Thursday, October 18, 2018

Four Commitments That Can Shape Your Kid’s Hearts in a Tech-filled World

One of the biggest challenges a parent faces these days is connecting to their children’s hearts, in spite of their eyes (and ours) continually drawn to tech devices.

Our attention spans are at a historical low, our senses are overstimulated with thousands of distractions per minute, and the speed of change has definitely outpaced most of our abilities — making us feel constantly behind or below par.

I don’t have this figured out at all and I probably struggle as much as others. However, there are some mindsets, tools, and strategies that have helped my wife and I tremendously over the years.

I worded these as commitments we make, but they are not necessary verbal commitments to a child, but personal commitments we make as parents in our own hearts:

1. I Will Help You Develop Your Circle of InfluenceWe often call this our 360 — the people that surround us as mentors and friends. Mandy and I know that as our kids get older, they begin to want to learn and model their lives more and more from those outside our inner family circle. It’s just reality. So we spend lots of time praying for their friends and for the right leaders to invest in their lives. Here are some practical ways to help shape their 360:
  • Encourage Mentorship - Encourage your kids to have a mentor by talking about it and modeling it. Doesn’t have to be an official mentor, just an older person they can talk to and learn from. It can be a church small group leader, a family-friend, even an aunt or uncle.

    My oldest daughter Lily loves it when Joy, a worship leader in our church who’s in her 20s, takes her out to get bobas. Or when Lucille, one of my co-workers, shows up to her games to cheer for her.
  • Influence Their Friendships - If there are some friends you want your kids to get to know more, arrange for that to happen by inviting them to sports games with your family, birthday parties, or other fun activities. Don’t make it weird, just make it happen as naturally as possible.
2. I Will Include You in What I’m Doing and Learning

In America I think there’s too much “them” and “us” in parenting. It starts with food when they are young. Kids get the kids meals while parents get the “real” food. It’s not a huge deal, unless that mindset creeps in everything else we do, so that our lives are totally separate — I watch this, you watch that. I’ll volunteer here, you play the video games there, etc.

There’s something about cultures where families do things together. In our home we’ve tried to include our kids in as much as possible, as long as it didn’t interfere with the quality of our marriage. When we cook, we all eat the same food. When we serve, we try to serve together. When we build something, we can all participate.

Here are some other ideas:

  • Go on prayer walks and invite your kids to join you.
  • When you clean the house, make it a family project and make it fun.
  • When possible, take your kids to work with you.
  • Volunteer at church or community together.

3. I Will Prioritize Individual Time with You

Whether you have one child or five like me, it’s really important to prioritize one-on-one time with them. In my case, I have to be really intentional to not just “group parent” them, so I’ve developed a couple strategies for this:

  • Take your kids on individual outings. I call it “dates” when taking the girls and “outings” when taking the boys. Camping, breakfast, dinners, field-trips, bike rides, etc.
  • On school mornings, I often invite one of my kids to wake up a little earlier and have breakfast with me. It’s only about 20 minutes, but they love the time. I make them a nice breakfast, I share a verse of Scripture with them, encourage them, and pray over them.

4. I Will Give You More Freedom as You Show More Responsibility
We call this “parenting through the funnel”. We only give more freedom as they show more responsibility. Doesn’t matter if all their friends have phones or can play five hours of video games a day, if they want those privileges, they must earn it. Here’s what the funnel approach looks like:

The younger generation is really struggling with entitlement — feeling like it’s their right to have anything they want. The only way to combat that is by developing a culture of gratitude in our homes. You show way more care and gratitude for a toy that you earned, than one that was given to you (especially when you thought it was your right to have it).

My love you get unconditionally, most other things you must earn. 🙂

Here are some examples of how to do this:

  • Give your kids an opportunity to earn tech-time by serving.
  • Give more choices and decision-making opportunities as they earn trust.
  • Give more freedom of apps to use, screen-time, movies to watch, places to go, as they show maturity with the freedoms they currently have. It’s the funnel approach.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Healing, pain, comparison, and our personal mission.

Usually I don’t write blogs like this, but this one is intended specifically for Christians. It might be a little confusing for those of you friends who don’t follow Jesus and don’t know much about “church” culture. 

I love the Church. With all her mess and brokenness, I still believe that God’s chosen vehicle for taking the message of Jesus into the world is His people, the Church.

However, one of the things that break my heart is seeing Christians belittle themselves or others who express their faith differently than them. It’s the same mistake that many first century followers of Jesus made, which Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians 11. In my opinion, this usually happens because of some key misunderstandings:

MISUNDERSTANDING #1: Projecting our gifts or passions on others. Almost every person with a strong gift or passion makes the mistake of judging others through the lenses of their own strengths. 

We think other Christians should define their ministries in the same way we define ours. Here are some examples of how Christians with specific spiritual gifts and passions project their gift on others and expect them to define “true” ministry their way:

  • Teaching-gifted people say: “ministry should be defined by Gospel-centric teaching”
  • Evangelism-gifted people: “it’s all about reaching the lost”
  • Tongues-gifted people: “it’s the sign that you really have the Holy Spirit”
  • Healing-gifted people: “Jesus healed people, so that’s what we should all be doing”
  • Deliverance-gifted people: “all believers must take authority over demons in order to do effective ministry”
  • Leadership-gifted people: “the effectiveness of the Church rests in the hands of it’s leaders, so it’s all about leadership development”
  • Apostle-gifted people: “Church planting is the most effective way to reach people, so we should all prioritize it.”
  • Prophecy-gifted people: “the sign of spiritual maturity is hearing God and sharing that ‘word’ with others.”
  • Mercy-gifted people: “Preach the Gospel, use words only when necessary. Being like Jesus is helping the poor and needy, so we should all be doing that.”
Most of those statements above have truth in them. What’s bad is thinking others should be the same as us. Even worse is diminishing other Christians who express their faith differently than us. Why not thank God for His specific grace in our lives and appreciate the difference in others?

I actually think it’s ok for local churches and individuals to fulfill their mission of spreading the Gospel in different ways. Some expand the Kingdom by being more evangelism focused, others by being healing-focused, others by focusing on teaching deep biblical theology from the stage.

MISUNDERSTANDING #2: Interpreting passages of Scriptures for the individual, when it’s meant for the body. 

Many Christians diminish others because they believe that ALL Christians have ALL gifts (spiritual abilities). They quote verses like Mark 16:17 “And these signs will follow those who believe: they will be able to cast out demons in My name, speak with tongues… and lay their hands on the sick to heal them.”

It is true that the Church (followers of Jesus) together has every spiritual ability that Jesus had on Earth, but that does not apply to the individual (1 Corinthians 12:30). There is no ONE person like Jesus on the Earth, but we TOGETHER are Christ’s body on the Earth.

When a coach says to his basketball team, “Go and dunk the ball, make threes, block shots, steal the ball, and win this game”, he is not expecting every player to all those things. He expects them to combine their unique abilities to accomplish their mission.
This is why Paul devoted much of His teaching (1 Corinthians 12-14) to explain the way the body works. Different gifts and strengths complementing each other to accomplish the mission.

MISUNDERSTANDING #3: Assuming God’s will is always to heal and keep us from pain and suffering.

I’m really grateful for the rising emphasis on healing happening in some circles of Christianity. I think it’s needed and it is part of the Holy Spirit’s work. However, we Christians are often so bad at taking the pendulum farther than it’s meant to go.

There’s a real problem in my opinion with believing that God’s will on earth is always to keep us safe, healed, and pain-free. That would mean that Jesus and all his apostles were out of God's will most of their lives, since they were often in pain, in oppression, and suffering.

Many in the “healing-world” quote Jesus’ prayer to prove their theology: “may your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” (Luke 11), so they say, “is there sickness in Heaven? Nope, so God’s will is for there to be no sickness or pain be on the earth also”.

Here are some problems with that assumption:
  • It communicates that human choices have no impact in God’s work or will. You can eat McDonalds everyday, drink crap, make bad decisions, & God’s will be to heal you.
  • It’s hypocritical unless you say God will heal every leg cut off, every eye with glasses, every cavity in your teeth, etc.
  • Also, when does it end with age? In Heaven you don’t age, so is that His will on the Earth? Wrong way to interpret the passage.

The assumption that God always wants to heal can often sound faith-filled, but it can be hurtful and cause deeper pain. The better approach is discernment.
  • To some people healing and miracles do not propel them closer to God. Jesus himself did not do miracles when he discerned it wouldn’t help accomplish the mission of salvation.
  • It makes people think they are faithless or doing something wrong, when often they are not. A mentor of mine lost his 7 year-old daughter to cancer and many told him she didn’t get her healing because of her lack of faith or sin in the family, which was untrue and hurtful.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. God hates seeing his children in pain. He hates sickness and brokenness. God has given us authority and power to heal. I’ve seen him do it in me and through me.

However, our ultimate mission is to make disciples, not bring physical healing to people or keep people from pain. Gifts, power, miracles, and healings are a vehicle or tool for the mission of restoring others to their Creator. That’s why He would often send his followers to places where He knew they would suffer, and they did. And the Kingdom advanced. And they were right in the middle of God’s will.

Sometimes people will heal, trust, and be saved more through watching us go through trials then be healed from it. That’s the story of Paul’s life. Paul himself sometimes did not receive a healing he hoped for (2 Cor. 12:8). God said His grace is enough. All disciples ended up suffering and dying without healing.

That’s why SO MUCH of Scripture is about enduring pain, persevering through trials, and being persistent in our faith.


#1 What if instead of projecting our spiritual abilities and passions on others, we honestly learned to appreciate them, even if they “seem weaker” and don’t possess our strengths?

“There are many amazing working gifts in the church, but it is the same God who energizes them all in all who have the gifts. Each believer has received a gift that manifests the Spirit’s power and presence. That gift is given for the good of the whole community… You are the body of the Anointed, the Liberating King; each and every one of you is a vital member.”  1 Corinthian 12:6-7

“The members who seem to have the weaker functions are necessary to keep the body moving; the body parts that seem less important we treat as some of the most valuable… that way there should be no division in the body; instead, all the parts mutually depend on and care for one another” 1 Corinthians 12:22-25 (The Voice)

#2 What if instead of reading the Scriptures through the eyes of “individualism”, we began to read it through a “collective” perspective?

The authority of Jesus was given to the Church, the Body of Jesus on the earth. Without other Christians you and I individually cannot be the full Jesus to the world, sorry.

"Because of the grace allotted to me, I can respectfully tell you not to think of yourselves as being more important than you are; devote your minds to sound judgment since God has assigned to each of us a measure of faith. For in the same way that one body has so many different parts, each with different functions;  we, too—the many—are different parts that form one body in the Anointed One. Each one of us is joined with one another, and we become together what we could not be alone." Romans 12:3 -5 (The Voice)

To some he assigns the task of advancing God’s Kingdom by boldly evangelizing others they don’t know, others do it by teaching with great wisdom, others by doing signs and wonders through them, others do it by serving behind the scenes, others do it by living with great compassion toward those in need. Together we are stronger, let’s stop comparing.

#3 What if instead of assuming God’s will is always to heal and keep us safe, we learned to discern each situation through the lens of our mission? 

Jesus is more concerned with our hearts being healed and restored to Him, then our bodies being pain-free and safe. The internal matters more than the external.  The promise of external prosperity of the Old Testament was an illustration of the internal prosperity we would receive in Jesus.

He can heal, deliver, restore, save and he’ll often do it though our pain and suffering. Be God’s voice, hands, and power in people’s lives, but do it within how you are built – be happy with that, don’t belittle others, and know that together in our differences we reflect Jesus to the world.

#4 What if we rejoiced over the eternal salvation of souls more than the temporary healing of bodies?

The Great Commission Jesus gave us was not to go into the world and heal it, but bring salvation to it. Healing and miracles can be a vehicle of salvation, but many rejoice over it more than they rejoice over lost souls finding eternal life. 

In Luke 10:20 Jesus actually corrected his disciples who were more excited about the "supernatural" abilities they were experiencing, than they were at the fact that their names were registered in Heaven.

Let's define the "success" of our lives and ministry in the same way Jesus did. The sick who are healed will still die in this life. But the soul who finds Jesus lives forever - that's worth rejoicing over even more!

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Open Hands: a faith-filled response to problems and pain.

This past year I went through a program called "Soul Care" which is designed for pastors and Christian business leaders in the Bay Area to deepen their "with God" live.  There's so much I've journaled and learned in the program, but here I just want to share one aspect of it that has brought great freedom to my soul.

As I write this, I'm actually sitting at home with much pain on my shoulder/neck area due to a slipped disk.  I've had to sit at home and do very little as my body heals.  In spite of the pain and situation, I've actually felt quite at peace.  Let me explain why.

One of the main things God has been teaching me over the last year and a half is to open my hands. To trust Him with outcomes. To invite Him into all situations, hard ones and easy ones. See, the more I search the Scriptures, the more I realize that what some people see as "strong faith" is really not what God sees as strong.

As an example, here's a glimpse into how many people respond to sickness based on their level of faith:
  • NO FAITH: I'm sick and I'll just have to put up with it on my own. God has nothing to do with this. 
  • LITTLE FAITH: Might say a quick prayer, take meds, with very little expectation or awareness of God moving.
  • GOOD FAITH: Might pray for healing and ask others to do the same. Expects God to show up in the healing, might get disappointed if healing doesn't come. Or might blame it on lack of faith.
  • MUCH FAITH: Invites God into the pain and opens their hands to whatever will most deepen their relationship with God, whether it is healing, the humility that comes from pain, the endurance that is developed through suffering, or anything else.
In the words of Ignatius of Loyola:
"Everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God. Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to the deepening of God's life in me."  
That is for me what opening my hands means. One of my mentors reminded me this morning of this. He said, "the idea is not to fix our desires on health or sickness. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response of our life in God."  So I got up this morning and instead of being grumpy that my neck is not yet healed, I invited God into it. I went on a prayer walk and allowed God to shape my soul right in the middle of my pain.

This is a powerful new level of faith for me. In fact, I think it's the kind of faith that the followers of Jesus in the first century so passionately wrote about and called us into. Not a faith that is only strong when we get our way, when things are comfortable, or when God shows up in giving us an escape from pain.

Peter, instead of calling believers to ask God to remove their suffering, he said this: "These trials will show that your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world" 1 Peter 1:7

James, instead of calling people to rejoice in the deliverance from pain, he said this: "When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy..." James 1:2

Paul, instead of instructing believers to avoid problems, he said this: "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance." Romans 5

This year I've rejoiced in seeing God miraculously heal people close to me. I've also rejoiced in the intimacy that I gained with Jesus as I faced pain that He chose not to relieve me from.  I'm also choosing to except my trials and difficulties as potential ways God might want to deepen His love in me. It's very liberating.

Here's the point: God will use every situation in our lives to bring us near to Him. That's the goal. That's where life is. That's the invitation he gives us. Not of a life on earth without pain, sickness, or problems, but a life where every single situation has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.

So whether you are going through a difficult divorce, fighting an illness, or grieving loss, remember that in all situations there is a gift waiting. If you invite God in, He will use it to bring you closer to His heart.

I encourage you to join me in believing and praying this with open hands to God:
I want and I choose what better leads to the deepening of God's life in me.