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A Simple and Powerful Prayer for Your Child

I remember learning about an approach to prayer years ago when my son was a toddler, and I’m grateful for the way it shaped me as a young father. The advice was simple and practical – use Ephesians 3:14-19 as a way to pray for those you love.

My son is a teenager now and I continue to pray this way for him and my other children. Using these few verses from the Scriptures to direct my prayers has not only helped me pray clearly and consistently for my kids, it has formed the deepest hopes and dreams I hold for them in my heart. I expect to ask God for these things in my kids’ lives for the rest of my life.

Ephesians 3:14-19 says, For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Wrapped up in these five verses are three powerful things I ask God to do in each of my kids’ hearts.

Lord, please give my child faith in Christ

I strive to teach my kids about who Jesus is and what he has done, but try as I may, I cannot create faith in their hearts. I know God has to be the one to give them the grace of his presence and roots of faith, so I make verses 16 and 17 my request to God saying, “Lord, grant my son strength through your Holy Spirit so that Christ would dwell in his heart through faith.”

Father, please show my child how much you love them

I have spent a lot of time considering the richness of verses 18 and 19 in my own heart. This is the most impassioned prayer I regularly bring to God, “Father, please open my daughter’s heart and mind to the depths of your love. Help her know, without question, that she is loved by you. Give her security and identity rooted in your unquestionable love. Help me love her like you do.”

I often add in a confession of my own faults and shortcomings as a father and ask God to answer this prayer in spite of me. My kids need to know the nature of their true father and I ask God to help me be more like him.

Lord, please fill my child with your presence

This passage has God’s presence as bookends. Paul tells his reader that he bows his knees to ask that God gives them strength and power through the Holy Spirit in their inmost being, and he finishes hoping his reader is filled with all the fullness of God.

I make these words my request saying, “Lord, whatever my son faces today, be ever present to shape his experience, thoughts, and actions. Fill him with your Spirit and give him strength and wisdom to live differently — to live for you.”

I have many hopes for my kids but none more important than these. Consistently asking God to give and grow faith, to expand their knowledge of his love, and to make them aware of his presence each day has shaped the way I parent and the heart I have for each of them.

Who Will Teach Your Kids to Pray?

Our older son was four and our younger son was barely three years old. My older son began his prayer as I had taught: “Dear God, thank you for today. Thank you for Jesus. Please keep us safe. Amen.”

My younger son began his prayer differently. “God. You are so big. You made everything. The trees, the sky, the bugs, the flowers, the whole world…”

As my three-year old rattled out his list of God’s creations, my older son leaned to me and whispered, “He’s just making stuff up. That’s not prayer.” I couldn’t help laughing out loud. I will never forget this even though they likely already have.

Someone taught me to pray, though I don’t remember who.

I have one vague memory of my mom praying with me as a child, but I can’t recall with clarity what we prayed for. Yet, despite my lack of memories, I am certain that my parents prayed regularly, and I would imagine they prayed with me.

After all, someone taught me to pray. Why do I not remember?

This is a topic I constantly ponder in relation to my own children. What will my children remember? Will they remember the first time they learned to pray? Will they remember all the prayers we have spoken over them and with them?

Probably not.

As much as I hate to admit it, I have no control over which memories stick with my kids. Many of our day-to-day activities and conversations have been or will be forgotten.

So, if they don’t remember these specific lessons, is it possible that the pattern of prayer we, as parents, instill will be more impactful than our children’s actual memories of praying?

Our older son is motivated by the facts and is angered by injustice. He is acutely aware of his sin and needs to be reminded of how much he is loved and forgiven by his heavenly Father.

Our younger son is wildly creative and is constantly lost in his thoughts. He is keyed into the beauty of God yet questions the truth of God.

Our daughter is highly aware of her social environment and is often intimidated by it. She prays to God but is frustrated that she can’t see or hear him speaking to her.

Our kids are distinctly different. Their prayers are too.

But, no matter their differences, we hope to teach each of our kids to trace a line back to God with prayer. Or, as C.S. Lewis put it, “to run one’s mind back up the sunbeams to the sun.” We hope that as they experience life – the ups, downs, and everything in between – they will follow the path back to the source of it all.

We teach them to just keep praying.

When our older son feels defeated and angry, we teach him to praise God’s sovereignty and pray for the Spirit to bring his calming peace.

When our younger son isn’t sure that God is who he says he is, we teach him to thank God for his unchanging nature and pray for God’s revealing truth.

When our daughter is insecure about her social surroundings, we teach her to praise God that he promises to be with us and pray for confidence.

To pray is to be with God. To pray is to be in his presence.

The gift of prayer, or the gift of being with God, that we have received through Christ is one we hope our kids will embrace.

To keep praying with them, over them, and for them is a charge to us.

We do not have to pray perfectly. Instead, our aim is to pray every day, in all situations, and in all things, and that by our example our kids will learn to do the same.


 

Adoption and the Gospel

Adoption has been an important feature of the Church from antiquity. Throughout the centuries believers have adopted children in a variety of circumstances, and adoption has become a powerful picture of the Gospel to the world.

After Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, the movement of Christ-followers that became known as the Church began to spread over the known world. The dominant Roman culture of the age did not value human life in the same way as the growing Christian movement.¹

Christians understood humanity to be created in the image of God and thereby each person had value and worth, including “unwanted” children. While Roman historians differ in reasoning why Roman culture was comfortable with discarding children, historical and archeological research tells us that the Romans had no qualms about abandoning children for any reason, whether due to gender, deformity, or family situation. Unwanted children were regularly deserted outside ancient cities.

But Jesus’ followers, motivated by the doctrine of the image of God and love for people, became known for taking in these unwanted children.² From the very beginning of the movement, the Church has been known (at least in part) for the adoption of children.

But what led these believers to this kind of care for orphans?

I think there are two great answers to this question.

First, God makes it clear to us in his word that he cares for those without a family. Psalm 68:5 describes God as “Father for the fatherless and protector of widows.” The Scriptural command to care for the orphan has a rich theological foundation. God has a heart for the orphan and the Gospel — the story of Christ coming to earth to reconcile wayward people with the Father — illuminates this. Believers are referred to as co-heirs with Christ and as sons of God the Father.

The Gospel is an adoption story.

Because of Jesus’ work, believers are adopted into God’s family.

Second, as we become more like Christ, we should look more like him and reflect his heart for the orphan. James 1:27 states “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James, the brother of Jesus, explained what it looks like for Christians to hear and do what Scripture calls us to, and the example that he gave was to “visit orphans and widows in their affliction.”

As believers grow in their relationship with Christ, God’s priorities will become our priorities. Our heart should look like his, including care for orphans.

The early Church understood the doctrine of adoption as a counter-cultural phenomenon and acted on that doctrine. Adoption in Rome was typically reserved for wealthy childless couples. These families would adopt a young adult that seemed worthy of carrying on the family name. The adoptee would have to prove to be worth bringing into the family to become an heir.

The Christian doctrine of adoption completely turned this around!

Instead of the adoptee proving themselves before adoption, the Father brought in those who had proven themselves to be unworthy! The fact that the Son came to bring us into his family and make us co-heirs with him in God’s family should give us the greatest sense of joyful hope possible.

We live in a culture where adoption is a common occurrence, but the early Church changed the entire culture by demonstrating love for orphans motivated by their understanding of the Gospel.

As we help parents in the adoption process, and care for widows, the sick, and the needy, we are not only obeying the commands and model of Scripture, but we are standing with a great cloud of witnesses who came before us. 

Christians continue to lead the way in advocating for adoption, and the need to care for the orphaned is as pressing today as it was during the first century. The counter-cultural witness that early believers displayed through adoption is still available.

While Christians adopt children at double the rate of non-Christian Americans, there are still nearly half a million American children in foster care. The opportunity is great and there are several ways that believers can care for needy children directly and indirectly.

And even though not all believers are called to adopt, our care for orphans can be shown in other ways. If you are not adopting, your support of the Church, helpful nonprofits, and believers going through the adoption process is a great way to serve and offer aid.

To learn more about opportunities to be involved in caring for orphans, visit https://www.clearcreek.org/care-and-support/care-and-support-fostering-adoption


¹ Viegas, Jennifer. “Infanticide Common in Roman Empire.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 5 May 2011, https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna42911813.

² A helpful resource in developing a theology of adoption is the chapter “Sons of God” in JI Packer’s book Knowing God. (Packer, J. I. Knowing God. InterVarsity Press, 1973.)


 

Finding True Rest and the Joy of Discipline

Well, it’s the end of the summer and my kids are insane. Yours too or just mine? They stay up until 10:30 p.m., they are constantly “bored,” always hungry (why are they so hungry?!), often bickering, and well, just done with the down time.

And guess what?

So am I.

Do you want cupcakes for breakfast? Should we start a movie at 10:30 p.m.?

I’m in that part of summer.

It’s time for school. It’s time for schedules. It’s time for discipline.

Summer is a much-needed break from the monotony of schedules and to do lists, and we love it! It gives us space to stop and rest and spend a lot more time together. It gives us time and space to explore God’s creation and be creative with our days.

But, after a few months of this respite, we all come to the realization that the daily disciplines of life are much needed as well. 

Our spiritual lives can feel the same way.

We get tired and need breaks, and so we stop doing some of those things in our schedule. And that’s not always a bad thing. Taking a needed break can help us to remember that even when we stop working, God still sustains and provides and stays in control. Rest can also help us to step away from our busy schedules and celebrate the beauty of this world and the people in it, and then worship God who gave it to us.

And in the same way he gave us all of the things that fill up our lives and our schedules, he also gifted us with rest. We were created to need it.

But here’s the thing: rest isn’t opposed to discipline — we need both.

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” (Matthew 11:28-30).

What Jesus offers here is not just a nap, a vacation, or a summer break. He’s offering an entirely new way of life. He invites us to take up his yoke — an agricultural image that is commonly used to describe following a teacher ­— and he means for us to learn from him, to travel by his side, and be under his instruction and care. Through this, he promises we will find rest.

But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill rest; this is deep, soul-level rest. This is true rest.

And true rest is more than luxury, comfort, and free time. It’s peace and security found through a relationship with the one who created, loves, and redeems us.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

— Matthew 11:28-30

But, in order to participate in this kind of rest Jesus offers, we need rhythms of discipline. These are rhythms that don’t stifle us, but that actually free us as we learn from Jesus, to know him deeply, and to become more like him.

And we are not alone in this journey; Jesus is with us. He promises to be yoked with us as we seek to learn and grow. And, when we inevitably stumble, he carries the load.

So, as we begin this new school year full of schedules, sports events, and work, I want to encourage you to take a next step toward this rest only Jesus can provide. Maybe you should take a class to learn how to read God’s word, join a small group to study and worship with community, or commit to spend time daily in prayer with God.

However, these words find you today, don’t miss this opportunity to respond to the invitation of Jesus. Because he is who he says he is the Creator, Savior, and King — the one who created all things, who died to rescue us from slavery to sin, and who will restore this world and reign eternally. He is the humble servant who offers to carry our burdens and teach us his ways. He can be trusted, and in him, we can find a way of life that leads to the true rest we all long for.


 

5 Tips for Parenting in the Digital Age

Technology is everywhere. Even our children are enamored by digital assistants, surrounded by personalized ads, and immersed in multiple devices. It’s changed the ways families live and interact.

There are wonderful graces that accompany these advances. Information is more portable and accessible. We are able to stay connected to family and friends hundreds of miles apart.

As parents, though, we wonder how much technology consumption is just right for our children at every developmental stage. Every child and situation is unique, so it seems as if none of the answers we find online fit perfectly.

Even so, there are some guidelines which can inform family discussions and illuminate decision making for families seeking to navigate this brave new world.

Here are five principles to consider as you lead your children through their interactions with technology in today’s environment.

1. Connect with other parents.

Partner with parents who share your values and who are navigating this journey simultaneously. For us, this occurred in our small group. We had parents to bounce ideas off of, to share experiences, and help keep abreast of emerging trends.

2. Check the Content.

Scrutinize. Be a gatekeeper. Common Sense Media is a solid place to start. They have age-graded reviews and resources ranging from movies to video games to social media and other online platforms. In the beginning, movies and video games are the “content” most parents must monitor.

Over time, apps, websites, social media ought to be considered content as well. Think about what your child interacts with the most. Does every child in your family need the same restrictions? Why or why not?

3. Chaperone your Child.

The word chaperone conveys this idea of going with, or alongside, someone. It’s not an end destination, but it needs to be on the path toward autonomy and not a forgotten rest stop. Checking out the content and checking on your child are two different things. One monitors media, the other monitors behavior.

As parents, we like to threaten our kids with things like, “Well, who do you think is paying for that?” But honestly, does “Who is paying” matter? What happens if the young person gets a job and starts paying? What if they go behind your back to get a cheap throw away phone? For every guideline, for every rule you put in place, explain why. Because one day, you want them to be able to think through new problems with a solid rationale. One day, they will be paying. What do you want them to know? What skills do you want them to possess?

All of it begins with you being a role model and leader in your own home. Start by addressing your own sinful patterns with respect to technology—and walk alongside your child as you both strive to strike a healthy balance in your media consumption.

Children have a hard time processing why you can be on your phone, but they aren’t allowed to be on their device. If they see you tied to your own technology, and if that tie interferes with your interactions with them, be prepared for some dissonance. If devices must be powered down at night or charged in a central location, consider making it a house rule instead of a child-only rule.

4. Counsel with Conversations.

You must create open lines of communication and trust so your children will come to you when they have problems. Counsel doesn’t mean you just give your kids advice.

Young people want to know, “Why are you talking to me?” They have the ability to look up everything you are saying on the internet. They don’t need you to answer random trivia questions or to show them how to fix anything.

Was the internet around when you were a kid? So, why are you worthy of speaking counsel into their lives? Trust is the ultimate goal of your relationship with your child.

5. Create Healthy Habits.

There will be times when your child is not physically with you. They may be playing with friends, at a sleepover, or at school. You will not be able to control what they are exposed to via other children’s devices. However, you do have the opportunity to build healthy habits and to talk through possible scenarios.

  • What will you do when you see something inappropriate on someone else’s phone?
  • How do you react when the music being played is crude or vulgar?
  • What questions should you quickly ask before someone offers to share a picture or video?

Many of these situations happen organically and your child must respond quickly. Sometimes, they must choose what to say or do after the fact. Counseling them before and after incidents occur helps to build healthy habits and gives your children tools for proactively protecting themselves from inappropriate content or behavior from others.

 

There are things we have to address as parents that generations before us never did. But the goal remains the same as it always has. We want to raise our children to be thriving, contributing members of society, to look on others with compassion and kindness, and to love Jesus with everything they have.


 

Adopting and Adapting

I love being part of a local church that places an emphasis on adoption and caring for families journeying through the adoption process. My wife, Sarah, and I always knew that we would adopt someday. Adoption and care for the young has been a legacy of the Church since the time of the apostles, and we hoped to follow that tradition. We were aware of Jesus’ command for us to care for orphans and we intended to respond to that call through adoption ourselves.

The opportunity came sooner than we expected.

Four days after Sarah and I found out we were pregnant with our first child, we took in two young sisters who needed a place to live. Eventually, we made the decision, along with the girls, to make our situation formal and legal by going through the adoption process.

My wife and I always envisioned how adopting a child would go. In our minds’ eyes we would bring in a kid who would integrate perfectly into our lives. We would never be worn out or struggle to show them the love and grace that we have experienced in Christ. Sure, we knew that there would be difficulties — we would be bringing a young person with trauma into our home after all. But, we were built for it… right?

Looking back, I might have romanticized the idea of adoption a little too much.

 

Reality Strikes Back

The process of adoption has been full of mental, legal, emotional, and spiritual battles. It’s often said that parenting is a full-time job. This is even more true for parenting an adopted child. The adopted child is not a blank slate waiting to be written upon. Instead, they already have their own pains, beliefs, and opinions, and in some instances, trauma.

I want to say that our adoption experience has been an abnormal one, but I’ve come to realize that there is no such thing as a normal adoption. While books, counseling, and community have helped us adapt to new situations, every adoption is its own unique case with its own unique challenges. Resources can be a survival guide, but the family still has to make the journey.

But, despite the difficulty of the process, adoption has been an incredible gift from the Lord as it is one of the greatest possible illustrations of his love for us.

At times our adopted children have felt unworthy, as if they were not good enough or deserving of our love. It is simply not true. We love them, and they could never do anything to undo that love.

I realized after months of these conversations with my daughters, that for much of my life I actually had the same approach to God.

 

Our Father’s Love

Adoption into God’s family always felt difficult for me. Sure, I could see God loving me enough to send Jesus to take my punishment to give me new life and right standing before God, but bringing me into his family? That was different because it was so personal. If I were to be one of God’s sons, it would mean that I would be intimately, closely known. Justification could be a one-time gift; I am given new life and righteousness and off I go! But adoption would mean a new, never-ending relationship.

This didn’t seem possible. So instead, I strove to be good enough or worthy enough or to work hard enough to show that Jesus’ sacrifice was worth it. I would constantly fight this feeling of not belonging to the family that I have been brought into. Eventually, I knew, it would be found out that I was too imperfect, too unloving, too calloused, too fake to truly be a son of God.

But, being on the other side of the earthly version of the spiritual reality has taught me so much about God and his heart to grow his family through the beauty of adoption.

One of the greatest gifts that the Lord could give us is assurance—the ability for us to know that God loves us enough to restore relationship with us. For followers of Jesus, assurance of our salvation comes with understanding our new relationship with God. He has adopted us into his family. Through the eternal Son, we are now sons and daughters of God! He is our Father and we are brothers and sisters in Christ! What a great gift of assurance!

 

Adoption has been the most difficult thing my wife and I have ever faced. Marriage, financial difficulties, chronic illness – none of them were nearly as difficult as bringing new family members into the home.

Should you consider adoption you must know this: it is difficult and at times painful, but I would make the same decision every time. There have been growing pains along the way, but also moments of incredible joy as we see two young women who used to be distant strangers to us become part of our family.

I am so incredibly thankful that God is the perfect version of what a parent should be.

We fail as parents and fail to love one another as brothers and sisters, but God will never fail. Unlike my wife and I as new parents, God will always be perfectly merciful, forgiving, present, and loving. We can rest in his unfailing love while we continue to demonstrate his love to the world.


 

We’re Missing It

One Tuesday afternoon, when I had finished a long day of teaching, my daughter asked me to play Barbies with her. I responded with “I will be there in a few minutes!” And then proceeded to continue scrolling my Facebook feed. She yelled from the front room a few minutes later “Mom! You’re missing it!”

She was right. I was missing so much.

Psychologists tell us the primary source of love is attention and compassionate listening. There is something deeply moving when someone stops and looks you in the eyes – when they actually pay attention.

The little moments that feel ridiculously mundane are the moments that are the most impactful.

Our kids learn a lot about God in the simple daily rhythms of snuggling before bed and eating dinner as a family. They are learning that God is consistent and reliable.

Be Present   

Our kids look to us as their parents to be stewards of healthy habits. If we’re overusing technology, we are setting them up for the same struggle. A survey conducted in 2019 showed that adults spend an average of 50 days a year on smartphones.

The research being done about the effects of technology on our kids is staggering. It says that children ages eight-to-10 spend an average of six hours per day in front of a screen, and kids ages 11-to-14 spend an average of nine hours per day in front of a screen.

Childhood mental illnesses are at an all-time high.

We, as parents, are doing equal amounts of damage to our kids when all they see is the glow of the phone screen reflecting on the face of their mom.

We have to set healthy boundaries for ourselves and our children. Our family started using what we call the “be present box.” Our girls know they are able to respectfully ask us to put our screens into the “be present box” if they feel we are spending too much time on our phones.

Build Relationships

Our children will be under our roof for 18 years. There are 940 Saturdays in those 18 years.

If I’m not intentional with my time it just floats away. It disappears into wasted minutes on my phone, or mindlessly watching Stranger Things while working on my laptop.

What I do with my time is what I am doing with my life. I’m learning to exchange online distractions for real live interactions. My children shouldn’t have to compete with a screen for my attention.

Additionally, I see a direct correlation to my kids’ attitude with the amount of screen time they have. Our daughters will create the most amazing games, play dress up, and build friendships when the TV is off – a stark contrast to their mindless zombie stares and silence when the TV is on.

I pray daily that my kids will grow into a deep friendship with each other and with us. My job is to foster that friendship, and a simple first step is to limit the amount of time they have in front of a screen and encourage more face-to-face interactions.

Disciple Your Kids

When asked which is the greatest commandment, Jesus tells his listeners to “love the Lord,” referencing Deuteronomy 6. But, right next to this famous verse is another which admonishes parents to diligently teach their children the law of God.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

– Deuteronomy 6:4-7

We don’t control our sons’ and daughters’ faith journeys. But we absolutely have a role in them. We must disciple them face to face. We can’t leave it to children’s ministry volunteers once a week at church. It takes diligence and intention and it’s my God given role as their mother.

And I believe it starts with me putting down my phone and looking them in the eyes.

 

Here’s the thing, I want my kids to remember my eyes – my eyes watching them grow, my eyes reading with them, my eyes as I tell them I’m proud of them and that I love them, my eyes as I discipline them and disciple them, and my eyes looking towards Jesus.

I don’t want them to remember my eyes constantly occupied with a screen.

When I put down my phone, it’s easier to look up and live the life that’s right in front of me.

I don’t want to miss it.

 

What Kind of Adults Will Our Kids Be?

Have you ever heard the quote, “Parents aren’t raising children, they are raising future adults”?

That kind of quote is what my friend Daniel calls “thinking material.”

It makes me wonder what kind of adults my kids will turn out to be. Will they be kind and generous? How will they define success? What mistakes will they make? Most importantly, will they know how much God loves them and will they devote their lives to him?

What kind of questions does it make you ask? What do you hope your kids are like as adults?

Being a parent is one of the most demanding roles in life. How many times have you heard a person without kids talk about how busy they are and think, If you only knew! Parents stay busy playing chef, chauffer, and social coordinator for their kids. The days turn into years, and somehow, the craziest phase of life speeds by and you’re left telling young parents, “Enjoy it. It flies by!”

The idea that my kids are future adults scares me a little. Not because I don’t have confidence in who they will become, but because I know how important my role in shaping them is. I know how consuming the day-to-day can be, and I don’t want to look back and wish I had been more intentional about things that matter after adolescence.

I bet some of you feel that too.

Here are three commitments I made years ago that I hope keep my eyes looking to the future adults my kids will be.

HAVE AWKWARD CONVERSATIONS

Kids are curious. Their questions start out harmless enough. “Where does the toilet water go when you flush it?” or “Why do you have hair under your arms?” Before long it’s “Why are some people mean?” and “Where do babies come from?”

How you handle those questions will determine what your kids do with more mature ones like, “Does God hate my gay friend?” and “Does evolution disprove God’s existence?”

In our house, no topic of conversation is off limits. We keep the content of conversations age appropriate, but we are committed to talking to our kids about anything and everything. They know they can ask us any question they have. Sometimes it can be awkward, but it’s worth it every time.

The truth is, kids will seek out answers to their questions somewhere. They’ll turn to Google, friends, or a teacher. I want my voice to be part of the chorus of voices influencing what they think and believe about things.

Kids want to know about sex, money, politics, racial tension, gender issues, and why some of our beliefs push against popular world views. They have questions about what they see online and what they hear their friends talking about.

If you aren’t talking to your kids about these things, who is doing it for you?

DON’T STOP LEARNING

No parent has all the answers. There are great, godly resources available that continue to shape me as a parent, as I work to shape my kids into adults. Staying connected to great resources helps to fill the gaps in my parenting.

Also, the world our kids are growing up in is very different than the world we grew up in. And it’s changing all the time. We don’t have to know every detail about every new thing out there, but keeping our finger on the pulse of adolescent culture and trends keeps us informed enough to be engaged.

I like resources like Common Sense Media, Parenting, and Sticky Faith. Also, Clear Creek is hosting a parenting forum this week! You can register here.

PRAY FOR YOUR KIDS DAILY

Even if we managed to parent perfectly, kids will make their own choices and go down their own path. Ultimately, if our kids are going to know God’s great love for them, he has to be the one to open their hearts to it.

Clear Creek’s Lead Pastor, Bruce Wesley, has talked about how he used to pray through Ephesians 3:14-21 with his daughters in mind. This passage is a great place to begin.

Talk to God about your kids. Ask for his help as a parent. Ask for his presence in their lives. Ask him to do in their lives what only he can.

 

 

Our children will grow up and have families of their own. They will vote, they will shape the world, and hopefully, they will be our brothers and sisters in Christ.

What commitments can you make now that might influence their future adult selves?


 

 

 

Mistakes We’ve Made and Lessons We’ve Learned as Parents

My wife and I have been married for almost 15 years and have three elementary-age kids (two boys and a girl). But we aren’t experts at marriage, parenting, or life by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, we feel like we are just getting started.

Over the past three years, we have had the privilege of sitting down with numerous couples in Clear Creek’s Expectant Parents class. Our conversations have been centered on how we, as followers of Christ, can strengthen our marriages once we bring home that precious new life. These conversations have been refreshing, reminding us of the joy and anticipation we felt entering into the new stage of parenthood. But, they’ve also been humbling, reminding us of our constant shortcomings as spouses and parents.

Here are just two examples of our many mistakes and what we’ve learned through them that we hope will be a blessing to you and your family:

 

1. Thinking we will outgrow selfishness

When we were first married, we quickly became aware of how selfish we were as individuals. This is no surprise to anyone who is married. No longer could we do things exactly how we liked. We had to make concessions to our preferences, like how to load the dishwasher or how to spend our evenings. But after a few arguments which usually ended in laughter, we quickly adjusted and moved on happily enough. However, when we became parents, we were blindsided by the awareness that we were still so selfish.

Before our first baby was born, we could eat out as often as our budget allowed and watch movies without interruption. Bringing a baby home disrupted the idea that we had outgrown our petty and selfish ways.

As God so often does, he kindly spoke truth to us through his word and through his people in the form of wise counsel. We began to hear him say, as he had when we first followed him, “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). We were again reminded that our Father had called us to love and serve his family and our little family as well.

As our babies turned into toddlers, who turned into preschoolers, we would hear ourselves say quite often to them, “You don’t always get what you want,” or “You can’t have it all. You have to share.” Those words, spoken daily to a four-year-old regarding a Goldfish snack or an eight-year-old regarding device time, are the same words that we hear our Father speak to us as parents.

Each day we get to choose whether we will scream like the four-year-old who does not get her Goldfish or whether we will let go of our expectations and follow him.

 

2. Thinking we will lead our kids spiritually without being intentional

At the time our first baby was born, we were both connected at church, attending small group, and serving to lead unchurched people to be fully devoted followers of Christ. If we had been asked about our priorities in raising our newborn, sharing God’s grace and love with him would have been at the top of the list.

By the time our third child was born, we were in the same position, actively engaging with our Top Five and leading a small group. However, something was different in our home. All of a sudden, and before we realized it, our children could walk, talk, understand, and engage.

We realized that we had spent years talking around our kids about God and his work in our lives, but we hadn’t been intentional about talking to our kids about God and his work in our lives.

For years we had hosted small groups every week in our home both for high school students and for adults. But, for our children, the extent of their small group experience was the frantic cleaning of our home the minutes before guests arrived, the shoving of them into their rooms, and the fleeting aroma of snacks which they rarely tasted.

Once again, God, in his kindness, showed us that we needed to be intentional in discipling our kids if we were going to raise them in a way that demonstrated he was important to us. Discipleship would not happen on its own.

We realized that each day, we can let the moments slide past all too quickly, or we can choose to set aside time to intentionally lead and disciple our children.

 

We continue to be witnesses to these daily mistakes as well as many others in our own parenting. We humbly recognize that without consistent and daily prayer as a couple, we will fall into the traps of selfishness and of unintentionality.

In our class, we have shared our stories of arguments, fears, mishaps, and frustrations with expectant couples, in hopes that our stories would bring encouragement to people approaching their own parenting adventures.

One of the things we have learned, and continue to learn, is that parenting is refining. We, as parents, have made, and continue to make, mistakes. We are continually reminded of the call to repent and believe the good news of Jesus Christ. Even through the difficulties of parenting, God is drawing us to himself and giving us rest in the work he has already performed.


 

6 Questions About Halloween for Christian Families

Amidst COVID-19 and the craziness that has been the year 2020, it’s hard to know what trick-or-treating will look like this weekend. But even before the global pandemic changed the way we thought about going out in public, many people had questions about Halloween, and whether or not Christians should take part in the festivities.

Last year, three of Clear Creek Community Church’s campus pastors, who are also fathers to young children, sat down to record an episode of the Clear Creek Resources Podcast discussing Halloween and what it means for followers of Jesus today.

Here are a few of the questions they tackled and their responses:

Is it okay for Christians to celebrate Halloween?

Aaron Lutz: “The benefit of asking the question is that people are trying to think theologically – think biblically – about whether they should or they shouldn’t. And so they’re essentially asking the question ‘How can I honor Jesus and celebrate Halloween?’”

AL: “In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul says ‘So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.’ So, Can I celebrate Halloween to the glory of God? Or, Should I abstain from celebrating that to the glory of God?

 

Where does Halloween come from and should its origins impact the way Christians view it?

AL: “Halloween actually has roots both with pagan and Christian influences. Most historians agree that Halloween has its origins in a Celtic festival known as Sauin [also called Samhain]. And so it kind of marked the transition from this time of harvest with light and warmth and summer, to now, this fall/winter season of cold and darkness, which they associated with death. So the Celtic view was that the spiritual and physical realms kind of overlapped in that night… And so because of that, these people would put on masks and light bonfires to kind of scare the evil spirits away. That was over 2,000 years ago.”

AL: “In the fourth century, the Church started honoring martyrs on what is October 31. And so, by the seventh century, the Pope actually named November 1, ‘All Saints’ Day’ or ‘All Hallows’ Day.’ And so therefore, October 31 became ‘All Hallows’ Eve,’ or now what we call Halloween.”

AL: “Fast-forward to where we are today. Halloween is the second largest commercial holiday in America, right behind Christmas. So, a long time ago, it had some roots in paganism, then had some Christian tradition thrown in there. And now it seems to just be a commercial holiday.”

Ryan Lehtinen: “For the average person, they see it as something fun to go do and be a part of. Which, you know, if you look at the history of other holidays like Christmas and Easter – while today they look much different in their glorification of Jesus – they have similar historical backgrounds where there’s a mixture of paganism and Christianity, as the Christian church sought to reclaim some of those dates and really glorify God in those ways.”

 

Doesn’t Halloween celebrate death, demons, and evil? What do we do about that?

Lance Lawson: “What comes to mind is a passage we talk about a lot around here: The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). ‘Go therefore and make disciples…’ Well, Jesus started that statement by saying, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’ Jesus has overcome all of that. He’s overcome death and sin and darkness and evil. They aren’t something we should celebrate. We shouldn’t glorify those things, because we’re followers of Jesus. And we also don’t have to worry about that.”

LL: “And as far as how we teach our kids to participate in Halloween, I think we steer them away from celebrating death. And even, maybe in the way we decorate for Halloween, and how we participate in the weeks leading up to that can teach our kids what we think about darkness and death, and what we really believe about the way Jesus has overcome those things.”

 

What about the over-sexualization of Halloween? What can we do about that?

AL: “Man, teenagers and college students, young adults and older adults have turned Halloween into parties that are just the glorification of sex, and how you can turn any costume into a sexualized costume. And I think there’s probably more danger in a culture that’s obsessed with sex, that is given to lust, than maybe a culture that would lean towards celebrating Satan or evil.”

LL: “I think with dressing up, we have to be careful. Just because we’re going to a party that has a start and an end doesn’t give us an excuse to behave differently than Jesus would want us to behave any other hour of the day or any other place we would go. So Halloween and dressing up, those things are not a break from following Jesus.”

 

How can parents navigate Halloween with their kids who want to dress up?  

AL: “My six-year-old daughter sees decorations in the neighborhood of skeletons and ghosts and all that, and is asking questions like, ‘Can I be a witch?’ Or ‘Can my brother be a skeleton?’ And so I’m asking her the question, ‘What is the purpose of Halloween for you? Like, what do you want to do?’ She just wants to trick-or-treat and go get candy. So I’m like, ‘Why dress up as something that is potentially evil, or glorifying death (I mean, I don’t use that language)?’ But, just helping her understand that this is just fun. ‘Let’s be something cute and fun.’”

LL: “Yeah, my boys are a little older, and so they like superhero stuff and Star Wars. That tends to be a pretty easy deal in my house. But a couple of years ago, my daughter, who’s six right now, wanted to be Moana. So, we ordered a costume off of Amazon I think, and when it showed up and she put it on, we realized, like, This shows way too much. It was the way the costume was cut and the way it fit her. So, we made a decision in that, not to let her wear that costume, and to find something different for her, for the same reason that we don’t let her wear bathing suits that show too much of her body at a young age. Like, we don’t want her to do that when she’s older, so why would we have her do that now? It’s just an awareness and trying to teach modesty at a young age for both our boys and our daughter.

 

Aren’t Christians supposed to be set apart? Why bother with Halloween at all if there’s any question that it might be bad?

LL: “I would say you’re missing out on an opportunity. I’ve met more neighbors on Halloween night than any other single night of the entire year… By not participating you’re missing a chance to get to know the people that we’re called to love.”

AL: “At some level, we’re in this culture, and we need to figure out how we interact with it. So, what’s the best way I can love my neighbor by being part of this culture? I think part of that can be participating in Halloween, by engaging your neighbor.”

RL: “I think there is an element of discerning and thinking about the context that you live in, and how the people around you – how your neighbors – think about whatever they’re asking you to participate in. So, when they’re asking you to go and trick-or-treat, in their mind, they’re not asking you to go be a part of a séance, or anything like that – anything demonic. They’re really asking you to go do something that’s fun and neighborly, in a way that they can engage with you.”

AL: “[In 1 Corinthians] Paul is basically saying, ‘Listen, there’s no demon meat. Meat is meat! And God created it for good. So, you can celebrate that without celebrating the pagan part of it.’ And, in the same way, with Halloween or a holiday, there is no demon holiday, if you will. God has overcome that. He’s in control. God is the author of joy, he’s the author of celebration. So, can we honor God and be joyful in celebrating a holiday? I think we can.”

 

To hear the full conversation, listen to the Clear Creek Resources Podcast episode 010: Porch Light On or Off? Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

CCStories

The Travis & Cari Hicks Orphan Care Story

“God has gifted us each 24 hours in a day and we have a choice in how we spend it.

We knew going in to this that our schedules stay pretty packed, but what are they packed with? Are we aiming to glorify God with all of the time He has given us?

He made it clear to us that if we could make time for all of the other great things in our life, we could surely make time to care for the orphan – for HIS orphans.” – The Hicks

 

 

Podcasts

116: Have Yourself a Merry Blended Christmas

During the holidays, there is so much fun and celebration, but there are also difficult things that people must work through. One challenge for many is found in the complexity and accompanying emotions of a blended family. On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen talks with Brad and Amy Thompson about their experience of having a blended family and navigating the Christmas season.

Resources:

Clear Creek Classes (new classes starting in 2022) 

 

 

107: Are We Raising Consumer Kids?

During the series Salty: Sticking Out for the Right Reasons, we’re discussing questions related to each message on our podcast. On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen, Lance Lawson, and Aaron Lutz discuss how living in a self-absorbed culture impacts our kids. And how we can help our kids be less inwardly focused and more outwardly focused.

Resources:

Salty: Serve Others – Fight Consumerism (sermon)

103: Parenting Teens Today

“You aren’t raising kids, you’re raising future adults.” School is back in session, and even though the stress and strain of 2020 isn’t gone, the new school year feels at least reminiscent of the rhythm of life before COVID. But how, if at all, has that changed teenagers and how we parent them? And how can parents lead their teens to re-engage and move forward? On this episode, Jon Coffey talks with Clear Creek’s director of Family Ministries and Church on Wednesday Campus Pastor, Lance Lawson, and 528 Campus attender, former student ministry volunteer, and parent of four kids, Stacey Morgan, to talk about raising future adults in 2021.

Resources:

Sticky Faith by Dr. Kara E. Powell and Dr. Chap Clark

099: Princess Culture — Toxic or Transformative?

From Snow White in 1937 to Raya in 2021, princess movies have entertained and influenced little girls for decades. But is this influence good or bad? On this episode, host Rachel Chester is joined by Chris Alston, West campus pastor, Dalena Ryskoski, a volunteer on Clear Creek’s Children’s Ministry oversight team, and Aaron Chester, Clear Creek’s “How to Study the Bible” class instructor, to discuss how these princess movies have changed over time and how they lead us to change as well.

 

092: Watching Movies with a Christian Worldview

How do Christians engage movies, books, or songs that aren’t created by a Christian or explicitly Christian in its main message or themes? Is it okay to watch content that includes explicit language, violence, or sex? On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen is joined by Rachel Chester and Yancey Arrington to talk about these questions and more as they introduce the Clear Creek Resources summer podcast series on movies and the glimpses of gospel truths within them.

 

35: Prophets

Who were the prophets? Did they know the future? Why are they so important? Are there prophets today? We’ll answer these questions and more in this episode of Who’s in the Bible

34: Jonah

The story of Jonah is well known, but it raises some big questions. Did it really happen? Can we believe the Bible? What is the point of such a crazy story? All these questions and more are tackled in this episode.

 

088: The Porn Problem

There’s a pandemic sweeping across America, but it was around long before COVID-19. It’s the pornography pandemic. In fact, recent quarantine-influenced numbers show that porn website traffic is at an all-time high. So, how can we fight for purity in this sex-crazed world? How can we raise kids in it? And how can we honor God’s standard of marriage? On this episode, Jon Coffey sits down with Clear Creek’s Director of Marriage and Family Ministries, Lance Lawson, and Clear Lake Student Director, Kyle Mikulan, to talk about how the gospel impacts our response to, and navigation through, this issue.

 

Resources: 

Finally Free by Heath Lambert

Covenant Eyes

 

33: Rehoboam

King Solomon did a lot of good things as king, but he also led in ways that were against God’s commands. What happened after Solomon died? Check out this episode to learn about Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. You’ll be surprised what happened next.

32: Solomon’s Temple

Aric and Lance travel back in time for a tour of Solomon’s Temple. After listening, check out this YouTube video for a visual guide.