed your heart, but by nature you’re every bit as selfish as your kids are… they get it from you!  It’s our job as parents to model SELFLESSness to our kids.

While our kids need to learn to obey their parents, we also need to show them what selflessness looks like when we don’t get our way either.