Human Sin: Avoiding Two Traps

14 06 2016

My wife doesn’t like this word, but sin sucks! Children are aware of their own sin. When approaching the topic of sin avoid these two traps: 1) Gloss over sin saying, “That’s just kids being kids.” (Seeds planted soon grow.) 2) Squash children with an overbearing weight of impossible expectations. Rather, teach awareness of personal and mass sinfulness while always holding onto hope that God has a way out.

Thorns

Sin is anything we think, say or do that does not please God.

-Child Evangelism Fellowship

No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds.

-Galatians 6:7-8

Glossy

Because children are aware of so much wrong around them, glossing over it, watering it down, ignoring it or flat out denying it only masks an oozing wound. A wound that’s infected must first be recognized before it can be cleaned. A seed of sinfulness planted will soon become an unwanted, choking weed.

Squashy

Because children are so trusting and delicate, they can be easily squashed and crushed under the weight of heavy burdens that we may put on them to act right. The wound is opened further with forced conformity and children may respond in one of two ways: 1) withdraw and pretend to behave well or, 2) resist and rebel.

Mix-y

I wonder if there’s a middle ground here-perhaps a beneficial mix. Not between glossing and squashing, but take a closer look at what good may possibly be embedded in these mindsets. I like the words awareness and hope. People who gloss may tend to want hope, however, they distort it. People who squash may tend to promote awareness, but they dwell on it. Let’s mix ’em.

Awareness and honest assessment of my personal sin will cause varying degrees of guilt and grief. This is actually a good thing, but not on its own. Hope comes along and shows us the way to complete relief and freedom from the oppression of sin. So with children, we show them the serious effects of sin which can lead to repentance (change of heart and mind), but also show them hope in a God who makes things right and brings us back together.

Here’s a simple and effective visual you can use with children to explain the effects of sin and the reward of hope. Hold your two fists together. Talk about close and enjoyable relationship. Pull your fists apart. Talk about the pain of a good relationship that is separated. Bring your fists back together again and celebrate the joy of coming back to good relationship. You could even try moving your fists slowly apart to illustrate little sins building up over time. Or try moving your fists apart quickly to illustrate something more harmful.

 

That’s what sin does: separates. 

That’s what hope does: rejoins.

Lord, don’t let sin crush us. Deliver us!

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Life: Longing for the Way it is Meant to Be

5 04 2016

Life is a wonderful gift. From birth to death, every unique individual is on a journey of discovery and a search for meaning and significance. Yet death is a stark reminder that life is all too short…unless…there is an alternate ending. This is the Gospel: Christ came to bring us life. Real life. Forever life. There is no need to shy away from the topic of death with children. They may not have firsthand knowledge of it, but they can grasp eternity better than you might think. Celebrate life with kids this week as they, and you, develop into all that God has planned for you.

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Eternal life is…quality of life, life to the limit.

-John Eldredge

I have come so they may have life. I want them to have it in the fullest possible way.

-Jesus (John 10:10)

Over the past few months, I have written about lifespan development. My starting point for writing about development largely came from the book Development Through the Lifespan, by Laura E. Berk as well as the work of Erik Erikson and his observations on life stages.

From birth to death, individuals are changing and shifting from season to season, milestone to milestone and phase to phase. There are key markers to each phase, which we will do well to understand and acknowledge. Development theory is still a theory and so the markers may not be empirical fact, but there are significant observations to be made. Summarizing each phase is a difficult task, but the benefits include ‘aha!’ moments, establishing goals, recognizing challenges, preparing for what’s to come, influencing the next generation well, etc.

For parents or children’s ministry volunteers, especially, being able to identify that the most important target for an infant is developing trust, we can pool our efforts into that one area more effectively. Or in your family, understanding and appreciating what your parents may be feeling or working through may increase your ability to strike up meaningful conversations.

Perhaps a child wasn’t from a home where skills could be learned without shaming or she never had a safe place to struggle with her identity. Knowing this can increase your empathy, the ability to understand or share the feelings of another. Recognizing this in yourself can be a humbling first step to receiving the help you need and making the next appropriate step in your personal growth.

The bottom line is this: God values every life greatly. He created real life and has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We are all changing, shifting, developing. Yet, to know God’s design for life we must wait, for our best life is yet to come. Let us live and develop and mature as God meant us to and as much as we are able. Let us wait and long for the full realization of what God has planned.

Here are the links to all of my posts on development:

Lord, help me celebrate your gift of life today.





Late Adulthood: Fulfilling Reflection

22 03 2016

Late adults (65+) are those who’ve been blessed to live a full life. They’ve entered a time of harvest from all they’ve experienced. They are to be highly honoured and not forgotten. They have much wisdom to offer. But here, despair can set in if regret overwhelms. Before you enter this stage, ask yourself, “Will I have lived a meaningful life?” While you live out this phase, ask yourself, “What are the best parts of my life that I can share?” The next generation greatly benefits from the wisdom of its ancestors.

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Life ought not be wasted.

-John Piper

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

-Psalm 90:12

Life in this phase, as hard as it is, can be lived with fulfilling reflection. 

Whatever has happened in your life to this point, there is something positive to reflect on. If you’ve lived with many regrets, set those regrets aside and search, as for treasure, for what you can be grateful for. If you’ve lived well, finish well also. There is much from your life that you can share.

In your biological family and church family, honour your elders. Spend time with them. Interview them for their life experience and wisdom. Value them.

Let these final years (or decades?) be your best years. Stare death in the face with hopeful joy. Connect with those closest to you. Mend broken fences. Teach, encourage and strengthen others. As Paul wrote to his protégé Timothy towards the end of his life, you can also say,

I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

Here are some suggestions for finishing your race well:

  • Journal to aid your reflection
  • Beware of cynicism or arrogance taking away your joy
  • You are nearing death so face it with dignity and integrity
  • As your body continues to decline, treat it well with regular exercise and beneficial eating habits
  • Tell your life story
  • Spend time with children and youth for their sake and yours
  • Exercise your brain. Examples:
    • learn an instrument
    • read with a pen in hand
    • take up an art such as drawing, painting or crafting
    • solve puzzles and problems (the game kind and the real life kind)
  • Your habits may seem to be set in stone, but continuing to learn new skills and try new things will add to your enjoyment of life
  • List 100 things you’re especially grateful for and make them visible
  • If you’ve stayed married to this point, congratulations! Satisfaction in this relationship will likely increase so pour out your best energy for the other.
  • Don’t let retirement be an excuse to give up!
  • Volunteer often
  • Seek leadership opportunities and roles in your community
  • Find creative ways to benefit your children, grandchildren or other close family members or church family members:
    • write a letter
    • babysit
    • offer advice, but be careful of meddling
    • create something as a gift
    • put together a family tree or, even better, learn about genograms
  • Continue to find ways to connect with a local church
  • Remember that life is greater than you and reflect on God who transcends our understanding

What suggestions would you offer for maximizing the joy in this phase of life?

Lord, thank you for the heritage of our elders.





Early Adulthood: Avoiding Loneliness

8 03 2016

Early adults (18-40) are craving a life enriched with intimate and committed relationships. Yet many are experiencing perpetual loneliness. More than many realize, loneliness contributes to many illnesses and depressive tendencies. This week make a concerted effort to extend friendship to someone in your community. Authentic friendships will do more to change the world than most anything!

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Loneliness is a distressing, painful experience which humans…want to avoid.

-Kraus, Davis, Bazzini, Church, Kirchman

Now you are my friends.

-Jesus (John 15:15)

As Erik Erikson summarizes, loneliness can lead early adults to promiscuity or exclusivity, both dangerous extremes.

The pursuit of this phase is committed intimacy.

Commitment in relationships will lead to long-lasting satisfaction including emotional and mental health. Here are some suggestions for moving toward committed intimacy:

  • Find a group to be a part of such as sports, music, crafts, hobbies, reading, arts, etc.
  • Connect with a small group at church
  • Find opportunities to volunteer and give back with others
  • Study God’s plan for marriage and make the decision to marry very carefully
  • Make life-long learning a habit you do not just on your own, but with others also
  • Network in a way that adds value to others
  • Find a mentor…fast!
  • Mend broken family relationships or seek ways to connect or reconnect intentionally with family members
  • Look for ways to be of service to employers, colleagues or employees
  • Be aware that loneliness may peak at this phase, but can decrease from here on out as commitment increases
  • More than likely, you will begin to stabilize in the community you are a part of as your relationship habits solidify.

Lord, make loneliness disappear!





The One Story to Tell Your Family

9 05 2014

For me, I get overwhelmed sometimes when there are too many choices. We have a phrase in our culture when we have a question: “Just Google it.”

For wise and discerning people, that can be somewhat helpful. But I need more than a quick tip or a rabbit trail of opinions, I want a guiding principle for my family.

As a husband and a father, I want to have a single pursuit. I want to keep it simple. When there are too many good targets it can be hard to choose which one to shoot for. Let alone all the unhelpful targets that distract.

But when I know there is one great target, then I can train and focus on it and get better and better at hitting it.

That’s what Family Rhythm is: the strong, regular, repeated focus on one target or one story, really.

the story

 

Here’s the story: Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son.”

All of Scripture, really tells one story and that’s the story of God’s ongoing sacrifice to bring us into a restored relationship with himself through Jesus Christ.

How will you tell this story at many times and in many ways with your family?





What to Do When We Blow Up – Connected Families

7 02 2013

What to Do When We Blow Up – Connected Families.

The goal and hope of Christianity is restoration. Jesus Christ sacrificed his life so that we could be restored in our relationship with God. One day, He will restore all things and make all things new and right and good. For the mean time we have families that are broken. We can demonstrate this hope for a better future when we model humility after a blowout. Great article here. Click the link!





11 Practical Ways for Men to Lead a Family | Pastor Mark

6 08 2012

11 Practical Ways for Men to Lead a Family | Pastor Mark.








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