I don’t know

Many times I get parents who have questions from their kids they can’t answer. Kids love to ask hard questions about God, life, death, sickness, injustice, heaven, hell, the Bible etc. I think we get frustrated when we can’t articulate answers. I used to think I had all the answers or I was somehow coming up short. I thought being a good pastor, father, and Christian meant I had to have an answer for everything. Now I have changed the way I think. Here’s how I’ve come to think.

  1. If we had all the answers we wouldn’t need faith. Faith is about the unknown as much as it is the unseen. We can’t know everything there is to know. Some things just take faith. If we knew everything that is in the mind of God we wouldn’t need to trust Him daily. God wants us to lean on Him when we don’t know the answers. If God gave us everything we needed including all the answers, we would be tempted to not rely on Him.
  2. God is bigger than us. I know this one is obvious but it needs repeating. If God was able to be completely comprehended by our finite minds He wouldn’t be a God worth serving. I know that statement might challenge your belief system. Our minds and comprehension is limited. When we are young we think we are all knowing and invincible. Age brings wisdom for most of us. God is so powerful, so vast, so marvelous that we can’t wrap our minds around all He is. Angels in heaven sing His praises for eternity, each moment having a glimpse of His glorious might revealed. Our small minds can’t fathom the depths of His love and therefore can’t entirely know his character.

So as parents what do we do when our kids have questions that challenge our faith?

  1. Don’t freak out. When you freak out kids stop telling you things. Sometimes they are testing you.
  2. Realize it’s perfectly normal to have questions. There’s nothing wrong with your kids if they are asking these questions or having doubts. This is natural. A tested faith is a stronger faith.
  3. Be OK with not having all the answers. I think sometimes we think its bad to not have the answers because we want our kids to put their trust in us. Remember the ultimate goal in life is to train our kids to trust God.
  4. Be open about your own struggles of faith. Sharing your story helps your kids see an end or a least a progression to their story. Don’t think you have to appear invincible to your kids. Think about how much you connect with a pastor when they are vulnerable. Do the same with your kids.
  5. Teach your kids to pray. Here’s a crazy idea. Show your kids how to talk to God and bring their questions. You don’t know everything but He does.
  6. Teach your kids how to read the Bible. Get them some devotional books. Use our placemats and devotional materials from church. Use the SOAP method (read more here or here).
  7. See if you can find the answers. Some questions can be answered if you dig in yourself. Ask a pastor. Google it but be prepared that not all answers are created equal.

There is No Easy Button for Change – Object Lesson

(You need a “easy button” from Staples© for this object lesson, optionally you could have a harder puzzle in its box or even completed)

As much as we all wish it would be, change is never easy. It would be  nice if you could press an “easy button” and change will happen. Once you decide to change so many forces begin to work against you.

Maybe you hear your children’s pastor talk about loving your brother and sister. You decide that you are going to treat your kid sister better. You raise your hand and say “yeah, I’m going to do that”. The pastor leads you in a prayer, you repeat it and you mean it. You are excited about doing it. You even tell your small group leader about it.

Mom and dad come to pick you up and you tell them how you are going to be nice to your baby sister. They say “that’s nice dear” in the way that parents do. You look over at your sister and she sticks her tongue out at you. You walk to the car together and she starts calling you names. You get in and she snatches your take home paper. She starts to rip it up. You grab it from her and she starts screaming.

You are the one who gets in trouble instead of her. Later that day she pulls your hair. You find out a little while later that she got into your homework and drew smiley faces all over it it. You snap and yell at her and call her names. Then a little voice inside your head says “see. I knew I couldn’t change!”

That’s just an example but how many of you have felt that way before? I know I have. As soon as I want to start eating better I find a coupon for ice cream. When I decide I want to write more I find a video game that distracts me. Change isn’t easy like this button. It requires some work on my part. The bigger and better the change requires bigger and better work on my part.

The good news is that we have God on our side. The Bible says in Luke 18:27 “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” God can do the impossible in our lives when we trust in Him. It won’t be easy, but if it was easy we wouldn’t need His help. Have you ever done a really hard puzzle that you needed help with? That’s how change is. You might need help but when its all put together you really have a cool thing to see. You will have a sense of accomplishment of a job well done.

Raising Champions – Job

Job is a book that I think many people misunderstand. Job and his friends certainly didn’t understand what happened to Job and it seems many of us make the same mistakes. That’s for another blog.

Look at how Job thought of his children right from the beginning of Job (1:4-5)

4 Job’s sons would take turns preparing feasts in their homes, and they would also invite their three sisters to celebrate with them. 5 When these celebrations ended—sometimes after several days—Job would purify his children. He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, “Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular practice.

Notice what Job said when he offered sacrifices “Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.” Job certainly didn’t think the best about his children. He had a habit of doing this and if I would have to make a nonprofessional diagnosis, I would call this worry. In Job 3:25 Job exclaims that the thing that he had feared (or worried about) had come to past. His fears brought worries into the realm of reality.

We need to think, believe, and speak the best about our children. Even if you have grown children who are not walking with the Lord, put this into practice. Your worrying won’t change a thing for the better but your faith with corresponding words can and will. 1 Corinthians 13:7 says love never gives up. Love your kids and never give up on them. After all God never gave up on you.

Dream On

One of the things I want to endeavor to do better is to help leaders realize, develop, and achieve God given dreams in the context of the local church. I believe that God has put a dream within each of us to do something great for Him. If you haven’t found what that is I encourage you to find out by really seeking Him. I know that if you seek Him, you will find Him.

In Genesis 37 Joseph has a dream and tells it to his brothers. His brothers react negatively and begin plotting on how to kill him. I am sure you know the story but I encourage you to re-read it this week.  Make sure that when you find your dream, don’t tell the wrong people. You need to find faith people who will support your God-given dream.

Here’s a few questions I have for you…

What are your dreams (in the context of doing something for God)?
Again, if you don’t have anything please begin to ask God to show you. He has a plan for you.

How can I (or others) help you achieve the dream God has given you?
Everyone needs someone to come alongside them. God doesn’t call people to do ministry alone. If its small enough for you to do by yourself it probably isn’t from God. Dream bigger.

Have you ever told some of the wrong people your dreams?
How did they react?

What sacrifices will you have to make to realize your dream? What will it cost you? What resources will you need?
Are you willing to pay the price?

Raising Champions – Prodigal Part 1

Today I am reminded of the parable of the prodigal son. Perhaps you have a child who has walked away from the faith and this story is your hope for them.  Let’s take a look at the first part of this passage from Luke 15:11-24:

11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

It was a joyous occasion for the father have his son return home. He celebrated the victory of the return. Learn to celebrate your children’s victories and triumphs. They will like the feeling of victory so much, it will spurn them on to become a greater champion. Even when they find opportunity where they need to repent, rejoice with them no matter what type of consequences they must face.

Raising Champions – Samuel

1 Samuel 3:4-14 (NLT)

4 Suddenly the Lord called out, “Samuel!”
“Yes?” Samuel replied. “What is it?” 5 He got up and ran to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
“I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go back to bed.” So he did.
Then the Lord called out again, “Samuel!”
Again Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
“I didn’t call you, my son,” Eli said. “Go back to bed.”
Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before. 8 So the Lord called a third time, and once more Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy. 9 So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed. 10 And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!”
And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”
Then the Lord said to Samuel, “I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel. 12 I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family, from beginning to end. 13 I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them. 14 So I have vowed that the sins of Eli and his sons will never be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings.”

My friend and mentor Mark Harper talks about in his book, Children and the Holy Spirit, how Samuel couldn’t fully hear the voice of God until his teacher Eli believed he  could. I believe the same is true for your children. Do you believe they hear from God? Tell them how to respond and they will.

The young boy prophet Samuel could not receive the prophecy from God until Eli believed he could. What you believe about your kids will open or close the door to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. ~ Mark Harper