5 Benefits Of Having A Challenging Teen

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What?  Are you serious?  What good can it possibly be to have a difficult child?  Or a teen who struggles with sin?  Or a child who rebels against you?

God causes all things – even a teenager’s sin – to work together for our good. Here are 5 ways:

Having a challenging teen causes us to grow in dependence on God

Challenges with our children are as much (or more) about us than about them. Sometimes we discover that we are depending more upon ourselves than the Lord. So often we think that if we just do all the right things – have family devotions, discipline our children, love them, keep them from bad influences, educate them in a certain way – then they will automatically be saved and follow the Lord.

But doing all the right things doesn’t change the heart. The Lord is the only one who saves and changes people, not all our practices and effort, as good as they may be. Having a difficult teen causes us to grow in dependence on God – to cry out to the Lord in prayer, to seek him for mercy and grace and wisdom. It drives us to his Word, to seek out his promises. It causes us to grow in faith and trust in the Lord to work in our child.

Having a challenging teen causes us to grow in humility

When we have a child or two who do well, we can start to think that we are responsible for how well they are doing. Yes, we think, it is my parenting that did this. My hard work paid off. A difficult teen ends all that. We become aware of doing many things that failed. We become aware of making many mistakes and that the reason any of our other children are doing well is God’s grace. A difficult child makes us feel weak. It’s humbling to ask others for prayer and counsel. It’s humbling for others to find out we don’t have the ideal Leave It To Beaver Family.

Having a challenging teen causes us to grow in mercy and sympathy toward others

Years ago in my arrogance, when others had challenges with their children, I would think they must be doing something wrong. It was somehow their fault. In my arrogance I had little mercy or compassion for others.  Having a difficult teen changes all that. When you have been through challenges, struggles and disappointments with one or more of your children, you become very merciful and sympathetic to others in their struggles. You know how much you appreciate the sympathy of others, so you extend it to others. You know how much you need mercy so you become merciful to others.

Having a challenging teen causes us to grow in patience and perseverance

Unfortunately, the only way to gain patience is to be put into a situation that requires it. Jesus usually works in our children little by little, often imperceptibly, over years, as he does in us. Sometimes we must keep praying for our children for years and years – even as they are adults. All we can do is plant the seed of the gospel, then we must water it with our prayers and trust God to cause the seed to grow in his own timing. This takes patience.

Think of how patient and long suffering God has been with you. You aren’t always quick to change are you?

Having a challenging teen helps us to grow in love

Jesus told us to love our enemies expecting nothing in return. Of course our kids aren’t our enemies. But we must love them, bless them, speak kindly to them, bear with them and do good to them, even when they don’t respond. God loved us before we loved him, and he calls us to do the same. We rejected Jesus again and again, yet he loved us and came for us and died on the cross for us. Even now, millions and millions reject Jesus every moment of every day, yet he continues to love them. Whatever disrespect we receive from our children in return for our love is but an infinitesimal taste of what Jesus experiences every day from mankind.

So we must grow in love. We must seek the grace of Jesus to love as he loved, unselfishly, expecting nothing in return.

Our children’s struggles are as much about us as they are about them. So praise God and thank him, that as difficult as things are, he is at work both in you and your teen. Don’t give up, even if you see little change or fruit. God isn’t done working yet. The story isn’t over yet. God is not only working in your child, he’s working in you.

Should There Be Publicity Stunts In the Church? Have Church Scandals Changed? Why Do We Love the Apocalypse?

It’s the end of the day, and your brain feels like someone has been pounding it with a mallet. You need a little Happy Rant action to pick you up.

In the latest episode, Ted, Barnabas, and I, discuss:

  • Is there a place for publicity stunts in the church (We’re looking at you Ed Young!!!)?
  • Has the nature of church “scandals” changed in the last twenty years? What role has social media played in that change?
  • Why is everybody so caught up in loving the apocalypse (Looking at you Nic Cage!)?

Please:

Get “The Inmates Are Running The Asylum” For Free!

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What’s better than cheap? I’ll tell you what: FREE.

This week I’m giving away my book, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, for absolutely nothing. Zilch. Nada. Zero.

Why am I giving it away for free? Because I love you. And you need some more joy in your life. You need to think about:

  • The mathematical odds of finding your soulmate.
  • Why everybody loves Tim Tebow.
  • Why everyone is so obssessed with Amish romance novels.
  • And a whole lot more.

Download it here. 

And please, spread the word by sharing this post.

God Has Done The Big Thing. Surely He’ll Take Care Of The Lesser Things.

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Israel had a short memory.

They had been miserable slaves to the king of Egypt who seemed to have all power over their lives. They had no means of escape, yet God heard their groaning, and struck Pharaoh and Egypt with plague after plague, then brought Israel out of Egypt loaded with their gold and silver. Then God miraculously split the Red Sea and brought his people through on dry ground, then Israel watched the sea come back together and engulf the Egyptian chariots who pursued them.

Though God delivered them and provided for them again and again, they couldn’t seem to remember his faithfulness. In their unbelief, every new challenge they faced made them doubt the goodness of their God. They failed to make this important connection: If God did the big thing for them, he’d surely do lesser things. If God delivered them out of Egypt, he’d surely provide for their needs.

A short memory wasn’t just the problem of the generation who left Egypt. It was Israel’s constant failure over the years. We see God reminding his people again in Psalm 81:

I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called, and I delivered you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder; (6-7)

I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. PS 81.10

God says to his people: Don’t forget who I am: I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. I did the big thing. I saved you when you couldn’t save yourselves. So ask me to provide for you – open your mouth wide – expect me to meet your needs – and I will fill it – I’ll do the lesser thing and answer your prayers and provide for you.

We too need to remember this truth: God did the big thing for us – he saved us from our sins and his wrath by sending his only Son to live and die and rise for us – surely he will do the lesser things – provide, protect and help us.

God has done the big thing – he saved us. Surely he’ll take care of all the lesser things we need.

God could say to us:

I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of your land of Egypt – your slavery to sin, your misery, your condemnation and hopelessness.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it – ask me and I’ll give you all you need.

Romans 8:32 puts it this way:

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

God gave up his most valuable thing – his Son Jesus on the cross – he sent Jesus to be broken and to pour out his blood for sin, then he poured out his horrific wrath upon his Son’s soul, withdrawing every shred of mercy and love from Jesus’ awareness. He did this for us all. After doing this, how will he not graciously give us all lesser things? Surely God will give us all we need to glorify him. Surely he will give us mercy and grace and strength and help. Surely he’ll provide for our needs.

So open your mouth wide and God will fill it. Open your mouth today in praise and thanksgiving. Open your mouth wide in prayer. Ask for whatever you wish. Nothing will be greater than Jesus. Open your mouth wide in expectation that your heavenly Father will answer your prayers.

 

Let Your Dim, Sin-Stained Light Shine Before The World

Important Message

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Verses like this one lead to statements like these:

“Your lifestyle is as much a part of evangelism as your words.”

“Let your marriage be a light to the watching world.”

“You’re an ambassador for Christ at your workplace.”

Have you heard similar statements, or made them? They’re true – a godly life, loving marriage, and honorable conduct in the office really can be examples to non-Christians. And it’s also true that religious hypocrites can do damage to the gospel: pastors who commit adultery, hucksters who defraud with Bible verses, or Sunday afternoon restaurant patrons who stiff their waitress a tip and leave tracts on the table instead.

But for most Christians, trying their best to be faithful but aware of their failings, statements or verses that call us to live our lives as examples to non-Christians can feel like an impossible burden. I know I’m a poor excuse for a Christian parent – now you’re telling me I’m damaging the cause of the gospel as well as my kids. Thanks!

If exhortations to “be an example” have ever fallen on your shoulders with the weight of the world, take heart. There’s a way out from under the burden. Here’s the solution: our message is not about achieving perfection, but about receiving redemption. Do you realize what that means? You don’t have to be perfect!

When the call to let your light shine comes as a burden, we have a basic confusion about our message. Instead of the good news that Jesus came to save and transform sinners, we are believing some other “good news” (that really isn’t so good after all!). The false message might take different forms: if you use biblical parenting techniques, your kids will always obey and never try to strip naked and run screaming through the grocery store. If you put God first in your marriage, you’ll never have a conflict or ever see things differently than your spouse. If you love God more than money, you’ll always be the perfect employee. I’m exaggerating, of course, but do you see the common thread in all these message? “If you…” But the message we witness to as Christians begins with God. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…” (Eph. 2:4).

The gospel is not simply the best self-help news out there, nor the hottest parenting or marriage techniques to transform your kids and your communication. It is the message that God, through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ, has made a way for sinners to be forgiven and transformed. We have been and being redeemed, day by day, situation by situation. Even our failures and ongoing battles with sin testify to this message. Asking forgiveness, admitting failure, honestly facing our weaknesses and temptations – these do not deny our message. Instead, they can testify to its truth. Jesus saved, is saving, and will save us – sinners though we remain!

Don’t confuse the message. You’re not living a life of perfection so others can learn from you the secrets of self-mastery. You’re living a life of redemption, so that others can meet the Redeemer who is at work in you. And that message is truly good news.

Photo by Patrick Denker