Why is it called GOOD Friday?

This was a question that I was asked by my then six year old daughter. Why is it called GOOD Friday? I mean, Jesus, the one that we love, the one that we adore, was crucified on this day. What’s so good about that? This is a question that many adults forget to think about. This question presented an incredible opportunity for us to talk about why it was so GOOD that Jesus died on the cross. My initial answer was, “It’s so GOOD because Jesus died for our sins…your sins, my sins, the sins of the whole world.” She innocently and oh so wisely, asked again, “But why is that good?” The reason that is so GOOD is because this is what allows us to have a relationship with God. A simple explanation (I like to look at John 3:16 and Romans 5:8) is that our sin is like a giant electric fence in between us and God, keeping us from being really close. When Jesus died on the cross he wiped our sins away and that giant fence was demolished so that there is nothing in between us and God. And that is why it is GOOD Friday!! Looking at it this way, maybe we should call it GREAT Friday, or AMAZING Friday, or ABSOLUTELY, AWE INSPIRING, MIRACULOUS Friday!! Check out Hebrews 10:19-22, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” Read these verses with your kids. Depending on their ages you will focus on different parts…but the overwhelming truth and bottom line is “let us draw near to God.” Good Friday is so GOOD because Jesus’ sacrifice allows us to draw near to God.

The small step on the Family Discipleship Path that I would like to encourage you to take this week is to celebrate Good Friday with your family. You can attend a service at a church or have your own celebration with your family or a group of friends. Spend a couple of minutes reading scriptures regarding the death of Christ before you celebrate. Encourage your kids to ask some questions after the service or gathering. I give my kids a paper and pen and have them write down questions during the Good Friday service so that we can talk about it afterward. This helps them stay focused and quiet and remember their questions at a time when we can talk about it.

Most Good Friday services include a communion table. What a great opportunity to draw near to Jesus as a family. A simple explanation for communion is that it is a way for us to remember what Jesus did for us when he died on the cross. Give a brief explanation before hand, then participate together, and then offer an opportunity to share their experiences or ask questions afterward.  Here’s a post with a bit more of an explanation of communion http://familydiscipleshippath.com/2013/03/28/communion-with-your-family/

 

Please share your experiences with children and Good FridayMatthew and Noah

 

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How do I talk to children about Salvation?

I have had many parents come to me and admit that they are anxious and unprepared to lead their children to accept Jesus. These are adults who have led other adults to Christ and have followed Jesus for a long time. And yet, there’s some hesitation in how to simplify the message and put it into words that kids can understand. Classic wording, like “invite Jesus into your heart” doesn’t make sense to children. I once had a little girl who “invited Jesus into her heart” and then refused to drink any water. I asked, “Why won’t you drink anything?” and she responded with, “I don’t want to get Jesus wet!”

Here is a simplified salvation message to help you share with your kids in your life.

God is LOVE. He loves you and He wants you to Love Him. But not all people love God! Why? Because of Sin. What is Sin? Sin is disobeying God. Sin is making a decision to do those things which you know are wrong.

James 4:17 says “Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

Who has sinned? EVERYONE!

Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned.”

What does sin do? Sin puts you into circumstances that are not God’s best for you. Sin separates you from God. Sin gets in between you and God and makes a relationship with God impossible. So, what is God’s answer for your sin? JESUS!

Jesus is God’s son! He lived a perfect life. Jesus died on a cross to pay the penalty for your sin and came alive again in a wonderful way!! Jesus lives in heaven today. He listens to your prayers and is preparing a place for you in heaven!! Jesus is the only way to have a relationship with God and spend forever in heaven with Him.

Jesus answered I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Here are some easy steps to say YES to Jesus and invite God to be the leader of your life.

1. Admit that you are a sinner

Every person has sinned.For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.Romans 3:23

 Sin separates you from GodFor the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ.Romans 6:23

2. Repent of your sin

Repentance is feeling sorry for having sinned and having a great desire to turn in the opposite direction.

Just as repentance is turning away from sin, faith means turning toward God. You show faith when you turn toward God and His forgiveness.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out. . . Acts 3:19

3. Believe in Jesus

Realize that God loves you and Jesus died for your sin.

 God so loved the world that He gave us his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

To believe in Jesus means to trust Jesus. This means you believe Jesus is the Son of God and you trust Him to save you from your sins and to give him control of your life.

4. Receive Jesus into your life

Ask Jesus through prayer to come into your life to be your savior and Lord.

If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart God raised Him (Jesus) from the dead, you will be saved.Romans 9:10

If you have never received Jesus into your life, you can pray this prayer now:

“Dear God, I know Im a sinner. Please forgive me. I believe that Jesus died for my sins. I want Jesus to come into my life and be my savior. I want to follow Him and obey Him. I want Him to be the Lord of my life. Amen.”

¨ Jesus came into your life

¨ Your sins are forgiven

¨ You became a child of God

¨ You have a home forever in heaven

¨ YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN! A Christian is someone who follows Christ!

Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.” Mathew 10:32

Who are you going to tell? How are we going to celebrate and remember this day?

Please share your stories about leading children to Jesus. They can be inspirational or funny!1972398_624531504284074_1204482594_n

How do I Talk to Children about Baptism?

Baptism is an important step to take in our discipleship path. Baptism is a symbolic action and often symbolism is tough to explain to kids. Here is how I teach it to children.

Who can be baptized?Everyone who has decided to follow Jesus!! When you invite Jesus Caleb's baptisminto your life you are joining God’s family. You should wait to be baptized until you have accepted Jesus into your heart.

There is not an age limit on who can be baptized. It is important that a child be able to express and tell the story of when they decided to give their life to Jesus. Before we baptize a child (or an adult) at Risen King a pastor or leader asks the child to tell them about when they asked Jesus into their life. There have been many occasions when I have asked a child this question and they answer, “I’ve always been a Christian” or something to that effect. I don’t ask for specific dates and details but if a child cannot tell me about a time when they made the decision and prayed to ask Jesus into their life I ask if they would like to make that decision and pray today. (Coming soon: How do I talk to children about salvation?)

Why get baptized?

-          To tell others that you have joined God’s family or to show on the outside the decision that you made on the inside. The decision to follow Jesus is a personal decision and often is private. The act of baptism is done in front of your friends and family to share this private decision publicly. ____________.

-          To do what Jesus did. Matthew 3:13-15

-          To do what the Bible tells us to do. Acts 2:38

-          To symbolize the act of dying to our old selves and being born again into God’s family and the act of being washed clean of all of our sins when God forgives us of our sins. Romans 6:4

o   Symbolism is a tough concept for younger children. I use more common examples like a wedding ring. My wedding ring doesn’t make me married but it is a symbol that shows others that I am married. Or the McDonald’s arches. The yellow arches don’t taste good or fill you up but they represent food.

I will ask each child why they want to get baptized. I want to hear in their own words that they understand and have internalized the explanation and landed on their own motivation.

 

How is a person baptized?People get baptized in water.     BAPTIZE means “put in the water”. Acts 8:38 People are also baptized in public or in front of their friends and family.

-          Sometimes young children are afraid or nervous about the act of baptism. I always explain exactly how it happens. For example: I will be right there with you and on the other side will be another pastor. We will pray for you and then we will say, “By the confession of your faith(which just means because you have said that you believe) we baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” We will make sure you are ready. You can even plug your nose and then we will dip you back under the water and then right back up again. I will often “demonstrate” outside of the water with one child to show how little time they will be under the water and how I will hold onto them the whole time. This eases their mind about the specifics so that they can concentrate on meaning of baptism.

 

Celebrate!! Baptism is a big deal. It is an exciting day and a time that needs to be remembered and celebrated. You can find some ideas here: http://familydiscipleshippath.com/2012/09/07/celebrate-with-your-family/

 

I’d love to hear your baptism stories or questions. Share your comments.

 

*** Churches and denominations vary in how they understand and live out the act of baptism. I am a pastor at Risen King Community Church which is part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Here’s a document from the C&MA on baptism http://www.cmalliance.org/about/beliefs/perspectives/baptism

 

Family Discipleship through Divorce

Everyone is affected by divorce in some way…maybe your own parents, your own marriage, your children or others in your family. The emotions and grief that go along with a separation are deep and painful and are unique to every situation.  My own story was affected by divorce when as an adult; my paDivorcerents decided they would no longer be married. I was married myself with two little girls. It was so painful and confusing. What I soon discovered was that the implications from one divorce continued to have a ripple effect on the lives around the couple for a really long time. The effects of divorce are far reaching and have many layers.  The effects of divorce on children show up in behavior, relationship and discipleship.

When my kids were 5, 7, and 9 I was asked to facilitate a course at our church called “Becoming a Love and Logic Parent.” I honestly felt like I had a parenting paradigm that worked for our family. I had read many, many books and attended seminars on parenting. I was content with how things were going in our family. In order to teach the class, I had to learn the techniques and tools. So, I went to a class offered at my kids’ school and listened to a bunch of CD’s and read the books. As I was learning the tools, I practiced using them on my own kids and it radically changed our family. My kids became more responsible, respectful and fun to be around. I became less stressed and had a great reduction in my anxiety level. And, in all honesty, I also became more fun to be around.

I have been facilitating Love and Logic groups and classes for the past 5 years. It has been so great to see families changed as they use the tools that they learn. On the first night of class I have the parents and educators share verbally and written what they are looking to gain from the information. One issue that is never stated out loud but shows up on more than half of the written forms is the issue of marriage and divorce. Parenting issues is one of the leading causes of divorce. Disagreements about what to do with the children are VERY common in a marriage. These disagreements grow in intensity through a divorce.

It has been requested many times for specific teaching on how to navigate parenting after a divorce. I have done what I can to apply the fundamentals of Love and Logic to specific situations. But I haven’t been able to holistically address the issue of helping kids cope with divorce.  I had one divorced couple attend one of my classes together and each night went out to coffee to discuss how to apply the tools with their children. This was so good for those kids. However, I know that isn’t always possible…actually it rarely is.  I recently came across a webinar from www.loveandlogic.com called “Love and Logic: Helping Kids Cope with Divorce.”  It was a two hour teaching by Dr. Charles Fay with a workbook that went along with it. Honestly, it was so good. The teachings will help me help others as they navigate parenting through a divorce.  It’s also a great resource that I can direct people towards.

One of the ripple effects that I see in kids who are walking through a divorce is that their discipleship is put on hold. I understand the feelings of needing to focus on survival through a hard time and things like discipline and discipleship take a back seat. However, the first point Dr. Fay makes is that kids need an anchor of loving discipline. I would add that they need the anchor of loving discipleship at the same time.  I love the imagery of the word anchor that he uses. An anchor holds you steady and safe. An anchor is even more important during a storm!!  Another statement he makes is “stay rooted in your core values.” Rooted is another great imagery. Trees need roots to grow big and strong. In a storm, the roots are even more important to keep a tree from blowing over.

If your family is experiencing the ripple effects of a divorce I urge you to keep your eyes on Jesus and focus on your relationship with God.  Find support in your church community.  Your relationship with God will give you strength, peace, discernment, love, understanding and joy as you walk through the hard times. Children can hold onto God to find all that he promises. I recommend prioritizing placing your children in environments (at home and at church) where they can grow in their love of Jesus.  I also highly recommend this webinar. I really believe it will help in your situation. I know that it will help me as I walk alongside families as they discipline and disciple their children through rough situations.

 

** Love and Logic did not compensate me for this recommendation.

 

 

 

Creating a Sense of Belonging

301276_10200111740294894_1297924620_nTo create a sense of belonging at your church for your children, you can help them find their purpose and build friendships. Simply said—we can help our kids find a job and a friend! Today we are going to focus on finding a job. I will write later on how we can cultivate friendships for our kids at church. Many experts will say that the secret to helping kids “stick” to their church and their faith after high school is the act of serving in the local church as youth. The likelihood of “sticking” increases even more if the youth are serving with their families in the local church.

The small step that we are going to look at today is helping your child find a job at your church….supporting their service and serving alongside.

The first step in encouraging your children to find a spot to serve is to model it in your own life. Our kids will do what they see us do before they do what they hear us say to do. (Say that ten times fast—I double dog dare you)

The next step is finding the right spot. When we are serving in a role that fits us, our spiritual gifting, our passion, our personality, and our abilities we will be so much happier, more fulfilled, more successful, and will be able to serve with longevity. The opposite is also true. If we are serving in a role that is just not the right fit this will lead to unhappiness, frustration, exhaustion, discouragement, and ultimately quitting. Some tools that will help your family determine passion and spiritual gifting can be found at www.risenking.org under the resource tab. A conversation with your family and pastor about how God has made you will help to determine what type of jobs would be a good fit.

The final step is finding out what opportunities are available at your church that will fit how God has made you. You can find these opportunities by talking with the leaders at your church or watching for opportunities as they are communicated. If you are at Risen King, we have opportunities for young people and families to serve in many areas: Worship, Greeting and Ushering, Serving Communion, Hospitality, Special Events, or KIDS ministry are some great places to start.

Please take a moment to share a comment. What ways have you and your children served in the church? What was that experience like? How are you going to take this step on the Family Discipleship Path? Do you have any other ideas for creating a sense of belonging through finding a job?

Fully Reliant in Cambodia

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about Cross Cultural Missions http://familydiscIMG_4439ipleshippath.com/2014/01/10/cross-cultural-missions-and-your-family/. I shared  about a journey to Cambodia that I was preparing to embark upon. I have been back a month and am realizing that I never posted a follow up from my trip for those who don’t know me personally. Honestly, I had a really rough time with my re-entry into “real life.”  I’ve been forgetting a lot of things.

My time in Cambodia was amazing and hard. I felt like my heart was breaking over and over again. I also saw the hope of Jesus interspersed in the pain and darkness. I had the opportunity to preach on the Sunday after I returned. I shared a bit about the trip and a bit about how God had been working in my life. (You can find the message here: http://risenking.org/Media/Messages.html.  If you would like to hear it, just scroll down to February 2, 2014. Please be aware that I am discussing human trafficking and use concepts that may be too mature for kids to hear. I use words like pedophile, prostitute, and sex. Please use your discretion.)

I share in this message a major lesson that God has been teaching me that began before I went to Cambodia and was reinforced over and over again in Cambodia. Now that I’m back home, I am processing how to apply the concept of being Fully Reliant in my everyday life.

As we focus on the discipleship of the next generation, whether in our church or in our homes, this message of remaining Fully Reliant can be one of real freedom and empowerment.

Here’s the gist if you don’t have time to listen:

As I was preparing for all of the unknowns that I would encounter, I was freaking out a bit! I felt God calm me by saying, “You can’t be fully prepared for what I have in store for you, but you can be fully reliant.” God gave me a picture of a conduit. He said, “What is needed in every situation is Jesus! And you have Jesus to offer. You have everything that I have; you have power, love, compassion, strength, peace, joy, discernment. Be a conduit of ME!” As a parent, we cannot be fully prepared, but we can be fully reliant! As we connect with each child in our life, we can act as a conduit for what God has to offer.

A conduit is empty—which is how I felt. It’s empty on purpose so that it can transport what is needed. I needed to be an empty conduit and fully reliant on what God had to offer in each situation. My response to the challenge to be Fully Reliant needed to be, “Listen to God and do what he says,” and my response to the picture of a conduit was to stay current on my own stuff, be an empty conduit, and have one ear on what God was saying and one on the conversation so that I could speak what God was saying. Or to hold on to God with one hand while having my other hand on his precious child so that I could do what he was doing, or one eye on God and one eye in front of me so that I could see what he was seeing.

I relied on Isaiah 40:28-30 a lot in those days in Cambodia:

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even the young grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah 40:28-31

As we endeavor to raise our kids in a way that supports their relationship with Jesus and their discipleship, we can feel similarly to how I felt as I walked through my journey in Cambodia. Well, I won’t say we….I’ll say “I”. I often feel unprepared and inadequate and empty. However, as I  put my  hope in the Lord, as I am  fully reliant on the Lord, as I am a conduit of all that He has to offer, as I Listen to God and do what He says…..I  am led into what He has to offer. As we put our hope in the Lord, we are led into power, strength and perseverance.  As you walk through whatever you encounter in your own family ask yourself the following questions:

Am I putting the hope of my family in anything or anyone other than God?

Are there any areas in my family or parenting that I am not being fully reliant on Christ?

Is there anything that is getting in the way for me to be a conduit of all that God has for my family?

What is God speaking to me about my kids or family and what am I going to do about it?

FAQ- If my kid doesn’t want to go to church, do I make them? (Part 2-Jr. High and High School)

echo n kidsThis is a continuation of a previous blog, for the first part click this link:        http://familydiscipleshippath.com/2014/02/19/faq-if-my-kid-doesnt-want-to-go-to-church-do-i-make-them-part-1-infants-elementary/

Ideally, by the time a student hits 6th grade, they are connected into a church family and have developed habits and disciplines that make church attendance less of a fight or not a fight at all!! Many Jr. High and High School students love going to church, they feel the presence of God, they feel supported by others and they love to be with their friends. It is possible! I pray that that may be the case for you and your family. However, there are some who struggle with it and fight against it. For those who are struggling, do you make them go?

This is a less cut-and-dried issue for older children than the younger ones. There are many things to take into account. I have some ideas to try. If you have tried all of these and the struggle has continued for an extended period of time (like a year) then the answer is probably, “No, you don’t make them.” But, you don’t start there! At the first hint of resistance is not the point when you give up. Seek counsel from your friends and pastors.  You can’t “make” your kids do anything and often the more you try to control, the more kids struggle to fight for control. However, you can encourage and influence and guide. Try some of these or all of these ideas before resigning yourself to your older children dropping out of church (in no particular order)

1.)    As many rules as necessary, as few as possible! This is a phrase that I rely on in my home and in my church. If it’s not necessary to make a rule about church, then DON’T!

2.)    Friends are the key! Kids will go where their friends are. Either work to help your child make a friend within the church or invite a friend to go to church with you.

3.)    Share control!  Often kids who feel that they have no control over their lives will try to gain control over areas that are not the issue. Sometimes children will fight for control in any area they can. Give choices whenever possible. When giving choices, give two choices that you are happy with either. Would you like to go to the morning or the evening service? Would you like to drive or would you like me to? Would you like to stop for a doughnut or a bagel on our way?

4.)    Include your children in as many decisions as you can without causing a negative effect on others. If you have a home church, where you go to church is not up for debate- but the kids can be involved in other decisions like which service you go to, where you sit, the traditions before or after church.

If you don’t have a home church, involve the kids in the process. As a family, pick 3 churches you are going to try out, go to each church 3 times, and have a discussion talking through what they liked or didn’t like about each church. With a decision this big, parents should have the final say…however, receiving and recognizing input from the whole family is important.

5.)    Attend with your child. This one really depends on the kid. Offer to attend with them a few times if it helps them become more comfortable. Some will take you up on it, others would rather crawl under a rock than have mom or dad follow them.

6.)    Serve in the kids or youth program and encourage your child find a place to serve. I have seen some students who get involved with a group through a different avenue than the normal services. I had a mom come to me with a Jr. High boy who was nervous about going to Sunday school. She asked if they could serve together as teachers with a younger grade for a season so that he could get to know people and feel more comfortable. As he was serving, he met other families and began to feel that he belonged. He had no problem getting involved with people his own age after serving first.  There was another family whose student was hesitant until the parent volunteered to help with the youth team for a season. This gave the student exposure to the program with the security of family near.

7.)    Try it out! When my kids were younger they would often see a new food and refuse it just because it was new. They always needed to take a “No, Thank you” bite. They have to try it to know if they like it or not. Many of the issues that students have with church is that it is unknown or they don’t know anyone. Well, how are they going to get to know anyone if they don’t participate? It’s a vicious cycle! Make a deal with your kids to attend 3 times and then you would be happy to discuss it.

8.)    Prioritize attendance! If kids are only attending every few weeks, they will ALWAYS feel like the new kid.  I know that life gets in the way and makes it difficult to commit consistently. However, consistency is the number one factor that will contribute to a successful church experience for you and your student.  I also encourage you to make an effort to participate in special events like camps or mission trips or fun nights. These are times when deep friendships are made.  I have seen kids make friends at a bowling night that extend into Sunday morning and negate the ongoing fight.

9.)    Evaluate. Often kids will give reports to parents about what is going on with the youth. They will use phrases like, “It’s so boring.” “All they do is play games, there’s no teaching or anything.” “The leaders are mean.” “The kids are mean.” “There are exclusive groups and I don’t belong.”  Take what your student says seriously. However, do your own research! Go visit some youth events, meet with the youth leaders, and hang out with some of the students.  I warn against making assumptions about a program or group solely on the opinion of your student. Gather some more information before making a decision.  You may discover that they are correct and that will inform your tactics. You may discover that their impression is not a complete or fair evaluation.

10.) Model. Your example to your children is the most powerful tool you have. Your children will learn so much more by watching you than listening to you. Demonstrate and discuss your relationship with God with your children on an ongoing basis. Your own participation in church and attitude toward your church community will make the biggest impact on your child’s participation.

I’ve said this before, but I believe it may need to be said again. Church participation is not equal to your relationship with God. Church participation is a valuable tool to strengthen your relationship with God through teaching, worship, serving, and connecting with friends.

Many of these thoughts shared in these ideas have originated from the teachings from The Love and Logic Institute. I have found great value in their tools and apply them to every area of my interactions with children including but not limited to church participation. http://www.loveandlogic.com/

What are some strategies that have worked for you?