How to make 2017 a better year

“2016 has been the worst year ever,” a friend posted on Facebook.

I personally think that’s a little extreme,…2016 may have had its ups and downs, but worst year ever?

Have they seen all the other years?

I kid. I kid.

As parents, we know what it is like to see the year turn from good to bad, even to “the worst year ever.” School doesn’t go how you or your child thought it would go. Your child’s team doesn’t do as well as she wanted. There’s unexpected injuries, sicknesses, relationship problems, drama of all kinds, and a never-ending list of things that can frustrate your family’s year.

As we step into 2017 you may wonder, is it even possible to have a good year?

I think it is.

If we fill our year with good things.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

Did Jesus just call us evil?

Yes. Yes, he did.

But that’s not his main point. His main point is, even if evil parents (like you and me) know how to give our children good gifts, how much more able is our perfect heavenly Father to give good gifts to his children. Which means, if you and I want good things for our families from God our Father, all we have to do is ask.

Now, I know some of you are thinking, “I have asked. And nothing happened.”

Yeah, I’ve been there. It stinks.

But in that stinky disposition I’ve found it helpful to ask God another question, “What do you (God) consider a good gift?” Because, let’s face it, God may be giving us good gifts, but we just don’t recognize them.

So what does God consider a good gift?

Not surprisingly, Himself.

We see this in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus says the same thing (likely to a different audience) as he did in the Gospel of Matthew, but this time there is a slight difference.

Jesus says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)

Did you catch it?

In Luke, Jesus said, the good gift the Father will give to his children who ask, is the Holy Spirit. Why is that a good thing?

The Apostle Paul tells us, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (Galatians 3:22-23)

Imagine 2017 being a year where your family is filled with more love, more joy, more peace, more patience, more kindness, more goodness, more faithfulness, more gentleness, and more self- control.

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a pretty good year to me. And all we have to do is ask.

2017 will be filled with up and downs for our families but it doesn’t have to be the worst year ever.

Parents, ask your heavenly Father to give you and your family good gifts. No matter the time or the situation. No matter the drama at home, at work, or at school. Just ask.

He promises to give you a very good gift, his Holy Spirit. And a year filled with the Holy Spirit is a year filled with many good things.

Blessings,

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Should I let my teen go to another church?

 

When I was in high school (I still like to think that wasn’t that long ago) everyone I knew who went to church, only went to one church—their church.

But now, twenty years later (holy cow) things have changed. Students attend different churches all the time.church

Is this a bad thing?

I don’t think so.

Here’s why…

First, there are a lot fewer church-going Christian students than before. So students are now looking for their “tribe” where ever they can find it.

Second, different churches have different strengths (and weaknesses). The big churches “down the street” are great at attracting students through big events, high entertainment youth nights, and giveaways. They’re able to reach a lot of students who would be scared (yes scared) to step foot into a traditional looking church. Their ability to reach the unchurched is a great thing!

On the other hand churches like Fellowship, because of our size, have different strengths. We are able to easily connect with people. The first time someone comes to us, we know their name. We’re also able to focus more deeply on discipleship. More than once a student has told me that he likes coming to Fellowship because he can ask hard questions. Others have told me they like the fact that the groups are small, and not overwhelming.

Here’s the thing. One kind of church is not better than the other. As long as we’re all doing our best to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and make disciples, we’re all on the same team. And there is no need to worry about competition.

Today students like being able to grow in their faith through both big and small churches. They like experiencing God through Gospel-driven entertainment, relational settings, and making deep connections with adults and friends.

All this is fine as long as one thing doesn’t change.

That is your student has a church home. By church home I mean, that they are committed to a family of believers on Sunday morning. Obviously I’m biased toward having them commit toward the family of believers at Fellowship.

But here’s why this matters. Church is like a family. And your student needs to be committed to a family and have a family that is committed to them.

Why?

Research shows, the teens who flourish in their faith after high school are the teens who had multigenerational relationships in their home church. That is the teens felt comfortable around and loved by the whole church family and not just their peers. They felt connected to the parents and the grandparents of the church as well. Teens only experience these kinds of relationships when they and their families commit to making one church their home church.

So don’t feel guilty if your teen wants to go with their friends to another church. It’s not a competition. Every church exists for a reason—to display the glory of God in the manner God has called them to. Let them enjoy seeing how God is working in another church. But on the other hand encourage (maybe even require) your teens to be committed to a home church—a place where they feel a part of the family. A place where they will be known and loved by multiple generations and given the opportunity to flourish in their faith.

4 Reasons To Read The Bible As A Family

 

Forget for a second that your teenagers pretend they don’t want to be around you. Forget that the first time you try to do this it is going to feel awkward. Forget that you feel like you don’t know the right way to do it.

Just pick a time of the day and go for it. Use a Bible reading plan. Read together for 15 mins.  Talk about what you read. Then close in prayer.Wm._Riley_Blankinship,_miner,_with_his_children._Koppers_Coal_Division,_Kopperston_Mine,_Kopperston,_Wyoming_County..._-_NARA_-_540984

Don’t worry if at first it doesn’t seem fruitful. What’s important is the routine of reading the Bible together as a family.

Because reading the Bible as a family does four things for your family:

First, it shows that you as the parent value the Bible.

This might seem like a small thing. It’s not. Teen’s attitude toward the Bible will often reflect their parent’s attitude toward the Bible. If teens don’t see their parents holding the Bible in high esteem, then neither will they. One of the greatest ways parents can contribute to the faith of their students is to share with them why they (the parents) reads the Bible, and how it has changed their lives.

Second, it centers your family around God’s Word.

Every time your family reads the Bible together, you are in a very simple way saying to your family that “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” It’s a simple reminder to the family that your family is not like other families. Your family has different values, different traditions, different expectations. Your family is a family that seeks to follow Jesus. When you read the Bible together as a family you are reshaping your family’s identity. You’re grounding your family in something bigger than sports, music, video games, clothes, appearances, and other stuff. You’re giving your kids a sense of security that is hard to find anywhere else.

Third, when families read the Bible together it opens up the lines of dialogue.

Having trouble talking to your teens? Read the Bible together. Then ask them what came to their mind as they read (or heard) the words? What questions did they have? What did it make them think about God? What about their their life? About their friend’s lives?  Don’t worry about having all the right responses. Instead just focus on hearing what is on your teen’s heart. Think of it as a three-way conversation between you (the parents), your teens, and God. Trust that God’s Word is alive and active. And overtime God will use His Word to open up your teen to sharing what is on his or her heart.

Fourth, it might just save their marriage (and yours).

This might seem random, but it’s not.  There is a long held belief that the divorce rate in America is 50%. Now it turns out that it’s not quite that high at all. But do you know what the divorce rate is for couples who regularly read their Bibles together or pray together– less than 1%. That means if you help your children feel like reading the Bible as a family is normal, they might just do that with their spouse one day. And it might just be the one consistent practice that gives them the foundation to weather all the storms of life that come in a marriage. Not to mention reading the Bible as family will likely strengthen your marriage, which will in turn give you children  a healthier picture of marriage. It’s win-win.

 

Yeah, it might be awkward. Yes, it will take some practice. But know that it is worth it.

Because families that read the Bible together are simply, better families.

 

 

Two simple things parents can do to keep their kids walking with God

 

At some point every parent realizes time with their kids is running out. That their kids will soon leave the house. That their kids will soon make life choices without their consent.  As Christians we worry that one of those choices might be to walk away from their faith.

It’s a valid concern.

According to LifeWay Research, “70% of young adults who indicated they attended church regularly for at least one year in high school do, in fact, drop out”[1]. About two-thirds will eventually return at some point, but nevertheless that is a large number, even if it is just for a season.

So what can parents do to beat the statistics?

It may be of some comfort to know that this is not a new problem. In fact, it is a very old problem.

About 3,000 years ago a Levite named Asaph, who worked as a musician for King David, wrote Psalm 78. Within the song Asaph speaks of what must be done so that the next generation will not become “a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.”(Ps 78:8)

Asaph is concerned for his kids, and all the children of Israel. He is concerned that one day they might not follow in the faith of their fathers.

So what is Asaph’s solution?

He commends parents (and leaders) to do just two things. Pass down the Deeds and Decrees of the Lord.

Deeds

In verse four Asaph writes,

 We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.

And in verse seven he writes,

Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds

For Asaph, telling the next generation what God has done was of utmost importance. He understood that in order for people (of all ages) to know God, they must first hear about the works of God.

Today God calls parents to do the same thing. We are called to simply share with our kids what God has done. But not just in the Bible. We’re called to share what God has done, and is doing, in our lives.

I’ve found that most students want to hear how God is working in the lives of their parents. They don’t want a lecture. But they do want a story. They’d like to hear about a time when their parents needed God’s help and how he came through.

As a parent, your stories offer hope to your students. Hope that the same God who helped you will in turn be the same God who will help them.

Decrees

Stories are great. But stories alone are not enough to sustain the faith of a student. Asaph longed to pass down more than stories. He also longed to pass down the decrees of God.

In verses 5-7 he writes,

He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

For most of us, “commands/decrees” have a negative connotation. But Asaph knew the commands of God were good. He knew the words of King David:

Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night…whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)

He knew that people (of all ages) grow in a deeper relationship with God when they begin to delight in the decrees of God.

What might this look like for parents today?

Parents don’t have to hang the Ten Commandments on their kid’s bedroom wall (they can if they want). But they may want to talk to their kids about the choices they are making and why they are making them.

It is helpful for parents to explain to their kids why it is they follow the decrees of God. Parents can share why it is they don’t cheat on their taxes. Or why it is they don’t lie. They can share with their kids why it is they try to do what is right. And how doing what is right in God’s eyes has benefited them.

Again kids don’t want a lecture. But they are interested in real life case studies–especially from people they know. Giving them real life examples of the benefits of God’s decrees will show them that God can be trusted. It will show them God is good. And ultimately it will inspire them to delight in God.

We can’t force our kids to continue in a relationship with God. But we can model for them what an authentic relationship with God looks like. This happens when we spend time (lots of time) sharing with them the deeds of God and the benefits of the decrees of God. And when we do these two things we might just see our independent kids desiring to grow with God rather than choosing to walk away from God.

 

 

[1] http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/may/dropouts-and-disciples-how-many-students-are-really-leaving.html?paging=off