Help! I Got My Kid a Cell Phone. Now What?

It seems that kids younger and younger are getting cell phones these days. There are many good reasons to get your kids a cell phone and there are equally as many reasons to delay as long as possible. The question I hear from parents is how do I keep my kids safe online and yet let them enjoy the freedom of a cell phone. The balance of safety and security is not easy to maintain.

I used to be an advocate of waiting until kids are much older to get a cell phone. I have changed my mind, with the pervasiveness of technology and the easy access of porn you have to teach your kids at a young age how to use technology without being ruled by it. If you just hand your kids a cell phone without teaching them how to use it or placing safeguards around it you are crazy. I love you but you are crazy. Here are a few things we have done and are putting into practice with our oldest as he joins the millions of kids who are connected around the world. These are a work in progress.

How Do We Teach Our Kids to Love?

The challenge from my last post was to help our kids to properly love. The question that creates is how. How do we properly love?  We know we are supposed to love God first and love Him most but how can we be sure that we are doing that?

John Locke clarified the philosophical principle of primary and secondary things that Plato first proposed. Locke says primary things are physical secondary things are more metaphysical. For us, as Christians, the distinction between primary things and secondary things is an important one. Not is the same sense that Locke proposed but in the sense, Christ proposed when he was asked the question what is the most important commandment. In trying to trick Jesus the religious leaders do us a great service they allowed us to see how to order our love and how to properly interact with secondary things.

Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The most important command isn’t to love people. It’s to love God primarily. How our love for God is seen is in how we love secondary things, people. Jesus was saying our love for Christ is primary and our love for everything else is secondary. He was also telling us how to measure our love for God. We can say we love God and there is no way for us to know for sure if we truly love God or if others truly love God. That is what makes secondary things so significant. It is in how we love secondary things in their proper way and to the appropriate degree. When we love secondary things too much we demonstrate that we don’t love God first. Loving things such as family, friends, money, and influence too much reveals the idol factory of our heart. Loving things too little produces anger, envy, and pride. When we don’t love secondary things they way that God does it reveals that we don’t know God or trust him in his love for us.

The problem in teaching kids to love we stop short and only teach them to be loving. The problem is being loving deals with secondary things. To teach kids to truly love it means teaching them to order their love by loving Christ primarily then because you know Christ who is love you will from that love appropriately love secondary things. Being a loving person is a very different thing than being known by Him who is true love. The confidence and assurance that comes from the loves in our life being rightly ordered free us to appropriate love secondary things. It is in how we love secondary things that show that we primarily love Christ.

Questions to ask ourselves about ourselves and our kids:

  1. What is one thing in your life that you feel defines who you are?
  2. What if removed from your life would cause you the most pain?
  3. Where do spend your time and money?
  4. Do you struggle with an excess of love which is greed, lust or gluttony?
  5. Do you struggle with a deficiency of love which is anger, envy or pride?
  6. Where do you turn or to what do you turn when life gets difficult?
  7. Do you preach the gospel to yourself every day?

Late Summer Reads

Summer is coming to a close most people do book lists before summer starts I thought I would blog about the best books I’ve read this summer. Summer for me means no seminary so I can read more books that accumulating on my nightstand. For me, my Favorite book of the summer is a three-way tie between “The Devine Comedy, Silence, and “A Practical Guide to Culture ”

Here is what I’ve read so far this summer. 

Handbook for young men
J.C. Ryle’s handbook for young men, replete with warnings, exhortations, and instruction about this life’s many trials, temptations, and common pitfalls. This book is a treasure.

– Short practical and like everything Ryle does it is gospel saturated.

Silence
Seventeenth-century Japan: Two Portuguese Jesuit priests travel to a country hostile to their religion, where feudal lords force the faithful to publicly renounce their beliefs. Eventually captured and forced to watch their Japanese Christian brothers lay down their lives for their faith, the priests bear witness to unimaginable cruelties that test their own beliefs. Shusaku Endo is one of the most celebrated and well-known Japanese fiction writers of the twentieth century, and Silence is widely considered to be his great masterpiece.

– This book is a must read for every High Schooler – Such a powerful story of faith and how faith is destroyed by a post modern world. 

Parenting
Sometimes parents wish there was a guaranteed formula for raising good kids–a certain list of rules to follow to ensure they’d have obedient children. But if moms and dads view their role through the lens of God’s grace, they will see that the gospel must first shape how they parent before they can effectively shape their children. In this highly practical book, Paul David Tripp unfolds a more biblical perspective on parenting than merely adhering to a list of rules. He lays out fourteen gospel-centered principles that will radically change the way parents think about what it means to raise up a child, informing everything they do as a parent.

– Parenting is one of the most convicting yet helpful books on parenting I have read in a while.

Gilead
Nearly 25 years after Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson returns with an intimate tale of three generations, from the Civil War to the 20th century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America’s heart. In the words of Kirkus, it is a novel “as big as a nation, as quiet as thought, and moving as prayer. Matchless and towering.” GILEAD tells the story of America and will break your heart.

– Gilead is a non-fiction story of faith and forgiveness. It was on a ton of lists so I read it. I thought it was good but not great. 

Inferno
This vigorous translation of Inferno preserves Dante’s simple, natural style, and captures the swift movement of the original Italian verse. Mark Musa’s blank verse rendition of the poet’s journey through the circles of Hell re-creates for the modern reader the rich meanings that Dante’s poem had for his contemporaries. Musa’s introduction and commentaries on each of the cantos brilliantly illuminate the text.

– Dante’s vision of hell was mesmerizing. Of all the classics I have read of late the Divine Comedy is near the top. Easy to read with much application to your life today. 

Live Like a Narnian
In “Live Like a Narnian” Joe Rigney shows that Owen Barfield was right–What C.S. Lewis thought about everything was secretly present in what he said about anything. From apologetics to his thoughts on education, from his view of science to the role of government, from Natural Law to true manhood and womanhood–the breadth of Lewis’s bright vision of life shines through in his beloved Chronicles. Come, learn to breathe Narnian air.

– This book was excellent great look at the great themes in Lewis’ Narnia. Really enjoyed this book. 

Should my Kids Watch 13 Reasons Why?

Should your kids watch 13 Reasons Why? When you are asked this question what are you going to say? Questions about watching things or consuming culture that is questionable come up over and over again in life and ministry. I remember when I was first a kids pastor Harry Potter and Pokemon were all the rage. Parents would ask if their kids should participate at that time I looked at everything in the world with two lenses that aren’t horrible just incomplete. I saw everything through a secular/Christian framework. If you lead with only this framework, you tend to create kids who feel they are good based on what they avoid rather than see the world the lens of what they should love. It also tends to create a Christian subculture that the Bible never advocates for. We are to be in the world not separate from but also not defined by the world. This creates for us a paradoxical relationship between us and the world we live in.

In making things about what we avoid we unintentionally do what the Jews did we add to the Law of God many times good prohibitions that end up being a crushing burden the law was never intended to be. The role of the law was to reveal our sin, show us our need for a savior, and then direct us to how life works best. It was never intended to create a crushing burden. As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to listen to “secular” music much of which my parents were right to prohibit. The problem is how the line was drawn. Christian music was defined primarily by the personal profession of faith by the lead singer of the band. I could never understand why this didn’t apply to clothing labels, movies or restaurants but I digress.

To distil everything into a good/bad litmus test you end up creating weird rules to determine what is ok and what should be banned. This can work, but it doesn’t give kids the tools they need to analyze culture the turn to cultural experts they trust to give them the thumbs up or thumbs down. This does little to help our kids navigate the complex world we live in. The question we should be asking is not is the good or bad? But is this true, good and beautiful.

Is this true?

The first question we have to ask is “Does this align with the truth of God’s word?” There are many things in this world that are not mentioned in the Bible such as Pokemon but does the story that the cultural good in question tells point us to the truth of God’s word or away from it. All truth is God’s truth, so even people who don’t profess to know Christ can proclaim his truth because of common grace. Does 13 Reasons Why advance God’s truth? No, it doesn’t. It diminishes the understanding that man is made in the image and likeness of God. It attaches our hope to our appetites.

Is it Good?

Is this thing good? We must teach our kids to cultivate goodness. The question for music, books, clothing is not “Did the person who created this ever make a profession of faith in Christ?” The question should be “Is this cultural item good or bad? Music is either good music or bad music. The goodness is defined not by the style but the content message and call to action. Does this song, book, clothing or art piece lead to human flourishing?

Is it Beautiful?

The God we serve is a self-revealing God. Does the cultural item in question point beyond itself and point you toward that which is truly beautiful. The pastor and poet George Herbert does this for me, but he was a Christian. Augustine does this for me. What about pagans? Plato, Aristotle, Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh were atheists all of which produced art that is beautiful because it points beyond itself to the world that created by God. Does 13 Reasons Why point to beauty beyond itself. I would say no as it has inspired many kids to take their lives because of the despair they find themselves in. Rather than point kids to greater hope, it feeds their despair.

Does it Glorify God?

The Last question we ask is, does this glorify God? As those who follow Christ, we are to live for the Glory of God alone. One of the foundational principles of the Protestant Reformation was Soli Deo Gloria for the glory of God alone. We must live, work, create and consume with this question “Will God be glorified by my creation or enjoyment of this thing?” If the answer to this question is no then avoids it if it is yes enjoy it and thank God for it. As Christians, we must be careful that we are not defined primarily by what we avoid, but we must strive to be defined by who we do all things for.

If our kids grow up with a secular sacrad view of the world they live in they will be unable to meet the demands the world creates. They will be ineffective at best and Pharisees at worst. We must teach them to long for the the good, the true, and the beautiful that in their lives Christ would be glorified.

Soli Deo Gloria

 

4 Things a Decade Worth of Blogging Has Taught Me

Around ten years ago I started following a few blogs on the internet as they were a relatively new thing. I found that there were many about lots of things that were very helpful but there were very few that provided wisdom and resources for kids and youth pastors. I think I remember there being about four to five blogs for kids pastors (David Wakerly, Jonathan Cliff, Matt Mckee, The Kidologist, I think were about it.) I can’t remember now what prompted it but I decided to jump into the blogosphere and in the following years, I shared what I was thinking about what I was processing through, good books, good ideas, and a few really bad ideas that sounded good at the time. So I thought I would share a few thoughts on blogging for a decade.

  1. The more you do something the easier it becomes
  2. Writing down your thoughts reveals the gradual changes we generally find imperceptible in our day-to-day lives.  I have changed in the last ten years more than I even realize. Looking over posts that I wrote ten years ago I find myself strongly disagreeing with myself. Which feels weird but it also helps me be more gracious with others because in ten years from now I’ll disagree with some of what I am writing at this point in my life.
  3. Sustained disciplined writing is the rings of an oak tree. You can see what happened in the life of the tree by studying its rings. I find it interesting to look back through my archive and see what God was doing and what things I was wrestling with at that season of my life.
  4. In the past ten years, I have connected with people I would never have met any other way. The community I have discovered through my blog and because of my blog has been a means of God’s grace to me in more ways you will ever fully know. For that, I am profoundly thankful. The reason I started blogging and continue to blog is to be to others what I wish I had  I started and in the family community ministry community, I have found what I always wanted as an isolated kids pastor who knew no one and painfully aware of his own inadequacy. Thank you, for taking the time to read my meandering thoughts. Thank you, for your comments your help and friendship. I am grateful to God for his grace and for your grace as well. I look forward to the next ten years with you all.