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THE GOSPEL-CENTERED HOME: TEENS – WHAT HAPPENED TO MY CHILD? Part 2

Trying to figure out a teenager is not really as hard as it seems. As previously posted, they are just like you the parent. Their lack of experience and many times focused teaching makes them susceptible to making foolish decisions. The last 2 items of who are these teens are perhaps the ones that bring the largest amount of fear and frustration to their parents.

5. Teens typically think they are wiser than they really are or in other words, they have a very distorted view of themselves. But, of course, so do I most of the time of myself. Oh, the deceptiveness of sin! (Hebrews 3:13) However with many teens, they tend to lack a real hunger for wisdom and look at what we older adults have as very little practical insight to give to them. I can’t count the number of times in working with teens I was told I just don’t understand. What we as parents and youth workers must do is make wisdom much more appealing to our teens. By using demanding words and tone of voice, confrontations and verbal struggles we easily shift the problems we want to address to ourselves. The teen tends to become defensive and not interested in listening.

6. Believe it or not, teens tend to be more legalistic than their parents. Pushing the limits on rules, they want to know and will test just how far they can go. They become quite the literalists. Ever hear, “I did exactly what you told me to do” to your frustration that they knew what you were intending in a situation? This is a heart issue that needs to be addressed in both their hearts and ours. Legalism as a parent is a form of self-righteousness that denies the saving grace of God and the need that our teens need to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit and their actions need to flow from their being born again.

7. Our teens tend to choose some of their friends without using wisdom. It is impossible to not be influenced by friends. We need to help guide teens in how to choose relationships and how we can step outside the emotional pulls to honest and biblical criteria.

8. Teens are susceptible to sexual temptation. Here the strength of youth, changes in life, the freedoms they experience and the lack of an accurate view outside the home and church all contribute to the potential problem. As a teenager physically awakens, fantasy and lust are common private sins and to help a teen, they must be open for discussion. Are you comfortable with this topic with your teen? Do they really have a biblical view of sex? Do you know where they struggle in this area? Can they critique the world’s view? Do they have a heart for sexual purity? Are they modest?

9. The final point to discuss is that teens tend to be focused on the present. What is not in their scope of view is to delay anything, especially gratification. Right now is the most important moment of life. Galatians 6:7, “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” is not so much in the scope of their day to day thinking. The physical moment tends to be what matters and temporal happiness is the priority. Some of this comes from the saturation of entertainment in our lives where the meaning of things is found in how good it makes me feel. As a result, things like church are boring regardless of how nourishing it is for them.

All of these things that describe a teen does not mean every teenager nor every item. They only are representative of the culture today. For us as parents and workers of teens, it gives us a place to understand and enter their world so we can help shape it to God-centered meaning. More to come….

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THE GOSPEL-CENTERED HOME: TEENS – WHAT HAPPENED TO MY CHILD?

Newtown2The term teenager has not been around long in our language. You do not find it in the Bible nor in most literature until the middle of the 20th century. One of the reasons is that in most cultures, including the western culture, a young teenager was considered a young adult. Using the term teenager or adolescent becomes almost an excuse for not acting like a young adult. So who are these beings in many of our homes?

  1. They are sinners like you. Romans 3:9-23 gives a description of the teen and their parents. As a parent, you need to see your teen accurately so that you are not surprised by them. They will do some things that will affirm these verses. As sinners, it means there is hope for them as Christ came to save sinners.
  1. They are a young adult. The Bible does not recognize teenagers but calls those who are traditionally at puberty up to 30 a young adult. Jewish tradition puts it at 13 years old with the Bar (Bas for women) Mitzvah. Your teen needs to be treated as such and leave many of the childish things behind. The biggest challenge of being an adult is making decisions. They have the capability to begin making important choices and living with the consequences of them. Using good wisdom as a parent for sometimes to let them fail is the best thing for them.
  1. Your teen is self-centered and that will get in the way of accomplishing #2 above. Oh yeah, so are we self-centered and how often that gets in the way of our parenting! For both the teen and the parent, godly virtue is appreciated but our biggest problem in practicing it will be ourselves.
  1. Your teen is a “meaning-maker.” Paul Tripp in his books on parenting speaks of how we are all interpreters, thinkers, organizers and responders to life and it is not so much based upon the facts of what we see and hear, but moreso on how we interpret the facts. Read back through Genesis 2:16-17 and 3:1-6 and see how the facts were received and interpreted. You will see your teen (and yourself) in the narrative.

I have several more that I will post but what does this mean? To better understand your teen is to see how you can better help and reach them. I hopefully will be able to show you that your teen is not that much different than you. The biggest difference is the wisdom of experience. More to come…..

The Gospel-Centered Home Frees You

Amazon books lists 122,714 resources on parenting. The information available is overwhelming, paralyzing and leads many Christian parents to not believe that the Scriptures are sufficient to guide in raising children. When we do use the Scriptures, the problem is that we seek the Word of God primarily how to guide our child’s behavior. In doing so, many of the books such as Proverbs become primarily a moral instructional guide or the life of Jesus is seen as a moral example of how to live. Though these are certainly true, they are not the purpose of the Scriptures.

Rather than focus primarily on how we are to live, the Scriptures first are to expose our depravity as both children and parents and our desperate need for a Savior who suffered on a cross and saves us from the wrath of God.

Obedience and ethics certainly are important and addressed in the Scriptures, but they must be taught from the point of view that they are related to and proceed from the cross and the redemptive work of Christ. So, as you discipline your children (we will eventually get to this), it becomes a means to declare the gospel.

What’s so freeing about this? It simplifies your parenting to gospel-centered purposes. You see that you stand as a parent on behalf of God to your child and the goal of parenting is to pursue the glory of God in your child’s life.

How to start? Think and speak to your child on who they are in Christ or who they can be in Christ. Then focus on what they can do because of Christ rather than the things it seems they can’t do. Set them free through the forgiveness and redemption we have in Christ and allow their actions to flow from that rather than law.

Silence No Longer an Option

The following is a short article revealing the disturbing trend in the viewing of pornography. My immediate concern is working at a Christian school with several hundred young people.  Surveys of students (both boys and girls) indicate that some view it regularly, even here at school. We will address it to the students and offer help for those who ask, but smart phones don’t seem to be a smart thing at times (though the phone is not the problem but the heart is the issue) … George

Article by John Stonestreet

Nearly 15 years ago, a survey found that Christians looked at pornography at nearly the same rates as non-believers. Have things improved?

In the spring of 2000, Zogby International asked more than a thousand U.S. adults whether they had ever visited a sexually-oriented web site. Only one in five had done so. Among born-again Christians, 18 percent had gone to such sites, just three percentage points less than the general public.

Well, fast forward to today. A group called Proven Men Ministries commissioned the Barna Group to examine current pornography use. You might want to sit down for this? Barna found that 64 percent of American men and 20 percent of women view pornography at least monthly. And for Christian men, that number is 55 percent.

Fourteen years ago, only one out of every three men had ever gone to a pornography site, but now nearly one-third of men under 30 do so on a daily basis. And if you think it can’t get worse, the survey found that 18 percent of men believe they may be addicted to pornography. That’s more than 20 million men in deep trouble.

Friends, take a moment to let this sink in. More than half of Christian men in America routinely expose themselves to sexually explicit lies that shape the way they see sex, love, marriage, and women. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that this is a crisis for the Church and certainly for our culture. If these numbers are accurate in any sense, and I believe they are, we’ve reached a time of reckoning.

One of the first things to realize is that rampant pornography use can’t be isolated from its larger cultural context. So many of our social ills stem from the fact that society is losing or abandoning the ability to see people as beings made in the image of God.

With crime, victims are treated as obstacles to overcome or things to exploit. Abortion sees people as disposable because he or she is inconvenient. Pornography treats people as objects in service of self-gratification. We’ve become this “use or be used” society.

And so, if we are to reclaim the sacred dignity of every human person amidst this brutish culture, we must turn inward. We’re all tempted to point angry fingers at those sinners “out there” that we think are degrading our culture. But even as Miley Cyrus flaunts herself on stage in front of millions, tens of millions of Christians are secretly watching pornography while their churches stay silent as tombs about the issue.

It may be that we in the church should revisit the story of the self-righteous Pharisee in Luke 18. If these survey results are true, we can no longer stand in the front of the church patting ourselves on the back for not being like those sexual sinners out there. Instead, together we can lower our face before God and say, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Although this survey grieves me, I remain hopeful that through true evangelism and service, and by praying and seeking spiritual renewal in our churches, we have an incredible opportunity to reach out with the Good News of Jesus Christ to the hidden, the lost, and the ashamed. And right now, there are plenty of folks? millions even? waiting along the highways and byways for an invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb. And invite them we must.

The Bible warns us many times that the sexually immoral will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. People’s eternal lives are at stake, including many who we call brother and sister each week in church.

The Fight For A Gospel-Centered Home

I find Luke 6: 27-36 haunting at times..“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

Jesus distinguishes between the one who has been touched by the mercy of God and those who have not. I am haunted because I often act like the one who has not been and in doing so, I am no different in my actions than the unbeliever. In fact, they can look more “Christian” than I can.

And so it is with parenting. Why is it that those without Christ as the center of their home can parent so well and we who have Christ can do so poorly? There is an ingredient available to the Christian that can be distinguished from all other homes. It is the gospel. There is a difference in a gospel centered home and the unbeliever’s home. There is even a difference in a gospel centered home and many Christian homes.

How is the difference distinguished? The gospel centered home will be focused on how the gospel informs every aspect of our living and not on behavior modification. Some ways to know a home is ruled by the gospel:

1. Everyone will know that Jesus is our redemption and has set us free from the slavery of sin. Discipline will be Christ-centered with the focus rejoicing in Christ, our Redeemer.

2. All will understand that Jesus is victorious over sin, Satan, and death. It is a home where the strength to deal with tough issues will be nourished by the finished work of Christ.

3. Knowing that we are all justified in Christ where our sin has been taken away and the righteousness of Christ given to us so that we will not be weighed down by the guilt of sin but will deal with it confidently in Christ.

4. The family will know that Jesus has cleansed us from all our sins that we have committed and all that have been committed against us. The obstacles of broken relationships have been removed so that forgiveness and reconciliation are possible.

More to come….

Evil and the Purposes of God

By Joey Newton, pastor-teacher of Newtown Bible Church in Newtown, Connecticut.

A question that has troubled people throughout the centuries is how can a good and sovereign God allow such evil in the world? If He were sovereign (in control) and good wouldn’t He simply keep evil from hapNewtown 1pening? The answer seems obvious, “Yes.” However, evil exists. Therefore, the only conclusion must be that He is either not sovereign, or not good. Both of these are horrible thoughts and, thankfully, light years away from the God who is and who is revealed in Scripture.

Preliminary matters. Before answering the why question, it is important to address a couple of items up front. First, we must come to grips with the fact that God is God and we are not. He doesn’t fit into our boxes. Simply put, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Is. 55:8-9). The fact is, we just can’t see everything from God’s perfect and eternal perspective. He alone “declares the end from the beginning,” and knows the best way to get to there. It took Job a lot of pain to reach the point he could rest there (Job 42:1-6). We would do well to learn from him and start there at the beginning.

Second, how we frame the question has everything to do with how we answer it. We must be sure not to put God on the witness stand to man (Rom. 3:4). God does not exist for us, we exist for Him as His image bearers. In other words, the question is not, “How can God allow evil?” Rather, it is “How can a holy God do good to us who are evil?” Evil entered through the world through human sin, not God’s: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin” (Rom. 5:12). The problem is that we are a sinful people and deserve God’s judgement. It is amazing He withholds evil as much as He does and does us so much good (Acts 14:17).

But Why? Some may still say, “But that doesn’t explain why God allowed evil to enter into the world and then let it remain?” Here we must remember the first point: God’s wisdom exceeds our own. It is impossible to answer all the why questions, especially in specific cases of suffering. We just don’t know, but our good God does. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us” (Deut. 29:29). It is important we don’t get caught up in what we can’t answer and instead focus on what God has revealed.

God’s primary purpose in creation, in the universe, is His own glory (Ps. 19:1; Is. 43:7). This is hard for some to stomach, but it sets the foundation to understand the answer to why. If evil exists, then He must intend, somehow, to glorify Himself by it.

God ordains evil as a means to display His own glory and character. For example, God displays His holy justice when He punishes sin. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that He could multiply His wonders and His glory (Ex. 7:3) and magnify His Name before the Egyptians and His people: “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD” (14:4). God displays His sovereignty over the evil designs of men (Gen. 50:20) and nations (Is. 10:5-14). God displays His compassion in comforting those who suffer because of evil (Deut. 32:6; Judges 2:18). God displays His grace in forgiving those who commit evil but repent and trust in Him (Ps. 32:1-7).

Jesus Christ is the Ultimate Answer. The ultimate answer we must look to and the ultimate display of God’s glory and purpose at the cross. Jesus said, just hours before His betrayal, “Now My soul is troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.’ Then a voice came out of heaven: ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it’” (John 12:27-28; cf. 13:31-32; 17:1). God’s ultimate display of His glory and His purpose in ordaining sin is the Son suffering as a substitute for sinners. Jesus, the suffering servant, “Was foreknown before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20). This means, before creation God purposed the cross. In one sense, then, the greatest suffering for sin was endured by God Himself, and that by an act of His own will, “The LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief … as a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it an be satisfied … He Himself bore the sin of many” (Is. 53:10-12). The Father caused the suffering of the Son for sinners. The Son endured suffering from the Father for sinners. By this God determined the supreme display of His glory: the defeat of sin and evil at the cost of His own suffering, for His glory and the everlasting joy of His people.

The cross of Jesus Christ brings it all into a perspective of glory, worship, and hope. The cross demonstrates God’s eternal and limitless love to those who trust Him (Rom. 5:8-10; Titus 3:4-5). The cross upholds God’s justice in the salvation of sinners (Rom. 3:25-26) and the judgement of those who reject (John 3:19). The cross provides the grounds and proof of all of His unfailing compassion and grace to those who rest in Him (Rom. 8:32; 2 Cor. 1:8-9; 12:7-10). The cross points us to the end of the story: a new heaven and new earth where sin will be forever removed, and “He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away … there will no longer be any curse … they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads” (Rev. 21:3-4; 22:3-4).

God has gNewtown2ood planned in the end for those who trust in Him and His work in the death, resurrection, and soon return of the Son. God does not reveal all His specific purposes in suffering and evil in the world, but He is sovereign over it, He has defeated it, will forever remove it, and will sustain His people by grace and hope eternal until He brings it about (1 Peter 1:3-9; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; Rom. 8:18-21).

Until that day we will need to trust Him and encourage each other to do the same (Heb. 10:23-25). We point each other to the cross and our eternal hope in glory when we will be with Him forever and see Him face to face. In this way, we come to know Him more intimately (John 17:3; Phil. 3:10), and when we know Him better we are able to humbly trust Him more and ultimately let His glory, grace, and wisdom be a more than a sufficient answer to why there is so much evil and suffering.

HT: thecripplegate.com

THE CHILD’S SINFUL HEART: SEARCH AND RESCUE

One area of our child’s heart that we often do not want to give serious consideration to is that they by birth and nature are sinners. John 1:12-13 indicates that no one is born a “child of God” but they must become one by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Also Romans 3:23 and 5:12 states, “all have sinned.” All means everyone including our children. As sinners we are the objects of the wrath of God as all sin is personal and hostile to God.

The effect of sin is on every part of who we are as humans. However, though our children and we are totally sinful, it does not mean that we are as sinful as we can possibly be. Being created in the image of God does give the potential for all people to do good things that reflect the character of God.  Those things done apart from Christ though do not credit any righteousness to us but simply are good for mankind and society. As sinners also, we are totally helpless within ourselves to resolve the issue of God’s disposition towards us. See such verses as John 6:44; 15:5; Romans 8:6-8; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Hebrews 11:6.

We all like to convince ourselves to some degree we are fundamentally good and not as bad as the Bible makes us out to be. We love to compare ourselves to others and our children remind us when we are pointing out their sin, “Yeah, but how about (insert name)?”

So who is this child you are trying to raise? Well they are a sinner like you. They attempt to make meaning out of things often the same way you do. They have self-centered desires, wants, and passions like you and many that are contrary to yours so in accordance with James 4:1-3 you fight and quarrel with them.

Why is it important to consider the doctrine of sin in our parenting? It drives you to the necessity of preaching the gospel every day to your child. You still need the gospel to center your own life upon because you sin every day and your child, by nature and by practice, sin and need the gospel daily.

RESCUE: The Goal of Eternity

John Angell James, a British Pastor (1785-1859) wrote:

But how it would embitter our last moments, and plant our dying pillow with thorns, to leave you on earth in an unconverted state; following us to the grave, but not to heaven. Or should you be called to die before us, how could we sustain the dreadful thought … that the very next moment after you had passed beyond our kind attentions, you would be receive to the torments which know neither end nor mitigation? And when you had departed under such circumstances, what could heal our wounds or dry out tears.” …

 What then, my children, are all worldly acquirements and possessions without piety? …Original genius, a vigorous understanding, a well-stored mind, and all this adorned by the most amiable temper and most insinuating address, will neither comfort under trials of life nor save their lovely possessor from the worm that never dies and the fire that is never quenched. O! no: they may qualify for earth but not qualify for heaven.

(John Angell James, “The Christian Father’s Present to His Children”)

My comment: Never, ever, not one day should you assume the gospel for yourselves nor for your children. What day do you not need the gospel?

RESCUE: The Goal of Giving our Children a Vibrant Faith

One of the beautiful things about the gospel is that it produces a living and vibrant faith. It is our daily protection in that through faith in the gospel I have salvation, justification, peace, and an understanding of the Word of God. Through it I am being transformed from glory to glory. I have all I ever need for life and godliness, freedom from the power of sin, and my Sabbath rest in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

I can go on and on but the point is that we should want our children to possess such a faith.  That their understanding of the Christian faith through the Word of God would be informed through the central meaning of it in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Next to the tragedy of a child who never grasps the gospel, is the child who may make some level of profession of faith and then walk away.

Tom Bisset in his book, ‘Why Christian Kids Leave the Faith,” lists 4 main reasons why some people leave the faith.

  1. They encounter troubling and unanswered questions about the faith. They see the tough issues of life and do not see a Christian answer. These can be theological questions or just questions of doubt. They may be told “you just need to believe” and so they will leave in the name of intellectual honesty. Some of the material that is available in the name of apologetics is intellectually weak and at times dishonest.
  2. Their faith just does not work for them. The Christian faith is presented as one where there should be peace, joy, and happiness as found in the promises of the Bible. They become disillusioned with the church, with other Christians in watching their lives and ultimately disillusioned with God.
  3. Other things in life become more important than their faith. The person becomes preoccupied by such things as seeking pleasures, ambitions, personal issues or just some of the hard realities of life. Pretty soon a secular view of life displaces a sacred view based upon the Scriptures. The person begins to drift just like a boat from its moorings and their faith is a beam on the horizon.
  4. They never personally owned their own faith. In other words, there was not authentic repentance and faith. They simply conformed to the spiritual expectations of their parents and others and did what was required to show belief such a saying a prayer and being baptized. Then when faced with the reality of life later their faith collapsed because it was thin on the outside and hollow on the inside.

This is why the Deuteronomy 6 paradigm and the preaching of the gospel to yourself and to your children every single day and into all aspects of life is imperative. If they do not see the centrality of the gospel in the affairs of mankind, it will become irrelevant to them.

RESCUE: THE GOSPEL-CENTERED HOME DEFINED

What defines your parenting? What are your goals with your children? You know what defines your parenting and your goals for your children by the way you parent and what motivates your joy in parenting. For example, are you more concerned with their behavior or their heart?

The Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15 that what is to be of first importance in our lives is that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”

This means that there is nothing of equal or greater value than the fact that God sent His Son to the cross to bear his wrath for sinners like you and your children. If so, is there anything in life we should be more passionate about than the gospel. We should be thinking on it, reflecting on it, rejoicing in it and allowing it to guide the way we look at our families and the way we parent.

So what does a gospel-centered home look like? It is one where all aspects of the family and parenting are informed by the gospel. Such a home knows such things as:

  1. Jesus has won the victory over sin, Satan and death. Our sin as parents or the sin of our children are parts of the battle but Christ has won the victory and a home that realizes the power of God in the gospel and Christ (1 Corinthians 1:24) sees the hope we have and are not defeated.
  2. Jesus is our redemption and has set us free from the slavery of sin. We may fall but we do not need to stay where we are. Christ has purchased the freedom to pursue righteousness.
  3. Jesus is our justification where our sin was taken upon him and his righteousness credited to us so that we could be seen as justified in God’s sight.
  4. Jesus has cleansed us from all sins that we have committed and sins committed against us. The burden of guilt has been lifted and the power to forgive purchased.
  5. Jesus is our ransom and paid the price for our sin. There is neither further cost nor interest penalty. We are completely forgiven and there are no charges against us.
  6. Jesus is our reconciliation where the obstacle of sin has been taken away and we have been brought to God in a new relationship.

The battle is to discipline and nurture your children guided by these truths and many other truths of the gospel. Tomorrow I will post the fundamental difference between a home that may be “Christian” but absent of the gospel.