Worth Your Time 2/27/15

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:

Does Your Youth Ministry Mess With Christ’s Bride by Jon Nielson (The Gospel Coalition)
“Youth pastors, directors, and workers need to be constantly called back to a focus on substantive, biblical, and gospel-centered ministry to young people, so that they do not fall prey to the gleam of a thriving and fun youth ministry that does not contribute to lasting kingdom fruit.”

Your Children are Looking at Pornography. How are you Responding? by Nicholas Black (Harvest USA)
“Pornography is anything the heart uses to find sexual expression outside of God’s intended design for relational intimacy. It is anything that tempts and corrupts the human heart into desiring sensual pleasure in sinful ways. By this definition, we live in a pornographic culture.”

Dropouts and Disciples: How Many Students are Really Leaving the Church? by Ed Stetzer (Christianity Today)
“In most cases, our surveys show a lack of intentionality in dropping out. Eighty percent of young people who dropped out of church said they did not plan to do so during high school. It’s not that most rejected the church. Our teenagers aren’t primarily leaving because they have significant disagreements with their theological upbringing or out of some sense of rebellion. For the most part, they simply lose track of the church and stop seeing it as important to their life.”

Revealed: The Science Behind Teenage Laziness by Louise Carpenter (The Telegraph)
“She is passionate, for example, about the madness of an 8.30/9am school start time. ‘It’s the middle of the night for a teenager!’ she says. Teenagers release melatonin (the sleepy hormone) a couple of hours later in the day than adults and so are able to stay up later, but then they need more sleep in the morning. ‘It’s like getting us up at 5.30am,’ Blakemore elaborates. Teenagers experience ‘social jet-lag’ as a result, hence the long lie-ins at the weekends (this is absolutely not slothfulness, she says, but their bodies catching up after being forced to awaken so early).”

How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life by Jon Ronson (The New York Times Reporter)
“Eventually I started to wonder about the recipients of our shamings, the real humans who were the virtual targets of these campaigns. So for the past two years, I’ve been interviewing individuals like Justine Sacco: everyday people pilloried brutally, most often for posting some poorly considered joke on social media. Whenever possible, I have met them in person, to truly grasp the emotional toll at the other end of our screens. The people I met were mostly unemployed, fired for their transgressions, and they seemed broken somehow — deeply confused and traumatized.”

Dadvertising at the Super Bowl by Mike McGarry (Rooted Ministries… yes, this is a shameless plug)
“A father’s love is powerful because it reflects the love and acceptance we were created to enjoy in our Heavenly Father, and when the Church steps into a kid’s life to care for him or her, it is a tangible expression of the adoption which is ours through faith in Jesus Christ.”

The Fatherhood of God: A Sermon Summary

How does your relationship with your father mirror and reflect your relationship with your Heavenly Father?  Maybe this is something you’ve thought about a lot, maybe it’s a new thought – but the more you think about it the more I’m convinced you’ll find many parallels.

The Big Question today is this: If I am painting a portrait of God for my children, what does He look like?  Is this portrait anywhere close to the one painted throughout Scripture.

I want us to look at the Fatherhood of God through three lenses: God’s Authority, God’s Provision, and God’s Love.  Fathers can faithfully reflect these characteristics of God, or they can greatly harm our view of God by abusing or neglecting these characteristics.

Before moving on, there are a few important qualifications that need to be made:

  1. Even if you aren’t a father, this sermon is for you because it is mostly about who your Heavenly Father is.
  2. If you aren’t married, let these characteristics of God guide you young men as you grow in biblical manhood, and let them guide you young women as you consider relationships and future marriage.
  3. If you compare your father to your Heavenly Father, guess who will come up short?  Don’t forget that as long as your father has breath in his lungs he will be a work in progress.  Give grace to your dad, and remember that you aren’t the perfect son/daughter either!
  4. If you have an absent or abusive father, You need to be assured of two things: First, God will never abandon you; and second, God will not abuse you.

God’s Authority
In the midst of his suffering, Job cried out in self-justification that God had treated him unfairly.  In response, God put Job in his place (Job 38:4-12), essentially saying, “Job, where were you when I created the world?  I didn’t see you there… on what authority are you judging me?”  God does not answer to me or to you.

It is good for my kids to have a healthy fear of me.  Not a fear that causes them to wonder if I will stop loving them or if I will reject them.  But what kind of portrait of God’s authority am I painting for them?  If I let my kids run the house, I am not pointing them to a Heavenly Father who has Authority, but to One who exists to do their bidding.

God’s Provision
One of the clearest ways that God has provided for his people is through Manna.  Imagine being among the Israelites in the exodus.  God has delivered you from slavery, sent the Ten Plagues and has now parted the Red Sea.  But then you start to wonder: Where do we go from here?  What are we going to eat?  How am I going to provide for my family?  The people started to grumble against Moses, and then we read Exodus 16:4-5

God literally made food rain from heaven.  Not just once, but every day (except for the Sabbath, but they were allowed to gather for the Sabbath ahead of time).  God loves to provide for his children (see, Matthew 7:9–11).

Will you trust God to provide, or do you give lip-service when you pray?  When you pray for daily bread, do you grumble and complain as if God was faithless when your food runs out at the end of the day?  When God’s will and your will are not the same, will you still pray, “Thy will be done?”  How I pray, how I make decisions, and how I spend my money will teach my kids whether or not they can rely on God to provide.

God’s Love
The story of Hosea might be the most beautiful portrayal of God’s love in Scripture, obviously excluding the Gospels.  While Hosea doesn’t give us a pattern to pursue in how God wants us to pick a spouse, his life is a clear picture of God’s faithful love for his children.  He marries a woman, Gomer, who time and time again is faithless to him, runs from him, gets herself in danger, and even sells herself into slavery.  But Hosea chases after her and refuses to give up on her, regardless of the cost or sacrifice to himself.  Hosea 3:1 provides a wonderful glimpse into Hosea’s story and its significance.

In the end, after relentlessly forsaking Hosea, Gomer receives Hosea’s love after she had done everything imaginable that could’ve caused him to hate her.  As the Apostle Paul would later write, “but God demonstrates his love for us in that, while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Tying it Together
At the cross we see God’s Authority, God’s Provision, and God’s Love at its finest hour.  (John 3:16–17)

 On the cross God’s authority overcame our sinful rebellion.  We had rejected his authority and put ourselves on his throne.  But God showed his power over sin through the resurrection.  The power of sin is death, and death could not hold him.

 On the cross God provided freedom from eternal judgment by taking the punishment we deserve upon himself.  He paid our debt, he took the punishment we deserved.

On the cross God’s love led him to adopt us as sons and daughters.  It was his love, not the nails, that held Jesus on the cross.  He had the authority to come down from the cross, but his love kept him there so you could be set free.

Regardless of what kind of father you are or what kind of father you have – God’s Fatherhood is perfectly marked by Authority, Provision, and Love.  Be thankful for every way your father has shown forth the faithfulness of your Heavenly Father.  Remember that despite every fault your human father has, your Heavenly Father is perfect.  This is most clearly seen through Jesus Christ on the cross, where we are adopted as children of God.

Rest in your identity as his child, and especially you fathers out there, be encouraged to live in such a way that the portrait of God you are painting for your children is faithful to the picture of God we seek through Scripture.

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.


I Hope I Never Become a Cool Dad

I love being a dad, but I hope I never become a “cool dad.”  Check out this commercial and really ask yourself what this is trying to teach men about what it means to be a dad.

Moms and Dads need to care more about their kids than they care about their kids’ opinions of them.  Sure I want my son and daughter to think I’m fun and I want them to enjoy spending time with me as they get older… but not at the cost of putting them in charge over me.  I am their Dad and God has given me the responsibility to teach them to respect authority, to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

“Cool dads” have a tough time doing that because discipline and correction aren’t cool.  I hope I never become a cool dad.

Parents: Watch this…

I really think this U2 song/video is one of the most powerful songs about a child’s relationship with a parent (especially a son’s relationship with his dad).  Bono sang this song at his Dad’s funeral.  Just listen to the lyrics… you can really feel what Bono’s feeling in this song.  I think one of the biggest reasons this is one of U2’s best songs is because so many people feel the same exact way about one of their parents…  check it out:

Give the Dads some respect!

Next time you’re watching TV I want you to do something: pay attention to how most commercials portray dads/husbands.  Here’s what you’ll probably find…

Dad’s at home with the kids trying to take care of them while Mom’s not home.  The kids are either running crazy because he can’t control them or else they’re now-it-alls who help their incompetent father from destroying the house.  But oh no… it’s time to eat.  The kids are all starving and Dad just doesn’t know what to do!  Ahhh, but just in time Mom comes home with Pizza Hut or KFC or (fill in the blank) to save the day.

update (8/22): I saw this commercial last night and found it on YouTube… great example!

Think about it… it’s like there’s this conspiracy out there just to make men look like fools.  Are there some dads who are actually incompetent at making dinner… yes, but there are tons of dads who cook dinner for the family multiple times a week!

My point: Give dads and husbands some respect.  I really get so frustrated when I see commercials like the one described above (which happens a lot!).

Let me hear from you… have you ever noticed this?