parenting

How and Why We Let Our Daughter Join Instagram

How and Why We Let Our Daughter Join Instagram

One of our favorite games as a family is called Oh Heck. You might know it as Up and Down the River. The reason this simple card game is so great is that while the rules of the game remain the same, every hand there is a different trump and a different number of cards. Throw in the fact that you can play the game with anywhere from two to seven players, and every game is different.

That feels a lot like parenting a child in 2019. The only thing that is the same is that everything is always changing.

In April our fifteen year old daughter asked if she could create an Instagram account. We said yes.

When is the right time to let your child engage in social media? More broadly, how do you parent children relating to technology?

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.     Most Americans Find Meaning in Family, Not Faith: I wrote on this topic and believe that this is a particularly entrenched issue for the American church. Helen Gibson reports, "Almost 7 in 10 Americans (69 percent) mentioned family when describing where they find a sense of meaning...[Meanwhile] 36 percent said religion provided them “a great deal” of meaning and fulfillment in the...survey."

2.     10 Critical Religious Liberty Cases coming in 2019: Joe Carter surveys the landscape of important cases forthcoming in 2019.

3.     Know That It’s Worth It: Melissa Edgington on raising true disciples, “When we pray that our children will have tender hearts toward the things of God, when we pray that they will be radically devoted to Him, we must also be prepared for what that really means. And we must remind each other, over and over again: it’s worth it. He is worth it. We can rely on Him to see our children through as they blaze a path of faithfulness through a world that has been dulled by complacency and hopelessness. This is what we have been praying for. God give us the faith and the perseverance to see it through, even when our hearts break. Following Christ isn’t easy. But it’s worth it.”

4.     Royal Museums Space Photography Competition: Amazing, amazing, amazing. A glimpse of heaven.

5.     Who Steals a Cheese Grater? Or soap? Things to ponder :).

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Are you Raising a Narcissist? Steve Cornell offers a helpful inventory. Among the many gems is this one: "Don’t be the parents who overindulged a child’s sense of personal beauty or talent. This will lead to self-deception, narcissism and social dysfunction. It’s also a sure path to marital misery!"

2.      5 Things Every Newly Wed Needs to Hear: Daryl Crouch with wisdom for couples. In reflecting on what the role of those witnessing the wedding is, he shares, "The purpose of this kind of public declaration of loyal love is more than grandstanding. When you mailed your wedding invitations, you were also asking these loved ones to stay involved in your life and your marriage. A wedding includes people who know you, love you, and care about your future success. They’re not only witnesses who observe the moment you exchange rings, they’re people who will pray for you, counsel you, and invest in you. They’re the people who will help you keep the vows they’ve heard you make."

3.      What do Evangelicals Believe? This survey of evangelicals by the Ligonier Ministries is disconcerting to say the least. Perhaps the most concerning response came to this statement: " God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam." 51% of evangelicals agreed with that statement."God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam." A majority of evangelicals agree that God can be worshiped by those who haven't put their trust n Jesus Christ. 

4.      5 Myths About Calvinism: This helpful article by Greg Forster debunks including "God saves us against our will," and "God does not love the lost." On the former, Forster explains, "The role of the Spirit is to remove the power of sin and instill new powers of belief and trust, which do inevitably result in saving faith–but this is done without violating the will’s freedom. In fact, the work of the Spirit enlarges our freedom."

5.      Greenland-Land of Ice: What a gift to be able to see remote places of the world in all their beauty.

The Unexpected Gift (part 2) by Anne Madhu Gammon

The Unexpected Gift (part 2) by Anne Madhu Gammon

A note from John:

It’s my pleasure to share with you the story of my friend, Madhu Gammon. Madhu and her husband Keith attend Stone Hill Church in Princeton, NJ, where I served as a pastor for eight years. Madhu and Keith’s story centers around how God stretched their faith and joy in the midst of the difficulties of their son Ajit’s medical issues.

In God’s providence, Angel and I are, right now, in the home state of Madhu and Keith: Tamil Nadu, India.

I pray that you are as blessed by Madhu’s humble faith and irrepressible joy as I have been.

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Unexpected turn of Events

We had come on holiday to the USA in 2001 to see Priya. With less than a month left to return to India, a consultation for Ajit gave him a new anti-seizure medication in addition to his regular medication. This juncture is where everything turned topsy-turvy with a severe drug reaction. He was too weak to get out of bed, grew weaker, unable to tolerate food, and subsequently compelling us to change our return date to India. The scene had changed. It was staggering! And at this time, Keith’s mother had just breathed her last in Chennai and he had to return immediately.

When we come to the crossroads, we can often miss seeing the Cross. The words drawing us to “see, from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down, did ‘er such love or sorrow meet or thorns compose so rich a crown.” Oh were it not for the Cross, we would not know that God understands the pain of suffering. Yet to now try and understand the Sovereignty of God and see Him articulate His Grace to us was to expect a miracle, a gesture of forgiveness and freedom.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       What an Average Home Looks Like in Every State: Wow. This is amazing, both in terms of the disparity of cost for the average home across states as well as the type of home you can get for that cost.

2.       God is not Silent in Your DepressionEd Welch is a wonderful counselor and offers a wealth of wisdom. He begins by describing depression, "Never has so much been crammed into one word. Depression feels terrifying. Your world is dark, heavy, and painful. Physical pain, you think, would be much better—at least the pain would be localized. Instead, depression seems to go to your very soul, affecting everything in its path. Dead, but walking, is one way to describe it."

3.       How to Raise Spiritually and Emotionally Healthy KidsAaron Earls on some really important research about the long-term impact of parenting practices: "Those who attended religious services with parents or prayed or meditated on their own had healthier lives and improved mental health. Those who attended church at least once a week as children or teens were 18 percent more likely to report being happy as 20-something adults than those who never attended services."

4.       Three Privileges of Intimacy with the FatherTim Chester begins, "Step back and think about it for a moment, and you’ll realize what an amazing miracle it is that any of us should call God ‘Father’. But we do so every time we pray, through the Spirit of the Son."

5.       Wrestling with the Violence of GodJeff Elkins concludes his examination of a difficult passage with this reflection: "My problem is, I want more. I want to know why God would do such a thing, but the scripture does not give it to me. In the absence of that information, I am forced to ask myself what I know about God."

How God Wants You to Work

How God Wants You to Work

Over the past two weeks I’ve been making the case that work wasn’t the result of the fall – a curse that has fallen on humanity that we can only hope to escape one day. No, in fact, we were made for work. I would even make the case that we will work in heaven (free from the effects of the fall). That is a gift!

Today, I would like to get practical by offering biblical wisdom regarding work for a few specific groups of people. Those groups are students, stay at home moms and dads, those who don’t like their job, those who love their job, and retirees.

For students:

Even though you’re not paid, you do have a job right now. You do have dominion. That dominion is being a student and taking care of your home with your parents. Don’t neglect your job. There isn’t an opt-in age for dominion, meaning we can all contribute, no matter how old we are. For the youngest, that might just mean helping to put away toys and empty the dishwasher. Even a toddler has dominion and is called to exercise it faithfully. For older students, lean into your dominion. Take more, not less responsibility at home. If you have a part time job, great! Treat it like it’s your career.

No matter what your task is, you are ultimately working for God, not your parents.

Paul says in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      When Pot is Legal, What Do We Say?  Ben Tertin navigates this tricky issue that is on our doorstep. "When a pastor's advice on a moral issue fails, the usual culprit is oversimplification. I feel this keenly on the pot question, having fought on both sides."

2.      I Want My Child to be an Alien: The pressure is strong to raise children who are popular. Jen Wilkin pushes against that impulse, " Sweet child, study the way you are feeling today. Because I love you, I ask this of you: Lean into your “otherness”—learn the contours of its face, feel out the steady grip of its hand. Because I intend it to be your lifelong companion. It is a truer friend than those who surround you now. More than I want your comfort, I want you to be an alien and a stranger."

3.      Was Gnosticism Tolerant and Inclusive? Contrary to public perception, Michael Kruger responds with a resounding "No." "After all, it is argued, traditional Christianity was narrow, dogmatic, intolerant, elitist, and mean-spirited, whereas Gnosticism was open-minded, all-welcoming, tolerant and loving.  Given this choice, which would you choose?"

4.       The Consequences of GendercideFor years China and India have been aborting millions of baby girls. Gene Veith reports on the devastating consequences, "Today, China has 34 million more men than women, which is equivalent to the population of California.  India has 37 million more men than women... Both countries are experiencing an upsurge in sexual assaults, including rape, and human trafficking."  

5.      The Deepest Dive in the Antarctica Reveals a Sea Floor Teaming with Life: Wow. What a Creator.

This Father's Day Week Recs

This Father's Day Week Recs

1.      What Works, and Doesn't Work in Raising Up Your Children in the Faith: Trevin Wax reflects on new Lifeway Research, "The biggest factor was Bible reading. Children who regularly read the Bible while they were growing up were more likely to have a vibrant spiritual life once they became adults... Two more factors follow close behind: prayer and service in church."

2.      How Do You Talk to Your Child About Transgender Issues? Andrew Walker offers this practical and balanced guide. He concludes, "Don't run away from important questions about sexual and gender identity just because your pre-pubescent child, or pubescent teen, is asking hard and awkward questions... In the home, as much as in the church, we each bend toward harsh "truth" or untruthful "love"—and we need to be aware of this in our parenting...Communicate confidently, but not arrogantly. Communicate compassionately, not harshly. Communicate honestly, not simplistically or tritely."

3.      Racism in America: What We Agree and Disagree On: Kevin DeYoung lays out eleven areas of agreement and disagreement. One of those areas is systemic injustice. He says, "We agree that sin is not just a matter of individual responsibility. It is possible for systems and structures to be unjust even when the people inhabiting those systems and structures may not have personal animus in their hearts. We do not agree on whether disparities themselves indicate systemic and structural injustice (see above). Likewise, we do not agree on the best remedies for institutional racism where it exists."

4.      How Podcasting Hurts Preaching: Mercer Schuchardt's take here is bold and certainly could be called Luddite (and he's not even addressing newer technologies like live-streaming). I still think that it is worth us utilizing technologies as much as possible for the cause of the gospel, but his cautions ring very true. What do you think? He says, "Sermon podcasting reveals a utilitarian misunderstanding of how our messages create a sense of meaning. The sermon is not an interchangeable part that can be removed from the context of worship while still maintaining its power, its authority, and its efficacy. It retains at most one of these, diluting or eliminating the other two... For churchgoers to perceive value, churches have to maintain the scarcity of the once-a-week, in-real-life sermon experience. When pastors push their sermons far and wide via podcast, they unintentionally devalue the message they have worked hard to create and communicate. They remove the sermon from the time, context, and body of the liturgy where it belongs."

5.      12 Year Old Boy Solves 3 Rubik's Cubes While Juggling Them: This is delightfully absurd. In other news of the fantastic: I've been known to grind coffee while I make scrambled eggs.

Lullabies for Me

Lullabies for Me

Our biological children are 14 and 12. It’s so much fun to have adult (and semi-adult) conversations about faith with them, whether those are conversations about life or theology (my 14 year old daughter has recently been struggling with the book of Joshua and God’s call for the Israelites to kill the Canaanites). It's a joy to parent them. And frankly, I’m probably better suited for parenting teens and pre-teens than young children.

But there are hidden blessings of parenting infants and toddlers, too.

One of the unexpected blessings of welcoming foster children into our lives is opening back up children’s Bibles and singing lullabies to these beautiful children. There is a beautiful anchoring in bringing oneself back to the simple truths of the faith every day.

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

I still hold my teen and pre-teen children. I still pray with them. I still speak simple truths to them. But there is something powerful about the repetitive care of an infant. Something liturgical.

Every night with our foster baby closes with the same liturgy.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Let's Ban Porn: Ross Douthat with a bold proposal, "[W]e are supposed to be in the midst of a great sexual reassessment, a clearing-out of assumptions that that impose misogyny and impose bad sex on semi-willing women. And such a reassessment will be incomplete if if it never reconsiders our surrender to the idea that many teenagers, mostly young men especially, will get their sex education from online smut."

2.       Ten Lessons on Parenting Big(ger) Kids: Great advice from Tim Challies. All ten are good, but I particularly like his final piece of advice, " Focus more on sharing experiences than exchanging stuff. The things you and your children remember and celebrate as the years go by are far more likely to be experiences you shared together than gifts you exchanged."

3.       Wishing He Were Your Husband: Sabrina Beasley McDonald on the dangers of emotional infidelity and what to do when that wishing begins: " If you're thinking of a man right now and you're wondering if you're in danger of an emotional affair with him, then you probably are."

4.       Vocation in Retirement: Gene Veith, one of the best authors on vocation, considers what vocation means in his retirement: " Retirement underscores two important facets of the doctrine of vocation: the purpose of every vocation is loving and serving our neighbors. And the way we make our living is only one of our vocations and not even the most important one."

5.       Does the Bible Endorse Slavery? This charge is often made against the Bible by atheists and agnostistics that the Bible supports slavery? Is that true? Dr. Matthew Hall responds.

6.       Can a Christian Be Demon Possessed? Dr. Stephen Wellum says no in this helpful video.