My son prayed for $100,000 last night and I hope he gets it.

Last night, as our family was doing our regular bedtime routine of stories and prayers, I asked my oldest to give the final prayer for our family.  We have a list of things that we usually pray for, and he proceeded to pray for all of those things.  My kids have picked up on some of the things I routinely pray for, so he mentioned some of those as well.  Then my son threw a curveball into his prayer last night and prayed for 100 grand.  Now before you jump to conclusions, I have to explain why and who it was for.

Yesterday during our Sunday gathering, if you were there, you know I mentioned the 539444_242466675871887_1606113187_nUganda missions trip that our church is going on, as well as, an offering that we are going to take to help with the completion of the baby’s home.  In passing, I mentioned that they needed $100,000 to complete the 5,000 sq. ft. orphanage and medical clinic (our church and another in Nebraska have a very good relationship with Ken and Cathy Nganda and their amazing ministry to orphans in Uganda).  My son, who heard about this need in church yesterday, decided to start praying for the $100,000 for the orphanage.

At first I was proud that my son was not only listening in church, but also had enough compassion and faith to bring this before our Heavenly Father.  I was then confronted with the reality that I had not thought of praying for this need sooner.  I wrestled with this and realized how numb I have become about the needs around me.  I hear about families and marriages that are hurting.  I hear about missions needs and orphan needs, and because it’s all too big for me and overwhelming to really contemplate, I start to become numb to it all.  And what I realized was this numbness was leading to prayerlessness.

Have you found yourself feeling numb to the needs and hurts around you?

I need to rediscover the childlike faith displayed by my son last night.  He simply heard of a need, a need that’s too big for him to really do anything about, but he responded by taking this big need to the One who can something about it.

What if we all started to pray like this?  What if our first response and our continual response was prayer to the needs around us?  There’s something too big for all of us today that we are facing.  How will we respond?

I hope that my son keeps praying for $100,000.  I know I need to as well.

 

Diagnosing a problem with no solution

The news coming out about the rising generation is not good.  I read this article the other day and had to share it with you.  You may have seen it and read it.  I think it’s interesting how this renowned Psychiatrist diagnosis the social ills of young people, but he really had no solution.  We find this a lot.  Talk to people who see what’s wrong in our world today, but they have not solution.  As the church, we must act and apply the gospel to this.  As parents, we have to ask if we have turned the gospel into a ticket to get into heaven, or is it the grid by which our children see the world.  Sadly, many of the young adults this article speaks about are coming right out of our evangelical churches today.  To me the solution is simple.  It’s the gospel.

We are raising a generation of deluded narcissists

By 

Published January 08, 2013

FoxNews.com

A new analysis of the American Freshman Survey, which has accumulated data for the past 47 years from 9 million young adults, reveals that college students are more likely than ever to call themselves gifted and driven to succeed, even though their test scores and time spent studying are decreasing.

Psychologist Jean Twenge, the lead author of the analysis, is also the author of a study showing that the tendency toward narcissism in students is up 30 percent in the last thirty-odd years.
This data is not unexpected.  I have been writing a great deal over the past few years about the toxic psychological impact of media and technology on children, adolescents and young adults, particularly as it regards turning them into faux celebrities—the equivalent of lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories.

On Facebook, young people can fool themselves into thinking they have hundreds or thousands of “friends.” They can delete unflattering comments. They can block anyone who disagrees with them or pokes holes in their inflated self-esteem. They can choose to show the world only flattering, sexy or funny photographs of themselves (dozens of albums full, by the way), “speak” in pithy short posts and publicly connect to movie stars and professional athletes and musicians they “like.”

 

We must beware of the toxic psychological impact of media and technology on children, adolescents and young adults, particularly as it regards turning them into faux celebrities—the equivalent of lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories.

 

Using Twitter, young people can pretend they are worth “following,” as though they have real-life fans, when all that is really happening is the mutual fanning of false love and false fame.

Using computer games, our sons and daughters can pretend they are Olympians, Formula 1 drivers, rock stars or sharpshooters.  And while they can turn off their Wii and Xbox machines and remember they are really in dens and playrooms on side streets and in triple deckers around America, that is after their hearts have raced and heads have swelled with false pride for “being” something they are not.

On MTV and other networks, young people can see lives just like theirs portrayed on reality TV shows fueled by such incredible self-involvement and self-love that any of the “real-life” characters should really be in psychotherapy to have any chance at anything like a normal life.

These are the psychological drugs of the 21st Century and they are getting our sons and daughters very sick, indeed.

As if to keep up with the unreality of media and technology, in a dizzying paroxysm of self-aggrandizing hype, town sports leagues across the country hand out ribbons and trophies to losing teams, schools inflate grades, energy drinks in giant, colorful cans take over the soft drink market, and psychiatrists hand out Adderall like candy.

All the while, these adolescents, teens and young adults are watching a Congress that can’t control its manic, euphoric, narcissistic spending, a president that can’t see his way through to applauding genuine and extraordinary achievements in business, a society that blames mass killings on guns, not the psychotic people who wield them, and—here no surprise—a stock market that keeps rising and falling like a roller coaster as bubbles inflate and then, inevitably, burst.

That’s really the unavoidable end, by the way. False pride can never be sustained. The bubble of narcissism is always at risk of bursting.  That’s why young people are higher on drugs than ever, drunker than ever, smoking more, tattooed more, pierced more and having more and more and more sex, earlier and earlier and earlier, raising babies before they can do it well, because it makes them feel special, for a while.  They’re doing anything to distract themselves from the fact that they feel empty inside and unworthy.

Distractions, however, are temporary, and the truth is eternal. Watch for an epidemic of depression and suicidality, not to mention homicidality, as the real self-loathing and hatred of others that lies beneath all this narcissism rises to the surface.  I see it happening and, no doubt, many of you do, too.

We had better get a plan together to combat this greatest epidemic as it takes shape.  Because it will dwarf the toll of any epidemic we have ever known. And it will be the hardest to defeat. Because, by the time we see the scope and destructiveness of this enemy clearly, we will also realize, as the saying goes, that it is us.

 

Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team. Dr. Ablow can be reached at info@keithablow.com.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/01/08/are-raising-generation-deluded-narcissists/#ixzz2HaWu4ggO

How to prepare your kids for the dating scene, part 3 (or how to talk to your kids about sex)

This post is going to make me sound like Ward Cleaver to some.  The stuff that we are going to discuss in this post may be labeled “old-fashioned” by many, but the reality is, it’s truth and it’s biblical.  It’s hard to talk about high standards and righteousness without someone accusing you of sounding Pharisaic.  So, I want to first say this: our righteousness is earned through what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross.  Any righteousness that is produced in our lives, can only be as a result of our faith, love and worship towards Him.  With that said, Jesus wants us to be holy (1 Peter 2) as we live for him and represent him on this earth.  Unfortunately, one of the areas that many seem to fail miserably at this is in relationships with the opposite sex before marriage.

In our previous two posts we talked about some principles that we must teach  our children when it comes to choosing a spouse, courtship and dating.  This last principle is probably the hardest to teach since we live in an ever-growing over-sexualized culture.

Principle #4 – Be pure.  If there’s one thing that most Christians know, yet so many fail at doing is being sexually pure and faithful to your spouse before and during marriage.  People in our country at one time had a Judeo-Christian worldview, and accepted the biblical standards for sexuality.  That doesn’t mean that all were Christians, but the culture reflected a reverence and respect for sexual morals.  That cannot be said today.  With the sexual revolution in the 60’s, most biblical standards in this area have eroded significantly.  I really don’t want to spend too much on that since that’s a topic that could be discussed in detail.  Sometimes we can shake our heads and say how bad it is, but the truth is, God is greater than the darkness that surrounds us.  There is hope to disciple our children and let the light of Christ shine brightly more now than ever before.

So what can we do to help our kids to choose a pure and holy life, even in their teenage and college years?

1. Be the authority on sex to your kids.  When I was a youth pastor, I used to take our student on various trips like camp and missions trips all the time.  Invariably, there would be times during the long trip that some student would ask me a question on this topic.  I would always do a little impromptu survey to find out how many students had first heard about sex from their mom or dad.  Sadly, about 90% of the students I would pose the question to had first heard about sex from a friend and few had ever had any discussions about sex at all.  This has to change.  Sex is not a taboo topic or shouldn’t be in our homes with our children at the appropriate age.  Sex is beautiful and wonderful, and it was created by God for our enjoyment and intimacy with our spouse.  Sometimes the only instruction Christian parents ever give their kids in this area is “don’t do it before marriage”.  Now don’t get me wrong, that’s a good message, but teenagers have a lot more questions than that about sex.

I was fortunate to grow up in a home that taught me a healthy, Christian worldview about sex.  I first heard about sex from my dad.  He told me when I started asking questions, and when he felt like I was at an appropriate age.  I remember him telling me that if I ever had a question, I should come to him.  That was such a comforting thought to me, and boy did I ever take him up on that, especially as a middle schooler going to a public school.  I learned that purity had more to do with my heart than any base that I wasn’t supposed to get to with another girl.

Throughout my high school years, I remember having friends over at my house and something would come up about sex and we would discuss it as a family.  My friends would always be blown away about the openness and trust that I had with my parents to discuss such things.  It was never crude or inappropriate, but it was done in a respectful, honest way.  What my parents were doing was helping me form a biblical worldview about sexuality.  Even with all the messages from Hollywood that were bombarded on my mushy brain, I filtered them through the biblical instruction that my parents taught me.

Sometimes I think we send off the vibe that sex is gross or off-limits to discuss.  If you give off that kind of message to your kids, they will seek out answers elsewhere and may develop convictions about sex that don’t fall in line with God’s truth.

2. Show them the joys of loving God.  Many times the issues that pertain to people choosing sexual immorality have nothing to do with a desire for sex, but a need and longing for intimacy, comfort, and joy.  As parents, we need to do 2 things: 1) pour out unconditional love on them so that they are never tempted to look for that from someone else before they are ready to get married, and 2) model for our kids a life that is completely satisfied in Christ.  It’s only the gospel that truly fills our hearts with God’s love.  I believe that the more we can genuinely show them what real love looks like, as the Holy Spirit works in their hearts, they will desire the same thing and not fall for the fake, generic love that the world has to offer.

I want to close by saying that nothing makes your kids error-proof when it comes to making choices about relationships and marriage.  I’ve known of parents who have done all the right things and still had children rebel and make stupid choices.  What we need to remember is that God is faithful and prayer is powerful.  The prayer that I’ve been burdened to pray for my children is a simple one: “Lord, let the gospel take root and bear fruit in their heart.”  I’d encourage you to pray that often as well.  The gospel can lead and shepherd a child’s heart, even when mom and dad aren’t there, and that’s my hope.

When the gospel takes you to Latvia and back

Today’s post is from Scott Beierwaltes, one of the elders at Providence.  Scott and Katie and their family have been on an amazing journey over the last 6 months through their adoption of a young man from Latvia, Andris.  I’ve asked them to share what God has been doing in their lives over the last few month and what He has taught them through their experiences in Latvia.  Here is Scott’s story:

I pray that this post clearly communicates just how amazing our God is and how blessed we are to be His.  Any bragging you may sense as you read our story comes with a humbleness of knowing that the great peace and joy we’ve experienced is not due to anything we’ve done, but purely by the grace of God that He would bless us so richly and beyond anything we deserve.

Wow!  What an exciting ride it’s been these past 6 months as God placed a powerful sense in me, and then in Katie, to reach out and connect with Andris days before he left to head home to Latvia after spending 5 weeks here as part of a host program.  

What’s been interesting to me is that it has never seemed like a burden or sacrifice.  I would have thought that along the way, at some point, we would feel overwhelmed by all the various challenges and as we overcame them to feel pride in our accomplishments and what we’ve overcome.  Instead, from the moment we connected with Andris at his host family’s home, everything has felt very natural and normal.  Peaceful.  From our communication, to our feelings for each other, to all of the various hoops and expenses related to the adoption process … it’s as if God has supernaturally paved the way and provided us just the right amount of momentum.  That momentum carried us all the way to Riga, Latvia for most of the month of June.

We arrived in Riga with the sole focus of bringing Andris physically into our family after many months of Facebook chats and the occasional call or video chat.  On the second day we were formally approved by the Latvian orphan court and made the drive out to the Children’s Home where Andris lived.  Seeing Andris in person after so many months apart brought great happiness!  Similar to the anticipation felt during pregnancy and then the feelings of intense joy when a baby is born, we felt similar anticipation and the rush of excitement the moment we saw Andris and hugged him.  From that day since we continue to be blessed as we all get to know and enjoy each other.  It’s been such an amazing experience to see and experience God’s handiwork.  For reasons beyond our understanding, God chose now to be the time to finally bring us all together.

One aspect of this experience that I’m grateful for has been the opportunity to rely on God.  Realistically, while I’d love to be able to say that we’ve always relied on God each and every day, it’s simply not true.  Way too often, typically without even realizing it, we’ve made decisions based on what we wanted to do and believed was possible. This was, and continues to be, completely different.  Initially, we didn’t even think about adopting Andris.  Not because of anything about Andris personally, but more a feeling that our lives were already full.  God changed all of that in an instant when He placed in me an undeniable sense that we had to connect with him.  At first, it wasn’t clear what exactly that would mean, but I shared those feelings with Katie who didn’t even blink before agreeing to connect with him before leaving.  Unbelievable.  A busy mom with 4 young children, yet God had prepared her to be open minded to what He might have for us.  God gave us both the desire and then also the sense that He would provide for us all along the way.  So, even though we knew in our minds that practically it would be very difficult (i.e. very tight deadlines due to his age, high financial costs with zero money budgeted, and 4 kids under the age of 8) we also had a clear sense that if we trusted and relied on God that He would provide for us.  And He did!  

We learned to focus on one day at a time.  To spend time with Him in the morning praying for that day and not just for Andris, but also that our love for God would deepen and from that He would change us to love others in a way beyond anything we could do on our own.  During those times, I was reminded that the good news of Jesus isn’t just for the unbeliever, but for everyone.  I learned to remind myself and thank Jesus daily for living a perfect life for us to follow, for incurring the punishment for sin that we would have all otherwise suffered, and then rising from the dead and living among the people to prove that He was who He said He was.  Reflecting on that Gospel message repeatedly dramatically increased my feelings for Him.  As the feelings and dependence increased, the more I want to share that with people.  The more I want to live the type of life that will bring Him the most glory and fame.  He deserves it!  The law, or description of how we should behave, is our guide.  Not that we can come close to doing it all in our power, but it serves to show God’s perfect standards and to plant seeds in our hearts and minds to bear fruit when opportunities arise.  Our realization that we fall short of how God intended us to live should serve as an opportunity for us to seek Him and the forgiveness bought for us by Jesus on the cross.

In remembering the Gospel and literally begging God to change me and overcome my inherent selfishness, God has blessed me with a deeper love for Him and others, as well as a desire to look for “divine appointments” to speak of His goodness.  One awesome answer to prayer is that God has given us a story to tell.  I prayed for months pleading with God to give us stories to tell people about Him … after a few occurrences of sharing the adoption news and our story, I finally realized that this experience was a direct answer to prayer.  Not just for me, but also for Andris who prayed for a large family to adopt him.  

God is amazing and has blessed us so richly!  I feel like we’re just scratching the surface of what God has for us.  The more we let go, follow the Bible, seek forgiveness, and put our trust in Him … the more I believe we’ll experience the fullness of life and ultimately the pureness of heaven.  

Take the gift of today, and everyday, to fall on your knees and thank Jesus for all that He’s done and humbly plead with Him to change you and instill in you an undeniable sense to boldly follow Him.

May God bless you and keep you close!

How to prepare your kids for the dating scene – Part 2

It seems that every generation of youth define the standards of what is acceptable and unacceptable when it comes to dating and relationships.  What was taboo and off-limits for one generation becomes normal in the next generation.   We’ve seen that in every generation since WWII.  I think that most Christian families feel overwhelmed against the tide of messages that our children hear everyday concerning love, marriage and sex.  Instead of being victims of the culture, we must be proactive in teaching our children the biblical standards of love, marriage and commitment.  Last time I shared the first principle of making sure that parents are involved in the process of choosing a spouse.  I know that ultimately it is the decision of every young man or woman of who they marry, but parents must take an active role in sharing their wisdom with their children in the process.  I want to share with you a couple more principles that I believe are the bedrock of a biblical philosophy of dating and courtship.

Principle #2 – Become the right person first.  Most conversations I have had with young people about marriage and dating have to do with finding the “right” person.  It seems that some teenagers and students have a built in radar on their head constantly scanning the territory for an acceptable mate.  Now there’s nothing wrong with looking for a spouse or desiring one, but I think that some can become obsessed with it.  I believe some have this propensity to “scan” because they are of the belief that there’s only one right person out there and they better find it.  I’m not a proponent of that belief that there is one right person for you and if you miss out on that, you’re in trouble.  The only standard God gives us for selecting a spouse is that they must be a believer (1 Corinthians 6 &7).  There seems to be an obsession though today of finding this magical mate that will solve all their problems and make their life complete.  Unfortunately a spouse doesn’t automatically make life better.  Marriage does make life richer and better, but it requires a lot of work, sacrifice, and sanctification.

There’s a huge danger that we must help our kids avoid.  Most Christian young adults spend all their time looking for the right person instead of becoming the right person.  What we need to challenge our children to do is to first become the type of person that God wants them to be, and then let God bring someone into their lives when they are ready for the commitment of marriage.  When the object of our hearts is to follow Jesus and to become like Him, then the temptation to make another person an idol fades.

Also, if a young man or woman is consumed with the gospel and allowing it to bear fruit in their life, the type of person that they will be attracted to will change.  A shallow, selfish person is going to be attracted to the external and temporary.  A gospel-centered person is going to be attracted to someone who loves Jesus.  For those of us who have been married for any period of time, we know that the verse in Proverbs 31 holds true that charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised.

A great book for teenagers and young adults to read is Proverbs.  This book gets to the heart of every person.  It not only shows the type of person we need to become (wise), but it shows us the type of person we need to be attracted to.  Encourage your kids to read a chapter in Proverbs everyday and discuss it.  Read it together with the intent of seeing what it says about preparation for marriage.

Principle #3 – Beware of idolatry.  I touched on this a little from my last point.  One of the greatest dangers our children can fall prey to is turning people into idols.  Now most of us have an image of a golden statue or something when we talk about idols, but an idol is just anything that we love more than God.  God wants us to love him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Unfortunately, we are tempted everyday to love things more than Jesus.  We must teach our children to guard their hearts (Prov. 4:23) against the temptation to put another person in the place of God.  When our son or daughter starts to believe that they cannot be happy without another person, they have crossed the line of idolatry.

One of the best ways to teach your children about idols is to model it.  Our kids know exactly what is most important to us.  Is it a team, is it a person, is it a standard of living, is it our job, or is it status?  We have very little ground to stand on to teach our kids about idols, when we are always practicing idolatry before them.  We’ve all fallen in this area as parents, which is why we must always lead them and model repentance for them.  As they see us forsaking our idols, they will understand what they must do when they find themselves in similar territory.

There’s also a great opportunity to shepherd a child’s heart when they’re young in this area.  The heart issues of idolatry can be seen at a young age.  When we confront and lead our children through issues of idolatry when they are 7 and 8, we’ll have a much greater chance of helping them and shepherding them when they are 15 and 16.  When your son and daughter begins to show signs that their joy, hope, or happiness is connected to something other than Jesus, you must be diligent to ask them heart questions.  Always lead them back to the gospel and Jesus and pray that it takes root in their heart.

Marriage is a good thing and being attracted to others is natural, but let’s train our children to always place their ultimate joy and hope in Jesus.

How to prepare your kids for the dating scene

On Saturday morning I took my oldest son out for breakfast.  We went to Lowesville cafe for a little one-on-one time which does not happen enough.  As we were talking, I had this frightening thought, “He’s only 2 years away from being a teenager!”  Every parent will tell you that time flies, but I believe that it seems to go faster as your kids get older.  I realized that the next 10 years of parenting are going to be a lot different from the first 10 years for Liz and I.  In parenting, there’s always this dual responsibility of protection and preparation.   In many ways, we’ve spent a lot more time protecting than preparing, but that will change as our children get older.

One of the areas that I am really burdened is to prepare my children for is marriage.  I know that every family has different rules for dating or courtship, so I’m not going to try to tread on any preferential standards.  The Bible does not speak specifically on the issue of dating, because that’s basically a cultural phenomena of the last 70 or so years.  I do think though that the Bible does give some basic principles that we can teach our children regarding dating, courting and choosing a spouse.  I think we must be diligent to instruct our kids in this area, because the institution of marriage is falling apart in our society and it’s not much better within the Christian community.  To me, the choosing of a mate is the most important decision in life after our decision to follow Christ.  When I see all the young kids in our church I see a huge opportunity.  We can either let the status quo for dating and courtship to exist or we can change the culture in our homes.  I don’t want this to be a long post, so I’m going to share one principle now and some more in the days ahead.  All of these are rooted in Scripture and I believe are timeless and trans-cultural.

Principle #1 –  Parents should play a major part in helping choosing a spouse for their child.  I know that I may sound like an old fuddy-duddy here, but there was a time when parents chose a mate for their children (in some parts in Asia, this still happens).  As a young person, I scoffed at that kind of thinking, but the longer I’m married, the more I understand that marriage and love is more about commitment than feelings.  There’s a reason that all of our romantic comedies and dramas that we watch end with the couple getting together.  You know why?  Because after a man and woman commit to each other, that’s when the real work begins.  As a veteran of marriage, my wife and I can say that we know more about who might be a good husband and wife than my 20-22 year old does.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we revert to a time when arranged marriages are the norm.  I think we are far past that as a culture, but we must teach our children that a parent’s wisdom and advice is to be trusted.  In most movies, it’s the classic story of parents who don’t understand true love, but in real life, it’s the exact opposite.  I remember my mom and dad telling my brothers and I that if they didn’t like a girl that we brought home, then she probably wasn’t a good girl.  We need to teach our children to trust us and our wisdom.  Teach your boy to observe how the girl they are interested in respects her father.  If she doesn’t, there will be a time when she doesn’t respect them.  Teach your girl to observe how the boy they like treats his mom or sister.  It shows what he really thinks about love and respect.  Of course, this is harder than we usually think.  My worst fear is that my little girl brings home a bad guy with a bad attitude.  So what do we do?

One of the best ways to handle this is to invite the other person into your home…a lot.  This will allow the boy or girl of interest to be observed in a variety of settings.  One thing we need to teach our children is that 2 teenagers of the opposite sex have no need to spend time alone.  Nothing good will come of it.  I remember a friend whose parents did not like the person they were “falling in love with”.  Instead of pushing this person away and making this a forbidden love thing, the parents invited this teenager over all the time.  They invited him over so much that their daughter started to see the kind of person this young man was and got sick of him and dumped him.  I wish it was always that simple, it sometimes isn’t, but parent’s must remain diligent.

Another simple way to influence the heart of your child is to pray.  Pray diligently for God to work in their heart so that they will be attracted to the right kind of person.  I don’t know how many of you do this, but the prayer for your child’s spouse should be a regular request that you bring before God.

Of course, there are examples in Scripture that show a parent choosing a spouse for their child (Abraham, Caleb), and that may be more of a cultural reality than anything else, but this really comes down to a gospel issue.  We need to remember to have marriages the exemplify the love of Christ.  In Ephesians 5 Paul speaks of marriage as one of the most perfect illustrations of the gospel.  When we model this for them, we teach them what marriage and love should look like, and we put a taste in their mouths for the kind of relationship that God desires for them to have.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever talked with your kids about dating or courtship, but it’s never too late to start.  I hope and pray that there will be a generation of parents that are proactive in this battle.  Don’t let the culture determine the standards of love and attraction.  Fight to keep your kids hearts close to yours and constantly teach and instruct them what a godly marriage should look like.

What advice would you give your kids now knowing what you do about marriage?