Five Principles Every Dad Should Practice With His Son

My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. Proverbs 3:11-12

Too many dads are absent and are eroding the health of their families. I don’t mean they are not physically present. Often, they can be found “on the premise” but they are not engaged. Dad’s, your kids need to have your attention, talk with you, be challenged by you, and learn from you. Your son(s) especially need to learn how to be a man from you and the truth is they most likely will follow in your footsteps whether it’s the right path or not. How you treat his mom is probably how he will treat his wife. How you communicate love and affection or lack thereof will be most likely how he communicates it with his children.

I have come to understand that there are several strategic things I can do with my two boys that will help them become the man I believe God wants them to be:

1) Quality Time– first of all, your boys need you to spend time with them. They need alone time with their dad. When I do spend time with them, my boys need to know that they have my undivided attention. They need to know I am fully engaged in the moment. I think there are a few ways to communicate this to them. Eye contact is a big one. They need to see your eyes and that you are connecting on their level. I think asking questions of your boys about their interests and feelings communicates interest. I think showing interest in what they like to do makes them feel valued. All of these things maximizes time spent with them. It will create memories they will never forget.

2) Show them affection-  boys are not like girls but that in no way means they don’t need hugs and words of affirmation consistently from us. They need to hear we love them and that we are proud of them. They need our affirmation. It is food and water for their young soul. If affirmation is not given then they might feel they never measure up or that they cannot do enough to earn your favor. Your kids don’t need to earn your favor; they need to be told over and over that they already have your approval. I try and hug and kiss my boys a lot. I don’t let it be awkward and I fight through their shrugging it off. I don’t let their body language deter me. They need my affection whether they realize it or not.

3) Vulnerability- my boys need to see me be vulnerable. They need to hear me share about my struggles and weaknesses. They need to see me admit wrong and be quick to apologize to their mom when I mess up. They need to see that I can take responsibility for all my actions, good and bad . They also need to see me communicate my feelings. That I am not scared to talk about being hurt or sad or happy. They need to see me be sentimental at times. My boys need to see me dote on their mom. At certain times they need to see me cry. Real men are willing to be vulnerable. I need to model that for them.

4) Talk with them about sex- I am amazed how many boys grow up to be men and only learn about sex from their friends and television. What are we thinking? I know the topic can be awkward for both the dad and son but they need to hear from us on sex. They need to know that being curious is normal and that having sexual desires are natural. They need guidance from us on what is appropriate to do with those curiosities and desires and also what is not. They need not feel embarrassed when they ask tough questions or express what they are feeling about sex. They must know  their dad is a safe person they can talk to and not feel ridicule or embarrassment from. I don’t let my boys anticipated awkwardness on the subject keep me from talking about it with them.

5) Teach them how to be a man- I want my boys to not live by fear: to be willing to stand up for truth when others don’t: to treat a woman with honor even if it looks old fashioned: to do what is right and not necessarily what is popular. To me these qualities define a real man. It is not about being gruff and loud and working to make them see how strong you think you are. Macho-ism is often a ruse. I think real men treat women with respect, our sensitive to others, do what they say they are going to do, love Jesus, show affection to their family, and are willing to sacrifice anything for the good of those they love. If I hope to see my boys be this kind of man then I have to model it for them and guide them to it.

Our boys are a blessing. You only get a small time with them to train them for adulthood. Don’t look back and regret that you didn’t do the things above to help your boys be the men God wants them to be.

Ashley Judd Represents What’s Wrong with our Culture

If you haven’t seen the crazy rant by Ashley Judd, I recommend not bothering. It was uncomfortable and sad to watch. It was shocking and purposeless. It had no value for any real cause.

Many will judge what Ashley Judd said but reality is she represents the current climate of our American culture. There is an increasing boldness and brashness to our culture’s justifications of shocking and immoral actions. The pattern is quite traceable. It starts out subtle. Decades ago, media started putting more and more sexual innuendos in their shows and commercials. Magazines start showing more and more skin in publications not called Playboy or some other adult entertainment. The line keeps getting pushed further and further. The line keeps getting blurred more and more. Our moral senses become further desensitized.  Sin gets bolder and more shocking. Homosexuality goes from taboo to the norm, a culture demanding that it be readily acceptable, all in the name of progress. Feminism becomes an excuse to be rude and crude. Rated PG today used to be rated R  years ago. It is like drowning slowly not realizing you are sinking until too late.

The attitude in our culture that is prevalent is one of tolerance. “Do whatever feels good and don’t you dare question me because it is my right,” is what Ashley Judd and millions more proclaim in this time. All the while our culture loses its moral decency and slips slowly down a slippery slope of debauchery and filth.

What will be the end result? Eventually the culture will break down under the force of its own immorality. The church will be ridiculed and God will be shunned. The people will be turned over to the gods of their making and it’s own demise will become inevitable. Those who love sin will loathe statements like this, will revile it as preachy and paranoid. They will rave against it as judgmental and close minded. Yet, anyone who takes a moment to look can see the instability of what we have witnessed in Ashley Judd’s rant. There is no hope in that message. There is only ignorance: “I am my own master and I will say and do what I want and no one has a right to tell me otherwise.” That is the message of the day and it will lead our culture to what it wishes: a godless, immoral, chaotic heap that will come crashing down.
Those who love Christ must take notice and stand firmer than ever before. No compromise must be our stance; yet not allowing our moral stand to result in isolation but rather, reaching out to the Ashley Judd’s and offering them a better way, a way of hope and purpose. We can’t join in and we can’t isolate. We must see the devastation of the moment and fight to rescue those caught up in it. We must be a voice in the darkness. We can’t be scared of it or run from it. We must engage it with light and hope.

There will be many more shocking moments like Ashley Judd’s to come. Be prepared, prayed up, and ready to engage this culture with the only hope it has, Jesus Christ.

A Great Friend Is Priceless


One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,  but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Proverbs 18:24

A great friend is priceless. How can you put a value on a relationship that adds so much to your life? That friend you do life with… that friend who you know has your back and you have his or hers. You cannot put a high enough price on that.

I have been blessed with good friends. Friends I can trust. Friends that are safe. Like all things priceless, these types of friends are rare. To get one you have to be one.

With a good friend of mine leaving our church to go to another opportunity, I am reminded of the value of friendship. I have many, many friends. I only have very few that I can be completely real with. It is those friendships I treasure the most.  Those rare friends help shape me into the person I am.

Are you a good friend? An invaluable friend to someone else? Here are qualities I see in this kind of friend.

  1. They go the extra mile when you need help.
  2. They always make you feel wanted.
  3. They tell you they have your back and mean it.
  4. They don’t project their negativity on you.
  5. They listen to you and don’t just share their own thoughts and passions.
  6. They accept you as you are, faults and all.
  7. They don’t try to one up you.
  8. They find humor in things and make you laugh.
  9. They really do pray for you.
  10. They are safe in that you can trust them with your deepest pains and feelings.

I pray you have at least one of these friends. I pray you are this friend to someone else.

More of God and Less of Me

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Does God use infected saints? He chose Moses. Out of all the kings, warriors, and competent leaders, God chose a meek shepherd who had trouble putting his thoughts into words. He chose Moses to do an incredible task… to be His mouthpiece to a million Israelites. Moses had a speech impedement and zero confidence. High priority mission led by a shepherd who stumbled over his words and had no desire to lead is a recipe for disaster. All Moses insecurity paralyzed him as he stood before that burning bush and heard the voice of His God.

You can almost see Moses looking down and fidgeting as he protested,”Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?… Oh my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before or since you have spoken to Your servant, but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Exodus 3:11; 4:10). We feel Moses here. He didn’t have what it took to do this. He wasn’t even close to capable. I have felt that myself. When your body temperature rises as you flush from shame over your own insecurity and weakness. The harsh reality that you don’t measure up to what the moment demands. You want to go hide. I have been there many times. God knew Moses insecurities. Did He sympathize with Him?

Actually, God’s response to Moses was not sympathy but anger. He was not moved by Moses’ humility over the recognition of his own lack of ability. He was angry because Moses failed to respond by faith in God’s ability. God responds, “Who made man’s mouth? Who makes him dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (Exodus 4:110-12).

Moses was paralyzed by his insecurities and unworthiness. What should our approach be when we have a strong sense of our unworthiness and uselessness? Though billions of dollars are spent on books and seminars on the subject, self-esteem is not the answer for what ails us here. Notice God did not say to Moses, “Don’t cut yourself down. You are a somebody. You matter.” He doesn’t boost His self esteem. What God said was, “Stop looking at yourself. Stop focusing on your lack of talent and ability. That mouth you think doesn’t work well. I made it. Quit looking at yourself and look to me. I will help you. I will lead you. I will not call you to something I do not equip you to accomplish.”

The answer to our feelings of low self esteem is not to increase our self-esteem; it is to fall more on God’s grace. No matter how much you boost your feelings of self you are still unworthy and your self esteem is merely a facade of what is actually true about you. On your own you don’t measure up and that is ok. You don’t need too. God’s grace is more than sufficient!

Our value does not come from what we do. Did you get that? You sure you are receiving that right now? Our true value is found in Christ. The measure of our worth is in his faithfulness not our own. We do not need higher self esteem… we need less self.

I no longer live but Christ lives in me!

Dax

Why the Church Still Needs Youth and Children’s Ministries

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Should students (K-12) be separated from their parents at church? This is a question of much debate among some. Those who argue that separation is negative for the family believe children need to see their parents worship. They learn by imitation, and, the way our culture is heading, students and parents already spend a majority of time apart from each other doing their own thing. Besides, there is something special about parents worshiping alongside their children. I see value in that.

Yet, my experience with this says children are mostly bored with “adult” talk and don’t engage in this setting. I think having times where togetherness happens should be a part of every local church’s planning, but more than ever, our churches need strong children and youth ministries that are intentional about engaging students in ways that train them as Christian warriors. It is beneficial for students to be with their peers learning about Jesus and what that means for their lives. Adults need that alone time with their peers as well.

Every pastor to students (children and youth pastors) worth his salt longs to do family ministry. Pastors don’t want to be “all things spiritual” to students. They are burdened for parents to step up and be the spiritual leaders. They long to walk alongside them in training their child spiritually. They don’t want to replace the parent, but they are experts in understanding how students tick. They know their needs are different than adults, and they know how to engage minds and hearts in a way students understand. Instead of hoarding this knowledge, they desire to help parents better engage their children spiritually.

Yet, most parents see student ministry as a replacement rather than a supplement. “Teach my child spiritually because I am not doing it at home” is how many parents in the church are approaching their child’s spiritual life. This is not healthy!  Student pastors are aware of this and long to see parents wake up to the reality that they need to be the loudest voice spiritually in their child’s life.

Our children are under attack. Everywhere they turn, their inexperienced eyes are bombarded with temptation, immorality, cruelty, and wickedness of every kind. There is no debating this is only getting worse. It doesn’t matter if you send your kids to public school or homeschool; unless you lock them in a room and keep them away from all technology and outside influence, they will face these things to some degree. Even if you manage to shelter them from most of it, eventually they will step into the world as young adults. No matter what, they will face the realities of this wicked world.

Good student ministers intersect the Word with life on a level students get. These ministers speak honestly and boldly about temptations that will be faced and help students be prepared to stand against them. They are skilled and passionate and, therefore, effective at not only training students but also working alongside parents to train their children to be in the world but not of the world.  The best student ministers do not oppose family ministry but embrace it by seeking to influence parents to better engage their children with spiritual truth.

I see four ways that motivate student ministers in these tasks:

  1. Teach the Word to students in an engaging and practical way that students can apply to their lives.
  2. Teach students to serve the Kingdom now and not wait until adulthood (which usually means they probably won’t serve then either).
  3. Engage parents on what is happening in their ministry so parents can utilize the information in spiritual training of their children.
  4. Equip parents to be the spiritual leaders to their student at home.

Thriving student ministries have no desire to isolate students form their parents. Instead, they provide a valuable service of walking alongside intentional parents who long to see their children know God and make Him known. Rather than dismissing student ministries and bringing families together for the whole time at church, Christian parents need to catch a vision for their role as spiritual leaders to their children and embrace student ministries as a helpful reinforcement to their own efforts with their children. Our children need godly parents and godly student ministries. This will lead to children becoming mighty warriors for God.

 

Image Bearers

Josh and Laura Porter are good friends of mine and members of Heartland. Josh is a Physician’s Assistant in Sports Medicine and Laura has a Masters Degree in Athletic Training. Josh and Laura are Independent Distributors of AdvoCare. Laura wrote this and I thought it would bless you as much as it did me.

Imago Dei.. Maybe you have heard it. Maybe this is the first time. It is inspired from this verse in Genesis.

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.     Genesis 1:27 

I’ll be honest.. For a long time this verse didn’t really hit home with me, until recently when I was listening to a teaching. It suddenly occurred to me that of all the creatures, animals, and living things on this earth.. He chose US to be in His image. Human kind is the crown jewel of ALL of God’s creation. Think about it.. That is a pretty amazing concept. And if we really get this, I mean REALLY get this..we will understand our value. If we understand Imago Dei than we will not treat ourselves cheaply.

What does this mean, exactly?

Well, I feel that it plays itself out in the 3 aspects or areas in our lives.

1. Mind. If we understand that we are made in the image of God, we will feed our mind. Now.. Coming from a girl who is blonder than I pay to be, I’m not saying we need to be scholars on all things. But it means that we read books, we stretch our perspectives and our brains by studying a topic, by learning about other saints who have gone before us (preferably dead), or by understanding new or different points of view on various subjects. It means we are continuously learning and using our minds!

2. Body. If we truly understand that we are made in the image of God, we will not treat ourselves cheaply. We value ourselves by putting the right nutrition in our bodies. We also want to move and work our bodies in order to get stronger and healthier. Not out of vanity, but because we need to be ready to do whatever God calls us to. We need to have adequate energy and a physical body that, by the grace of God, we can fulfill the calling that God has for us. This is why I’m passionate about nutrition.

3. Soul. This one is important. If we have struggles, such as addiction to food, lust, anger, or greed (just to name a few), these are like clogged arteries that we need to tend to and go to the Great Physician about. This is why we pray, study the Word, preach the gospel to ourselves and receive counsel… in order to deal with our junk and find healing for our souls.

Understanding Imago Dei doesn’t just help us understand our value, it helps us see others in their true light. We are freed up to love deeper the more we understand how we are loved. If we can get this.. If you can understand what it means that we are valued enough in our maker’s eyes to be made in His image, you will never look at yourself or others the same! We aren’t cheap, so let’s not treat ourselves that way!

Laura Porter

Oh God Rescue Me

 

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Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.    James 1:2-4

Sometimes God does not change your circumstance because He is trying to change your heart. When things are tough you cry out to God. You beg Him to remove the pain, the sorrow, the difficulty. You been there? You don’t want to hurt anymore and so you cry out. And often… God seems silent. He doesn’t remove the thing that is causing you such pain. The cancer is still there. The broken relationship is still broken. The bank account is still empty. The loss of a loved one is still permanent. Others tell you to find hope in it all and you wonder what good could ever come out of such pain.

But what if God, in fact, is not being silent. What if he is speaking a different way than you would have thought? What if God is thinking much bigger than your circumstance? God knows if He were to just remove the circumstance you would most likely fall back into business as usual. You are slow to remember and would go back into living life as you choose, oblivious of His working in and around you. What if God wanted to get your attention in a much more transformative way? What if He wants to change your heart? Draw you closer to Himself by getting you to recognizing your desperate need for Him. Is the pain worth that, to be loved and cared for by our Creator? To see your need for him and to be filled up by Him? So you lose things you loved and valued, but gain more of God. Is there any greater prize than eternity with Him?

It’s not easy. Life was never meant to be. God does not promise health and wealth (1 Peter 4:13). Run from those who teach that. Those who truly follow God will most definitely find hardship and suffering on this earth but the life to come is well worth the suffering.