Must-Read Parenting Articles

I read, saved, and re-read each of these articles. My intention was to write a blog post on each one. But my bookmarked list kept growing longer and longer.

So I scrapped the original idea, and I'm linking them all here. These are GREAT articles on parenting with a focus on Jesus and the gospel. If you don't have time to read them all now, bookmark this page (or send it to yourself in an email -- you can use the button below this post), and come back to it later. 

Don't Waste Time with Your Children (Christina Fox, Desiring God). We don't own our time. Instead, we are stewards of it. Fox gives three things to think about regarding our brief time with our children. "Time is a strange thing. We can find ways to make things take less time. . . . But there is nothing we can do to manipulate or take control of time itself. . . . Let’s use the precious and limited time we have with our children by investing in their hearts."

10 Surefire Ways to Make Your Kids Hate Family Devotions (Jessica Thompson, The Resurgence).  And if you are going to redeem the time with your kids by teaching them the Bible (and you should), don't make these mistakes. "Family devotions are a good thing. They can be a means of grace to your entire family, but often we turn them into an idol."

6 Ways to Make Christ Central at Home (Alvin Reid, Gospel-Centered Discipleship). Reid uses Deuteronomy 6:6-9 as an outline for Christ-centered parenting. "How can you and your spouse make changes to cultivate a more Christ-centered home that, not only evangelizes your children but also your neighbors? The greatest missionary force in America today sleeps in our bedrooms. May we lead, teach, and equip them well."

Why Satan Hates Your Family (Tim Challies).  While part of this article is a warning against culture's influences, the main premise is bigger. What we need to do is not go into defense mode, but actively work to strengthen our own family, for the purposes of blessing the church and blessing the world.

5 Parenting Opportunities When Our Kids Sin (Andrew Weiseth, The Resurgence).  "Sinful behavior in our kids is not an opportunity to war against them. It is an opportunity to proclaim the gospel. We get to rejoice that God can take what was meant for evil and use it for good (Gen. 50:20)."

PS -- Besides saving this article for yourself, use one of these buttons below to share it with others.

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Write to Your Kids, in a Bible

I read Jonathan Parnell's idea -- Dads, Write in Your Bible -- a few months ago, and have been mulling it over since then.

The idea is to get a Bible for your child and make notes in it, as a way to pass on meditations, wisdom, and spiritual insight. I thought this would be another way to bless my children. And I have been taking notes in my own Bible for years now.

But I've been hesitant to start this. After all, Jonathan encourages us to do keep this project going for a long time, like at least 10 years. And that's where I shy away, thinking it's too late, since my kids are already ages 12, 10, and 7, and my thought would be to give this to them when they were teenagers or as a graduation present. Have I missed my window?

But then I figure, "Who says I have to do this project for that long? Or who says that I have to give it to them before they go off to college?" I need to remember that there are no firm "rules" (which I would love to have, normally). Anything I do, for however long, is better than doing nothing.

So, at some point this year, I'm going to start this. I'll buy a Bible, and start taking notes and highlighting verses. And at some point in the future, I'll give it to them. Simple as that.

I won't do it every day, at least not at first. I will ease into this.

Dads and Moms -- What about you? Will you try something like this?

Whether your kids are younger or older than mine, I think this is a fantastic idea, and there is no better time to start than now. Be sure to read Jonathan's article to get a complete explanation of the reasons for doing this.

Who's with me?

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I Am a Six-Day Creationist

I didn't make many comments on the recent Ham-Nye debate, but it was interesting to follow the aftermath. As you'd expect, few people's minds were changed as a result of this event, and both sides claimed victory.

But I would like to go on record and share my beliefs, and how I got to this point.

As you can see from the title of this post, I do in fact believe that the world was created in six literal 24-hour days. But I haven't always felt that way.

Before I explain more, I'd like to recap a post from Tim Challies, Why I Am A Six-Day Creationist, for the sake of comparison. He says that he has always believed this to be true, and then he explains the three main reasons why:
  1. The Bible teaches it. 
  2. The writers believed it. 
  3. Science confirms it.
(Note that Challies wrote this post 4 months before the Ham-Nye debate.)

My Journey

Unlike Challies, I didn't always believe this was true. I did not grow up believing that the Bible was completely true, or even somewhat valid on most issues. And even after I became a Christ follower at the age of 19, I still believed that evolution was true and that the universe was old. Really old. After all, this is what I had always been taught in school, and I didn't see any evidence to believe otherwise.

Besides, I didn't want to be one of those "whacky" Christians that turns up their nose towards real science.

But over the next few years, I read a some books on this topic and talked with a few men that I respected who believed that God created the world in six-literal days, including all the kinds of organisms.. These (one was a personal mentor, and one was a PhD chemist) guys seemed normal enough. And what they (and the authors of the books that I read) said made sense.

Funny enough, I went to the opposite end of the spectrum. Following the lead of guys like Ken Ham -- but not the men that I knew personally -- I believed that this was a core issue in my faith, and for the faith of others. I thought that it was impossible for a "real" Christian to believe in evolution, or an old earth. I became a staunch stubborn apologist for young earth creationism.

Then I experienced another transition in my thinking, over years and years. I began to see that this issue is more complex than I realized, and, even more importantly, I began to see that I needed to show more grace on this non-salvation issue.

Where I Am Now

So here's what I think: I believe that the earth is on the magnitude of thousands (not billions) of years old. And I believe that life as we know it today did not arise by a primordial soup and macroevolution (the change from one genus or species to another over a long period of time).

But I also know a lot of strong Christians whom I respect and who are a lot smarter than I am, who don't line up with me on this issue. We have to be gracious and loving to each other, even as we pursue truth together.

Going back to Challies three points above, here is how I would respond:
  1. I totally agree that the Bible is clear in what it means by "day" in Genesis 1. My biggest thought is, "If God wanted to make it more clear that He created the world in six, 24-hour days, how would He have had that recorded in His Word?" I can't think of how He could have done so. 
  2. I also agree with Challies here, that none of the Biblical writers contradict what Moses wrote in Genesis 1 or Exodus 20:11.
  3. Here is where I will differ from Challies. From the science that I've studied, I've come to these conclusions:
    1. There is a bunch of evidence that backs up the claim that the earth is relatively young. 
    2. There is a bunch of evidence that backs up the claim that the earth is very old. 
    3. There are evidences that don't support a young earth. 
    4. There are evidences that don't support an old earth.  
Therefore, while the evidences can support a young earth, I also see how they can support an old earth. Presuppositions do matter, then.

You see, perhaps the baseline questions we need to ask aren't Did God make the world, some time ago? or Did the world come about through chance over billions of years? I think better questions to start with are:
  • Could there be God who made the world in six literal days?
  • Could this world have come to be through random chance?

Let's not rule anything out at the start of our conversations.

"I stand in awe of God because of what he has done through his creation. Only a rookie who knows nothing about science would say science takes away from faith. If you really study science, it will bring you closer to God."  James Tour, PhD nanoscientist

And even more importantly, let us not forget The Crux of the Matter, when it comes to the Christian faith.

For More Reading

I could write more, but many smarter men have written much more than I ever will on this topic. Want to learn more? Check out these resources:

And if you want to read more about what I've written on this topic, check out these posts:

**photo credit: c@rljones via photopin cc

My Son Is Not Ready to Become a Christian

Years ago, one of my sons participated in a church-sponsored sports league. Each week we taught herded energetic and confused kindergarten children. It was a fun time for all!

Each week, one of the coaches taught a prepared devotion. And towards the end of the season, there was an obligatory "altar call" of sorts. After he taught the lesson (and he always did a great job), the dad led the children in prayer, and explained that if they wanted to follow Jesus, they could pray silently with him. And when he was done, he asked the kids to keep their eyes closed and to raise their hands if they prayed the "sinner's prayer."

All the fathers (coaches) looked around during the eyes-closed moment (Jon Acuff says that this is OK). I saw 2 things -- one that didn't surprise me, and one that made me happy:
  1. Unsurprising: Most of the kids peeked to see which of their peers raised their hands.
  2. Pleasing: While a few of the children did raise their hands, I was happy that my son didn't.
You may be confused as to why I was happy that my son didn't respond to this "call to faith." Let me explain . . . .

He Wasn't Ready Then . . .

The discussion of how to know if your child is truly a follower of Jesus is a big one. It cannot be covered in one blog post, or ten. It's a conversation that I encourage parents to have in the context of gospel-centered community and with mentors.

If you want to read (and watch a short video) more about this, I encourage you to check out these posts on this blog:
  1. 10 Principles for Shepherding My Child Through Salvation and Baptism  
  2. Is My Son Ready for Baptism? 
  3. Is My Child a Christian? 
  4. How Do I Know If My Child Is a Christian?   
In short, the reason I was happy my son didn't raise his hand is because I was sure (at least, as sure as I could be) that he was not a follower of Jesus. Yes, he had been learning a lot about God, and was growing spiritually. But I didn't want him to make an in-the-moment decision. Had he done so then, I think he would have been doing it for the wrong reason.

Can you respond to an "altar call" (sorry, it's the best term I have) for the wrong reason? Absolutely! One could do so:
  1. To please a parent or other respected adult. (My son knows that I want him to be a Christ-follower.)
  2. To go along with what his friends are doing. (I do want my son to have godly friends and role models.)
  3. To feel good about himself. 
None of these reasons are inherently bad, but they aren't the reasons that we should follow Jesus. While I do want my children to be Christians, they need to own it for themselves. While them rejecting God is a terrible thing, it is just as dangerous for them to have a false assurance based on an emotional decision.

. . . And He's Not Ready Now

More important than a one-time decision is the big-picture conversation that I have with my kids about faith in Christ. We've had this conversations (broken up into many, many smaller parts) since they were little.

We've had several of these conversations over the past few months, and I want to share those not to embarrass him, but to share with you our thinking. Perhaps you can give me wisdom, and perhaps these stories will encourage and help you.

Once, as we dealt with a sin issue, we sat on his bed and talked and prayed. He prayed, "Jesus, I pray that you would come into my heart and change me." Wow! That's it! Surely that is the prayer I was looking for, right?!

We talked some more, and I asked him what he meant by that prayer. He answered, "I want to become a Christian." We dialogued about what that means, about it's a lifetime of commitment and faith and trust. He agreed to all that.

Then I asked, "Do you want to do that today, or another time?" I'm not sure if I did right or wrong by giving him this easy "out". But I wanted him to really want it. I wanted him to consider the weight of his decision, even as he considers the riches that God offers.

(He said that he would do it another time. Again, maybe I should have pushed him a little more, but I'd rather be patient. I believe that God will keep working in his life.)

And another time (as we dealt yet another time with a recurrent sin issue in his life), he came to me after bed time. This time he was very emotional and said that he had already prayed for Jesus to come into his heart. Since I don't use this language of accepting Jesus in your heart, I wondered what was really going on.

I asked a simple question, "What do you mean by that?" He couldn't articulate it, and even admitted that he didn't know what that means. To me, this confirmed that he was more feeling guilty over his sin, and was trying to manage his emotions.

Again, we have talked and as I explain truths to him, I wonder how I will know if he's ready, or if he's really a Christian. Here are some (non-exclusive) indicators:
  1. He will have an innate desire to be a follower of Jesus, and he will communicate this.
  2. He will be able to articulate what he means by believing in and following Jesus. 
  3. There will be works ("good fruit") that will be evident of an internal change.

When He's Ready, He's Ready

I want my children to follow Jesus. And I am hopeful in Christ that they will. I will not parent them in fear of "what if they don't?" I trust that our gracious God will continue to work in their hearts, as He continues to work in mine, to draw them close to Him. And I will continue to do my God-ordained role as a father to teach them and show them the riches of God's grace.

As I said before, I want my kids to own their faith, and not to say and do things to please me. Our kids need to know that following Jesus is a lifetime commitment and decision to honor Him, not a one-time emotional choice to make themselves or others feel good.

Related Links:
**image courtesy of elvissa via flickr

Tell About the Real Saint Patrick

St. Patrick's Day is on Monday, March 17. Be sure to take time this weekend to explain to your children who the real St. Patrick was, and why he should be a type of Hebrews 11 example of faith.

There are a lot of articles that you can use, but here is a great post from a couple of years back, from The Resurgence Blog, called Get to Know Saint Patrick.

Here are some key things I learned from this article:
  • Patrick was never an official saint.
  • He was English, not Irish.
  • He was a rebellious non-Christian teenager who had come from a Christian family.
  • God told him (in a dream) to escape from his slavery.
  • After being trained as a pastor, God told him (in another dream) to return to Ireland to preach the gospel.
  • In his ministry to the Irish people, he saw thousands of converts, trained 100 pastors, and planted 700 churches.
  • He "was the first noted person in history to take a strong public stand against slavery."

Read the full article by Mark Driscoll.

You can also see this short video from Rose Publishing:

Related Links:
**image courtesy of dimitri_c via

Who Is Marriage For?

15 years ago today, Joanna and I went on our first date. (We actually began our dating relationship 8 days earlier, but because of school/work/ministry commitments, we didn't get to go out on an "official" date until the following week.)

It was a quick courtship, as we got engaged on July 18, and then we were married on December 11. We definitely have learned a lot about each other and ourselves in the past 15 years, and I'm blessed to have a wonderful wife.

Not About Me?

One weekday morning years ago, I read a certain chapter in What Did You Expect?? (Paul Tripp), the best marriage book I've ever been through. In that particular passage, Tripp helped me see the truth that I entered into marriage with selfish motives.

I pursued Joanna, and was thrilled to marry her. But if I'm honest, I was thrilled to marry her because of how she made me feel. She made me feel great about myself, and our relationship, courtship, and marriage only solidified my selfish wants.

Of course, I would tell others that it wasn't about me, and that I was called to pursue, provide, and protect. But down in my heart, I went into marriage mostly for self-focused reasons.


Marriage Is About Others

Seth Adam Smith shares advice he received from his dad, in Marriage Isn't For You:
"I’m going to make this really simple: marriage isn’t for you. You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married."

He is correct, and I needed these truths 15 (or more!) years ago. Believing that marriage is about oneself leads to lack of full commitment, because when that person doesn't feel like it's fulfilling his or her needs, that is reason to look elsewhere for companionship.

But I think Seth is missing something. Sure marriage isn't about me, but it's not really about others either. Marriage is about God.

Marriage Is About Jesus

Let me restate: our marriage isn't for me or for my wife. It's actually about Jesus. I ought not to go through my marriage with the aim of pleasing myself, and I shouldn't even aim to please Joanna. My aim should always be to please the One who made me and died for me.

(Of course, not everyone (particularly, those who don't follow Christ) will believe that their marriage is about God. For them, I would at least encourage them to make their marriages more about their spouse then themselves. It is better than a self-focus, though that bond will usually be frail.)

You see, when I spoke my vows to Joanna, I didn't just commit to her. I committed myself to Jesus. I committed to my wife in the grace and power of the Lord. My promise to Joanna is rooted in my faith in God. Therefore, to break my vows to love Joanna would be equal to breaking my vows to God.

Husbands and wives -- don't make your own desires the focus of your marriage. At a bare minimum, focus on loving and serving your spouse. But if you want a full satisfaction in your marriage, pursue Jesus and make your marriage about Him.

Dustin Crowe agrees:
"We cannot love children or spouses well unless the perfect love of the Father is a first-hand experience." 

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4 Ways that Good Dads Make a Difference

Are men needed to raise children? No. Just ask single mothers.

Are Dads easily dispensable? Also a "no." And research shows it.

Bradford Wilcox wrote a fascinating and insight article for The Atlantic  -- The Distinct, Positive Impact of a Good Dad. He acknowledges that mothers and fathers both play crucial roles, that go beyond cultural expectations.

"Fathers often engage their children in ways that differ from the ways in which mothers engage their children. Yes, there are exceptions, and, yes, parents also engage their children in ways that are not specifically gendered." 

 Specifically, there are four contributions that are distinctively (though not exclusively) from fathers:
  1. Play. "Fathers typically spend more of their time engaged in vigorous play than do mothers, and play a uniquely physical role in teaching their sons and daughters how to handle their bodies and their emotions."
  2. Risk. "Fathers are more likely to encourage their children to take risks, embrace challenges, and be independent, whereas mothers are more likely to focus on their children's safety and emotional well-being."  
  3. Protection. "Fathers . . . appear to be more successful in keeping predators and bad peer influences away from their sons and daughters." 
  4. Discipline. "Fathers tend to be more willing than mothers to confront their children and enforce discipline. . . . By contrast, mothers are more likely to reason with their children, to be flexible in disciplinary situations, and to rely on their emotional ties to a child to encourage her to behave. . . . Mothers and fathers working together as co-parents offer a diverse yet balanced approach to discipline."

Note that this author is not saying that fathers are more important than mothers, or vice versa. The point is that there is a unique contribution that each has the potential to bring.

Wilcox concludes the article by showing specific effects that good days have, with respect to the child's behavior and actions. This data matches up perfectly with what I have been learning, and which I've written about here:

Dads and Moms alike -- keep giving your children what they need, in the unique way that God has made you.

Related Links:

**image courtesy of thefixer via flickr and The Atlantic

Perfectionism and Birth Order

Look at this mess I created.

I recently finished Have a New Kid by Friday (Dr. Kevin Leman), and will post a review soon. (Hint: you probably shouldn't buy it.) But at least one part in particular hit close to home.

You've probably heard about birth order theory -- which states that the rank and order of children affects their personalities. And you may have read my own Birth Due Date Theory, which may be completely subjective.

Here is what Dr. Leman writes (p. 221):
"In many families, the firstborns are the achievers -- the ones who are born to fly high in their adult life. They're the adults who always hit the home runs and become airplane pilots, civic leaders, surgeons, etc.
But let's say that the firstborn has an overly perfectionistic parent. Then the firstborn will become a procrastinator. There's a role reversal that happens as the firstborn takes the initial emotional hit from a perfectionistic parent."
This is exactly what we see in our family. Hannah, our oldest, is a procrastinator and not very organized. And Dr. Leman is probably correct here -- that this was caused, at least in part, by Joanna and I. Hannah has TWO perfectionistic parents. Poor girl -- she had no chance!

He continues:
 "Then it's the secondborn who becomes the superachiever -- the self-motivated, mature, in-control-of-life person who proceeds through life with great skill and ability -- while the firstborn flounders in expectations. This phenomenon plays itself out in life, especially when there are 3 years or less between the firstborn and the secondborn."

And this is what we see with Elijah. He is orgnized, self-motivated, academically gifted, and in-control (probably too much so). And Hannah and Elijah are only 26 months apart, so they fit within Dr. Leman's 3-year timeframe.

A final word of caution and encouragement:
"If your child thinks he can't measure up to your standards, he won't try. Or he'll try only so far and won't get to the finish line. . . . If you're a perfectionistic parent, your child knows he can jump higher and higher for you . . . and never win your praise."
That's the final, and deepest, cut. As we demand more and more perfection out of our children, we are building a wall around their hearts and souls.

We can't rewind the clock, but we can ask God to help us be more grace-filled as we go forward. It's never too late.

Do you see this in your family? Do you have a high-achiever firstborn? Or, like us, do you have a procrastinator firstborn and high-achieving secondborn? Would love to hear from you in the comments.

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Favorite Tweets for February

Capture the moments of your life!

February brought to our family:
  • A church leaders retreat in the mountains.
  • A postponed robotics tournament due to weather-related issues. (Irony: the theme is "Nature's Fury.")
  • Valentine's Day.
  • Final preparations for the cast (including my wife and three kids) and crew of Salkehatchie Stew.
Did you miss these snapshots from this past month?

From Others:

@MarkMerrillStarting today, make it a priority to set aside time for what’s ultimately important: your child

@JonAcuffPaul Allen of Microsoft owning the Seahawks is a huge inspiration to any computer nerd who was ever bullied by a jock.

@Jonnie_W"I don't care if the court is iced over. I wanna play shuffleboard!" -Old Man, Accidentally Inventing Olympic Curling 

@GraceChurchSC:  My biggest problem is not my sexual identity but my sinful identity. - Peter Hubbard

@Memverse:  Blessings Too Big: "When God said that children were a blessing, he wasn’t kidding." via |   

@lecrae If refuse to endure struggle, you refuse to embrace progress.

@NikkiHaley:  I would be fine if we never had another winter storm. I much prefer the 80 degrees we are having today!

@abbyelisemoore:  "When the self gets elevated, the mission gets lost."

: "Coexist. Or else."

From Me:

Love having a daughter whose first words in the morning are, "I'm going to make muffins for breakfast."

Got to have a party with the guys I've been working with in the prison. They provided snacks.

Historic Grove Park Inn, where you can purchase historic technology.

"…But the Lord…" // An encouraging reminder from

Reason 78 Is Better Than Where You Live: No .   

In contemporary Christianity, we are in more danger of playing it safe than we are of being reckless. (

I'm excited to partner with the Dosters in Eleuthera!

My wife realized that when our son "Sender" starts using email, it's going to be really confusing for him & the other person.