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?

The One Thing Your Kids Need to Know About Race

In light of the current event over the past several weeks I have been thinking, and talking a lot about the state of our country and the issue of race in particular. There are so many people with opinions from both sides and hot takes all over the web. In my conversations on race, the thing I keep coming back to is the idea of the nature of love.

The one thing your kids need to know about race is that our hatred towards others races or obsession with race our or another comes primarily from an excess or deficiency of love. Augustine in his Confessions explains to us that restlessness in his heart and in the heart of every human is a result of disordered loves that we love the right things in the wrong order. We love self or others above Christ. In doing this we are incapable of loving our selves or our brother. Augustine believed that when we rightly love God primarily every other secondary love would be loved apporpraitely because we love God primarily.

Several hundred years later Dante picks up where Augustine left off and he says that there is a right order to love but there is also a proper force of love. We sin when our love is misdirected, deficient or excessive. Dantes most famous poem The Divine Comedy is most well known for its graphic depiction of hell. What people miss in the gore of hell is that the whole force and purpose of the poem is about right ordered and rightly applied love.

Experience, Exegesis and Eugene

Helping our kids navigate truth

It seems that every time we turn around there is another famous, semi-Christian famous, wanna-be-famous person sticking a skewer in the heart of Christian Orthodoxy. A couple of weeks ago the latest person to come out for the redefinition of Christian marriage was Eugene Peterson. He is also the latest person to come out and then affirm the Biblical view of marriage. I have grown to really respect Peterson over the years and I am not here to let Peterson have it. I think there was a lack of clarity in even his retraction yet I am comforted by his understanding of scripture and his years of faithful teaching. I do think this “Peterson” moment is instructive for us in a couple of ways. 1. You will be asked what you believe no matter who you are. 2. You will be asked to clarify why you believe what you believe.

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