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.

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.

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

Raising Champions – Prodigal Part 2

Luke 15:25-32 goes on to say:

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’

28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

What we see here is several things. The older brother gets angry. Perhaps his was jealous, he certainly wasn’t happy to see his brother return. Next he whines and becomes self-righteous with his father. I try to maintain our home as a “no whining zone”. Often the one I have the most problem with is me, but that’s another post in itself. The next thing we see is the brother assuming his brother committed certain sins. No where in the story do we see the prostitutes mentioned until the older brother brings it up. Often we assign the motives and sins that are in our hearts and minds to others.

Here’s the lessons to learn:

1) Rejoice with those who are rejoicing
2) Don’t be jealous
3) No whining
4) Your righteousness is found in Christ alone
5) Think the best of every person.
6) Be a good sibling as well as a good child (your family and spiritual family)

Instill these principles in your children, not only in dealing with siblings in your family but the family of faith.

Raising Champions – Jephthah

One of my favorite Bible characters is Jephthah. He was one of the Judges of Israel and his story is found in Judges 11 and 12. The Ammonites had attacked and subdued God’s people. The people, and specifically Jephthah’s brothers turned to Jephthah for help. But you see there was one thing about Jephthah, his brothers had shunned him because of his mother, she was a prostitute. In fact the scriptures introduce him as “a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot” (Judges 11:1 KJV).

Wow what an introduction. That was how everyone saw him, a son of a harlot. Obviously, he did not see himself that way. He gathered up a band of misfits and became their leader. He took that band of worthless losers and helped deliver his people. He was also smart enough to make his brothers agree to put him in charge after he defeated the Ammonites.

Maybe as a  parent you say “How can I raise good kids when I have failed in my own life?” Well look to the example of Jephthah. You don’t need to be perfect to start leading your family.  Start to see yourself as a champion, and start raising champions.