Tuesday, June 25, 2013

So Perfect.....

Every Wednesday is my counseling day. I set this practice very early in my ministry because I found that there is no better time to disciple people than walking through adversity or hurt with them. But, I also did it because I make it clear that this is my day set aside for you. Now, obviously there are emergencies and other issues that sometimes may change that, but as a rule I will counsel every member that wants to see me and that I can possibly fit in on Wednesday. I try to hold my counseling appointments to one day a week because I believe I also have an obligation to guard my study/preaching preparation time for you.  We have great men on our staff who counsel other days, but I love our people and find that it helps me teach and even see some practical application of biblical teaching in the lives of our people. I must confess that some days it is burdensome and tiring, but there has never been a Wednesday that I have not felt that at least one appointment was well worth the investment. 

I was counseling with a couple several weeks ago and there was a obvious communication issue. After we dealt with the heart issues, I showed them this video because it was an ridiculously funny illustration of how many times men and women miss things because of communication problems. One of my favorite videos!!!


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Insert Sarcasm When I Say "Great Parenting"

Will Smith reveals his 14-year-old son Jaden wants to be emancipated
Published May 14, 2013
The Sun
 Will Smith, left, and his son Jaden Smith arrive a news conference to promote their movie "After Earth" in Tokyo May 2, 2013. (Reuters)

Will Smith was brought up by a military father who expected him to be seen and not heard.
But the upbringing that he and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith are giving their own children Jaden and Willow could hardly be more different.

They don’t punish them, instead letting them make their own decisions. And actor son Jaden has decided that for his 15th birthday in July he would like the gift of FREEDOM from his parents — and to be able to live in a home of his own.

Will, 44, revealed to The Sun: “He says, ‘Dad, I want to be emancipated.’ I know if we do this, he can be an emancipated minor, because he really wants to have his own place, like ooh.
“That’s the backlash. On the other side, if kids just want to have command of their lives, I understand.”

He and Jaden are about to be seen together in their second film, sci-fi tale After Earth.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2013/05/14/will-smith-reveals-his-14-year-old-son-jaden-wants-to-be-emancipated/#ixzz2UmYKJeKh

The article above tells us everything we need to know about how weak and warped we are as parents in our society. The article points out the assumption of Will Smith that the heart of a man, woman, boy or girl is not sinful; a complete denial of what the Word of God says about us.  
Prov. 22:15 “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of 
discipline will drive it far away.”   
Prov. 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old 
he will not turn from it.”    

The idea of “passive parenting,” or letting the child figure out what is “right to him,” leads to a fourteen year old asking for emancipation from his parents. Why? Because he sees no need of them. When parents are simply there to feed, clothe and provide for physical needs, but allowing the child to "do what seems right in his own eyes," children will see very little need for parents once they can fix their own sandwich and pick out their own clothes.  The age at which a child no longer needs a parent's help in making it through the day is much younger if the parent is not seen as a guide or authority.  At this child's age and with this family's financial resources, he can obtain daily provisions and services for himself and he sees himself as self-sufficient.  At fourteen, I would wonder if he is fully ready for the decisions and responsibility of being "on his own" with no parental intervention.   

There is always a way that seems right to man, but the end of that is destruction. I certainly have liked Will Smith in a variety of movies, but this article is one of the million reasons why as parents, we can not set the world up as our standard. I don’t want my boys doing what seems right to them, nor do I want to be a Dad who wants my children "seen and not heard." I believe God actually called Michele and I, along with every other Christian parent, to engage the hearts of our children. I must correct behavior, but the goal is not to force a certain behavior with positive and negative stimuli. Behavioral reinforcement may work with children for a while - as it can work with dogs and even cats (no matter how dumb cats are), but we are to be doing so much more than simply training behavior, we are guiding a heart.   If we never use the Word, we never really get the to the root of the matter and that is always the fact that we are sinful people with sinful hearts keeping the truth of God in the forefront of our children's lives. May we never seek to emulate the world’s philosophy in raising the children God has given us. They are not ours, they are His.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Happy 19th Anniversary!

Each year at this time I share that I try not make my blog a “home movie” presentation. I usually try not to use this blog just for my personal sharing (unless there is some application for it), because most people don't really enjoy “home movies” of other families. The one exception I make to that is during the week of our wedding anniversary: So let me just state to my precious wife what she means to me.


As I look at the picture above I am still amazed that you said “yes”. I am so glad the Lord never allowed us to see what was in store for us, from health issues to tough times in the ministry because I fear that if He would have allowed us to see what was in store, you may have chosen someone with a little less craziness. But through our 19 years, we have grown up, I look much older, and you have grown more gracious and beautiful to me. You have influenced our boys from babies to now being young men by honoring our Lord first, and me secondly with your kindness and grace that surpasses my dreams. When I asked for your hand in marriage I was amazed that someone as beautiful as you would be willing to spend your life with someone like me. I know the Bible is clear that beauty fades, but yours seems to grow more radiant with time. If our city had gates as  mentioned in Proverbs 31, I would be known at them because of you. You have never preached a sermon, but you have exuded patience and grace by loving the worse sinner I know, me. You have seen me at my best and worst and you have loved me through both. Every year, I intentionally refuse to read what I wrote to you the year before so I will not get any “ideas” and what I write to you will be new and fresh to me, but the truth is I am sure I have repeated myself numerous times when talking about what I love about you, because so many of them have remained consistent. Your faithfulness and consistency is so much a part of your beauty. Our boys have a Dad who loves them greatly and strives to lead them, however, they have a Mom who exemplifies the character and grace of a woman whom they should search for as a wife. I can sincerely pray that our boys meet someone with the same qualities as their mom. 

I know that in the past some blogs have been longer, probably more orderly and maybe even more eloquent. But over the last 19 years you have nursed my body and soul back to health. You have spoken truth to me, you have listened to me complain, resign , rejoice and laugh sometimes all in the same hour. But you have remained steady and faithful. When I think about all the crazy things I did as a rebellious teenager, and then as a young man who just never really showed a lot of stability, it makes so much sense to me that God, in all of His grace, gave me you. God has and still uses you in my life to give wisdom, grace and stability.

Happy 19th—I am so blessed. I love you.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Great Advice for Our Parents at TBC

I love the Raising Godly Children blog. It gives great advice and when I come across something that is so helpful to parents, I want to make sure I get it to you. Hope this helps all of us in some way.

Kids in a Pornified Culture

A recent article in The Telegraph highlights the tragic symptoms of a disease that's infecting our worldwide culture. The piece focuses mainly on teenagers and the dysfunction that has become normative in their lifestyles as a result of consuming porn.
In light of this, how can parents raise children in a pornified culture? Here are eight suggestions for this ever-increasing problem. 
1. Aim to give our kids a huge view of God who is gloriously delightful.
We can't simply tell our kids to stop doing certain behaviors; we must also teach them to delight in what God has made. I've been trying to make a discipline of pointing out all the good in God's creation. A few weeks ago it was a blessing to watch my two older kids spend hours picking the wild raspberries that grow in their grandma and grandpa's huge backyard. They need to be reminded of God's goodness in giving us such amazing created blessings, like raspberries. If we're not careful, we can become functional gnostics (flesh and matter are bad; only what's "spiritual" has value) in our communication about sexual ethics with our kids. A helpful verse for them to memorize is 1 Timothy 4:4.
In short, I want my kids to know that sexual perversion is the height of idolatry (Rom. 1), but also that sexual integrity is the height of beauty. This demands we talk about it, probably more than we're comfortable with or experienced when we were kids. But it's a new world, and a new world demands new communication to train our children.
2. Teach them the gospel. Our kids are spring-loaded legalists.
They have to see us model gospel truth through active repentance and forgiveness. They have to know their acceptance before God isn't based on their performance, but on Christ's. They have to know their standing as a family member doesn't depend on their obedience, though their standing does imply a certain type of living.
For example, when we're disciplining our kids we often say, "Since you're a member of this family and since I love you so much, you will not do this." Consider the difference from saying, "If you want me to love you and if you want to keep living in this house, you better stop doing this." The indicatives of our faith must precede and inform the imperatives. Don't reverse the order.
3. Teach them that boundaries bring freedom and obedience is a blessing.
When I was a kid I thought if I screwed up, God was going to whack me with a big stick. No one ever taught me this, but it's what I felt. Obedience wasn't motivated by love, but fear of punishment. This didn't get me very far.
When my kids are age appropriate I plan to communicate that sexual sin will never provide the freedom we crave. They can choose to reap the harmful consequences of disobedience, but I'll warn them from Scripture and experience that they don't want to start down that path. Obedience leads to blessing.
4. Talk to them sooner than later about sex and internet porn.
When I was 8, I remember going next door to our neighbor's garage. Like any curious kid, I enjoyed snooping around a bit. I soon discovered he had boxes full of pornographic magazines. Sometimes a friend and I would sneak over there, grab a few, and go sit in the bushes to look at the naked women. Back then, this risky endeavor filled my stomach with butterflies for fear of getting caught by my parents or the neighbor. But all you need today is a closed door and an internet connection. The vilest perversion imaginable is only two clicks away.
We must communicate in general terms what's available and why it's so destructive. Some would contend this discussion will just stir up their curiosity, but what's the alternative? I'd rather have them be warned by me so I can offer reasons and means to fight than to have them innocently stumble on pornography someday on the internet.
5. Begin to train your kids how to interact with the opposite sex.
We've already started to "date" our kids. We feel it's crucial for them, at an early age, to begin experiencing what it's like to be treated well by a member of the opposite sex. Especially for girls, a lack of healthy male attention from dad will often prompt them to seek it in unhealthy ways from younger men more than happy to provide it. My boys need to learn women aren't objects to be consumed but image-bearers of God to be loved.
6. Guard who your kids spend time with.
Since sexual exposure is much more accessible today than 25 years ago, we're much more aware of whom our children spend time with. There will come an age (sooner than I'd like to think about) when we won't be able to guard them as tightly, but hopefully the foregoing points will have taken root in their lives such that they'll be equipped to make wise decisions.
Be careful, though, you don't take this too far and communicate an unhealthy fear of unbelievers. The older our kids get, the more we have to let them go and pray our training has taken root. There's really no other choice. We must train our kids so they're sheltered enough to be age-appropriately safe but informed enough to make wise decisions on their own. Just don't hide your kids behind the fortress of your supervision until they're 18.
This demands great wisdom. There's no manual. We must be parents of prayer.
7. Guard the computer and turn off the television.
We have Covenant Eyes on all our computers and, via the AppleOS, our children can only access the websites we've approved. Certainly this will change as they get older, but hopefully they will have internalized the gospel and tasted the blessings of obedience.
Victory over porn is finally a heart issue, but that doesn't mean we should forsake preventative structures. You'd never say, "I want to know my obedience is motivated by more than just following the right rules, so I'm going to dive into unwise situations to see if I'm strong enough to withstand sin!" That's absurd (1 Cor. 10:12-13). We need right hearts so as not to be legalists, but right boundaries can help us taste the blessing of obedience.
The TV will show your kids functional soft porn all the time. There are countless better things to do with your kids than watch TV. Read with them, play sports with them, enjoy creation with them, tell them a story, or just serve them in an activity of their choice. The key phrase here is with them. If they spend more time with the TV than with you, you're all in trouble.
8. Seek to cultivate a relationship with your kids such that they feel they can be open with you about anything.
As a young dad, I'm not totally sure how to make this happen, but I know it'll come through modeling openness. I try to draw out their hearts and show them that if they're honest with me, I'll be fair, loving, and compassionate. If they see me as guarded and reserved, why would I expect them to be any different?
Last, do you ever repent in front of your kids? If they never see you repent, what makes you think they'll come to you for help after seeing internet porn for the first time? Modeling repentance for our kids is probably the quickest way to show we believe the gospel and are a safe refuge in the midst of their sin.
Zach Nielsen (@znielsen) is one of the pastors at The Vine Church in Madison, Wisconsin, where he serves in the areas of preaching, leadership development and music. He is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa and Covenant Theological Seminary and blogs at Take Your Vitamin Z.