great article about “2 lies that keep families from being missional” from the Verge Network

from STEW with the VERGE NETWORK:

When talking with parents of young children about the idea of being in a Missional Community, of joining a small group of believers who work together to declare and demonstrate the gospel, I usually get one of two excuses.

Click here to find out more.

Grace and Peace,
Michael “Stew” Stewart
Founding Director, Verge Network

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Does the gospel of Jesus change the way I parent? And why should it???

GOD the Father – the One who before the foundation of the world chose to give us the same love He shared with His Son, the One who made the world for an environment in which we could know and experience His love, the One who knew before He made us that we would grasp for more than His goodness and love, the One who planned before the foundation of the world to put on skin to come near into the world He made to be light in our consequential darkness in order to demonstrate once and for all His forever love by killing off the sin and selfishness that emerged from our grasping for more than His goodness and love, the One who came as Jesus to clarify His original proposal for intimate relationship with us betrothing us as His bride forever because of His undeserved love, the One who gave us His Spirit for this season of engagement and embodiment that we might be assured of His love as well as be empowered to love like He loves us, and the One who will return to bring us near forever as His impure bride grateful that He purified us with His love – He always has been communicating a news with us. And it is good.

It is difficult to summarize a news that took so long to communicate and clarify and deliver, but here is a petty yet hopeful attempt:

the Gospel _ that news that God, even before He made us, knew we couldn’t get this life right or our behavior better or our insecurities secured or our loneliness overcome. So, even before we were sinners, before we said we were sorry, He had already planned to come in skin right near to us to assure us of His undeserved love, to forgive us for wanting to know more than the life He offered, to remind us of His desire to be with us, to demonstrate His faithfulness to keep a promise even though we couldn’t, and to invite us along with Him to continue to announce and declare and embody this same good news to all who are ashamed and hopeless and insecure and alone and have lost their way.

We believe this already-made-into-reality-through-the-cross news, and we are not condemned. But how is this news becoming “on earth as it is in heaven” in your daily rhythms and relationships? More specifically, how does it affect your parenting? Should it? 

I would suggest that it should disturb and define and determine our parenting, especially if our hope is for our kids to relate with the Heavenly Father rather than just please their parents. I am begging Jesus to use His gospel to disturb and define and determine Jen and me as parents, and I pray the same for you. Today as well as for the next two Wednesdays, I will suggest three ways His gospel should do just that.

First, I would suggest that His gospel should change the way we think of and believe in our kids. We should not think of them in terms like happiness and good and deserving and would never do something like that. We should not believe that they ought to already know better or that they should never suffer through hardship. We should pray for them with terms like joyous and selfish and grateful and contrite. We should believe that they can grow to be wise and that, even through difficulty, God is making them to become something. And thinking of them and believing in them in these ways should reshape our parenting away from the goal of raising a good kid toward raising a grateful kid secured by grace and sent fully loved. 

What do you think?

May His gospel shape us to grow kids with grace and send them with gospel.
-Jason

For some reason, the Free Throw shot in basketball, although uncontested and straight on from in front of the basket, is one of the most difficult. A layup, two feet from the goal, often banks off too hard. Dribbling and passing, in today’s one-on-one game are lost fundamentals essential to a team’s success. With a win or a championship in mind, and even sometimes with just the individual accomplishment rather than the team’s focus in mind, the fundamentals are often overlooked.

Parents do this, too. We may have goals of raising “sent kids,” but do we give the attention to wrestling with and immersing ourselves in the language of and implications of the Gospel in order to do this? Is the Gospel something we can teach in the flow of conversation with our kids? Only when we ourselves make mental margin as well as calendar margin to learn it and process it and be disturbed by it and transformed by it.

The Gospel of Jesus is vast enough that no amount of time ever could be enough to grasp it. Yet, the Gospel of Jesus is simple enough that its significant impact can often be missed. With Christ’s help, as we grow kids with grace and send kids with gospel, we need not overlook the fundamental of being able to articulate and teach the Gospel to ourselves as well as our children. We need to ask Jesus to help us grow to be fluent in the Gospel so that we can translate it into the lives of our children.

With that in mind, here’s a short video from Trevin Wax about teaching the Gospel to kids.

And here’s a short video summarizing the Gospel called “321” that is very clear and well-done.

Hope these resources help you as you grow kids with grace and send kids with Gospel.

do you as a parent view the church as a PARTNER or as a PRIMARY?

Do you view the local church family of which you are a part in a PARTNER role or a PRIMARY role when it comes to your kids? I don’t know many parents who would ever say they view the church in the primary role of raising their kids, but too often when it comes to disciple-making, this is the default thought and the unstated view.

As parents, how much focused attention and creative energy and quantity time are you giving into these areas of development for your children?

  • their awareness of the BIG story of GOD and how their stories are defined and secured and purposed by Him
  • their ability to not only articulate the Gospel but also to translate its gracious and loving and securing and compelling aspects into their daily lives
  • their understanding of how to read and study and apply the many rich and complex and beautiful stories found in the books of the Bible
  • their focus on more than just what they want to do and want to be but also on how they are giving into what others are doing and want to become
  • their propensity toward confession and contriteness
  • their willingness to listen well and learn much
  • their growing gratefulness for the gracious, merciful, loving Gospel of Jesus

And just to clarify, here is this guy’s short, petty, lacking, but hopefully close-to-adequate summary of that grand, gracious Gospel:

the Gospel _ that news that God, even before He made us, knew we couldn’t get this life right or our behavior better or our insecurities secured or our loneliness overcome. So, even before we were sinners, He had already planned to come in skin right near to us to assure us of His undeserved love, to forgive us for wanting to know more than the life He offered, to remind us of His desire to be with us, to demonstrate His faithfulness to keep a promise even though we couldn’t, and to invite us along with Him to continue to announce and declare and embody this same good news to all who are ashamed and hopeless and insecure and alone and have lost their way.

The Gospel is more than worth spending our entire lives discovering its impact on our identity, learning the wisdom of how Jesus secures us, living to love because of how the Spirit compels us, and growing in gratefulness for how God has restored us.

The question for us as parents – WILL WE ASK JESUS TO WRECK US AND RESTORE US WITH THIS GOSPEL SO MUCH SO THAT WE CAN’T HELP BUT WANT TO GIVE OUR  FOCUSED ATTENTION AND CREATIVE ENERGY AND QUANTITY TIME INTO LEARNING AND LIVING THE GOSPEL OF JESUS WITH OUR KIDS?

We need a church family to partner with us together in this. We don’t need to view the church as the primary disciple-maker of our kids. We have dropped them off for church activity long enough. May we be the church together with our kids and together as respective families, encouraging and praying for and equipping one another as parents to grow our kids with grace and send our kids with gospel.

Thoughts???

the danger of building up your child’s self-esteem

Much has been said over the years of the necessity of building up a child’s self-esteem. It sounds right. Help children think they are good enough, smart enough, and dog-gone-it, people like them. Focus on their confidence and happiness, and they will soar through life. Get them to believe in themselves, and they can do anything. 

But what if this is dangerous? 

First, self-esteem is prefixed with the word “self.” For those of us grateful for the gospel of Jesus, any use of “self” (except for the denial of it) is anti-gospel (Luke 9:23-24). Kids who are growing in grace and being sent with gospel don’t need an esteem defined by or rooted in their belief in themselves. If anything, this would be counter-productive to following Jesus and living on mission to make disciples with Him, for a belief in self compels us on a quest to feel lovable, while a belief in the God of the gospel compels us on mission to love as we have been loved. 

Next, self-esteem doesn’t move someone to rely on God’s goodness. Rather, it moves someone to think of themselves as good enough. The problem with this is that we are relying on a worth-standard that changes with how we feel about ourselves and with how well or poorly we behave. This is also anti-gospel. We are not to trust Jesus then try to be good. We are to trust Jesus because He is good (even good to me even though I am not good to Him). Gratefulness for His goodness moves me toward demonstrating His goodness in my everyday relationships.

Finally, self-esteem offers false hope. “Believe in yourself and you can do anything” is a lie. Yes, there are some folks who have through internal fortitude accomplished some amazing things. However, at some point, this principle that undergirds the dangerous notion that self-esteem is right and good – this principle of believe in yourself and you can do anything – this principle breaks down. Failure to “do anything” you set your mind to happens, and self-esteem is shot. 

Praise God that His declaration of love and value over us has nothing to do with us. It has all to do with His Son. Self-esteem is a deceptive tool of the evil one. Jesus-esteem is a gospel-based ideal. 

How are you cultivating for Jesus-esteem in your kids? Do you yourself have Jesus-esteem? Do you consider building up self-esteem to be dangerous? 

Thoughts???

SENT kids and Supreme Court rules

I’m not sure that I could offer wiser, more insightful, more challenging thoughts than Dr. Russell Moore’s response yesterday to the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. So, if you only have time to read one blog post about it, skip this one and CLICK HERE to read his.

There are three suggestions I felt worth posting on this particular blog site focused on equipping parents to grow kids with grace and send kids with gospel. I am NOT trying to offer a response to the Supreme Court ruling. These are NOT my political thoughts. My three suggestions are more from a dad’s heart.

# 1 _ as parents, may we not just declare something “wrong,” but rather may we ask Jesus to help us learn why something might not be what God intended.

When we parent for moralism, when we hope our kids will just turn out “good,” we tend to declare “right and wrong” rather than teach what makes something right or wrong. Declaring “right and wrong” without processing the why behind it tends to result in judgmental thinking, self-absorbed moralism, and guilt-driven behavioral choices. Jesus spoke against each of these. Why? Because judgmental thinking inhibits loving relationships, self-absorbed moralism prohibits loving concern, and guilt-driven behavioral choices exhibit the stifling fear and consuming shame we actually feel inside.

Doesn’t sound much like the “love one another” and “secure in God’s love” stuff Jesus taught.

When we parent our kids attempting to learn together why something might be “wrong,” or better said why something might not be what God intended, then we tend to value relating with God and with our neighbors rather than valuing our own performance and self-fulfillment. This tends to result in kids who learn to relate with God, who live confessing selfishness to God and to those close to them, and who love not expecting neighbors to live perfectly, selfless. In these kinds of relationships, grace and gospel define relationships.

Here is the point. The church is quick to declare same-sex marriage and homosexuality as wrong. But do we know why? The answer is not just “because the Bible tells me so.” I mean to cause us to beg God for wisdom on His thinking behind why He did not intend it, as well as to cause us to think about the heart and soul issues that are evidenced in this symptomatic behavior.

It seems from God’s Word that same-sex marriage and homosexuality are not what God intended. Simply read Romans 1. But church, if you do, please don’t forget to read on into Romans 2. Paul rebuked his readers in chapter 2 for judging the behaviors of people mentioned in chapter 1. Paul challenged them to recognize their judgmental hearts not filled with love. He went on in Romans to highlight his readers’ never-ending need for the gospel of Jesus and their choice to forsake the mission of God to go love those lost and alone in exchange for cultural comfort and self-righteousness.

That is what happens when we value law more than love. We begin to bow to law’s demands often forsaking to bow to love one another.

# 2 _ as parents, may we not forget our own never-ending need for the gospel nor the fact that the culture around us has yet to be transformed by trusting that Good News.

One conservative family group whom I happen to value greatly included these questions in their response to yesterday’s ruling.

“What does it mean? How did this happen? How should we process this loss, and where was God in this defeat?”

The questions insinuate that God’s team suffered a loss yesterday. The questions imply a surprise that people would have ruled this way. The questions infer confusion as what to do now.

May I suggest that God’s team suffered no loss yesterday. Can we conservatives let go of this notion that we are on God’s team. The General of His Angel Armies told Joshua outside the walls of Jericho that God was not for them or against them:

When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in His hand. Joshua approached Him and asked, “Are You for us or for our enemies? ” “Neither,” He replied. “I have now come as commander of the Lord ’s army.” Then Joshua bowed with his face to the ground in worship and asked Him, “What does my Lord want to say to His servant?” The commander of the Lord ’s army said to Joshua, “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
(Joshua 5:13-15 HCSB)

God’s intentions are much grander than a moral society.

May I also suggest that the church needs to quit being surprised that people choose to act in ways that God never intended. Read 2nd Corinthians 4.

We, WE meaning all of us as heterosexuals and homosexuals, are wrecked by a selfishness and a shame and an insecurity that we alone cannot overcome. May we not forget our desperate, ongoing need for the gospel. Its personal reminder to us that Jesus came near because He loves, not because we were lovable. Its cultural implication that people prefer hiding in darkness to embracing the Light (John 1:1-14). Its compelling nature that sent Light into darkness, and now the Sent One sends His followers as ambassadors of light-giving life (John 20:21).

Romans 10 makes it plain. How would someone know without those sent coming near? We as the church don’t consistently do what God intended. And we are surprised when the culture around us does not?

May we love first as we have been loved. May we not judge first, act surprised first, expect moralism first. The expectation that any of us should naturally and consistently do the “good” thing flies in the face of the gospel and makes a mockery of the cross (read Paul’s letter to the Galatians).

May I further suggest that there is no confusion as to what the church must do. For, the mission that the sent ones have been invited into has not changed. Let me explain in the third reason for this post.

# 3 _ as parents, may we ask Jesus to help us overcome fears and stigmas that cause us to disengage from culture and instead embody the gospel of Jesus with presence and friendship.

The Sent One put on skin and took up residence among us (John 1:14). It seems to me, that we, who call ourselves His followers, have not followed Him in this way.

We have spent billions of dollars creating spaces for moralists to safely gather. We have spent billions of dollars on engaging marketing and inspirational events inviting the like-minded to attend. We have spent billions of dollars on riveting, straight-forward, presentation tools. But we have had very little real presence. Very little long-term, relational, loving residence in the midst of a culture we are surprised by when they don’t preserve our moralism and are bewildered why they don’t proclaim our Messiah.

What if the ruling handed down yesterday is more of a judgment upon the ones who claim to be betrothed to the Groom than it is a judgment in favor of those wanting to be together as grooms or as brides?

If presence was not required for the communication of the gospel, then God Himself would not have taken up residence. They will know we are His learners, His followers, by our love (John 13:34-35), and love is impossible to experience without nearness.

This is the rub isn’t it?

Can I confess that the ruling yesterday scares me to death as a father with regard to what will now be the cultural norm for my six children? Can I confess without trying to sound too much like a prophet that the ruling yesterday concerns me as a pastor with regard to what is about to be proclaimed the next line-in-the-sand, civil rights issue with which the church will be forced to wrestle? Can I confess that the ruling yesterday causes my heart to ache as a follower of Jesus with regard to its exposure to my own lack of nearness?

Nearness is the rub. Homosexual exhibition near my kids. Same-sex couples visiting our worship gathering. Gays as friends.

How careless of the Heavenly Father not to consider this when He sent His Son! Jesus at a party with drunkards! Jesus with a prostitute washing His feet! Jesus over for dinner in the home of sinners!

Wait a second. The Father allowed that.

In fact, Jesus came near to me. When I was still drunk on my indulgences. When I had whored my worship out to other things that made me feel valuable. When I was leaving Him off the guest list for dinner. He demonstrated His love for me.

And a demonstration of His love is the only catalyst for the transformation of a life.

We seem to forget that the work of God is that people believe in the One who was sent (John 6:29). The work of the church is not therefore to declare how dark darkness is or to try to modify how dark darkness is. The work of the church is to help people believe in the One who was sent. Only in believing that He came near, in love, not to condemn nor to leave us the way we are, but to help us to love abundant life secure that we are fully loved. Believing in the One who was sent changes us. And going near as sent ones helps to enable that belief (read Romans 10).

May we awaken. But not the awakening we pray for typically. The need is not a grander worship experience or more moving preaching. The need is not a more effective evangelistic strategy. The need is presence. A gratefulness for His. A willingness to go near with Him.

The homosexual community already knows what we think of them. I wonder if they know what Jesus thinks of them? How would they if His sent ones aren’t actually going near as friends?

And how irrational of us as moms and dads to think that our kids would go to college valuing God’s love given away over God’s laws legalistically demanded if they don’t see us live near in gracious, family-like community?

How about we cultivate into the hearts of our children a surrender to what God intended – loved sinners trusting grace repenting of our own sin as we grow in our security to love – as well as a commitment to what He is making us to become – fishers among the lost and lonely? How about we respond to the ruling yesterday confessing our absence as a possible portion of what brought it about? How about we ask Jesus to help us with our fears of raising kids near to sinners?

Lord, have mercy on us. We so need Your help. Please give us wisdom and courage to love as You have loved us.

Three questions to pray about and discuss as parents and maybe even as a whole family in hopes of becoming a sent family together.

Consider praying through and discussing the following three questions as parents and possibly even as a whole family. The conversation may reveal some areas where confession and repentance are needed. Which is awesome, because one of the fundamental essentials for parenting SENT kids is to be confessional, gospel-believing, being-transformed-by-Jesus parents.

1. How might our family relationships become more gracious?

2. What are the implications of the Gospel upon our parental approaches?

3. Are there any behaviors within our family, even as parents, that are subtly self-indulgent or self-righteous, and if so will we identify them and confess them and ask Jesus to change us in the coming months?

Maybe getting private with Jesus around these questions first would be helpful, so that you and I can lead out with our own personal reflections from them, breaking the ice so that honesty and transparency can avail when they are discussed together.

Jesus, please help us parent secure because You have loved us, and please help us to love our kids like You have loved us.