5 Questions To Help Create The Family Culture You Want

If you’re like me and other families I’ve been around as a Youth Pastor, there are times that the pace of life gets very hectic. Where the activities we are a part of dominate our lives, and it takes every ounce of energy to just keep up. That also includes the various church events we are a part of.

Whether you like it or not, the decisions we make and the activities we do or don’t do as a family (and as parents) impacts the culture of our home. Our pace of life and the activities or events we say yes to and say no to communicates to our spouses and children what is important to us. 

Many of the things we are communicating to our families by our activities are not what we actually believe in our minds. Unfortunately, the things we believe in our minds rarely are reflected in the way we live our lives. Which means that we really don’t believe what we say we believe. 

What we do is the most accurate reflection of what we believe.

For example, let’s say you move heaven and earth to get your kids to their sports practices, but when it comes to Youth Group or Church you are less motivated to get them and yourselves there. 

What does that communicate to your family? Going to youth group and Church is less important than school and sports. 

I’m not saying that sports are not important, because I love sports and played baseball through High School and into college. I’m also not saying that you would actually say, ‘Sports are more important than Church’ (unless you’re an atheist), but I am saying that our level of emphasis on certain activities communicates to our family that we believe XYZ is more important than ABC. 

Another example: Let’s say its November, and you are aware of some great experiences coming up in 3-6 months for your wife, husband, or children. Maybe it’s a conference or a retreat. Christmas is coming up and your family has grown accustomed to receiving expensive gifts. So you buy a bunch of expensive gifts and they really enjoy them. 

However, those gifts will mess up and your budget and ultimately come at the cost of going on those other great opportunities.  

What does that communicate to your family? Material possessions are better than personal/emotional/spiritual development.

Those examples are some of the bigger issues we might face during the year, but there are other smaller decisions we make that have equally impactful results:

What do you do when you had a very stressful day? When you come home do you spend hours in front of the TV, or pour a glass of wine? Do you make it a point to sit with scripture long enough to let it change you? Do you make time for solitude before God?

What we do on a day to day basis will impact what we are likely to do when the larger decisions need to be made.

What we do and say impacts the culture of our home, and the culture of our homes will disciple our children in one way or another. 

Proverbs 22:6 says, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.’ Children are trained by what they see and hear in tandem. They are wonderful impersonators. 

When thinking back on my childhood and who I am now, I’ve found that there are times when I do or say things my parents did and said to me, but it’s usually not because it was a lesson they were trying to teach me. The things I unknowingly copy I picked up from the culture they created.

My parents were training me through the culture they created in the home. 

What kind of culture do you want in your home?

Here are 5 questions to consider when forming the new culture of your home:

1)    What is most important to us as parents?

2)    What is least important to us as parents?

3)    What is important to our spouse and/or children?

4)    What is our family mission?

5)    How can we eliminate the least important activities to elevate the most important activities?

My wife and I are on a journey to be more intentional about the culture of our home. We would love for you to join us. If you have any other questions or thoughts about how to create and maintain the culture we want in our homes, please comment below.

20/20 Vision

We were all going into 2020 saying ‘This is the year, I’m seeing 20/20, I’m accomplishing all my goals and going to win this year.’ But then Corona. And because of Corona, everything we were hoping for in 2020 became irrelevant. For many of us our hopes and dreams were replaced with fear, anxiety, confusion, loss and division.

However, I believe that with Corona we have all been given 20/20 vision into the very heart of mankind. Our hearts trust in things that are fragile. We trust in health, stock markets, political parties, material possessions, jobs, eating out, etc. For most of us, our response to the threat of Corona has told us that we are not free. Our emotional, spiritual, and physical wellbeing depends too much on these things that go up and down, are here one day and gone tomorrow.

We lifted up in our hearts the objects of our trust as if they were a god. And these gods that we had lifted up have fallen, and great was their fall (Matt 7:27). We have fallen with them.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Our inner wellbeing doesn’t have to be dependent on outside forces. There is a way to have peace, joy, and love in all circumstances. There is a way to still love someone who doesn’t have the same beliefs as you. There is a way to Be Free.

That Way is the person of Jesus Christ.

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.3 Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live." Isaiah 55:1-3a

A Living Hope

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” – 1st Peter 1:3-5

I saw a recent Lexus advertisement about how the company helps bring people together during the pandemic. The ad had happy people on their driveways showing how connected they were as people drove by waving from one beautiful new Lexus after another. The subconscious message was ‘if you buy from us we will bring you closer to the people you love.’  If that were true then everyone should buy their new cars and share that same hope for connection. 

However, even if their new cars did deliver on the hope of being more connected, the hope that they are selling is not a ‘living’ hope. This year’s version of the car will fade and perish in value while next year’s version would offer more features to bring even more ‘connectedness’. 

A living hope never fades and never fails. A living hope never tarnishes no matter how much time passes. A living hope always delivers on its promises. There is no sacrifice or annual renewal, there is no yearly fee to gain the benefits of this ‘living hope’.

This ‘living hope’ comes through the resurrection of Jesus. 

This ‘living hope’ that comes ‘through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead’ is the ‘inheritance’ of being a son to God the Father.

Our old self doesn’t deserve anything but punishment, that’s why we need to be born again, through Jesus Christ, into the new life of sonship. 

Through Faith in the risen Jesus we have continuous hope that lives beyond this life. 

Jesus is our ‘living hope’.

3 Things Our Youth Ministries Need to Communicate Today

During these trying times our Youth need to hear a different message from us as Christians than they hear from the news and social media. The 3 main things that I believe our students need to hear is: They are loved, There is hope, and God wants more.

  1. They are Loved

It doesn’t matter what our students have done, where the country is headed or who they support. Our God loves them fiercely; and because God loves them fiercely, so do we. Some of the things they might be reposting or sharing on their social media accounts may not be biblically sound and we may need to address that soon, but they need to first know that they are loved. If we can show our students God’s love for them, they can accept our caring relationship as well as our gentle redirections to the Gospel, because ‘perfect love casts out fear’ (1st John 4:8).

2. There is Hope

Our hope is in Christ alone. Our hope is not in political leaders, social movements, or the Supreme Court. Jesus lived in a fractured society much like our own. Yet he didn’t get caught up in the division between the Roman and Jewish leaders.

Jesus lived above the divisiveness of his culture.

He is our example, and through the Holy Spirit, His resurrection can be our resurrection too. And if we are raised with Christ we must set our hearts and minds on the things that are above because we will appear with Him in glory(Col. 3:1-3). How amazing is that! This life is not final for us, there is an unimaginable glory for those of us who trust in the Lord Jesus in life and death.

3. God Wants Unity

The scriptures talk about unity in the Church over and over again. Unfortunately, Christians have very visibly been in dis-unity on almost every issue. Each side of an issue has good and bad intentions within it. Therefore, as Christians we need to be ‘quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry’ (James 1:19). For being quick to speak and quick to anger drives a wedge between ourselves and others, but if we can find the good intentions in each side we can have unity in the Spirit while still disagreeing on some issues. So it doesn’t matter if people are on the left or right, our job is to focus on the Lord and serve Him faithfully (1st Sam 12:24). And, if people are uncomfortable to be around other people during this pandemic, or if others would prefer to not wear a mask, we should desire and strive to come to a compromise while also respecting and loving those we don’t agree with. 

The main desire for ministry is to bring unity, because the Bible says that unity is actually the harbinger of God’s powerful grace (Acts 4:32-26).

Sometimes unity requires repentance for careless words, other times unity requires bearing each others burdens.

How will we encourage our Youth toward Christ today?

The Groom Is Coming Soon

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” John 14:1-4

John 14:1-4

In this passage Jesus encourages and demonstrates the depth of His love for His disciples by evoking the imagery of and the fact that He is the Bridegroom.

In Jewish culture the groom would leave his betrothed for an undisclosed amount of time to build a room onto his family house for him and his future wife. The betrothed would not know exactly when the groom was coming back so she had to be prepared for him to return almost at any moment. As soon as the groom finished preparing the room for his wife he would return with his guys and the wedding festivities would begin with the groom taking his bride back to the room he just built. But sometimes the groom would be so late in coming that the bride would start to think that something bad had happened.

Jesus deliberately uses terms from the traditional Jewish weddings to describe the fact that He will be gone for a while, and that He WILL come back to take His disciples to be with Him. He does this so that His disciples will not lose heart as the time goes on between His departure and His return. At the end of verse four, He adds ‘You know the way to the place where I am going.’ He tells his disciples this to let them know that even if He does not return before their time is up, that they will be able to find the place where He is through the Holy Spirit.

Luke shares this tender moment with us to remind us that this world is so pale in comparison to where Jesus is going to bring us. So as our hearts become troubled within us, we need to remember that if Jesus promised this to us, then it will be so. Just as the bride never knew when the groom was coming back to take her to their new home, we don’t know when the Groom is coming back for His bride, but we know the way to where He is.

Thank you Lord for tenderly caring for us as a groom cares for his bride, yet your promises are so much stronger than any promise a mere human can make. So Lord, may we hang on to this promise and live boldly as you instructed us to, and by your Spirit help us to strengthen our hearts when the world seeks to trouble us more and more. In the powerful name of Jesus we pray. Amen

Finding Life in a Cemetery

There is a cemetery near our house and for some reason our kids love to go to the cemetery and jump on the tree stumps. As they jump and run to the next stump I often walk around and look at the tomb stones.

It’s a very sobering juxtaposition between life and death. While my kids are finding joy in the smallest of things, not too far away is the final resting place for a child who lived to be just one month old, and near that child is another child who was just days away from his tenth birthday, and near that lies a man who died the day after my birthday.

Each of these people had a life, they had a family, some of them might have accomplished great things in their lives, others barely got to live at all.

And here I am watching my kids play while I’m standing next to the grave of a man who was the same age as me when he died.

I will never know anything about these people, and they will never know anything about me or my kids.

I’m sure many of them worried about what their legacy was going to be, I’m sure many of them were filled with regret over the way they lived their life, I’m sure some of them were worried about their family being ok when they were gone, I’m sure some of them paid extra for a larger tomb stone so that people could read their names from far away.

None of that matters now. No one drives by a cemetery and wonders what kind of people are buried there.

This stark reality leaves me with a couple of big questions: What am I spending my thoughts, time, and energy on that will not matter in a few short years? Did my short life reflect a love for God more than my love for comfort and security? What will my kids say was important to their Daddy?

Those questions reveal that I normally spend too much time worrying about what others might think, that I spend too much time seeking praise from others, that I fear man more than I fear God.

It reminds me of this passage from Matthew 10:28-33 –

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 

Matthew 10:28-33

This passage speaks to the frailty of life. We are here one day and gone the next. Who we are and what we did may not matter to others in 10 years, but how we lived our life is what matters to God. Will we dishonor our loving Father by lifting up the opinion of mere humans above His?

I don’t want to care about the meaningless things in life. I don’t want to miss time with my kids for Instagram. I don’t want to miss out on my relationship with God for the praise of man. I don’t want to be eternally separated from God because I was worried about present comfort and security over the provision of my heavenly Father.

What are you spending your time, energy and brain power on? Will it be worth it?

Are You Prepared to Die?

Today is Good Friday, a day that every Christian looks to as the epicenter of Salvation. Without Good Friday there is no Resurrection Sunday, and if there is no Resurrection Sunday we are ‘above all people most to be pitied’ (1 Cor. 15:19).

Good Friday is also a stark reminder that, “Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:24-25)

The ‘cross’ as we see on Good Friday is and always was an instrument of death. So if someone says, ‘I can’t [blank] it’s just my cross to bear.’ They are grossly misinterpreting the above verse.

Jesus is literally saying ‘Come die with me.’

So in light of Good Friday, my question for us is: Are we prepared to die?

The question is not ‘Are you willing to die?’ because everyone to some degree would probably say ‘yes’, but most people would be lying.

So, let’s look at Matthew 10:37-39 and ask ourselves the hard questions:

  • Are we loving our parents more than we are loving Jesus? If the answer is yes, (Be honest) then we are not worthy of Him.
  • Are we loving our kids more than we are loving Jesus? (this is a hard one for me, I really love my kids) If the answer is yes, we are not worthy of Him.
  • Are we loving our life more than we are loving Jesus? (this is also a very hard one) If the answer is yes, we are not worthy of Him.

Today, many people are living in fear. It could be a fear of personal sickness, it could be a fear of a family member dying, it could be any number of things. But has our fear become greater than our God?

For the Christian, when we live we are like Christ to those around us, when we die we are with Christ. So for us death is gain (Phil. 1:21).

There is a story I heard long ago about a village that, when their kids reached a certain age, would send them out for a week into the wilderness. Every night lions would roar and kids would scream, and at the end of the week only a few kids would survive because the others were eaten by the lions. One family, when their son was getting older, consulted a wise prophet a few villages over, and the wise prophet said, ‘tell your son when he hears the lion roar, that he must run toward the roar.’ Confused and saddened at this crazy advice they came back and told their son what the prophet had said. When the time came for their son and his peers to head into the wilderness, they reminded him of the prophets advice.

As the kids were in the wilderness they made a fire to keep warm. The first night was silent, but the second night they heard the roars. Some kids ran away from the roar while others followed the son toward the roar. The kids who ran away were eaten by lions, while the kids who ran toward the roar were spared. At the end of the week most of the kids survived!

The villagers had no idea that the lions were setting a trap. The older lions when they had lost their teeth were sent to one side of the fire, and the younger lions were on the other side of the fire. When the older lions roared, the kids would turn and run right into the teeth of the younger lions. But when the son ran toward the older lions the old lions ran away because they had no teeth.

For us death roars at us loudly trying to scare us to run away, toward what seems like life, but is the teeth of the enemy. However, when we run toward the roar of death with Christ, we find that the boast of death was empty, and we have entered the true life that Jesus promised us (1 Cor. 15:54-55).

Therefore, we must take up our cross and follow Jesus into the grave, so that we can be resurrected with Him.

Whoever loses his life for the sake of Christ will find it (Matthew 10:39).

4 Ways to Focus on God in Quarantine

We are coming up on three or four weeks of no school, limited social interaction, and lots of family time. I’m sure that this is starting to get really hard for most of us. But, however difficult this time is for your family, don’t let Christian life become the thing that you cut out of your family time.

So here are a few ideas on how to leverage the time we have for the glory of God and for the good of our families:

1) Set up a time each day to read the Bible and pray with your entire family. – It’s important to make sure your kids are getting school done, but school isn’t the most important thing for them to do right now. Praying and reading the Bible together regularly will help them (and us) see God as the Sovereign God that He is. 

2) Watch good movies and TV shows about Jesus or that you can relate back to scripture. – Last year I did a youth series on the Gospel According to Marvel, where we watched clips from different marvel movies and looked at how culture was crying out for Jesus through the movies. We had 3 questions we used to evaluate each film, we called them the 3H Glasses….(get it, 3H instead of 3D)….

Here are those questions that you can use to biblically evaluate the movies and TV shows that your family watches.

What is the Hope? What is the ultimate goal, or desired outcome for the individual characters and the movie as a whole? 
What is the Heart? What is the message or the meaning behind individual interactions and the movie as a whole? 
Where is the Healing? What is praiseworthy, excellent, good, pure, and/or lovely that we can focus on and take away from the movie? (Phil 4:8) 

Christian movies I recommend: Run the Race, Woodlawn, Son of God, Risen, War Room, I Can Only Imagine, Breakthrough, Same Kind of Different as Me, Do You Believe, The Case for Christ, Paul: Apostle of Christ, The Passion of the Christ.

— Free Apps for Christian shows and Bible Studies – The Chosen App, and RightNow Media

3) Family Worship – Grab a guitar, piano, or device that can play songs from YouTube. Bring the family together and praise God. 

4) Send letters to your neighbors to see if they need help with anything Some of our neighbors might be really struggling financially, emotionally, and physically during this time. Imagine how they would feel knowing they are prayed for and that they can reach out to you when they are in need. 

During this time it is extremely important that our families and the world see us as the bearers of hope and goodness. If we emphasize school, right behavior or entertainment during this time we are communicating to everyone that those things are more important than our relationship with God. And if/when our families and the world see that we are emphasizing our relationship with God and they see how it impacts our relationship with each other and the community, how powerful will that be for long-term evangelism and discipleship?

Therefore, I encourage you to heed the words of Paul from Ephesians 5:15-16, ‘Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.’

What are some other ways we can deepen our relationship with Christ and encourage others in their relationship with Christ?

What does the Bible say about Social Distancing?

We all know a little bit about COVID-19, many of us have tracked information from the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, CNN, FOX, Local News, Social Media, that random guy at the grocery story, etc. We all want to know what’s going on and we all want to know when life can get back to normal.

I’m not a scientist or a doctor, so I won’t try to tell you what’s right or wrong, I just want to wrestle with a question that we as Christians are faced with:

How should Christians react to COVID-19?

There are no reported cases of COVID-19 in the Bible, but the Bible does talk about what was then a very common and eventually deadly disease known as Leprosy.

During the Old and New Testament time period leprosy was thought to be very contagious (it is mildly contagious), in fact lepers were social distancing before it was socially acceptable. There were laws against being near and touching people with leprosy.

However, in Mark 1, Jesus ignored Jewish law and touched a leper.

40 Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” 41 Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” 42 As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.

Mark 1:40-42

The reaction this leper was use to was ridicule, scorn, and hatred. But Jesus reacted in the opposite way.

Jesus showed compassion and love when the world was harsh and hateful. Jesus touched the leper when the world shooed him away.

Jesus did the opposite of what the law and the rest of the world wanted Him to do.

The love of Jesus was good news to this contagious leper.

So how should we react to COVID-19? With Jesus.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t take precautions so we don’t spread the disease, but I am saying that as Jesus followers we should use our health for the benefit of others. We can share Jesus with our neighbors when we ask them if they need anything from the store. We can organize a prayer walk around our neighborhoods for anyone who wants to join. We can call, Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, etc. to tell people that they are not alone.

With Jesus we can do something powerful.

We didn’t need COVID-19 to isolate ourselves from others. We’ve gotten pretty good at creating emotional barriers between ourselves and everybody else. But COVID-19 is giving us a unique opportunity to learn and understand what it means to live a Jesus-centered life in the midst of social and emotional distancing.

Now is a good time to get back to our first Love.

God’s Provision

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”

2 Corinthians 9:6-9

Giving is a controversial topic for many people. When we think about giving there are many scenarios that go through our minds. One of our main concerns is this question: if we give more will we have enough for ourselves?

The passage above addresses our questions by showing us the paradox of giving. In short, if we cheerfully give more, God will give us everything we need (vs 8 – not everything we want).

Paul uses the image of planting seeds to communicate the above paradox. If a farmer only planted some of his seeds he would only receive some crops, but if he plants all of his seeds he will be able to receive more crops. Keeping our money and our things to ourselves is like keepings seeds to ourselves. A seed doesn’t have value apart from the plant that is within it. In the same way, our money and possessions don’t have eternal value apart from the Spiritual plant that is within them. As it says in verse 9, freely scattering gifts produces a crop of righteousness. Not only does it produce righteousness, but the righteousness it produces endures forever.

The Spiritual crop from giving generously is righteousness. However, to receive the crop of righteousness our hearts have to be cheerful as we give. If we give out of an expectation of receiving more, or with an expectation that others will follow our lead, then our giving won’t produce righteousness, because we are giving for our own gain.

Our generosity has to flow from our deep understanding of who God is and who we are to Him. When we deeply understand that God is our Father and that we are His children, then we won’t hold so tightly to the things our Father has given us. We will be able to open up our hands and freely give, out of His abundance, to those in need.

Our Father wants to know our heart isn’t holding onto the things He created over holding onto our Father, the Creator.

How can we become cheerful, generous givers?

Father, we come before you and ask for guidance as we navigate what it means to trust in your provision. You are so kind to us in so many ways, yet it’s still hard to trust you with our time, treasure and talent. Forgive us for trusting in financial security more than in your eternal security. May we be people who freely scatter gifts to the poor. Amen.