Survival Guide: Transforming Gospel

The transforming gospel is one of most important topics that we can talk about. It is the story of Jesus and it is what will most transform our families.

We often turn to the Bible to find ourselves in the different figures of the Bible stories. But, remember, we are not the central figure of the gospel.

The Bible is about the story of God, from creation to the fall, promise, struggle, redemption, and then recreation. The gospel is about God.

The gospel is about God’s promise made through the prophets and the scriptures. It is God’s promise of salvation to you and me.

The gospel, at its very core is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Gospel means “good news.” The gospel is the power of God for salvation. The good news is dynamite – explosive power. The gospel tells us that Jesus paid the full price and it is His power that saves us.

The gospel reveals not only the righteousness of God, but also the depth of love for God.

Most of all, the gospel is from faith to faith. It is your faith in Jesus that saves you, but more so, it is that faith that sustains you.

How does this change your parenting? You need to be able to help your children understand the wide view of the gospel; the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

Help them navigate the chaotic world with the knowledge that God has always been faithful to His people, even through the worst of times.

Even more importantly, be liberated by the notion that you are living the transforming gospel. Because Jesus rose from the dead, you can have grace with yourself and in your parenting. Know that you will mess up and your kids will too, but you can still show them the consistent and persistent love of Jesus.

If you can live the transforming gospel in your home, you and your family can rest in the grace of Jesus.


Survival Guide: Ultimate Authority with AM Brewster

Today’s guest, Aaron Brewster, has been a biblical counselor for over 10 years. The past 5 of those years were spent at Victory Academy for Boys where he worked with at-risk teens and their families. He now works full time as the Executive Director of Truth.Love.Parent. where he writes, speaks, counsels, and hosts its podcast. Truth.Love.Parent. is a ministry dedicated to serving the Lord by equipping dads and moms to be the intentional, premeditated, disciple-making, Ambassador Parents God called and created them to be. Aaron, his wife, and their two children live in a multi-generational home with his parents in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

Aaron reminds us, all 66 books of the bible are divinely inspired by God. That means that they are valuable to us. It is an extension of God’s character. God’s word is our ultimate authority. Everything that God wants us to know is found in there.

Parents should understand that the bible is not a rulebook. It’s an invitation to a vibrant relationship with God, Aaron says. Your children shouldn’t want to obey because of rules, but because they love Him and they want to please Him.

Help you children discover God’s will for your lives. Start simple with the clear commands stated in the bible and with scripture. From there, know that the whole bible is the will of God for your life and your children’s lives.

Your children should know God and love God. It is their love for Him is going to deter them from sin, not the fear of its consequences.

Parenting is just like pastoring. You need to take God’s word and make it understandable and applicable to our audience. Don’t think that you have to reserve a part of the bible for when your kids get older. Rather, find ways to apply the biblical concepts to your child’s experiences right now.

 


The Coronavirus, Anxiety, and Jesus

We are living in unprecedented times. Things may be terrifying and uncertain and we can become incredibly anxious, but we can find refuge in the Word of God.

This year I’ve committed myself to memorizing and meditating on the Sermon on the Mount. I’m at chapter six right now and right in the middle of it, Jesus starts a passage on worry and anxiety that is so appropriate for what we are going through today.

One of the reasons for people’s anxiety right now is the economy tanking. It reveals that our hope was set in these treasures that we stored up. Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.” (Matthew 6:21)

If all your hope has been in your financial plan, your heart must be a mess right now. The more you spend time working to acquire treasure in heaven – investing in people, investing the Kingdom of God, that treasure has its eternal reward.

Jesus says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (Matthew 6:22-23) 

Right now, we are bombarded with information about the pandemic. If you read or watch the news and reports over and over throughout the day, you are investing in anxiety and worry. Instead, set a time and check the news then. Go about the rest of your day. What you’re watching and listening to will feed your soul.

Jesus says do not be anxious about your life. He preached it to severely persecuted and oppressed people in occupied Rome and he tells it to us now.

Jesus gives us several reasons why we should not worry:

  • Do not be anxious about food or clothing because your life is more than food and your body is more than clothing. Your life is more than your mortgage and your car payment. It might be hard and unideal, but we will make it through.
  • Look at the birds that God has provision for. If God provides for the birds, He is going to take care of you.
  • Worrying does not extend your life. As a matter of fact, worry shortens your life. In fact, worry robs you of your life right now.
  • God clothes flowers in beauty and splendor. In the same way God will provide for you. You are of more value to God than a weed or flower.
  • The people that don’t know God spend their time worrying about these things.
  • Instead of being anxious, seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
  • “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” (Matthew 6:34) Most of the time that we are crushed by anxiety does not usually have to do with the present, but with worries about tomorrow and the day after that. But if you think about whether God has provided for today, the answer is always yes.
  • There is going to be trouble today. When you realize that you can’t do it all, you aren’t just saved by the gospel, but sustained by the gospel. Our troubles in our daily lives should drive us back to Jesus.

Now that many of us may have much more time on our hands, maybe it is a good time to start memorizing Jesus’ words on anxiety.

During this time, drive yourself back to God’s word, ask for grace for today, and seek to be a blessing to God and to those around you instead of giving in to worry, fear and anxiety. We’re going to get through this.


Survival Guide God Centered Identity

It is crucial for us and for young people to understand who we are as far as being made in the image of God and to have parameters to understand what it means to be a biblical man or woman.

Today, the world is so crazy that it seems like everything is changing so rapidly and it feels like words don’t mean a thing. Truth is so incredibly relative.

On social media, young people are constantly bombarded with messages that skew who they are and who they think they should be. Our kids often end up not knowing what they are about and they need a vision and direction.

Help your children understand who they are – Are you your job? Your possessions? Your body? No. Center yourself and your children on your biblical identity.

Here are three crucial concepts in understanding biblical identity:

  1. The most core identity that we have is being made in the image of God. Who you are isn’t centered on what you look like, your talents, nor your family, but on whose you are. Humanity is the crown of God’s handiwork. Your children are the crown of God’s handiwork. With bullying and other outside factors in the society that take a toll on their self-image and self-worth, it may be difficult for them to grasp. But, if they understand this, it will make them secure in their priceless identity.
  2. Give your children a vision of manhood. It has nothing to do with what they world and society dictates as manly and macho. This is an image pulled from scripture. What makes for a REAL man? A real man:
    • Rejects passivity
    • Expects God’s greater reward
    • Accepts responsibility
    • Leads courageously
  3. Give your children a vision of womanhood. A woman is not second class to men. A woman has equal dignity and equal value as an image-bearer of God. What makes for a REAL woman? A real woman:
    • Rejects worldly identity
    • Expects God’s greater reward
    • Acts with strength and wisdom
    • Loves others boldly.

These are things that your children need not only before they leave the house, but as early as middle school. Constantly remind them that their core identity is that they are made in the image of God and being a real man and real woman comes with the reward of God.


Survival Guide: Biblical Literacy

Biblical literacy is not just being able to read the bible. It’s understanding what the bible is about.

Foster a robust foundation and understanding of what the bible is so that you and your children can have confidence in it. This is important because it is God’s word and the bible says the word of God is living and active.

The bible is not just one book. It is a collection 66 books written by 40 different authors over a span of about 1,000 years! It was inspired by the Holy Spirit, through the words of men.

The bible has so many different types of literature – poetry, prose, letters, allegory – and it could be difficult if you don’t understand the context. It is the story of God from many different human perspectives, but also a unified story of the redemption by Jesus of a people of God.

There are several resources that you can use to instill biblical literacy in your children. Among those that I’ve found useful are:

  • 66 Books in the Bible – a super catchy song that will help them memorize the books of the bible.
  • The Bible Project – one of the most powerful tools for older kids to adults. They have a seven to ten minute animated overview of every book and themes of the bible.
  • The Radical Book for Kids – a good resources for talking to especially inquisitive kids who have questions about faith.
  • The Jesus Storybook Bible – is great for younger kids, covering all the major stories from the old and new testaments and it ties all the stories back to Jesus.
  • Blazing Trees – you can find several helpful resources including a series of stick figures drawings that can help teach bible stories and bible themes. Your children can also draw their own bible stories with stick figures and you’ll be surprised how easy it becomes for them to recall the story based on their drawings.

Kids today are less and less familiar with the bible. The younger your kids memorize the books of the bible, the easier it will be for them to explore and study it.


Survival Guide: Moral Boundaries

What is the real reason why our children should want purity? It’s not enough to just tell them that they need to do it. Understanding the reason behind it is what will really ensure that they will pursue purity in a meaningful and lasting way.

Like in the previous episode on Wise Choices, we reiterate that a wise person makes moral judgements and installs moral guardrails before feelings get turned up high.

Guardrails are put up so we don’t fall of the side of a cliff. In the same way, in our lives there will be times that you are HALT – hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. At these times, your temptation level will be higher than normal. Hopefully, before that happens, you’ve been able to put up your moral guardrails already.

The things that you take pleasure in are created by God. If you eat something delicious, marvel at that fact that God created everything from the ingredients to your taste buds that help you experience this pleasure.

God created sex and knows about it more than anyone. He’s the one that created it for your pleasure and ultimately it should be something that causes us to worship God for the wonder and majesty of what he created. But there is something even better than sex – that’s intimacy.

Intimacy is the joy of knowing someone and being fully known without fear of rejection. We have a deep longing for intimacy with each other and with God.

Sex and intimacy are connected. Sex is not just something physical, but something that is primarily relational. Our children live in a culture that teaches otherwise.

Help young people establish guardrails to live by:

  1. The further you go, the faster you go.
  2. The further you go, the further you want to go.
  3. The further you go, the harder it is to go back once you’ve crossed some boundaries.
  4. Where you draw the line determines three things:
    • The arena of your temptation
    • The intensity of your temptation
    • The consequences of giving in to your temptation

Great sex is a byproduct of maximum intimacy. Purity paves the way for intimacy.


Ellen Martin: Hard Conversations

Ellen Martin, author of A Life Shared: Meaningful Conversations with Our Kids, founded the ministry, A Life Shared, to empower, equip, and encourage others in their walk with Jesus. With illustrative vision, practical tools, and space to respond, Ellen offers a diverse, unique speaking ministry. As a life coach, she joins others to facilitate good work in their own lives. Twice graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary, Masters of Art in Christian Education and Master of Divinity, Ellen lives with her husband and five sons in Kentucky.

What conversations are you having with your kids? There’s a difference between what you tell your kids and what you actually share, like what you would do with a peer in a conversation.

Real conversation is just sharing life with one another. It’s talking about things that interest you, things you love, and things that matter to you. Try to find that place with your children.

Think of the way Jesus discipled – it was by telling stories in the context of what the people he was talking to would understand and relate to, not by just telling them what to think.

Hard conversations are conversations that no one wants to have. They are the awkward conversations, ones that we want to put off or evade, but you know deep down you’ll have to face them somehow. Sometimes, you just don’t know how to answer the question.

Be mindful that while you may have a lot of emotional baggage attached to certain topics, a child might just simply be asking an honest question. For them, it may not be loaded with emotion.

There are a few tools that you can use to tackle difficult conversations with your kids:

  1. Be honest. It may seem obvious, but it is very important. As parents it’s really easy and sometimes more convenient for us to be evasive. Being honest might mean having to share a hard reality with your kids. If you think the topic is too heavy for them at the moment, be honest about it. Tell your kids it’s not something you think you they are ready for now, but when the time comes, you will talk about it.
  2. Keep it simple. Answer as briefly and succinctly as you can. Kids are pretty straightforward and you should be too. If they need to know more, they will ask more. This will also help them engage more in a good conversation.
  3.  Use terms that make sense to them. Try to see things from their perspective. Instead of assuming, ask your kids what they mean by the question they are asking. Turn the question into a meaningful conversation and you’ll really understand where they are coming from.
  4. Present the facts. The facts are not burdened by emotional baggage or external motivation. You can present the facts then discuss how they make you feel, but don’t assign feelings to other people because you don’t know. Also make sure that you don’t speak for others. Only present the things you know for a fact.

Be honoring, not just honest. In all your conversations, be motivated and led by love. Create a safe space for your kids to come to you with anything that is on their minds.


Survival Guide: Spiritual Disciplines with Hunter Wheatcraft

Spiritual disciplines are the practices we need to do regularly to have a healthy spiritual life. These include prayer, reading the Bible, and being engaged in the church community, among others.

Instilling these disciplines in younger children can be challenging because they are still developing their relationship with Jesus at the same time. But, just the act of planting these gospel seeds and building these habits that they will carry on into adulthood is valuable.

Today’s culture of instant gratification, it might be hard to think of the process of developing discipline. But, strengthen your and your kids’ spiritual muscles is a long-term endeavor.

Remember, what you feed will grow, what you starve will die.

If your children are having a difficult time growing their relationship with Jesus, try examining what they are feeding their spiritual life with. What music are they listening to? What shows do they watch? Who do they follow on social media? If they are starving themselves spiritually, you shouldn’t expect that they will have a hunger for the things of God.

There are so many ways to strengthen that relationship with God and you can approach it different ways, depending on the interests of your child. Whether they are into music, art, or sports, you can incorporate worship and service into it.

To incorporate spiritual disciplines in your life, go about it the same way you would develop any other good habit.

Pair something new and maybe challenging, like daily bible reading, with something pleasurable, like having hot chocolate or coffee with it.

Start small. Instead of starting your kids with the longest prayers, pick something short, something that will hold their attention. Keep doing this as you build their spiritual muscles and develop the craving for these good spiritual habits. Eventually, the routine itself will become the reward.


Survival Guide: Wise Choices

Bradley McCallister is an adoptive and foster parent to four special needs children along with his wife Brittany. They both have their Master’s Degrees in Christian Counseling from Philadelphia College of the Bible and have served as foster and adoptive family therapists. Together Bradley and Brittany run Redirected Wood Company, specializing in creating beautiful custom furniture out of reclaimed lumber.

Discipline can get tricky and frustrating, especially with strong-willed kids for whom consequences are not enough to change behavior.

Bradley suggests taking a different route: be preemptive in preventing the behavior you don’t want to see.

For example, if you know you have to focus your time on one child or on work, and will not be able to attend to another child, give that child activities to do that will occupy their time.

Sometimes, to prove that you are in control, you have to share control. By giving the child activities to do, you are giving a semblance of freedom within parameters that you set.

A little reverse psychology also works. Instead of constantly pointing out the negative things that your child does, try praising and rewarding the good behaviors that you notice them doing. This motivates them to behave well.

According to Bradley, if you reinforce the behavior quickly – within three seconds – the child is more likely to learn and retain that lesson on positive consequences. Use cereal, pennies, or beans in a jar to help them visualize the reward.

Another important thing to note is how you behave in front of your children. Learn to apologize when you’ve blown your behavior. It helps show them the right thing to do when anyone, young or old, makes a mistake.

On the other side of doling out discipline, don’t forget at the end of the day to go to your child and reinforce in them that you love them and they are good and you value them, even if they may have behaved badly.