Favorite Tweets for February

Two days with 500+ leaders who love Jesus

It's been a busy and fun month. We spent time from Asheville, NC to Savannah, GA. And a bunch of places in between. Mostly in Allendale, of course.

Here are some of my favorite tweets from the past month. You can follow me (@EspinosaJoey) to keep up.

From Others:

@travisroIt's easy to tell people about your goals. It's much harder to actually go do something to move you toward them.

@BoAyers_Live Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that its stupid. Einstein

@ChrchCurmudgeon Signed B. Jones - Corinth Baptist Academy - 6'0" 185. School record 4,237 yards ushing. Aisle run - 4.2 sec.

@GraceChurchCMBe a vehicle that God can use for heart change in the life of a child.

@LACavinDon't be self-satisfied with where we are now. Have a vision for the gospel lived out in the next generation.

@sydleetInstead of getting me something for valentines days..mom gave me $6.

@PastorTullianTo focus on how I'm doing more than what Christ has done is "Christian" narcissism.

@Gospel_ProjectGod is bringing back the humanity that our sin has broken. He is restoring to us our created state as authentic humans who bear His image.

@anonbaptist:  Condemning sin outside the church but not confronting sin inside the church.  

@FirstWorldPainsI have too many videos on my youtube feed.


From Me:

Day 9: Spent the weekend with 500 people who lead b/c they love Jesus.

"Parents - Is your focus on your family, or on the kingdom of God?" Bill White

Job was blessed, & he blessed others (Job 29:1-17). May the same be true of me.

Want to reduce aggression in teenagers? Teach them that people CAN change.

How to Make Disciples. // "The of Jesus Christ is the answer to absolutely every question and problem of life." 

Elijah & I at our first event. Kids here have amazing talent & creativity!

One Small Thing: Photo-a-Day

I was late on the Instagram move. I thought it would be complicated (as most technology is to me), but I've found it be easy and helpful.

It's so easy, even a blind man can do it.

As you may remember, I made it a goal for 2013 to do one new thing every month. For January, I forsook sugar (mostly). And this month, I took a picture every day.

To see the month of pictures, you can see this album on Facebook, follow me on Instagram (joeyespinosa), and/or follow me on Twitter (espinosajoey).

What I Enjoyed About This

What will I remember from February? That we cris-crossed the state in style! Early in the month, we were in Hilton Head, and then Asheville, NC five days later. And towards the end of the month, I was in Aiken (SC), Lexington (SC), and Savannah (GA) in the same weekend. Tiring, but fun.

I also loved the feeling of anticipation, from myself and from my family. I was regularly asked, "Did you get your photo for the day?"

I can look back on these photos and remember the moments.

March Small Thing

Next month, I'll be back on a fitness-related goal. I want do 5000 push-ups in March. I just have to do 162 each day.

Even more, I want to try some different kinds of push-ups. This video shows 25 kinds of push-ups, with increasing difficulty. I wonder what level I can get to?

How about you? Are you keeping up with any goals? What's on your list?

Are You a Presumptuous Parent?

A much-needed word of caution from David Murray:
"You don’t need to believe in infant baptism to risk falling into the presumption that if you do x, z, and z, your children will be saved."

What are the risks of this formulaic thinking?

Damage to the Parent

  1. Proud parents
  2. Sovereign parents
  3. Frustrated parents
  4. Despairing parents
  5. Harsh parents

Damage to Children

  1. Proud children
  2. Unevangelized children
  3. Vulnerable children
  4. Joyless children
  5. Mislabeled childrn

For a more complete explanation of each of these points, and to learn about a more optimistic, gospel-centered way to parent, read the full article.
"My hope is not in my flawed covenant-keeping, my faulty educating, or my fail-filled child-training. My hope is in my merciful Savior sovereignly blessing His Gospel promises to the salvation of my children."

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 **image courtesy of lokaltog via sxc.hu

How to Teach Your Children to Be Missional

A few weeks ago, I was able to attend a leaders retreat with Grace Church. It was a wonderful time of fellowship, rest, envisioning, and worship.

But do you what struck me most when I sat in that room, worshiping and soaking up truth? Here are over 500 people who lead others simply because they love Jesus.

And as parents, don't we want the same?

You want your children to love Jesus, and to grow in Christ. You want them to be His disciples, and for them to live for His kingdom. But what does that look like?

On my other blog, Mission: Allendale, I've written some posts on this very topic. Here are three recent ones that you should check out:
Missional Kids.  A series of short videos by Paul Tripp that will challenge and encourage you.

6 Ways to Be Missional in 2013Some ideas for how you can model a missional lifestyle, and how your children can join in.

Your Life Is Not About You; It's About JesusA post that I adapted from a talk I gave to a church youth group.

Other Related Links:

What Concepts About Sharing Can My Toddler Understand?

Here's a question I got from a mom recently, on the heels of the Christmas season:
Our older son (age 4) will be playing with a toy, and his younger sibling (17 months) becomes interested and tries to play with it at the same time, or sometimes just takes it. Older brother starts to whine, since we've taught him not to take something out of someone else's hands. What concepts are they old enough to understand?
Sometimes I try to coach the older boy through possible solutions (play with it where his brother can't reach it, get him interested in another toy, or share the toy), but others I just step in and take it back from one and return it to the other. Sometimes if I get one interested in another toy, the other boy ends up coming over and wanting to play with that toy. I figure I need a consistent approach, but haven't settled on what it is.

The Guilty Parties

Ah, yes. Sibling squabbles. Brotherly rivalry. This case is not the first, and won't be the last.>

Obviously, there are two separate people we are dealing with here. We have to consider each child separately, and engage their individual hearts and souls. One way I have been lazy as a parent in the past (and I still err in this way) is by treating my kids as the same.

(And, of course, we should also consider the parents' hearts, since parenting is not just about kids. But it's discomforting to think that our kids' issues might be our fault, so we'll leave the parents out of it for now.)

I think that this mom is using some good strategies. Usually removal of one of the boys from the situation, and distracting them with someone else, can avoid or solve many of the problems.

But in both cases (and when it comes in our own hearts), we have to remember to look beyond the behavior, and to address the heart issue. Yes, we'll deal with the behavior, but we also have to try to discern the motivations of the heart.

Leading Your Preschooler

For the older child, I think for him the heart issue is not about being fair, but about him being will to put aside his own desires for the sake of loving his brother. He may be a little on the younger side to fully grasp this, but I think it's important for him to begin to understand (as best he can) the concepts of idolatry and worship.

When he whines about his brother taking his toy, he is worshiping himself, and putting his own desires ahead of his brothers', who was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). When he cares about a toy more than his brother, that is sin.

That's a heavy concept, but I think you can incorporate terms like "love," "sin," "worship," etc., in this context. You are teaching him the gospel -- helping him understand that his heart is sinful, and that's why Jesus had to die on the Cross.

Engaging Your Toddler 

The younger child may be a little tougher in some aspects, but you are right that it's so important to be consistent. At his age, it's more of a basic concept of "be kind" than it is trying to help him understand his heart. He may need removal from the situation if he is repeatedly not being kind. And yes, he will often whine.

In both cases, I think it's important to use regular language (kindness, sin, worship, etc). Even if they don't understand it, it lays a groundwork for future conversations about the gospel.

And that's what you as a parent have to understand about this matter. This is not a one-time issue or conversation. This is a multi-year process of discipling your child.

That's tough for me; I'd rather just have one conversation lecture, but I think that's how God is working on my heart. He shows me how weak and unwise I am as a parent, to remind me how much I need a Savior.

What counsel would you give this parent?

(If you have any parenting-related questions, please email me.)

Related Links:
**image courtesy of criscris1 via sxc.hu

"What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?"

What do you want to be when you grow up?

It's the most common discussion-prompting question for young children. I use it; you probably have, too. This inquiry helps you peak into the heart of a child, and helps give them hopeful dreams.

But how do you respond when they answer doctor, basketball player, princess, or astronaut? Do you encourage them with, "You can be anything you want!" Or do you crush them with, "That probably won't happen."

I have to walk this line between loving encouragement and realistic guidance with my own kids. I've had to walk this line when youth in Allendale ask me why I didn't play pro football; (I barely played in college!). I've had to walk this line when a 6th grader whose grades have been steadily dropping over the years tells me she wants to be a doctor.

I like how Nicole Cottrell puts it in You CANNOT Be Anything You Want:
While the notion of telling children that they can be anything sounds wonderful, it actually does more harm. My generation heard some of that message, but more and more children today are being bombarded with the “you can achieve all things” mantra. . . .

The child who enters the workplace post-college, with something to prove after years of being essentially lied to and told he can do anything, will all too quickly crumble under the weight and responsibility of life when they realize that they are just like everyone else.
I saw this when I was in college. I saw so many driven students who knew that they wanted to be chemists and doctors and musicians and professional athletes. Except many of them didn't really want to. They were expected to.

And I saw many crumble under the burden of these expectations that they carried for years. Some burned out before they finishing school. Some (fortunately for them) broke down and changed their paths and dreams. Some lasted only a year or two in graduate school or jobs.

I am all about us knowing and living out our strengths. But we also need to know and rejoice in our weaknesses, the areas in which we are not so good. Why?

Because in our strengths it is easy for us to receive praise (no matter how much we say, "I want to thank God . . ."). But in the areas that we struggle, that is where others know that God alone must receive the glory.
And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake ; for when I am weak, then I am strong."   (II Corinthians 12:9-1)

As we are trying to disciple our children, we have to help them realize that not only is it OK to be weak and needy, but that weakness is a GOOD thing. To believe that I can do anything leaves no room for the gospel to work in my life each day.

Edit: On the same day I published this, Jon Acuff posted Never Give Up On Your Dreams, Unless...

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**image courtesy of redvisualg via sxc.hu

EOL: Lego and God the Creator

An Everyday Object Lesson (EOL) is a tool that uses ordinary things in life to explain spiritual concepts. They are often useful to explain truths to children. However, one must also be clear that analogies are never perfect explanations. I will do a series of posts using EOL’s that I’ve used with my children, and I hope you can modify these to fit your context, and use them to disciple your own children. 

Our kids are amassing quite the Lego collection. Their enjoyment of these toys began many moons ago, with my parents giving us a bin of my old Lego bricks and people. And over the years, they have received and bought many more sets.

Inspired by other Bible Stories made from Legos, they have made Christmas and Easter scenes. We love looking at incredible creations, like ones in honor of MC Escher. And on multiple occasions, we've even had to take away their Lego collection as consequences.

We were surprised that these toys led to a discussion of sexual relationships. But we were glad to use them as a means to introduce a foundational theological topic: God creates, owns, and rules.

The Object:  Lego Toys

Most children enjoy building and creating. And it's an opportunity to stretch one's imagination. With a bucket full of Lego bricks, you can build towns, re-create Bible stories, or conduct battles (I have two boys, after all).

When you fashion your scene out of Lego bricks, it's yours. You made it, you can change it, and you can destroy it when you're are weary of it.

You rule over your Lego creations. 

Let's pretend that your Lego person is real. You decide which pants and shirt she will have, which hat / hair will top it's pegged head. You put a tool or weapon or goblet in its two-fingered grip.

You set up a little town or area for your mini-figure. Give it a home, a car, a pet, and a chair with an umbrella.

But when you start to play with your little person, she complains and refuses to go along with what you want. As a matter of fact, she tries to tell you what to do! She says that you don't know how to do things right, and you don't know how to take care of her.

The Lesson:  God Creates, Owns, and Rules

Does your little friend have any right to tell the you "no" or to instruct you? Of course not! You are her creator. Without you, she would just be pieces in the bottom of a box. You made her, you gave her everything she needs (basically), and you care about her.

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”  Revelation 4:11

Of course, the same is true of our God. Since God created us and the world, He owns us and the world. And since He owns, He rules. In fancier terms, God is sovereign. And we should respond to His sovereign rule not with rebellion, but with worship.

Likewise, because God rules and owns, we know that He will take care of us and sustain us. Just as God provides for the birds of air and for the fields (Matthew 6:25-34), He will provide for us. And we should respond to His provision not with worry, but with trust.

God is Creator, the sovereign provider. We are to worship and trust Him.

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