Sunday, July 21, 2019

We Don’t Have to Know All the Words (Part II)


Here are the last three points.

4.We must teach our children that their acceptance is not based on being good.

In the same way that our children’s worth does not come from the things they achieve, children do not become acceptable because of their good behavior.

The most powerful way to teach your children that their value is not based on what they do, is to express your love and acceptance of them when they are bad. When we withhold love and acceptance from children when they misbehave, we are teaching them a works based righteousness. If our children think that if they sin, we will be disappointed in who they are, then they are not learning the gospel.

If the gospel is true, then we don’t lose God’s acceptance. Jesus is the propitiation for our sin. A payment that satisfies. If the payment is satisfied, then God cannot be dissatisfied in us. God is able to accept us, not because we are good, but because our debt of guilt has been fully paid, once and for all. So when we are afraid that He will not accept us because we have done something wrong, we are negating and minimizing what he has done for us. Rom. 8:1 says “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Rom. 8:39 says that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. There is nothing that we can do, that will cause God to not want us anymore. If we are dissatisfied in our children when they sin, we give them a picture that the enemy would want.

Satan wants our kids to believe that if they don’t get good grades, and stay away from the bad stuff, and don’t perform, then you’re not proud of them. And he wants them to believe that they can get good grades, never sin, and perform perfectly and that it is possible to earn their own value and attain their own righteousness. This is works based righteousness, and it’s the best strategy to keep children from becoming dependent upon God (Act like Men-Joby Martin). Children need to know they are accepted by God, and they can’t earn it.
5.We must face our own continued sin and need for Jesus.

The worst lie that we can teach our children, is that Christians no longer sin. Teach your children that you are in need of Jesus every day, just like they are. Adults are not beyond sin. Recognize that and live that, and you will inspire your children to live in dependency on God!!

If we want our children to have an accurate picture of who God is and who they are, then we have to know the truth and live out the truth in our own inner lives. The truth is that we as Christians still sin, we are not perfect, we struggle every single day with pride, judging others, looking down on others, comparing, competing, controlling, manipulating, misleading. We can sometimes deceive ourselves into thinking that we are “good” because we live a moral life, and we try really hard to follow all of God’s commands, and we don’t do any of the big sins. But even as Christians, sin is in our hearts, and we still need the healing grace of the gospel every-single-day.

God’s grace is not just an absence of condemnation, it is His unmerited favor, God is for us, not against us. He desires good for us not evil. Grace reverses the law. The law says we have to do it, but grace is God saying “I will help you do it”. Grace allows us to face our sinful hearts, and as we are received with acceptance and we are forgiven, our hearts are transformed into people who are less and less drawn toward sin, and more and more drawn toward Christlikeness.

When God reveals our sin, we can either respond with systems of self-justification to ease our conscience, or by admitting it, confessing to God and others, and receiving God’s grace and mercy. When we self-justify, we teach our children to hide sin, explain it away, deny its existence, or blame others. When we as parents, practice authenticity and vulnerability by confessing our sins, we model to our children the gospel, and how the power of the gospel works out in everyday life.

We need to ask for our children’s forgiveness when we have wronged them. When we say “I was prideful, I’m sorry I said that, will you forgive me?”, we live out the gospel.

We need to allow them to see us confess our sin to our spouses, and allow them witness the grace and healing that comes through living out the gospel. Our families should function as redemptive communities, where we regularly confess sin, repent, ask for forgiveness, and experience fully restored relationships.

Authenticity is the practice of being honest about who we are before God and others, and is the lack of posturing and pretending. This is who we want to be, and who we want to teach our children to be.

We need to work very hard to not perpetuate the delusion to our children that they can achieve perfection. We are not good; they are not good. That’s why we need Jesus. We need to live in truthfulness and humility. We don’t have to live a life of posturing and pretending, denying our sin, and fearing our failures. We need to receive God’s love every day for our sense of worth, and we need to confess, repent, and receive God’s grace every single day. We need to live in dependence on God.

James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Confession should be a regular part of our lives, if we don’t think we have regular sin to confess, we are experiencing self-deception, and we’re not looking deep enough at our motives and thoughts.

6.We must provide a redemptive gospel community for our children.

When our children sin, we must not distance ourselves as if we can’t relate. We need to identify with them. We are sinners too. Sin is a human condition. It is a problem that’s a part of our very nature. There is no sin that our children will ever commit that we are not capable of as well. As we admit that we are alike, we convey our need and excitement for the gospel, because it is our only hope as well.

We don’t respond to sin with “How could you?” As if it’s such a shock that a Christian would sin, or so out of the ordinary. We are humbly aware of our own sin. We understand their inner struggle, because we have been there and we would be there, apart from the amazing grace of God. If we want to reflect the love and grace of God, then our children need to know that there is nothing that they can do to cause us to lose our love for them.

Both Galatians 6:1 and 2 Tim. 2:25-26 paint a picture of the one in sin, as being caught in a trap and in need of rescue, and both verses mention that this rescue must be done gently.

Home and church should be a space where it is safe for our children to be vulnerable and acknowledge failure. A space where we respond with calmness and grace, and the promise to walk with them through their struggles, rather than judging and condemning them.

We must not have a “life as a final exam relationship” with our children, where they are constantly evaluated and critiqued, where there is no room for making mistakes and being human. The belief that we must be perfect to be acceptable, drives us into denial of our sin, and keeps us from ever experiencing the grace of the gospel and transformation of our hearts. God does not expect us to “know all the words”, he does not expect us to get everything right, he does not expect perfection, he accepts us based on the work of Christ. God’s unconditional acceptance makes it safe to admit our sin, face it, confess it, repent of it, and grow from it.

Home and church can be a gospel community where we live out the themes of grace, forgiveness, deliverance of sin, reconciliation, new life, and hope. When we extend the grace of Christ that we have received, to our children, we train them to live honestly and in the open and fully dependent upon God.

We Don't Have to Know All the Words (Part I)

I work as a Para-educator teaching children to read, and we do something called a reading record where we listen to a child read a few pages of a book, and we mark all of the words that they miss.  I have a second grader who I have worked with for two years, whose name is Calvin.  He is a cute little blond boy with a round face and crooked teeth.
So one day I was doing a reading record on Calvin and he mispronounced the name Jose’.   He said “Josie.”  So I marked it wrong.  Calvin stopped and asked “Why did you mark that wrong?”  So I told him, “In Spanish the J is pronounce like an H.”   Calvin answered, “I don’t want to speak Spanish, I want to speak English and I read it the right way in English!”  He started crying.  He took off his little glasses and was trying to wipe away all of his tears. “Calvin, why are you crying, it’s OK to miss a few words, nothing is going to happen because of this test.  You don’t have to be perfect.” I told him.   He said “But I want to be perfect.”   I said “But Calvin no one is perfect, that’s impossible.  Do you know that adults don’t know all the words?  Did you know that when I’m reading, I come to words that I don’t know, and I have to learn new words?”  His eyes got big, and he said, “Adults don’t know all the words?” and I said “No, No one ever learns all the words, we are always still learning, no one is perfect.”  He sniffed, wiped his eyes, put his little glasses back on, and started reading again.
Somehow, at some point, Calvin came to believe the lie, that in order for him to be acceptable or “enough”, he had to know all the words.  For him to have value, for him to be “good enough”, he had to get everything right.  And we as Christians, can unconsciously believe this same lie, that in order for us to be acceptable, valuable, or “enough”, we have to get it all right.  We have to measure up.  We know cognitively, that we are “saved by grace”, but we often live as if God is happy with us when we get things right, and disappointed in us when we don’t get it right.  We live as if perfection is possible, and that if we could only achieve it, we would be acceptable.
In the following blog I want to offer just a couple of suggestions that might be helpful as you take on the task of leading children into a daily dependent walk with God.  I will post the first 3 points today and the last 3 points some other time.
  1. We need to do our own inner work.
The main thing that you bring to the children that you lead, is the person that you are becoming.  The person that you are, is what will be reproduced.  I’m sure you’ve heard it said, “more is caught than taught”.  So it’s important that we do our own heart work.  We can’t give children something that we don’t have ourselves.  We need to know that our value comes from God’s unconditional love for us, not from the things that we do, or from the things that we have, or from what others think of us.  Our value is a gift from God, it can’t be earned, and it can’t be taken away.  We are at all times loved and accepted by God.  When we are secure in Christ, our hearts are full, and we have a storehouse of resources to pour into the hearts of those around us.
  1. We must find our own value in God
A fullness and security in Christ begins with knowing our identity in Christ. What I mean by that, is that our value comes from God’s unconditional love for us, not from the things that we do, not from the things that we have, and not from what others think of us.  Our value is a gift from God, it can’t be earned, and it can’t be taken away.  We are at all times loved and accepted by God.  We are never more or less valuable than anyone else, so there is no need for comparison.  We are always “enough” in Christ, we don’t have to earn it or prove it, it’s just a fact.  We don’t need any other dependencies to fill us.  God meets our need for love.  He meets our need for acceptance, He meets our need for security, safety, significance.  He is the source of Life, and he completely fills us to over flowing, so that we can give out of our fullness.
So we need to ask ourselves “what am I looking to for my sense of worth, or my sense of being “enough”.  And then we need to do the hard work of transferring all of our dependencies to Christ.  We may look to relationships to meet our need for love, we may look to money and possessions for a sense of safety and security, we may look to our talents, success, career, positions, intelligence, or competence for our sense of value, or feeling like we are “enough.”  We need to recognize these things and transfer our dependency to God, and allow Him to meet all of our needs, and to be the Source of Life that he is meant to be for us.
Your kids will grow if they see you growing and transforming.  As you grow in security in Christ you will naturally become less judgmental, you will become offended less often, you will not be as easily angered, you will be able to apologize, and your children will be drawn to that.
The reason that we are easily offended is because we are insecure, and we need people to believe certain good things about us to feel like we are “enough,” and when they don’t it really hurts.  But when that need is met in Christ, we know we are enough regardless of what others think, and we free others to have their own thoughts and opinions.
When we get angry it is more often than not, about our self-concept, rather than what someone actually did to us.
Sometimes when we are insecure, we bolster our security by comparing ourselves to other people (my beliefs are better than theirs, I’m more talented than they are, I’m not as bad as they are).  Children learn by watching us.  If they see comparison, judgment, pride, and insecurity in our lives, they pick up on it.
Children are watching how we take correction and failure. They are learning from us about judgment and comparison, pride and insecurity.  And we are teaching them where to find their value.  As you grow in your understanding of who you are in Christ, He will transform your character into his likeness, and children will catch that from you.
  1. We must teach children that their value is in God
We need to be careful what we are leading our children to believe about their identity.
Sometimes, we can accidentally teach our children, that their worth is found in their achievements.  We praise our kids for good report cards and for performing well in sports.  What we praise, teaches them what makes them valuable.  Ask yourself if you celebrate who your kids are, or what they have accomplished.  As Joby Martin puts it, we are un-gospeling our children when we lead them to believe that their worth is found in their achievements.
We need to gospel our children by calling out their God given identity in Christ.  We need to encourage them with the worth that is bestowed upon them as humans made in the image of God, not from the things they have done.  We need to be very careful not to invite our children onto the treadmill of performance.  We need to frequently remind our children, that their dignity and value are gifts that cannot be lost by a lack of talent, success or praise.

Monday, February 18, 2019

A Safe Place to Grow Up

Think for a minute about the process of shopping for clothes. When you go shopping for clothing, you probably look through the racks, select several outfits of varying styles that you think you might like and then take them to the dressing room. There are several questions you are asking of each set of clothes you try on. While you are looking in the mirror, you consider: Do I like it? Does it fit? Is it my style? And then, if you are shopping with another person, you will probably step out of the dressing room and ask the person you are with, "What do you think?" You want to know how they will react to seeing you in that particular outfit.

As kids and teens grow up, they work through a very similar process with their personality and identity. They will "try on" different characteristics, attitudes, opinions and ways of thinking and acting. As they do, they will consider, perhaps subconsciously, Does it fit? Is it me? Do I like how I feel when I wear it? And one of the biggest questions of all, What reaction do I get from others? Do people accept and affirm me when I "put on" that particular aspect of personality?

As parents watching teens figure out and discover their own personality, this can be a confusing and perhaps difficult time. Some parents are surprised or shocked when their teen begins to act or talk in ways that they have never seen before, or they cannot explain. Teens will sometimes announce things that seem to come out of nowhere. Your straight-A student may announce "I don't like school anymore." The kid who never liked sports may say, "I want to try out for football." The child who used to love Sunday School may proclaim, "I don't believe in God." Often the shocked parent will try, with numerous strategies, to convince their teen that they don't really mean what they are saying. They may encourage or push their son or daughter to go back to the way they were before. This usually does not go well and can create tension or cracks in the once peaceful and harmonious parent-child relationship.

What the parent may not realize is that this "trying on" of different personalities or opinions is actually an important part of growing up. And a deeper, underlying question that the teen may be asking is: Will you still accept and love me if ... fill in the blank.

The question that parents should consider during the teen years is, Do I want our family to be a safe place for my teen to grow up? Do I want my teen to feel the freedom to share their thoughts and feelings while they work through the process of developing their own identity and personality? Many teens who feel rejected by their parents will retreat from them, and find other places and circles in which to process this journey. Often, very well intended parents inadvertently send a message that acceptance and even love is based on the teen acting and living up to certain expectations.

Those parents who want to nurture a positive relationship with their teen must often take the difficult step of holding back their shock or disapproval (which are often interpreted as rejection and shame) and entering into a new phase of their relationship in which they allow for a greater freedom of thought and expression. This parent takes great steps to communicate unconditional love for their teen, while inviting him or her into an ongoing conversation about life that is characterized by warmth and safety rather than judgment and control. This is not an easy task, and requires a tremendous amount of faith in the power of love and truth, and ultimately God.

As parents, we can set the tone and create an atmosphere for our home as a safe and positive place for teens to work through the task of figuring out their own views, beliefs and personality. If we believe that our worldview and way of life is based on what is good and true and life-giving, then we can be open to questions and challenges without taking it personally. We can enter into a respectful and robust dialogue about values and beliefs, and create a safe place to discuss the important issues of life. When our teens feel acceptance and safety, they are more likely to share their journey. When they become convinced that you love them unconditionally, they will be more likely to view you as an ally, and allow you the privilege of influencing them as they discover and develop their own identity.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

What Do We Teach Kids About Handling Conflict?



A lot of kids are taught that getting an adult during conflict, is tattling.  It is very common for parents to require children to solve problems among themselves.  This method doesn’t lead to positive conflict resolution skills; it leads to the opposite.  When children are left to themselves to stop a conflict and the other child won’t stop, or share, or cooperate, violence and retaliation are really the only option they have.  Older siblings and bigger kids have a lot of power and they don’t know how to use their power in a benevolent way.  They are self-centered and haven’t learned how to use their power for good yet.  When kids are left to fight it out, the youngest ones can be subjected to emotional and physical abuse.  They learn that there is no such thing as justice, and that violence and retaliation are their only option.  The youngest also learn that they are not valuable enough for even their parents to care when they are being treated unfairly and even abused.  And the older kids learn to practice the abuse of power over the weak. 

An alternative to this would be to help kids learn to utilize authority as a resource.  When our kids were young we always had the 3 steps of “how to stop a fight”, posted on our wall.  The first step was: If someone is doing something you don’t like, tell them to “stop” in a nice voice.  Or, if the fight is about a toy or game, agree on a way to take turns.  Set a timer and do rock-paper-scissors to see who goes first.  The second step was: If they don’t listen, tell them that if they do it again you will have to get an adult.  The third step was: If they still don’t listen, get an adult.
When adults get involved it is not for the purpose of finding out who “started it” and to punish them.  The role of the adult is to remind the children of the tools like rock, paper, scissors, and the timer, and to ensure that everyone is treated with value and respect.  The adult teaches and enforces the biblical principles of #1 we respect and honor others because they are made in the image of God, #2 we don’t repay evil with evil because evil does not defeat evil it perpetuates it, #3 always confront in love, and #4 that they deserve to be protected because they are valuable.  Children need to be taught these principles on an ongoing basis because they aren’t born with this knowledge, they need repeated instruction. The way that children learn to treat other people, how they allow themselves to be treated, and how they handle disputes at home, will go with them into relationships at school.
One of our roles as parents is protector.  God has put authority in place to protect us and enforce the laws (Rom.13), we need to model this order at home.  A healthy view of authority is that authority is good and can be called upon to enforce justice. Children should be learning that they can turn to authority for justice rather than getting revenge. If a child genuinely needs help, he needs to be able to get it.  Children need to know that it is not weak to refuse to hit someone, it is strong to manage our anger and appeal to the proper channels of authority rather than solving a problem through violence.

When children are taught that parents are not interested in helping them with their problems, they find their own means for survival. They learn to only interact with their peers, and exclude the adult world, because adults are believed to be unavailable, unhelpful, unjust, and unconcerned. They don’t go to teachers when someone is picking on them, and this either results in them being severely abused by others or it results in built up anger which, as we have seen, can result in violence as gruesome as school shootings. 

recently I was taking a class and the school principal that was teaching the class said that when he sits down with jr. highers that got into fights at school and asks them why, they say “I just couldn’t take it anymore,” and when he asks why they didn’t tell anyone that they were being picked on, they say “I didn’t want to be a snitch”.

This is a letter sent recently from the superintendent of Bethel schools to all Bethel staff:

For the safety of our students, we need to foster and nurture a culture where students feel safe to come to an adult and talk about threats, or students that are having difficulty coping, etc. This is what a "caring culture" nurtures.  The old concept of seeing students that ask for help as "tattle-tales" or "snitches," must be replaced by compassionate concern.  Developing a culture where it’s OK to ask for help is essential. We are all in this together, we are not an island onto ourselves.
...

And that's a good word for all of us to remember!