10 Tips for Spending Time With Your Kids

10 TIPS

By way of preface, let me say that I am sharing these tips as a dad still learning. These are lessons that I have learned along the way that I hope will be helpful for you. Also, by spending time with your kids I mean Daddy Daughter Dates, Daddy Son Dates, Mommy Daughter Dates, Mommy Son Dates. My wife and I are huge proponents of each parent having special time set aside for each child individually.

 

1. Be excited.

Don’t make the date as if you are doing a favor for your kid. This mentality treats your time together as a task. Get excited, so that they can see you enjoy it just as much as they do. Show them that it’s a treat for the both of you.

 

2. Plan the date and be consistent.

It’s easier to cancel because something else comes up if you don’t have a plan in place. Plan your time together and then talk about it with your kid leading up to the date, so that your kid is also planning on the time together. Even as young a one year old, my daughter loved looking forward to Daddy time…and demand it now.

 

Even more, be consistent. There’s no magic number of times (e.g. once a week, once a month) that is best. The key is to make this time consistent, so that you and your kid can look forward to the time together.

 

3. No distractions.

On your way in the car and even once you get to your destination, don’t spend time on your smart phone looking at social media, email, or other stuff unless it is directly related with your date (e.g. sharing a picture of the both of you, tweeting how much fun you are having). Talk to or sing with your kid while driving instead of giving them your phone to keep them quiet. Make everything about your time together and different from the norm.

 

4. Teaching moments.

The best time to take advantage of a teaching moment with your kid is when they are doing something they love to do. For example, one of my daughter’s and my favorite places to go on a date is to the park. When Amber was only 1, I was able to capture a teaching moment that made her think for a moment. She asked me to put her Minnie Mouse doll down the slide and when I did she said, “That was perfect dad.” My response to her was, “God is perfect.” The rest of our time together she would randomly say, “God is perfect.”

 

5. No negative terms.

While on your date, try your best to refrain from negative terms such as no, you can’t, and don’t. This doesn’t mean allow your kid to act like a monster either. If they begin to act inappropriately or want something they can’t have, direct their attention to something “better.” Make it positive. For example, instead of “you can’t jump off of that, you’ll get hurt” say, “you’ll get hurt silly, let’s do this instead.”

I am not opposed to saying “no” in general; in fact, I would say it is necessary. Although during this special time the goal is that overall you want it to be a positive experience. So, if you’re able to use a more positive way to redirect I would encourage that.

 

6. Lot’s of hugs, kisses, high fives, and cuddling.

On your date, make sure you show affection. Constantly tell them you love them. You can’t kiss them enough. You can’t hug them enough. You can’t high five them enough.

 

7. Let them lead.

While on your date, let your kid have the license to make decisions and lead. Keep in mind that you want this time to be special and different then the norm. Give them a chance to show you what they want to do and they will.

 

8. Laugh.

Laugh a lot when you’re on your date. Have fun. Your kid will love that you are having as much fun as they are. Be goofy.

 

9. Talk.

Be sure to have conversation while spending time together. Ask questions. Tell stories. Make conversation.

 

10. Remember

One thing I love to do while on a Daddy Daughter date is take a bunch of pictures. It’s always fun to look at the pictures that night and remember the fun we had together. It also helps Amber remember and make connections in her mind with where we went, what we did, and the fun that we had.

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The Bathroom Bill

the bathroom bill

There has been quite the buzz this morning concerning HB 583, also known as the Gender Bathroom Bill. This conversation concerning the bill, initially introduced by Rep. Frank Artiles, has invaded every platform of communication from social media to the morning news, and even morning radio. WTSP published an article titled Gender Bathroom Bill Clears Florida Committee concerning HB 583. It is a bill that would make it illegal for a person to use a bathroom, dressing room or locker room designated for the opposite sex cleared its first hurdle Wednesday.

Rep. Frank Artile
Rep. Frank Artile
Rep. Janet Cruz
Rep. Janet Cruz

Along with several others, House Representative, Rep. Janet Cruz, responds, “This ridiculous legislation seeks to criminalize the transgender community. Are we really going to be known as the state that allowed such a hateful bill become a law?”

This can be a confusing conversation for many. Unfortunately, Christians tend to not have much of a voice regarding political issues. My hope is to communicate a response from a logical perspective from a Christian worldview. Okay, my cards are on the table. I’m a reformed, evangelical, Southern Baptist Pastor. I believe in the verbal plenary inspiration of the Bible. With that said, my response is not directly addressing the conversation from the viewpoint of being a pastor as much as it will from a contributing citizen of our community, as a husband, as a dad, and as a son.

The underlying issue with this bill, for good or for bad, is the matter of access, or lack thereof. The transgender community is emphasizing their need for equal access to public restrooms, dressing rooms, and locker rooms based on their desired gender as opposed to their biological gender. This is the reason Janet Cruz could refer to the bill with such strong language as “hateful,” as well as claim that it “criminalizes the transgender community.” Others, such as Frank Artiles, are concerned for the privacy and safety of the public. I am tracking with both camps. I understand and sympathize with both agendas.

The question must be asked, “Why would allowing transgender individuals into their personal desired public area affect the privacy or safety of others?” My personal response is that the privacy and safety of the community wouldn’t necessarily be compromised by the transgender community as much as it would be by an imposter. That is, a heterosexual male or female posing as an imposter to be able to gain access into the opposite gender area. In that, I agree with Frank Artiles in the sense that I do not see it fit to allow a biological and heterosexual man into the ladies room – or vice versa –  in order to pursue my daughter, wife or mom. All his or her plea would have to be is, “Well, I am transgender.” I will not support an agenda that allows that to happen.

I frequently use restrooms all over town that allow me to take my 4 year old daughter to the restroom without it being weird, as opposed to dragging her into the Men’s Room. So, there are restrooms that give legal access to any gender at every local mall and large public area. Therefore, if access is the issue, there is no issue at all. Not to mention, the law doesn’t even require that a business have any restroom at all.

HB 583 does not “dehumanize” the transgender community. If anything, it raises awareness to the fact that the answer may be to pass a bill that requires new structures to have 4 types of restrooms – Male, Female, Family, and Transgender or a gender neutral restroom. I would not have any qualms with that besides the fact that it puts the financial burden on companies to provide those accommodations. With that said, there would be no safety and/or privacy issue there.

As a pastor, I would say to the transgender community that I love you and that there is a need for an honest, open, and safe dialogue between us to pursue equality in a pluralistic society. I would welcome that. The answer is not to open up gender specific areas to any Jane or Joe that pulls the transgender card.

7 Ways to Plan a Family Devotional

FAMILY DEVO

“I have had over a dozen conversations just this week alone about how to plan a family devotional, so I’m re-posting this short read that I wrote this time last year. Enjoy and pass along.”

It has been quite the journey with my wife and I trying to implement a family devotional. While we are still far from perfect at it, there are some things along the way that we’ve learned that I hope could be helpful for you and your family.

1. Make a plan. For the longest time we talked about doing a family devotional, but didn’t actually do it because we never had a plan. If you have to, schedule time aside to do it. For our family scheduling a certain time just doesn’t work. For us, it becomes a “law” that is so easy to break – often. Plus we have two awesome young kids that don’t always accommodate a schedule, so we have to be pretty flexible.

2. Don’t give up. If your plan doesn’t work the first few times, don’t give up. You will fail at first. It was only through a lot of failure that Brooke and I were able to find a format that worked best for our natural rhythms of life.

What does this look like for us? We choose a book of the Bible. We just finished Ephesians. We go through one chapter a day. We both read the chapter separately at some point in our day. In the evening time, after the kids are in bed, we pull our Bibles out and re-read the whole chapter out loud together. Then we take turns talking about highlights, hard texts, encouraging and convicting notes, etc. Two great resources are RightNow Media, as well as Desiring God’s, Look at the Book.

3. Include prayer. Always include prayer. This is the point where we are acknowledging that it is God that is speaking to us through His word and that the Bible is not just some great piece of literature. One of us leads in prayer while we hold hands.

4. Make it Gospel-Centered. It is real easy to turn a devotional into moral reminders. Always get to a point in your devotional where you bring it to Jesus and how the Gospel affects the text or idea that you are discussing. Don’t make your devotional time a daily reminder of how you either do great or constantly fall short of the law. Live in the light and freedom of the Gospel.

5. Involve your kids. Our kids are pretty young. With that said, our 3 year old is fully able to communicate who Jesus is, who created everything, and what sin and forgiveness is, so do not under estimate your young children. With our kids, we have intentional and unintentional devotional times.

Intentionally, around 7 o’clock every evening (after dinner and before bed), my wife hangs with our 3 year old, Amber, and I hang with our 1 and 1/2 year old, Parker, for about 30 minutes. Brooke uses The Gospel Project with Amber. It’s a great Gospel-centered curriculum that is fun and interactive. I hang with Parker  and just have guy fun with his spider man mask and Jake and the never-land pirates sword. Most likely around the age of two, we will begin some sort of toddler curriculum with him as well.

Unintentionally, we use all kinds of God-given moments throughout the day to talk about sin, Satan, Jesus, and a lot of prayer with the kids.

6. Actually be interested. Several times a day, Amber randomly will talk about Jesus or “the evil one.” I make it a priority to drop whatever it is I’m doing and acknowledge the fact that she is wanting to have a “God conversation.” She needs to know that we can have an open dialogue with anything, but especially the Gospel.

7. Have fun. The Gospel is serious, but it can also be a lot of fun.

Stop Telling People That You Will Pray for Them

PRAYER

Prayer is a gift from God. It’s an opportunity to communicate with the Creator of the universe—to converse with God, praise him, confess our sin, ask for his provision, and listen for his response.

When it comes to prayer we have a tendency to focus on requests, so be sure to shepherd your family toward a fuller understanding of prayer.

Provide opportunities for your family to pray often and build a culture of prayer. Encourage your family to recognize that it is more important to pray than to talk about praying, but be quick to go to prayer when you hear a need. In other words, if someone is sharing and you hear a need, stop and pray. As opposed to saying, “I will be praying for you” say, “Can I pray for you right now?”

This past week, God showed me an amazing thing. One of our close family friends had an important meeting to be a part of and I was telling my wife, Brooke, about it. My 4-year-old daughter, Amber, overheard me telling Brooke that it was an important meeting and immediately said, “Can I pray for Mr. Brian’s important meeting?”

My prayer today is that God would make my heart and yours like that of a 4-year-old. Trusting that God is our only help and that He wants to hear from His children regularly. For the next 30 days, I challenge you. Whenever you hear a need, declare war on your natural human tendency to say, “I’ll be praying for you” and actually stop and pray in the moment. Stop telling people that you will be praying for them and actually stop and pray for them. Stop talking about prayer to the extent that you never spontaneously pray.

I was actually able to record my daughter praying this past week, so that I could send it to our friend. It made his day and mine. Watch it below…

What Should Christians Think About Sex?

sex

There is one topic of conversation, particularly, that gets Christians acting awkward: sex. Largely, there has been little to no conversations about sex within the church. Subsequently, Christians tend to not really know what to do with it.

There are 3 basic views of sex in our culture today.

 

SEX AS GOD

Sex, for some, has become a religion. By that, I mean sex gives them their identity, their purpose, and their motivation in life. All of who they are is influenced by their sexuality. Everything they do is centered on hunting for those they are attracted to, so that they might have the opportunity to have sex. This person’s life is dominated and ruled by their sexual passions and desire to have sex. When they are unable to physically get sex, they turn to media via their television, dvd’s, cell phones, and tablets.

It’s called, selfish sexuality. The goal for this person is to please themselves by means of sex. Sex rules their life, like a god. Romans 1 talks about how, at that time, even though the people knew that God existed, ruled and reigned over all, they chose to worship what He created instead of Him, the creator. This is still a war that we are battling to this day.

Here are some interesting statistics from Pornography Statistics: Annual Report 2014 by Covenant Eyes. In addition, I would encourage every adult, especially parents, to at least briefly look at these statistics to better prepare your kids.

 

SEX AS GROSS

For others, sex is gross, dirty and evil. This school of thought is rooted all the way back in ancient Greek Philosophy from guys like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. They would say that the physical is bad and that the spiritual is good. Therefore, the body is bad, but the soul is good. Consequently, for them life was just the process of shedding the outer shell (i.e. the body).

So, for them, sex or any type of bodily function was a gross, dirty and evil because it’s association with the physical body. And, believe it or not, this had an vast influence on the early church fathers.

  • Origen (3rd) allegorized the Song of Songs in order to take away the physical implications and castrated himself from a literal view of Matthew 19, “If anything causes you to stumble, cut it off.”
  • Tertulian and Ambrose (4th) preferred extinction to the human race over sexuality.
  • Gregory of Nissa (4th) said that Adam and Eve did not have sex until after the fall and adds that Eve became pregnant from a particular fruit that she ate in the garden.
  • Jerome (4th-5th) threw himself into thorn bushes whenever he would be tempted sexually.
  • At one point then (12th), the Catholic Church forbids priests from marrying and then begins regulating when and where married couples can enjoy sexual freedom.
  • In the Victorian Age (19th), there was an extreme modest view where they would begin to put linens over tables because if men saw the “table legs” they might lust.

While these may seem somewhat odd and extreme, it continues to our own day where for some Christians sex for good pleasure is gross. Various parents, in an effort to encourage their kids to abstain from sex, tell them that “sex is bad, dirty, and not good, so save it for the one person that you marry.” That’s just a weird statement in itself…save the bad and dirty for the one you actually love…

While sex rules over many, it is not God. In addition, sex is not gross. It can be gross, dirty and evil when used out of its intended purpose.

SEX AS A GIFT

For all, God says that sex is a good gift created and given for heterosexual marriage (Genesis 2:24).

Here are several thoughts on a biblical perspective and purpose of sex.

Pleasure – when we investigate the Song of Songs, children are never mentioned once. The whole book focuses on the marital intimacy between a man and a woman.

Children – Genesis 1:28, “be fruitful and multiply.” So, out of marital intimacy comes children. Many children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:4).

Oneness – Genesis 2:24 – husband and wife were “one flesh” or “wife will “cleave”. So, through marital intimacy two “become one.”

Comfort – 2 Samuel 12:24 – when a child died a husband and wife were together intimately to comfort one another.

Protection – 1 Cor. 7 – You’ll be highly tempted to sin sexually if you’re not regularly together in an intimate way. So marital intimacy is a safeguard from sinning sexually.

To glorify God – God created our bodies for all of these reasons and when you do those things in the correct context it brings glory to Him. Therefore, marital intimacy brings glory to God in that we are functioning in the purpose for which He intended.

Lastly, here are some other helpful resources for you to enjoy and grow:

A Few Thoughts on Women, Men, Porn, & Sexual Assault by Jefferson Bethke

 

Family, Marriage, Sex, & the Gospel by David Platt

7 Tips for Discipling Your Kids

7tips

Plan an intentional teaching time.

Discipling your kids requires an intentional planned time of family devotions. We all invest so much of our time into so many different areas of life, but we label ourselves “too busy” to plan an intentional time to read the Bible with our kids. Plan the time. Work your plan. Be intentional. Make it fun. Add crafts or something that will give the kids an opportunity to interact with what you’re reading and talking about. Then, alter your plan as needed to fit into the natural rhythms of your family life. Here is another resource to help you Plan a Family Devotion.

 

Be ready and available for spontaneous teaching moments.

Pray that God would give you the eyes to see and the ears to hear those God given moments to teach your kid. Be concerned with your kid’s spiritual growth to the point where you are listening for opportunities to teach them. If you’re busy, stop. It really is that easy. Try it and see how God makes a difference.

 

Be creative.

Discipleship is more than a family devotion. It is a lifestyle. Parent in a way that everything you do is an example for your kid to see. Be creative in discipling your kids through activities that they are already enjoying (e.g. dance, sports, karate). Pray that God would give you wisdom in how to use those things to talk about what a relationship with Jesus looks like with your lids.

 

Pray with them.

When you begin to regularly talk to God, He begins to open your eyes to what He is doing all around you. Praying with your kids not only teaches them to pray, but it broadens their perspective on what is happening outside of your immediate family life and how God is working in all of it. Pray with your kids that God would give your family opportunities to serve others.

 

Involve them in giving.

Regularly involve your kids in serving others. Create a culture of sacrificial giving in your home. Bake cookies for neighbors. Visit the elderly in your community. Donate old clothes, shoes, and toys. Pack a food bag to hand out to a homeless family.

 

Involve them in mission.

Be hospitable. Make your home a place where other families can come and enjoy. Cook big meals and invite other families over to eat and hang out. God gave you your home, so that you would be a good steward of it by serving others with it. Teach your kids that you have time for others, are interested in others, and love others by having other families over often. With a healthy balance, involve your kids in mission out in the community as well.

 

Commit to a local church.

Probably most importantly, commit to a local church. For one, you can’t lead well if you are not following well. How can you teach your kids to follow and be discipled if you aren’t following and being discipled. Additionally, while it is your primary role to disciple your kids, you need help from the church. It is the local church’s role to partner with families to disciple their kids. It is good and healthy to have other spiritually mature adults speaking into the life of your kids. Moreover, it is extremely important that they are involved in church community to grow and learn with other kids their age.

15 Last Minute Reminders for Halloween

halloween

1. Be a Missionary – Become all things to all men, so that some might be saved.

2. Connect with people that you might otherwise never connect with by them coming to your door or your church

3. Teach you kids about the historical theory of Halloween along with how Christ redeems stuff like this, including our hearts

4. Serve your city by donating candy or buying costumes for families that can’t afford them

5. Throw a party with good food and drinks

6. Have some hotdogs and a cold drink for families that come by to pick up candy

7. Set up a table with free Gospel-Centered books to give out for free instead of candy

8. Offer to pray for those who God sends your way (don’t be weird about it)

9. Just have fun with your kids

10. Use it as a way to help encourage your kids imagination for dressing up

11. Be considerate

12. Be safe

13. Use it as an opportunity to talk about Reformation Day

14. Focus your teaching (e.g. small group, sermon series, Sunday school, family devotions, personal devotion) on the reformation and the doctrines of grace.

15. Pray

Other Great Articles on Halloween:

6 Tips for Halloween

12 Simple Ways to Be On Mission This Halloween

Halloween: Carnal or Christian

3 Tips For Discipling Your Kids On Halloween

Pat Robertson Calls Halloween Satan’s Night

Schools Cancel Halloween

4 Tips for Young Moms

4tips

Your biggest mission field is at home.

Many young moms have a growing guilt for their lack of involvement in “ministry” because they aren’t able to do as much as they’d like or feel called to do. Know this, as a young mom, your biggest mission field is your kids. Be a missionary to your kids. Do ministry in your home. It begins in the living room. Teach Bible in your home. Talk about Jesus in your home. Sing about the Gospel in your home. Your home is your biggest mission field.

 

This season is just a season.

Don’t feel guilty for spending more time with your kids than you are able to serving in the church. It is just a season. When kids are young, they soak up every bit of knowledge that you give to them. Instead of leaving that task up to someone else, use this season to pour into the life of your kids. It is not the church’s job to disciple your kids, but that’s what God has called you to do. Be faithful in the season that God has you in.

 

Remember grace.

Parenting is not easy. In fact, there are some days that are just flat out hard. On those days where you just want to give up, remember grace. There is grace for you and for your kids. When you mess up and fail as a mom, give yourself grace. When your kids act their age, give them grace.

 

A heart for the home.

If God has gifted you with a home, he wants you to love it. He wants you to enjoy it. Have a heart for your home. When you do that, your home will become a fun place for the whole family, as well as your guests. It’s contagious when you walk into a home that you can tell the mom has a heart for. Is your home like that? Have a heart for your home. Be hospitable. Use your home that God has gifted to you to be a gift and a blessing to others.

6 Tips For Halloween

Halloween_2

I am the proud dad of two kiddos; a 4 year old little princess and a 2 year old super hero. In recent years, our family has been invited to numerous Halloween parties, as well as thrown quite a few ourselves. It’s interesting for me to listen to and to watch Christians around this time of the year because, in general, many Christians aren’t really sure what to do with Halloween.

So…what are Christians to do with Halloween? Should we be involved? Should we stay away? Here are a few things to take into consideration as you discern how you, your family, and your church should handle Halloween.

1. Don’t Be a Weirdo

So many Christians are just flat out weird when it comes to Halloween. What I mean is they tend to withdrawal from the culture, lock their doors, and turn off their lights or go out to dinner so that they do not have to be “bothered” by lost people coming to their door steps or even get under the covers on Halloween night. Even worse, they will judge other Christian’s maturity level based on whether or not they do participate in Halloween. Be normal. Don’t be a weirdo.

2. Be a Missionary

Roll out your grill, cook enough chili dogs to pass out, get a huge bucket of candy, and talk to the people that voluntarily come to your house. The same people that will never step foot in a church voluntarily come to

3. Set Boundaries

Yes, set boundaries. I am not an advocate for Halloween. In fact, Halloween tends to be dark, bleak, and glorifies death. I would encourage you to use discernment through prayer and conversation as a family and then set the right boundaries as needed. There are times when we can and should say no if it is going to compromise our faith in Christ. Guard your children and their hearts.

4. Have a Conversation with Your Children

It’s important to talk with your children about Halloween (e.g. the history of it, the dark side of it, the missional opportunity in it, and the imaginative fun). Children are smart and Halloween can be a teaching time to share with your children and others the gospel of Christ. Talk to your kids.

5. Don’t Judge or Criticize Others

Lastly, don’t evaluate others based on whether they participate in Halloween or not. Good Christians can and do disagree on this issue. Some Christians feel very strongly about not celebrating Halloween while others have no problem with it at all. I believe that it is an open-handed issue and that each Christian must seek the Lord and obey their conscience. You have to decide what is right for you and your family when it comes to being involved with Halloween.

6. Have fun

Halloween is also just another opportunity for you to have fun with your kids. Decorate the house. Do crafts. Let their imagination run wild. Let them eat more candy than usual. Let them stay up late sorting their candy until they fall asleep in their costume without brushing their teeth. Let them be kids and have innocent fun with them.

7 Things: Recap

recap

As a dad, I am learning as I go. I’m growing each and every day in my understanding of what it means to be a good steward of this weighty responsibility entrusted to me and also to some of you.

It’s helpful for me to look back on the relationship with my dad and recognize the time and effort that he put into being a good dad to his kids. It is the ability to appreciate what he did for me, as well as recognizing the way in which God, the Father, relates to His children. In all of that, here are just a few helpful thoughts concerning the blessing of being a dad.

sons_blog  DAUGHTER_BLOG