Drawn By Love, Kept By Grace – The Real Way to Keep Kids in the Faith

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A staggering 78% of kids raised in Bible-believing homes leave the faith by the age of 18. In an effort to understand this phenomenon, there are blogs, articles, and books written on this subject, discussing all sorts of ideas, such as perhaps it’s because we shove biblical “heroes” at them, or it’s because they attend youth group far more than they actually attend church, or maybe it’s because we’re pushing them to learn too many Bible verses.

 

The weakest argument I’ve heard so far is that Christians who use “churchy” language, such as believer, unbeliever, and the Lord willing, are somehow destroying our kids’ desire to follow Jesus. While that one may be the most frail and humanistic of the explanations, I do believe each may have its part in this unprecedented youth exodus. They still, however, miss the point of the deeper issue.

 

The solutions offered to these ideas address the specific issue thought to be the problem. We’re told that we should show kids that biblical “heroes” were actually liars, fornicators, and drunks. We decide that the youth should attend services once a month. We are warned against using “Christianese”, even though we are, in fact, Christians. And we’re told that we absolutely must show kids that the whole point of Christianity is that God always chases people who run from Him, and He will never give up on them. And yet the youth are still leaving.

 

These solutions don’t work because they only deal with the surface problems – the ones that exhibit themselves. You don’t really think Satan is going to make it that easy, do you? If we are searching in the wrong places for what is driving people away from the faith, we’ll end up with the wrong results.

 

To be fair, I have read some very good articles on this subject. One in particular, Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave the Church, should not be missed. In it, the writer states what I believe is the reason we are losing our kids: “We have failed to deliver to them the faith ‘delivered once for all'(Jude 1:3).” We have fed those searching for God a flimsy and idolatrous idea of what grace is and does. A counterfeit faith is no faith at all.

 

Apart from the true message of the Gospel, everything becomes superficial and unsatisfactory. So first, let’s take this out of the context of kids alone, and realize that for anyone – young or old – to stay rooted in the faith, we must understand what the Gospel truly is.

 

The message of the Gospel begins not with us or our need, or even God’s meeting that need. It begins with God – a God who is ultimately concerned about His glory, and who created man in His image to reflect and bear that glory. But from even before He created man, God knew we would mar His image through sin, and deeply grieve and displease Him. So from before the foundation of the world, God set about the business of redeeming and restoring His broken images, showing us love, mercy, and grace throughout history, ultimately culminating in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His only Son.

 

The work of the cross only strikes us as awe-inspiring,” one author wrote, “after we have first been awed by the glory of God.” But a great many people have been led into the kingdom of God by Christians who teach a watered-down version of the Gospel. Many prefer to tell people how much God loves them and wants to be with them forever, but shy away from talking about the bloody price of sin. Jesus died a brutal death to defeat sin and unite us to the Father through Him.

 

J.C. Ryle Quote on Sin

 

Love is power. And a self-centered, counterfeit gospel always leads to sin’s dominion again exerting itself. The primary reason sin gains power over believers is because we love it. If sin did not attract us and was not pleasurable, it would have no power over us. So what drives love of sin from us and cuts it off at its root?

 

A surpassing, transforming love.

 

And what fills us with this powerful, sin-displacing love?

 

Amazing grace…that saved a wretch like me.”*

 

He loved us before we knew Him, He died while we were yet His enemy. He holds us when we fail, He keeps us when we fall. He forgives us when we sin, He removes our sin as far as the east is from the west. He fills our hearts with surpassing love, He empowers us to keep every commandment.

 

Grace

 

Without love for sin, the world has no dominion over our us, for grace leads to godliness. A preeminent love for God, based on His love for us, makes doing His will and pleasing Him the believer’s greatest joy, and in this joy lies the strength to remain in Him (Neh. 8:10). And this joy lies only in this refrain:

 

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more
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Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!**

 

The power of grace, the power of the true Gospel, is the power of all-conquering love. This alone can keep our kids – can keep us all – in the faith. 

 

Christ Alone

* Amazing Grace by John Newton

**It Is Well With My Soul by Horatio G. Spafford

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What Do You See?

hannah-montana-1Miley Cyrus. What images flash through your mind when you hear her name? Hannah Montana? Her daddy and his famous mullet? Her hard-to-watch VMA example of fame’s all-too-often harsh implosion?

 

A precious and lost little girl searching in all the wrong places for an answer only provided in the blood-grace of a risen Savior?

 

Newspapers, social media sites, and blogs have Miley’s photo paraded across them, hoping that, like a horrible train wreck, we just can’t look away from them. And when we do see them, we have choices to make.

We can laugh, sneer, and look away. Or we can learn, love, and pray. We can talk about how no one is perfect and avoid talking about sin. Or we can stare sin directly in the face and talk about the Lamb who came to take sin away (John 1:29). We can speak grating lies about people who have become worthless. Or we can speak grace-full truth about souls who are worth the blood of Christ.

But not all blogs, articles, tweets, and status updates about Miley’s raw performance last Sunday night are brutal or crude. Two blog articles, in which the authors shared their hearts more than their minds, provide excellent perspectives on how we as Christ-followers ought to respond to Miley’s childish and uncontrolled antics.

 

Garrett Kell, senior pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church, wrote a powerful post titled What Would Jesus Say to Miley. In part, Kell writes:

Jesus would tell Miley Cyrus that she is the kind of girl He came to spend time with.

There are a lot of religious types who won’t like to hear this. Jesus came to spend time with people just like Miley Cyrus. In the Gospel of Luke 5:30 the religious conservatives of Jesus’ day grumbled and said “why do you eat and drink with…sinners?” The answer? Because Jesus has compassion on sinners (Matthew 9:36), He loves sinners (Romans 5:8), and He came to call sinners to believe in Him (Luke 5:32)…In fact, that’s the very reason He left the holiness of heaven—to proclaim the Gospel of the kingdom to people just like Miley Cyrus.”

 Jesus would tell Miley Cyrus that her sin is deadly for herself and for others.

Jesus would tell Miley that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (Jn. 10:10)…He’d say something like, “Miley, sin is deceiving you. It’s blinding you. It has told you it only wants a little, but it always wants a little more. Sin will never stop until it has consumed you.”

 Jesus would tell Miley Cyrus to come to Him and He will give her rest.

Sin gives us pleasure—but that pleasure is always short-lived and it always leaves us empty.

Jesus would tell Miley that sin will never satisfy her soul because she was made for so much more. As Augustine, who once found life in orgies and drink, said “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.”

 Jesus would tell Miley Cyrus that she will be judged one day and that she needs to get ready today.

The good news is that God is a God who loves to extend mercy. In Ezekiel 33:11 He says “As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die…?” Jesus would tell Miley that she will be judged one day and that she needs to get ready today. The way to do that is to trust in the One who died for sinners like her, and like me, and like you and turn from our sins and follow Him.”

 

We have all heard it said “love the sinner, hate the sin.” This generation, however, feels that is too harsh and judgmental. Rather than following the ways of Jesus, they have revised the saying to suit a more seemingly peaceful mantra: “Love the sinner, hate your own sin. Don’t judge someone just because they sin differently than you.

But that saying is a gross misunderstanding of scripture and means death to a dying and hurting world. My heart yearns to write a post delving much deeper into that. Until then:

Indeed, Jesus loves sinners with a compassionate undying love, but He hates sin with a passionate undying hate. Love gives, saves, and protects; sin takes, damns, and destroys. The amazing thing about grace is that it is entirely rooted in and founded on truth…we can trust in God’s grace precisely because He tells us we can, and He always tells the truth (Numbers 23:19). Grace and truth do not fight one another – they are the paradox that saves.

 

Go and Sin No More

 

The second blog providing a Christ perspective, titled I Weep for Miley, is a powerfully tender and beautifully written example of the blog name: Kingdom People; Living on Earth as Citizens of Heaven. In part, Trevin Wax writes:

Tonight, I weep…

I weep for the lostness of a girl who doesn’t see herself stumbling around in the dark…

I weep for the American Idol culture that promises glitter and gold to children, then chews them up and spits them out.

 I weep for an entertainment culture that celebrates the breaking of every social taboo and the casting off of every restraint, only then to turn and mock the stars that follow suit…

I weep for men (myself included) who have failed to say, “Enough is enough.”

I weep for the broken, messed-up world we live in.

But then I weep at the power of grace.

There’s Jesus, lifting the head of a woman of the night and sending her away into the light. There’s Jesus in a crowd, healing a woman desperately trying to cover the shame. There’s Jesus at the well, transforming a woman tossed aside by multiple men.

 

For the hurt of the daughter of my people, I am hurt,” the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “I am mourning, dismay has taken hold of me (Jeremiah 8:21). Like Jeremiah, may our hearts break over what breaks the heart of God, and may we pray, function, serve, and speak truth from a broken heart full of God’s grace.

 

Let your heart be tender and your vision clear.
See mankind as God sees, serve Him far and near.
Let your heart be broken by a brother’s pain.
Share your rich resources, give and give again.”

“Let Your Heart Be Broken.” Bryan Jeffery Leech

© 1975 The Evangelical Covenant Church

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And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.“

The Battle of Baltimore was one of the most consequential and momentous battles in the War of 1812, a war fought between the U.S. and the Great Britain from 1812 to 1815. On September 12, 1814, the British launched land assaults at North Point and sea invasions at Fort McHenry, attempting to capture the Port of Baltimore.

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American militia staved off the attacks of 5,000 British troops on land at North Point, so British forces turned full attention to Fort McHenry. On September 13, nineteen British ships aimed all their fire power on the fort, and pelted it and the 1,000 American soldiers holding it with rockets, mortar shells, and 1,500 – 1,800 cannonballs for 25 hours straight. They then arranged a land attack on the fort, sending a party ashore.

Francis Scott Key, a 35-year-old American lawyer and budding poet, was located on a British truce vessel that night, where he worked to negotiate and secure the release of a physician who was captured by the British. From his position, he could see the glow of exploding cannon shells as the greatest Navy in the world at that time rained its fury on a fort protecting Baltimore. Rain obscured his view of the city during the night, but as bombs burst and rockets exploded, he saw something familiar: a 30-foot American flag, adorned with 15 stars and 15 stripes, flying high above the fort.

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American troops opened fire on British forces as they landed on the shore, and the artillery from the warships failed their mission – Fort McHenry stood firm. The British retreated, marking the turning point of the war.

As the smoke cleared and dawn broke on the morning of September 14, Francis Scott Key began to pen the words to “The Defense of Fort McHenry” on an envelope. His poem was set to music, and became known as “The Star Spangled Banner,” and became our national anthem in 1931.

Today, we stand just as our anthem’s writer did – watching helplessly, waiting breathlessly, and wondering if our flag will stand. Our rights and freedoms are once again threatened, and the smoke of crumbling values obscures our view of the glory of this great country. We strain to see through the mist and struggle to catch a glimpse of God’s grace that made many into one and preserved a nation for over 200 years.

Yet our national anthem itself provides answers – glimmers of hope in a dark world. The Star Spangled Banner has four verses, each one ending as the first: O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave. The final verse of Key’s inspiring song drapes the previous three in admonition for principle characteristics that secure future peace and victory.

 

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

 

Happy Independence Day, friends. God bless your celebration, and God bless the United States of America!

God Bless America

 

 

 

 

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Veggie Tales Truth

If you’re a parent – and even if you’re not – no doubt you’ve heard of Veggie Tales. Just in case you’ve been camping out in a cave for a while, Veggie Tales were created in 1993 to help kids discover how God made them special and unique, and how much He loves them. They work to equip children to do right in the sight of God, and help them understand key biblical principles.

 

My first introduction to the Veggie Tales gang was about five years before our baby girl came along. I was flipping channels and came across a seemingly distraught cucumber wrapped in a bath towel singing anxiously about the unknown location of his hair brush.

Larry's Hair Brush

 

 

But cucumbers don’t have hair anyway, so the tall green gourd was able to do without his hairbrush.

A few years have passed and now I’m Mama to a little blonde toddler who likes Veggie Tales. While rummaging through the $5 movie bin at Wal-Mart the other day, I found Veggie Tales: Sweetpea Beauty. I threw it in the cart and came home.

Later that evening we popped it in the player. One of the stories is the little known yet all-too-familiar fairytale of Snoodlerella, who receives an extreme makeover in record time and goes to the ball until midnight, when she goes back to her glasses and braces, uncontrollable hair and cumbersome graces.

I wasn’t particularly paying attention to the movie, until the King spoke to Snoodlerella. But what I heard was a Still, Small Voice speaking to me.

As Snoodlerella was lamenting her looks, a deep, comforting Voice spoke directly to her – and to me, and to every woman on the face of the planet: “I think you’re beautiful,” the King said. He reached out and took her seemingly disconnected white-gloved hand as it floated in the air and continued, “I treasure you deeply; you’re lovely, my child…there’s nothing about you I don’t truly love! It is true, every word that I say. Daughter, I am the King, and I made you that way! I delight in your beauty, you’re wonderfully made! I knew you before earth’s foundation was laid. You’re precious to Me, every hair on your head! Daughter, hear and believe!

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My eyes welled up with tears that spilled onto my cheeks. The King of all creation – my Abba Father – knew me before the foundation of the world and chose me to be His! Hear and believe, ladies, we are cherished and captivating…He created us that way!

My daughter now brings me her “Pincess D” (Princess DVD) several times a day asking to watch it. I love for her to hear those words spoken to her, too, but she has to wait until family time to watch anything. And we often choose something other than Sweetpea Beauty. So I just tell her that her King asked me to give her a message: “You’re precious to Me, and I think you’re beautiful…I made you that way.

 

 

Thanksgiving Thursday:Unwrapping the Gifts

Rain in Colorado!

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My daughter’s drawings

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A bouncy horse for Peanut

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Family time at Sonic

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Please tell me, what gifts have you unwrapped this week?

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A Father to the Fatherless

The place a father holds in the life of his children is priceless. No other relationship is like that of a dad and his little ones. Indeed, I truly wonder if any relationship can compare to that of a man and his daughter. And the loss of that relationship is especially painful.

Celebrating Father’s Day has never been the same for me since 2001, the year I lost my dad to suicide. For many years after, I browsed the card section, searching for a card for another girl’s dad who became my step-dad.

But my eyes only fell on those that spoke of growing up with your first love – first crush, first hero – and knowing this man would always hold your hand and your heart. Tears would flow and my heart would ache – or become angry. Angry over my loss, angry over his decision, angry that I could never again be Daddy’s little girl.

Another cruel form of loss is when someone comes in the aftermath of tragedy to promise love and relationship for a lifetime, but instead leaves to fulfill selfish lust and a naïve notion of “finding oneself”. And now I am, again, left without a dad on this earth.

 

But I am not Fatherless.

 

Father to the Fatherless

 

I have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby I cry, Abba, Father (Romans 8:15)! The word cry in this scripture denotes an intense and powerful internal affection, and a fierce and forcible outward confidence in the freedom and liberty granted to us as children of God.

Intimate yet respectful, the name Abba is our warrant for boldly claiming a filial relationship with the Most High God. What an astounding, incomprehensible thought: We hold the same standing with the Father as Jesus our Messiah, His only begotten Son!

My first love, my Abba, Father loves me and will never leave me, and He holds my hand and my heart – forever.

If you have been left without an earthly father, accept the love of the Everlasting Father as your very own today. His love endures forever, and He is waiting to hold your hand and your heart.

 

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Thanksgiving Thursday: The Gift of a Man

Skot

The life-blood of Thanksgiving Thursday is gratitude: unwrapping gifts and giving thanks to the Giver.  One of God’s greatest gifts to me is my husband.

Six feet of God’s most magnificent handiwork, this man is nothing less than my constant rock, best friend, intimate ally, steadfast partner, and covenant lover.

My ultimate gratitude for my husband belongs to God. But I am grateful – so very grateful – to my husband for everything he is and everything I’ve known with him and everything he gives me to look forward to.

Friday is his birthday, and I give the gift of thanks for all his gifts to me.

Proud Wife

 

Unwrapping the Gifts

   He has character

Character denotes many qualities, and my husband exhibits all of character’s indications. He’s honorable, ethical, compassionate, honest, courageous, passionate, and teachable. He is tender and responsive toward God’s leading, and stands ready to do all that is asked of him. With Joshua’s fearlessness, Daniel’s courage, and David’s faith (Joshua 1:7 & 6:17; Daniel 1:8; Acts 13:22), he is a man of integrity and love.

   He lets me sleep

I’ve never been an early riser, and he’s never asked me to change. Through 15 years of marriage, one daughter, and many life changes, he’s always let me sleep.

   He gives amazing back rubs

His powerful hands work with precision, talent, and erotic strength. A back rub is only a back rub, though. And that leads to the next gift.

   He gave me a daughter

Of all the things he’s given me over all the years we’ve been together, our daughter stands supreme. And he’s a rock star dad!

 

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   He’s faithful

My beloved is mine, and I am his. A cord of three is not easily broken.

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   He’s a man

He’s sweet, smart, kind, and loving, but he’s made of brawn, backbone, bravery, and bold confidence.

   He communicates

He talks – really. Sweet, laborious, fun, hard, dreamy, frightening, or silly, he communicates. Long chats are our Modus Operandi.

  He lets me buy books

He doesn’t know how much I spend on Amazon, and he doesn’t care. I love to read, he loves me.

Truths of my life

 

 

   He’s affectionate

He holds my hand and he kisses my daughter. He canoodles on the couch and he hugs my mama. He throws his arm over me as we sleep and he lets me toss my leg over his. His touch is soft, his hold firm, and his cuddles perfect.

   He’s goofy

He’s my kind of groovy: innately fun and full of laughter.

   He works hard so I can stay home

He knows I am ardently dedicated to raising the child I brought into this world, and so is he. He loves her enough to work skillfully and capably to provide for us so I may bring up and nurture our child.

They Are Your Work

   He supports my work-from-home love

I have found my life’s passion in writing, and he supports me in every way. He proofreads, keeps the kid while I write, lets me work in bed, and tells me I’m fantastic at what I do. 

   He creates a haven-home with me

Our home is a shelter. We do love. He makes it that way.

Love