Chats with Parents

Celebrate Christmas An Entire Month


It is a rare occasion when I encounter a Christian who detests Christmas. Now, I realize that I must qualify this by stating many of us struggle with the over-commercialization of Christmas, and some of us even dread the holiday because we are in the midst of suffering and can't bear the thought of "celebrating" during intense heartache.

But if we break Christmas down to its simplest form, it really is epic: God becoming flesh to rescue the world! What's not to love about this!!!

As a bonus, a godless (or post-god, however you want to slice it) culture continues to persist in the accommodation of the celebration of Christ's birth. Most people are given the day off work. Many others take the opportunity to spend the holiday with the people they love the most. We eat good food. We drink good drink. We give good (or not-so-good) gifts (I see you tiny pocket knife, weird socks, stinky candles, or horrible white elephant gift). Other than those terribly awkward conversations with family you only see once a year, we can all agree that Christmas is pretty much one of the best things in our earthly lives.

In the end, a good chunk of the world still celebrates the holiday, if even for all the wrong reasons. But here's some truth for your ears: We can remove Christ from Christmas (i.e. by calling it X-mas), but we will literally never be able to remove "Christ" from Christmas.

For Christians, this is the best news ever! This is also the reason why we should celebrate HARDER and LONGER than all of the non-Christians across the world who don't know, love, and worship Jesus. 

And you'll never be able to guess what Christians have done for the past two millenniums?

We have concocted a way by which we can celebrate Christmas for the entire month leading up to Christmas day. It is called Advent (which I will explain more below). The reality is that Christmas provides a massive opportunity for us to celebrate in our homes, with our families, giving credence to the reality of arguably the single greatest event ever (without Christmas there is no cross and empty tomb).

It also affords us the opportunity to celebrate with our church communities and with the lost and dying world around us, with the ultimate goal of pointing, proclaiming, and presenting to everyone what John the Baptist upon his first glance of Jesus exclaimed: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29

The word adventus is a Latin term meaning “coming/arrival.” Early Christians spoke of “The advent of our Lord” in  reference to the incarnation (God becoming flesh). As time went on, Advent was designated as the period leading up to Christmas Day when Christians prepared for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. The specific celebrations began as early as the 4th century AD. This time period was marked by prayer and fasting with a focused attention on the wonder of the incarnation as well as the hopeful return of Christ at His second coming.

So why should we celebrate Advent? Because it pushes us to focus on the real reason for the Christmas season. When we celebrate Christ’s first coming, we are reminded of what it took for mankind to be rescued from sin, death, and hell. It required God to take on flesh in order to become a sacrifice for the sins of the world. To celebrate advent is to celebrate the hope of redemption; the hope that first came in the form of a baby – a baby who would forever change the world. His name is Jesus!

We are serious about Advent at Kid Theology and view this season as another incredible opportunity to point ourselves, our children, and all those around us to Jesus. There are many ways in which you can do this.

We will hopefully be throwing out some helpful and simple tools for you to celebrate Advent in the coming days (Advent technically begins this year on December 3rd).  

(side note: This will only apply to those who are signed up on our mailing list. to receive free advent content (as well as other tools to help you disciple your children, sign up here).

Thanksgiving: More Than A Holiday, A Way Of Life

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Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Psalm 107:1

Halloween is officially behind us which means one thing… It’s Christmas time! I am not joking when I say that literally on Halloween day, major retail stores had already stashed away their ghosts and goblins in favor of fake spruce trees, Santa Claus displays, and green and red decor everywhere. That’s right! The halls had been decked on October 31st. Full disclosure here but when I saw the Christmas displays, I was excited as Elf was when he heard the Santa announcement.


But what about Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving gets a bad wrap for sure when it comes to the three holidays. Americans make a big deal out of it, but only for two or three days. Let’s be honest with each other, nobody ever gets too sad about a day set aside for overeating and hanging out with family and friends.

The thing about Thanksgiving is that it just doesn’t scratch as big of a consumeristic itch as Christmas or Halloween (the number one and two highest grossing American holidays respectively).  But, because it is sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas, it tends to get overlooked. Undoubtedly we still try to make Thanksgiving as self-focused as possible, which is why it is marked more by gluttony than anything else. The very title of the holiday “Thanksgiving” is the antithesis of self but I still find ways to make it about me (i.e. complaining about spending time with family members we don’t like and you know, overeating). 


The word thanksgiving by nature is others focused.

The opposite of thanksgiving is entitlement. Yet we tend to make all things about ourselves. What about our children? They are no different. They don’t come out of the womb thankful. They come out selfish and entitled. Yes, they are beautiful and sweet and wonderful...but they are self-centered. Entitlement comes easy for our kids. When was the last time you had to instruct them to be more self-focused? On the flip side, how many times do you have to instruct your children to be thankful? If you are like me then you are reminding them Every. Single. Day.

We need to also look at our own lives right now. How thankful are we? Again if you are like me, you need reminders Every. Single. Day. When my eyes are fixated on a Savior who died a death I deserved to die and who gave me abundant life I didn’t deserve to be given, I AM THANKFUL. 

When I think of a merciful and gracious God, whose steadfast love endures for all time, it leads me to overwhelming thankfulness. And the overflow of this is incredible! I begin to see all the GOOD gifts my GREAT God has given me through a gospel lens, and my default attitude and disposition becomes gratitude. 

The more I recognize the beauty of what Jesus did for me on the cross, how he saved an undeserving sinner, I become thankful. Thankfulness is the product of a heart that is overjoyed, satisfied, at rest, and filled to the full. Thankfulness is the product of a heart which knows it has been given everything undeservedly, so nothing good that does come is expected, demanded, overlooked as automatic, or deserved. This is how I want to be. This is how I want my children to be.

This is the culture that I am striving to cultivate in my home. And not just this month, but in the months to come, as the power of the gospel (the good news that Jesus saves sinners) drives, shapes, and informs a spirit of thankfulness in the lives of me, my spouse, and my children. I want my family to be a family that says thanks not out of obligation, but out of sincerity.


What if thanksgiving was more than just a holiday for us? What if it was a culture in our homes, a way of life for our families? 

Allow me to throw out a challenge: Every day let’s all take 5 minutes out of our busy schedules to remind our families how good Jesus has been by saving we sinners, and by giving us everything else we have (“Every good and perfect gift is from above…” James 1:17). Additionally, let’s focus on telling each other thanks in our homes, when thanksgiving is warranted.

By the grace of Jesus, let’s fight entitlement, consumerism, and self-centeredness in our homes by seeking God’s glory and cultivating cultures of gratitude and thanksgiving. I assure you our homes will be more full of joy than ever before. Why? Because ultimately, thanksgiving leads to great joy (1 Thess 3.9). Let’s put it to the test!

Halloween: Engage Or Eject?

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Since childhood, I can’t remember a time when the hottest debate amongst Christians in the month of October wasn’t Halloween. Christians lose their minds over this issue (see any social media platform for proof) almost as much as they do any of the other biggie’s of late like Trump, the NFL, same-sex marriage, and the second amendment. I digress.

Many in various evangelical circles have argued for complete exclusion from any sort of participation in Halloween. While others have tried to engage the second largest grossing holiday in America, viewing it as an opportunity to connect with their neighbors on one of the only days of the year their neighbors are outside their homes for more than a second. And then there is a third category of Christians who don’t care to think about the spiritual implications of the holiday, and approach the day as culture around them approaches it (unintentionally celebrating death under the guise of candy).

Most American Christians probably fall under the third category. Halloween is an opportunity for their children (and themselves - You know who you are!) to cop copious amounts of candy. They aren’t intentionally celebrating death or demons or evil. They’re just here for the candy.

For those that push the eject button on Halloween, would you please at minimum consider what it would look like to redeem the holiday, since it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I get that you are not of this world, that your citizenship is in heaven but that doesn’t exclude the fact you have been sent into this world as an ambassador of the grace of Jesus.


We will get into that more in a moment but for now, here’s a brief history behind Halloween to catch you up:

  • Halloween’s roots began with an ancient Celtic festival called “Samhain” that ushered in the darkest part of winter, where spirits of the dead were believed to show up and damage crops and play “tricks” on the living. There were even animal sacrifices the Celtic priests would offer up to pagan gods.

  • The Roman influence then came into the picture 2,000 years ago with a day of celebrating the dead that would take place towards the end of October. It was essentially a day to celebrate and worship those who had died.

  • The rise of Christianity in the Celtic areas around 800 AD saw the institution of a new holiday called “All Saints Day” which took place the day after Samhain as a day to honor saints and martyrs. The selection of the day was intentional by Pope Boniface IV to serve as a holier alternative to Samhain.

  • All Saints Day eventually became known as “All Hallows Day” and people began calling Samhain, “All Hallows Eve” which was shortened to “Hallowe’en.”

  • All of the festivals involved costumes or dressing up. For example, men in Scotland for Samhain would dress up as the dead, explaining many of our modern day halloween attire. Others for “All Saints Day” would dress up as saints or angels. But if you’re keeping score, Halloween isn’t exactly rooted in a Christ-centered reality.

  • Like anything, culture (and evil human hearts) has twisted the day, making it all about consumerism, gluttony, and even borderline demon worship (all idolatry is demon-worship - including gluttony and consumerism), with many Christians falling into the first two categories, and even the third unknowingly.

  • Also of note, Halloween happens to fall on the exact day of the Reformation’s inception. 500 years ago this coming October 31st, Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses on the door of the Wittenburg Castle Church, ushering in one of the greatest gospel-centered revivals in 1400 years, since the inception of the church age. Modern Day protestantism exists by the grace of God because of that moment and the many moments and men that followed.


Listen (and please receive this knowing that I am in this for your good), but for those who struggle with celebrating a day of the dead (and I feel you, I really do), you need to likewise struggle with Easter and Christmas, since (like Halloween) both holidays are a hodge podge of pagan and Christian wrapped up in a tidy box of self-indulgence with a tidy bow of consumerism and gluttony on top. If you boycott one, you need to be logically and spiritually consistent by boycotting all three. It seems hypocritical at its core to boycott one and not the others.

Also, evil isn’t sourced externally (i.e. a holiday). It’s roots are found deep in the hearts of men and women (and children). We need to be much more concerned with the evil in our homes (because of the sinful hearts of the men, women, and children who live inside them) than we do the evil outside our homes. Consider Mark 7:21-23:

“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”


Here’s my hot take on this issue: 

Since Jesus hung with tax collectors, prostitutes, murderers, thieves, and every other sordid person, my guess is that he would be all in on Halloween (not at some church fall festival alternative). Now I do believe Jesus wouldn’t necessarily be all in on the candy-grabbing or sexy-costume aspects, but rather because it is one of the few times out of the year where non believing sinners knock on the doors of believing sinners. This quote by George Robinson is so captivating:

“The reason I propose that good Christians celebrate Halloween and stay home from the 'Christian alternatives' is that Halloween is the only night of the year in our culture where lost people actually go door-to-door to saved people’s homes . . . and you’re down at the church hanging out with all your other good Christian friends having clean fellowship with the non-pagans.”


How about a new (or renewed) vision for Halloween?

  • Instead of receiving or rejecting Halloween, let’s commit to redeeming it. Nothing says “you hate me” more to the world than a Christian who secludes himself and puts signs up on his home that say: “We don’t observe holidays reserved for Satan worship!” (Yes, that was on one of my neighbor’s doors last year).

  • Instead of attending a church alternative (trunk or treat) that encourages you to bring your unsaved neighbors to (but who will never come because they are all about that trick or treating life - and can you blame them?), set up shop in your driveway, and hand candy out to your neighbors all night long.

  • Instead of buying the small, miniature versions of various delectable candy treats, roll on over to a wholesale store (Cosco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s) and purchase $100 worth of full-sized or even king-sized candy bars. Our family did this last year and it was the best $100 we’ve ever spent.

  • Instead of throwing massive budget-busting Halloween parties at your church, invest that money into the small groups within your church, so that they can in turn throw epic Halloween block parties in their driveways.

  • Instead of just sending your kids out trick or treating to further promote consumerism, have pre-made goodie bags made with the best candy (hint: not salt water taffy, tootsie rolls, and black licorice) and an invite card to your church or a card with Romans 5:8 printed on it (“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”). We’ve done this in years past and it always catches people off guard.

  • Instead of putting a bowl of candy at your front door with a sign on it that says “Take one!” be ready for the door-knockers, engage them, talk to their parents, take a moment to get to know them if you don’t already, ask them where they live etc.


Ultimately, the question is this: Do we want the world to know us by our love or by our segregation?

I think the answer is simple. God is never displeased with you taking something that culture has twisted and distorted and bringing the beauty of the gospel into. So I say go for it! Dress your kids up as Reformers (jk).

Engage Halloween intentionally. Not with consumerism in mind. But for the sake of the gospel - for the glory of Christ and for the good of the world around you!

The Struggle Is Real (To Own our Wrong)

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Recently, my oldest son came home from his school day shaken up. He wears his heart on his sleeve so clearly something had happened earlier in the day. When I asked he responded with this: “My teacher was mean to me today, dad!

When I asked him to elaborate, his dramatic and emotional response was this:

“She told me I was going to be surprised by the grade I received on my test. I asked her if I got an ‘F’ and she said, ‘Yep!’ She also told me she wanted to have a conference with you and mom because of my talking! AND (he added), she really came down on me about not doing 3 of my homework assignments.”

Mind you, he said all of this with tears flowing down his face. He legitimately believed a great injustice had been done to him. I asked him if he felt hurt more because of the way she responded to him or by the actual “charges” she had brought against him. He said it was more so because of how harshly he thought she responded to him.

But as we unpacked the situation more, he attempted to devalue the charges as well, making statements like: “But I did all of my OTHER homework!” and “But OTHER kids were talking out of turn too!” and “But I pay attention to her MOST of the time!


This all-too-common response was my son’s attempt to do three things with his sin:

  1. Minimize (It isn’t that bad).

  2. Blame-shift (It is another person’s fault - “They made me do it!”).

  3. Miss it altogether (As my son did in this instance).

And so ensued the 500th conversation in which I attempted to patiently, gently, graciously, and truthfully bring my child to a place where he could see his sin for what it was - as a serious and personal offense against God (as one theologian put it: “Sin is cosmic treason!”), and as something that doesn’t just affect him, but others around him (in this case, his sin hurt his teacher).


The "WHY"...

First off, let’s talk about "why" I should lean towards gentleness when it comes to my children not seeing their sin. The truth is I am just like them and the way God deals with me is patient, slow to anger, and quick to love. There’s a verse for this, isn’t there? In fact, this verse is one of the most quoted verses in Scripture: “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Exodus 34:6 (and a slew of other places in Scripture). At the core of the good news is a God who is slow to anger and quick to love when it comes to his children’s sin.

Next, let’s get into the “why” behind my son not seeing his own sin. Really, this is a matter of why all of us struggle to truly own our sin, especially in the situations we feel wronged by others. Jesus addressed this in his sermon on the mount:

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5

Jesus places this in the context of judgment (“Judge not, that you be not judged.” Matthew 7:1). The point of this statement is that when it comes to other people’s sin, we tend to be judge, jury, and executioner. We act as though we are the authoritative voice in all matters as if somehow we miraculously became omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.

Only God can eternally judge a person’s soul and he alone has earned that right as God. But at the same time, he allows us to evaluate other people’s lives and sin, although not before we evaluate our own lives and sin. Sin is personal. But no one’s sin is more personal than our own sin. Yet we take other people’s sin (especially the sin committed against us) so personally. Jesus wants us to be offended by our own sin more than anyone else’s sin (hence, the log vs speck analogy).

The grace here is two-fold: First of all, when we see our sin as greater than anyone else’s, we see our desperate need for rescue. Secondly, we can properly, tenderly, lovingly, and truthfully engage another person’s sin, pushing them to hopefully see their desperate need for rescue.

Ultimately, the trick is to own our sin. But we don’t, really. And our kids don’t either. Probably because they don’t see their parents owning it much. We lessen its seriousness. We throw it onto others. We brush it aside. We miss it completely.

So where is the hope? What is the solution? How can we own our sin and help our kids do the same?


Consider these helpful thoughts about what it looks like to truly own our sin (aka repent):

  1. Repentance is a gift, therefore it is not something we earn (2 Timothy 2:25).

  2. Repentance is of God, which means it is more about God than it ever will be about us (Acts 20:21).

  3. Repentance is a continuous posture, rather than a singled-out, one-time practice (1 Peter 5:5).

  4. Repentance leads us to joy, not just sorrow (Ps. 51:1-12).

  5. Repentance (true repentance) results in change in the life of a person (Gal 5:22-23).


Ultimately, repentance is about Jesus - His grace humbling us to see the severity of our sin, recognizing its consequences (eternal and temporal), but being more broken about what our sin led Jesus to (death on the cross) than what it leads us to (earthly and eternal death), so that we would be moved towards Jesus, knowing he is our only hope, in life and death!

The hope for you is the same hope for your children. It's always Jesus! The more you and your family can humble yourselves before the Lord to see your need for Him, the more change you will see in all of your lives. And this may be hard to hear, but by the grace of God, you need to lead out in this!

I am praying for you!

Healthy Marriages Drive Healthy Parenting

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No other human relationship in Scripture is presented as more special, unique, important, intimate, and ultimate than the marriage relationship. Hands down, it gets the first place blue ribbon. No participation trophy here. Above any other anthropomorphic connection, the marital variety stands victorious.

Consider what the Bible has to say:

  • Marriage is described as two becoming one: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  Genesis 2:24

  • Marriage is described as a covenant: “Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.” Malachi 2:14

  • Marriage is compared to Jesus’ relationship with the church: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Ephesians 5:25

  • Marriage is viewed by God in the same way he views the entirety of his creation: “He who finds a wife finds a GOOD thing and obtains favor from the LORD.”


Needless to say, marriage matters. It matters to God most profoundly. Which means, it must matter to us!

Additionally, God seems to place the priority of marriage over parenting. When the Apostle Paul spoke to the church in Ephesus, he addressed the marriage relationship (chapter five) before addressing the relationship between children and parents (chapter 6). The prioritized sequence there doesn’t seem to be accidental.

Even clearer, are Paul’s words to his apprentice Timothy when detailing the qualifications of a pastor. He deals with the marital relationship (“husband of one wife”) before parenting (“keeping his children submissive” 1 Timothy 3:2, 4). Clearly, there is an order of importance given. The marriage comes before all other relationships in the household.

Yes, it is true that the instruction presented in 1 Timothy is for pastors, but we would be remiss to say these words are exclusively for pastors. If this were the case, we’d have to do the same with the other qualifications given (“sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” etc…). We can all agree that each of those qualifications apply for every disciple of Jesus (see Galatians 5:22-23).


The Norm

Recently, some friends of mine confessed to me they put their children to bed around 10pm every day. We both agreed that 10pm was kind of late to be putting a kid to bed (since, scientifically, kids need a lot more sleep than adults). I then asked them if they ever had time to invest in their marriage. They said they didn’t have time. When I stated the obvious, “Why don’t you just put your child down earlier?” their response was, “Our child doesn’t get tired until late.”

Sadly, their response was not surprising...

Parents tend to trade cultivating a healthy marriage for the comfort of their children. This is equal parts true and tragic. I know this because at times I have been the chief culprit. Instead of prioritizing my wife, I have promoted my children’s welfare in the home above her own, leaving her feeling unloved, unprotected, and leaving our marriage undermined.

When this happens, my marriage suffers. And if there is one thing I’ve learned it is this: If my marriage suffers, so does my parenting, especially when parenting is the one thing I’ve put before my marriage. So how can we as parents guard against this? What does this look like practically?


May I suggest a few thoughts on this?

  1. Before we can cultivate healthy marriages, we need to cultivate healthy souls (“My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.” Psalm 84:2). Speaking of priorities, our worship of Jesus is paramount to everything. We must see him as the best thing in our lives in order to appropriately order every other thing in our lives.

  2. Healthy marriages don’t happen by osmosis. We must be intentional. We must see the urgency. What I continue to learn after 12+ years of marriage, is that I must be the one to fight the hardest for my marriage. When my wife sees me fight hard, she feels loved, and she in turn fights hard.

  3. Healthy marriages need space to be cultivated. When our parenting has zero boundaries (i.e. kids stay up as late as we do), our marriages become bound by our children’s lack of boundaries. We have to create space in our daily rhythms to cultivate healthier marriages. One simple way to do this is in conversation. If allowed, kids will constantly interrupt spousal conversations. Teach kids that this is wrong. Teach them that unless it is an emergency, what they have to say can wait.

  4. Healthy marriages are about the long game, parenting the short. The goal for marriage is “‘Til death do us part.” The goal for parenting is “Til you’re 18, can drive, and can get a job.” Jokes aside, marriage is about endurance over a much longer period of time than parenting is. Longer endurance means bigger investment.

  5. Healthy marriages actually help to cultivate healthy children. When my marriage comes before my parenting, I am a better parent. When I love my wife well, I will undoubtedly love my children well. When my children see me love my wife (their mom) well, they are given a picture of what it looks like for Christ to love His church, which makes them love Christ, their parents, each other better, their world, and one day, their spouse better. The ripple effect is more far-reaching than we could ever imagine!

  6. Healthy marriages are the greatest example of the gospel of grace for our children. When we prioritize our marriages above our children, our children are given a glimpse of God’s great love (the sacrificial, unconditional, unwavering, unstoppable, loving-the-unlovable kind) which makes a fundamentally lasting impact on their souls and lives and naturally causes them to see the good news lived out in our homes.


Healthy marriages will drive healthy parenting! Healthy marriages will determine healthy homes. Our kids will flourish if our marriages flourish. We must fight for this in our homes. For God’s glory, ultimately, but also for the good of every single person in our home

Children: Fitting In vs Standing Out

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There is a statement I've heard frequently over the years in many Christian circles: "We are in the world but not of the world!" It is derived from Jesus' high priestly prayer to the Father in John 17:

"They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world...As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world." (17:16, 18)

This statement will always be helpful for followers of Jesus because we live in the tension of a fallen world and a glorious eternity and God desires for us to be faithful ambassadors and stewards of the good news while we are on this earth.

Sadly, it seems as though the modern westernized Christian parent has taken a few too many licentious liberties with this whole bit of being "in the world" and as a result, we are raising little cultural carbon copies of the world's version of a child. We have become bent on keeping-up-with-the-Jones's rather than fighting against the "Jones's" by teaching our kids what it looks like to say, as the Apostle Paul stated (the Paul who probably was beheaded by Nero in 66AD): "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is my gain!" (Phil. 1:21)

Whether through entertainment (i.e. pop culture, music, television, movies, and the internet), multi-media (i.e. phones, tablets, and all the latest gadgets), or extracurricular activities (i.e. youth sports and after school programs), we have overwhelmingly decided as parents that we would rather our kids blend in, to mirror the status quo, rather than stick out - not for the sake of being different, but for the sake of being like Christ so that others may know Christ!

A recent statement made by author and speaker Jen Wilkin helped to get to the bottom of this issue when she said something to the effect of this: As parents who love Jesus, we need to trade the COMFORT of our children fitting in for the CALLING of them standing out.

Why do we choose to blend our children into culture rather than have them stick out? Because it's too risky and costly to do otherwise. After all, our children are already fragile and vulnerable, right? Why would we want to potentially expose them even more by teaching them to stand out? This thought is scary. So we instead choose comfort, convenience, and ease.

When we do this, we forget who our children are as followers of Jesus. According to Jesus, they (and we) are salt, light, cities on hills, and lamps in rooms (see Matthew 5:13-16). They are not garden variety needles in haystacks, fish in great big oceans, minions in a crowd of minions, or grains of sand on a beach.

By (spiritual) nature, they are designed to stand out. If you are not convinced at this point, consider the imagery used by the Psalmist in Psalm 127: "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth
." Arrows are designed to be felt by whatever their target is. Our goal isn't to reproduce and subsequently send out safe children in a safe world. Rather, our goal is to (by the grace of God) forge and refine and reproduce razor-sharp kids who know how to love Jesus and love their world well and to send them out to make huge dents in it.

Why should we want our children to stand out rather than fit in? Jesus answers this in Matthew 5:16: "let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

The world needs the hope of Jesus and our kids can and will bring that hope to the world!

My Child's Faith And An Avocado

One of my favorite so-called super foods is Avocado. I love Avocados, mostly because they are the key ingredient to Guacamole, so maybe I should be honest and say that I love Guacamole. 

But I have beef with Avocados and no, it's not because they are a vegetable (so no pun intended here). There is however this undergirding question whose answer seemingly continues to perplex the most ardent avocado lover: How can a person know without a doubt that an avocado is ripe?

[If THIS "How to know" list doesn't prove my point to the confusion and difficulty that surrounds the answer, I quit. I mean seriously with #3 on the list? "Gently squeeze the fruit. It should not be too hard or too mushy." What in the world!? Honestly, the above list should just say bluntly: "The way to know an avocado is ripe BE OMNISCIENT!"]

To be perfectly candid, as a parent, my child's faith/walk with God/love for God is a lot like an avocado. With all three of my children (who by the way have all made a profession of faith in Jesus), it has been difficult at times to determine whether they possess a genuine belief in Jesus (AKA, if they are ripe), or if they have yet to be saved. I (figuratively) "gently squeeze" their little hearts to see if there are any signs of a sincere love for Jesus and quite often, all I get are self-absorbed-filled hard moments where they seem to only be fighting for their kingdom to come and for their will to be done.

That said, it becomes increasingly tricky when you throw baptism (believer's baptism - nothing against baby baptisms here, just need to pick a side for the sake of the post) and communion into the conversation. A couple FAQ's I receive monthly are: "When is my child ready for baptism?" and "When can my child take communion?" Many parents struggle to find the answers and lean heavy towards not encouraging their child's child-like faith (ironically) for the sake of making sure there is enough evidence to validate their child being baptized.

Parents, it seems we are holding our children to an unBiblical and unOrthodox standard where their faith becomes based upon their merit and baptism or communion are viewed as religious stepping-off points or rites of passage which our kids must work towards as signs they are growing in their "walks" with Jesus. If this is our reality, we are greatly mistaken.

So when will we ever know our kids are saved and they are ripe to take communion and be baptized into their local church? The quick answer is this: You will never really know. And now that I have riveted you with that hope-filled answer, allow me to provide further clarification by giving you a few thoughts as you navigate through this difficult subject:

1. Only God really knows. So let him do His job. He is the author and perfecter of our children's faith (Hebrews 12:2), therefore it is God who alone saves them and it is God alone who knows whom He has saved (Acts 15:8).

2. But we can know too. There are tangible markers that point to a genuine faith of our children (In fact, there are more than a few passages in Scripture that clearly communicate this. See John 13:35 and Galatians 5:22-23).

3. If your child desires to confess, profess, and declare Jesus as Savior, run with it. Contrary to popular westernized-cultural Christianity (AKA, your Sunday school teacher as a kid), there is no secret, magical prayer in which we "ask Jesus into our hearts." The saving work alone belongs to God (Isaiah 43:11). We don't invite Jesus into our hearts. He invites us to come to him (Matt. 11:28).  But there is something to be said about a confession from our child's mouth, welling up from a heart that has been granted the faith to trust Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9). Don't overcomplicate this. If your child desires for Jesus to save them, go with it. Celebrate it. Make much of it. And use it as a springboard to a (hopeful) life-long adventure of your child loving Jesus.

4. Since you don't understand everything about God, please don't place this expectation on your child. Often times we expect our children to be able to comprehend and communicate the intricacies of God, the Bible, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. But have you figured it all out yet? Have you arrived? Consider Romans 11:34: "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" Truth is, none of us will ever fully figure out God and His redemptive plan (this side of glory), but does your child have a basic understanding of God's character (i.e. His preeminence, His massivity, His authority, His love, His grace)? And does your child have a basic understanding of their sin and the consequences of their sin (what it is and what it leads to)? Finally, does your child have a basic understanding of their need for a Savior and that their hope can only be in Jesus to save them? Then, they are exactly where God wants them to be. Correct me if I'm wrong but God says a lot about the faith of a child in Scripture (Matt 18:3)?

5. Nothing can ever separate your child from God's love. Call me covenantal, but I wholeheartedly believe that if parents love Jesus, chances are their kids will too (that God's promise to save you and your spouse is also for your children). This is a truism, so it isn't 100% fool proof. But if God has extended his love for you and for your children, nothing can ever get in the way of that; not evil, sin, Satan, death, hell, you, or your children. NOTHING! Whether or not you think your child is "ready" for baptism and communion has no bearing on God's great love for them. But baptism and communion are great opportunities to remind your child of God's great love for them.

Ultimately, since the ordinances/sacraments of baptism and communion are signs, pointing to Jesus' great love for His followers, and saved people participate in them, and if your child has been saved by the grace of Jesus, please let them participate in them if they so desire. Don't hold your child back from obeying Jesus. Encourage obedience and instill in their little life at an early age that doing what Jesus says (namely to "be baptized" and "remember often" Him through the bread and cup) is the most important decision they could ever make.

How To Vacation Well

Okay, I need to be honest with you. My dream family vacation isn't Disney World (or Land). I grew up an hour away from D-Land in SoCal and never drank the Kool-Aid. I have lived an hour away from D-World in Tampa these past 8 years and haven't gone one time. Not once! I know, I know... This is appalling and I need to immediately repent for my gross indiscretion towards my 3 kids by robbing them of experiencing the "happiest place on earth."


I can continue to not sweat (literally) braving the long lines, encountering creepy grown men in halloween costumes (still my daughter's greatest fear in life), or losing my entire life's savings on ONE DAY of sort-of fun. 

If Disney is how you and your family love to vacation, great (it just isn't our cup of tea)! But odds are, even if it is, you probably need some other options (because too much of a good thing makes it an awful thing, and I could see Disney easily falling into that category...I kid;).

After 10 years of vacationing trial and error, our family has learned a lot about what works and what doesn't so I thought I'd share a few thoughts to help you and your family as you continue to navigate how to vacation well. 

Allow me to keep it simple and straightforward through these 5 steps:

  1. Figure out the purpose and overall aim behind the vacation. No need to overcomplicate this but ask the question "Why?" Is this vacation for rest, adventure, casual sight-seeing, crazy fast-paced fun, visiting family, etc...? It's hard to accomplish all of those things in one fail swoop so narrow the focus and lower the expectations. 
  2. Understand that vacationing is an opportunity for normal life rhythms to be interrupted so that we can be reminded of God's glory. Breaking the cycle of normal rhythms and routines is always good (if even for a day or two). We can view vacationing as a way to Sabbath. The Sabbath Day wasn't necessarily about not working (although that was a bi-product). It was an opportunity to take a break from the norm in order to remember who is in charge of the universe and to behold God's glory and to be attentive to him.
  3. Figure out what your family enjoys doing the most together. So many of us fall into the trap of doing what everyone around us is doing. We think that if the masses love Disney or cruises or theme parks, that our families will likewise love those things. What is life-giving to YOUR family? Road trips, the beach, the mountains, theme parks, stay-cations, resorts, etc...? Figure this out and you've won 99% of the battle.
  4. Realize that vacationing well doesn't have to involve spending a ton of money. With current low gas prices, a road trip to a fun new destination (a few hours away from home) is a great option. Your family can find a great, cheap place to stay using sites like AirBNB. Typically there are a myriad of free things to do at any travel destination and you can use your family's normal monthly budget to pay for expenses on the trip (groceries, gas, eating out, entertainment etc.). Some of my family's greatest vacationing moments happened for example in the back yard of our Air BNB home over a game of Jenga, or in the car on a road trip, or on a porch swing in a cabin in the woods, or on a hike in the Rocky mountains, or over a game of corn hole on the beach. The best moments aren't necessarily the most expensive moments. They are the priceless moments that no money could ever buy.
  5. Realize that vacationing isn't necessarily about your comfort, conveniences, and desires. Our default is to glamorize vacations and place them in a tidy box with a nifty bow on top. We view them as self-serving opportunities. Honestly, vacations aren't about us. Heck, they aren't even for us. They are ABOUT God's glory and FOR our families and the more we understand this, the more we will begin to get the most out of them (and God is so gracious to give us moments of rest, solace, and convenience because He's good like that).

So much more could be said from the practical side of things, but in order for us to serve you and your particular needs, we need your feedback. Would you mind commenting below about things that you've learned over the years, as well as any questions you might have at this point. We would love to serve you by helping you navigate through your questions, thoughts, and concerns on how to redeem vacationing. Thanks!

Summer: An Opportunity To Love Your Neighbor

There is something very striking about the thought that loving our neighbor is interwoven all throughout the Bible. Moses mentions it in Leviticus 19. Jesus called it the second greatest commandment after loving God. The Apostle Paul even connects three of the ten commandments to neighbor love in Romans 13:9:

"For the commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,' and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” 


Here's a fact: God is almost just as much about us loving our neighbors as he is about us loving him.

This is massive!

In fact, at the very heart of the gospel is neighbor love. Jesus became humanity's neighbor by invading our world (uninvited - but after all, he did create it, so...), took on flesh, and then committed the most ultimate act of neighbor love on the cross. The way the world saw Jesus (their new neighbor) was the way we see the worst neighbor we've ever had (and we've all had some bad neighbors; okay, maybe we were the bad neighbors but I've digressed). We hated Jesus. His response? He loved us first before ever demanding we love him in return. Essentially, humanity was the worst neighbor ever. And Jesus, He was the ultimate neighbor!


So what are the implications of Jesus' neighbor-loving ways?

1. Jesus died for our inability to be good neighbors (holy, just, righteous, pure, perfect). That takes off all the pressure.

2. Jesus gave us a standard by which to live. Where our neighbor love tends to be extended towards those around us who are just like us, Jesus set a precedent for loving the unloveable, the marginalized, the outcasts - you know, all the people that make us feel super uncomfortable (which is everyone if you are an introvert like me:). Consider this quote by Tim Keller:

"We instinctively tend to limit for whom we exert ourselves. We do it for people like us, and for people whom we like. Jesus will have none of that. By depicting a Samaritan helping a Jew, Jesus could not have found a more forceful way to say that anyone at all in need - regardless of race, politics, class, and religion - is your neighbor. Not everyone is your brother or sister in faith, but everyone is your neighbor, and you must love your neighbor."

3. Jesus gave us His Holy Spirit to not only teach us about neighbor love (John 14:26) but also to empower us to obey Jesus' teaching (Acts 1:8), or what I like to call dominating Jesus' teaching (by his grace of course!).


The point is pretty clear: This whole neighbor loving thing is a big deal!


The New City Catechism (which I highly recommend) focuses on neighbor love from a heart level while presenting and teaching those tricky final six of THE Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20). By the way, this is such a refreshing approach to something that cultural Christianity for decades has flannel-graphed (if you were born in the 70's or 80's) us into believing that God is about better morals and behavior modification. 

Those tricky six commandments (honor mom and dad, don't kill, don't sleep with someone else's spouse, don't steal, don't lie, and don't want something that isn't yours) have so much more to do with your neighbor than they do you. As God has loved us, we in turn WILL love him AND love others...more than ourselves. It really is that simple.


That said, let me get to the real point of this post... 

Summer provides yet another grand opportunity for us to love our neighbors well. With all of the activity that we have going on this summer, one of the greatest gifts we can give to our kids especially is to provide them with opportunities that remind them this life isn't about them, but rather God's glory and other's good.

If Jesus has cornered the market on our hearts, and we truly believe he is the hope of the world, then we will take our families on a constant neighbor-loving adventure with the goal that those around us, in our spheres of life and influence will see, know, and experience his great love for them, through our love towards them.


With the help of my friend Kristin Postlethwait, here is a list of ideas for you to love your neighbors well this summer:

  • Go on a prayer walk. Be out in the neighborhood and pray for your neighbors as you pass their houses. Pray for God to use your family to make Him famous in your neighborhood.
  • Play outside as a family and invite neighborhood kids to join you—keep bottled waters on hand to offer them or maybe even some popsicles.
  • Have a few neighbors over for dessert and games—invite them to bring some of their favorite games.
  • Host a neighborhood potluck—this is fairly easy because you don’t even have to clean your house! Just set up tables outside and ask everyone to bring a dish to share. You can provide paper products and drinks.
  • Host a driveway happy hour and tell people to "BYOB."
  • Take meals to neighbors who are sick or have had a new baby, etc.
  • Deliver cookies, muffins, or other baked goodies to new neighbors.
  • Water plants, watch pets, get mail, and mow the lawn when neighbors go on vacation.
  • Invite neighbors to do things you are interested in (organize a fishing derby, a 3-on-3 drive way basketball tournament, or a little girl's tea party).
  • Organize a book club for the neighborhood kids that are your kid's age.
  • Visit Shriner’s Hospital each month to do crafts with the kids at the outpatient center.
  • Help with local a food pantry.
  • Visit a nursing home.

Those are a few ideas! Would love to hear your ideas so please comment below.

10 Lessons Learned in 10 Years As A Parent

In honor of my 10th year parenting anniversary this past weekend (my first born son turned ten), I thought it would be good to write down 10 of the most significant lessons I’ve learned about fatherhood/parenting during the past 10 years.


1. The early years are the hardest.

  • Now I don't know what it is like to raise teenagers (for those of you who have done so or are doing so, please enlighten me) but most of the feelings of despair, inadequacy, and failure as a father happened during the first 3 years of my child's life and really during the first six months. Something remarkable happened when all of my kids turned 4 - like the old had passed away and all things had become new. Hang in there parents of toddlers.

2. Discipline can and should be an opportunity for grace.

  • The key to discipline is consistency, truth, and grace. There is no grander opportunity to teach your child about their depravity and the consequences of their depravity than during discipline. Most dads swing between the imbalance of being too harsh (I’ve been here many times) or too lenient (little to no boundaries). There is also (more importantly) no greater opportunity to point your child to Jesus than during discipline. Your child needs to to know when they are wrong. More importantly, they need to know who has taken their wrongs to the cross and paid for them all.

3. Lead out in repentance as often as you sin.

  • This was a game-changer in our home. In my spiritual blindness early on in my marriage and my son’s life, I was under the impression that I always needed to be right. And if I made a mistake, it was someone else’s fault, or, there was some justification for it so I would minimize it. Nothing softens my son’s heart more than when I come to him and say “Daddy is sorry, Drew. Daddy needs Jesus just as much as you do. Daddy was wrong and he needs Jesus so that he can be forgiven and changed.” In my mind, nothing points my family to Jesus more in our home than when I own up to my sin and express my need for Jesus.

4. Don’t fit your child into the mold you think they need to fit into.

  • The sayings "Apple doesn't fall too far from the tree" and "Chip off the old block" are generally true in principle but not when it comes to specific application. Your child will be a lot like you in a lot of different ways, but maybe not in some of the ways that you desire for them to be. Your job isn't to raise carbon copies of yourself. Your job is to raise Jesus-loving arrows, sent out to the world to do damage for God's glory and the good of the world.

5. Tell your child every day that your greatest desire for them is to know and love Jesus.

  • This is one statement I am happily wearing out with all of my children. I even ask them frequently what is dad's greatest desire for them. They exuberantly reply, "That we love Jesus, daddy!"

6. Pray with, for, and over your children every single day.

  • I pray the same thing over my children. Every. Single. Night. And I've said it so often that when I get to that part in the prayer, my kids know it's coming and say it out loud with me. It's the best. The prayer goes something like this: "Jesus, as you continue to pursue these kids with your love and grace, may they in turn grow up to know you and love you with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength!"

7. Be their parent, not their best friend.

  • I want so badly for Drew (my oldest) to be my best friend as he gets older. If I’m going to be honest, sometimes I parent him as a friend rather than a son. He needs a dad, not another friend (he has plenty of those). God gave me him to be his dad first and foremost. What I’m learning is that we are becoming better friends as a result of me being his dad first.

8. Parenting doesn't happen in a vacuum.

  • In my pride early on as a parent, I didn't think I needed anyone's help. I thought I could figure everything out on my own. There is so much to be learned from those that have come before us, even our own parents. To think that parenting can happen outside of any outside influences is foolishness. Ask questions to those who have beaten the parenting path. They can offer you so much.

9. Your spouse comes before your child.

  • I wish this was too obvious to have to state, but it isn't. In my own experiences, parenting tends to feel easier than marriage (even though it isn't). We have different expectations of our children than we do our spouses. We tend to dole out more grace to our children than we do our spouse. Please, please, please don't neglect your relationship with your spouse when the kids come because it will be easy to do.

10. Parenting is about Jesus more than it is me or my kid.

  • This is the most important lesson I've learned hands down. With everything in my life, I tend to want to make it about me. The same goes for parenting. I distort this very good gift and instead view parenting as a way to play god, to feel validated, to receive love, to exercise authority, to have control, and to look successful. Heck, I even make my kids themselves my idol as if they can satisfy my deep longings for love and acceptance. The truth is that they are very terrible gods, almost as awful as I am. Within all of those unhealthy desires, there will always be breakdowns which means I need a greater desire. a greater goal: Jesus. And the more I make my parenting about Jesus and His glory, the more joy, peace, and security I experience in my parenting.