Gospel Centered Children

Excerpts from Raising Gospel Centered Children (by Luma Simms):
 "When Jesus instructs us to go out and make disciples of all nations, that includes our children -- our closest disciples."

"I was convinced that I had valued my children's well-being more than I had valued Jesus. I trembled at the realization that the comfort and safety (even the spiritual safety) of my children, had become more important to me than the person of Christ. Their 'godliness' was a higher priority in my own life than was Christ's glory."

"How do we set a good example of a disciple before the eyes of our children so they can emulate us? It's not about making Jesus our priority. It's about showing our children that our identity is in Christ."

Read the full article.

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Little Girl, Big Girl

Still a kid!
On August 16, my wife posted on Facebook:

"Love 10 year old girls who still like to play dress up!"

(Joanna had invited over a handful of girls that we've come to know through camps and after school programs.)

Then, on August 20, she posted:

"Thinking how different today would be if I was sending my oldest off to middle school and my youngest to Kindergarten. It's a weird feeling and it makes me glad we are home schooling all together."

Today, Hannah is 11 years old. Not fully a child, not yet a woman. What an interesting phase.

She still likes to dress up, play with Lego bricks, and make "fairy houses" outside. But she is more into shopping and clothes. But not boys, yet.

She can go from fun and playful and adventurous, while also occasionally becoming emotional and upset. (I guess she's not much different than her parents, huh?)

Adolescence is an interesting time. As the speaker in this video explains, during this phase the brain changes rapidly and immensely.

What does that mean for my dearest daughter? I think about the untapped potential that is within her brain, her heart, her soul.

I think about the culture's expectation that the teenage years are meant to be merely survived. But then I think about how so many mentors have shared that the teenage years are to be awaited for, not dreaded.

I think about how my role is shifting from director to coach, from giving commands to giving non-binding counsel. Not sure if I'm ready for this.

It must be a scary time for her. I know it is for me.

"Hannah" means grace. That's what she is to me -- God's gracious gift. She'll always be a treasured gift to me, and to others.

PS -- I've also decided (and warned Hannah) that 11 is the official age when I'm allowed to start embarrassing her in public. It's on.

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The Day of Atonement

The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur will begin on September 25, at sundown. The name translates as Day of Covering, and has to do with being covered and protected from the judgment of sin. Hence, it's often called "The Day of Atonement."

Though I am proudly Jewish, we don't observe every holiday. However, I do try to take moments to teach my kids the gospel through these times. For example, you can read about a time I taught my kids about Yom Kippur using stuffed animals.

Some Jewish and Gentile Christians believe that all Jewish feasts should be celebrated. I don't. For me, observing these holidays is one meaningful way to worship. And while these can be wonderful ways to draw near to God in intimacy, to proclaim that it's mandatory would be narrow-minded, if not legalistic.

To learn more, read Jesus and the Day of Atonement, on The Resurgence blog.

**image courtesy of Jimmy MacDonald via flickr

Boy, Have I Got Problems!

Are you consistent with Bible memorization? How about inductive Bible study?

I'm pretty good with the latter. I learned hermeneutics (the process of interpreting the Bible) from a guy who discipled me years ago. While I do less Bible study and more reading today, I still enjoy breaking down Scripture passages to understand them better.

But when it comes to Bible memorization, I've been pretty slack. When I was in college and even for a years afterward, I was much more diligent, having a system that helped me learn and review Bible verses. I even had about 75% of the book of James memorized.

I know it's important to hide God's word in my heart (Psalm 119:11), and to disciple my children to do the same. We did some when they were little, but have not stayed consistent.

That's why I'm excited about a book that we'll be going through with Hannah and Elijah this year. Boy, Have I Got Problems! is part of a series of inductive Bible studies for kids, by Kay Arthur and Janna Arndt.

This resource will guide our kids in studying of the book of James. The book is broken down into seven weeks of material (five days per week), and is set up to help a child memorize key passages from this book. Based on a plan suggested by our homeschool material, we will alter this plan slightly:

  1. We will stretch out the material over the entire school year.
  2. We will have them memorize the entire book of James.
Of course, Joanna and I will be going through the material with them, and will also be memorizing James. We're looking forward to growing in our knowledge and love of God's word, together.

Looking for a resource to help your children grow in Christ? Get a copy of this book (one for each child) today!

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The Strength of Disability

Many people would look at a teenager who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and see a lack of social skills. However, researchers have shown that by focusing on strengths (high intelligence, special interests, etc), "these adolescents are as capable as anyone else of forging strong friendships."

And check out this video, where Julie explains how her extra chromosome is a God-given blessing:

And it's not just that a disability can be an advantage for an individual. Justin Taylor reminds us that through disability, God shows that His power, glory, and grace are magnified.
"I believe a 'theology of brokenness' is desperately needed today—a theology that exalts the preeminence of God while underscoring his mercy and compassion to the frail and brokenhearted."

And I'm thankful for a churches like Grace Church that have special needs ministries, and for ministries like The Inclusive Church that equip many others.

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What God Expects from Me as a Dad

For such a large book, the Bible gives surprisingly few direct commands regarding being a father. But one warning sticks out for sure. This command is so important that God gives versions of it in two places:
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart." (Colossians 3:21)

"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)
What does it mean to exasperate or provoke my children? Those are things I do to cause them to feel discouraged, to look at life and to have a loss of hope, and to miss the truth about our Heavenly Father.

Parenting Pitfalls

In Parenting Pitfalls, Dave Bruskas gives "two main ways that Christian dads discourage their kids: being permissive and being perfectionistic" (emphasis mine).

The Permissive Dad

"The permissive dad tries to love his kids without correction. He is an enabler who fails to confront sin and foolishness. He never employs hard consequences for disobedience.

"His children, despite his best intention towards the contrary, feel unloved. They will commonly rebel just to get a reaction from dad. . . . And when dad refuses to act, the child refuses to believe he really loves him or her.

"In this way earthly fathers distort the view of our heavenly Father."

The Perfectionist Dad

"The perfectionist dad tries to correct his kids without love. He is controlling and overcorrects his kids for failure or immaturity. . . . 

"His kids may exhibit outward signs of compliance, but their hearts are hard and moved by fear instead of love. They too rebel in hopes that dad will love them no matter what. And when he doesn't, his children conclude that dad won't ever love them.

"In this way, earthly fathers distort the view of our heavenly Father."

A Distortion of the Gospel

Bruskas continues to explain that, by being permissive or perfectionist, we are not only missing a chance to point to the truth of our Father, but that we also miss the truth of the gospel for ourselves. If we are lean towards permissiveness, we believe in the false gospel of licentiousness. And if we lean towards perfectionism, we believe in the false gospel of legalism.

So if the choice is to be either perfectionist or permissive, choose the gospel. And when we fail to parent our children under the truth of the gospel, "model the work of the gospel in your life by confessing to your children your sins and asking for their forgiveness. . . . As a father, you want to point your children to Jesus by sharing your life and trusting in him. Share your life and how Jesus has forgiven you and changed your life with them."

Be sure to read the entire article.

Greater Expectations

 Beyond these gospel truths, you may be wanting some more concrete ideas about what God expects from you. Here are 5 Things God Expects from Every Dad, by Chris Sprad:
  1. Insane patience
  2. Intentional forgetfulness
  3. Create peace
  4. Fun
  5. Be a father
The first one is the toughest for me. I think if I was more insanely patient, I would do better in the other 4 categories.

But then again, even being insanely patient should be a result of my growth in Christ and dependence on Him. I need to keep the gospel at the forefront, so that all the "good fruits" are a result of the gospel changing my life. Yes, I need to be patient, forgiving, peaceful, etc, but these attitudes should be the results of the Spirit's work in my life.

Because above all else, do you know what God expects most of all for me as a Dad? That I would be grow in my walk with Him.

Related Link:

**image courtesy of agastecheg via sxc.hu

Time Flies: Birth to 12 Years in Less Than 3 Minutes

Have you ever seen a great idea and wish you had done that? In this video below, a dad filmed his daughter every week, from infancy until she turned 12 years old. Check it out:

Of course, I wish I had done that. But then again, we were using 35 mm film, and an camcorder, until we bought our first digital camera in November (Black Friday!) 2006.

Our "little" girl will be 11 later this month. So many great memories recorded on my brain! We're blessed to have her.

When Hannah was about 2, a mentor mentioned something about keeping a journal for each of his kids. I did start them with her, thankfully. I write at least once per month about what's going on in her life, and things we're seeing in her. She's read them a few times (I think I'm on the 4th journal by now), but I still consider them "mine." I suppose we'll give them as a gift to her at some point down the road.

What's you favorite way to keep memories of your kids? Scrapbook, journals, etc.

5 Inspiring Articles from Family Matters

 Some great articles from Family Matters:

Based on Matthew 3:17 . . .
  1. "You are my son (or daughter)."
  2. "I love you."
  3. "I am proud of you."

Raising Kids for True Greatness

A review of Tim Kimmel's book. The main point is found in this quote from the book:
"Life isn’t about you. It’s not about our children or our plans for them. It is 100 percent about God. It’s all about God and His plan for us."

10 Ways to Be a Great Church Member

I'm usually not a big fan of to-do lists like this, as I find they can easily become part of a works-based theology for heart change. However, I think there are some good principles, such as:
  • Bring your Bible and follow along with the sermon
  • Pray for the church leaders
  • Don't participate in public criticisms of your church leaders. Rise above gossip.
  • Make church about what you can give, not get


A Mother Who Knows Nothing

Do you ever feel like you are parenting all wrong? Do you live with guilt and regret? Do you ever feel inadequate to live out God's call as a parent? This post is for you.


Top 10 Ways to Be a Great Neighbor

Important lessons that we are learning about community and engaging our culture (such as in Don't Try to Have It All Together):
  • Be a good friend to all your neighbors, not just the ones who are like you.
  • Be quick to serve your neighbors.
  • Refuse to get pulled into gossip.
  • Refuse to play the comparison game.

You can also see some other posts from Family Matters that I've referenced before:

Favorite Tweets for August

School has started in our neck of the woods. Lots of learning going on!

Here are some top tweets from August -- from others and from moi.

From Others

@JamieTheVWMMinistry in the suburbs is challenging. Everyone here is surrounded by shiny new stuff, so it's hard to see the Light.

@FrankieBoyleI don't see why the last day of the Olympics shouldn't be all the gold medalists playing dodgeball till we have an ultimate champion

@mitchmillermeNothing will leave you friendless faster than making sure you get credit for everything.

@compassionDo the people in your community know why your church exists? #wcagls | A good question to regularly ask

@myBR1DGE:  All it takes is one caring adult to get the most out of a young person.

@mdroysterLet passion energize & sustain you. Give it all you've got one step at a time. Focus on small victorys & the the big win will come. 

@theHSHproject:  If you don't think it's hard to follow Jesus . . . then you might not be following Jesus.

My Tweets (@EspinosaJoey)

Thunderstorm knocked out 20% of the traffic lights in #AllendaleSC. Fortunately, the other 4 are still working.

My wife is out of town. This is my dinner.

Loved watching this video with my kids! The LEGO Story.

"As much as we want God to explain himself to us, we are in no place to demand that He give an account to us." Francis Chan 

"I never have to do a moment's labor to gain or maintain my justified status before God!" Milton Vincent

"Short-term mission trips will not evangelize the world. [Churches need] a long-term presence on the ground." Zane Pratt