What to Consider When Adding One More Thing to Your Schedule

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Growing up my family didn’t have cable television. No ESPN. No MTV. No Nickelodeon. No TV Land. What we did have were three channels and a VCR (if you’re under 25 years old, Google, “VCR”). 

It seemed like whenever my mother held the scepter (the remote) while the television was on, the only two options on TV were: Little House on the Prairie and figure skating. 

I had a long childhood.

With each episode of Little House on the Prairie I watched as a kid, I would hide the tears because Charles Ingalls (“Pa”) would do something to soften my heart. Every single show he got me. 

I started watching Little House on the Prairie with my wife and our two young girls. We went to the library and got the seasons on DVD.  As binging provides, we zoomed through episodes and not long into Season 1 I noticed clearly how much things have changed since the timing of when the Ingalls lived. 

It really wasn’t that long ago when Little House on the Praire‘s pace of living was the norm. Things have sped up quickly and they continue to speed up faster each day. 

Think about how much little time we have to rest/reflect/repent/invest in our relationships? This blog takes five minutes to read and because of a frantic page, most readers who click on it won’t make it to this sentence because they’ve moved on to something else. 

We do well to keep our relationships busy and be around each other but we are poor at having qualitative conversations and making intentional memories. 

We do well to relax by watching TV or are addicted to scrolling through a newsfeed but we are poor at being still and having the spiritual discipline of solitude. There is little rest and pausing and praying in our day. 

I’m watching LHotP and I’m thinking, Nowadays the norm is 50 hour work weeks for dad and mom with a 30 minute commute and it’s home to give the kids drive-thru conversations and leftover energy.  

Most families don’t gather around the table while Pa plays the fiddle as they eat a home cooked meal, laughing together or learning a lesson from each other. The norm now is to eat on the go on your way to practice or eat a heated up meal after getting home late or eat in front of the TV and we make fun of the reality TV stars and that’s what we call “family time.”

We’ve got tee times and workout schedules and the kids and grandkids have so many activities that we dare not allow them to miss because they might get behind on something that won’t matter in 20 years to them and we’re rushing through the present-day life God wants us to live with Him as our calendar metronome gets quicker and quicker. 

The rhythm of our culture is what we’re adhering to and it feels normal to us. Here are some cultural beliefs that you and I have unknowingly, yet foolishly bought into: 

Action is better than rest. (FALSE)

Work is more important than home. (ERR!) 

Possessions are more important than people. (NOPE)

More is always better than less. (LIE) 

How we choose to spend time reflects all of these things.

Who believes with their schedule that rest is better than action, home is more important than work, people are more important than possessions, less is always better than more?

When it comes to adding something to your life – to your daily, weekly, monthly schedule – I would be very careful with that. Impulsively we add new commitments to our calendar and we don’t think how much it will affect what should be important to us.

Let’s say you have 8-9 different things to do during the week and you think, I’ll just add a 10th thing in my life, to my family’s scheudule. It’s just one more thing.

Author Steve Farrar talks about the way we view our time and our schedule with this concept called, The Fibonacci Numbers. The Fibonacci Numbers were named after a 14th century mathematician who came up with this new way of counting where it looks like this:

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It counts like this: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13,  21, 34, 55, 89, 144

You add the two numbers next to each other and go forward. So 1 and 1 is 2, and 1 and 2 is 3, and 3 and 5 is 8, 8 and 13 is 21, 21 and 34 is 55, 34 and 55 is 89, 55 and 89 is 144 and so on.

Stay with me. 

This way of counting is better to measure the pace and schedule of our lives and our family’s routine because we think in consecutive numbers, Well, I’m just adding a 7th thing to my schedule or to my family’s schedule. We had 6 and now it’s 7 with football or church consistently or gymnastics or a new show. According to the Fibonacci scale, it’s not a 7th thing, it carries the weight of 13 things (7 is 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13). It increases dramatically, in weighty, stressful fashion with each thing you add.

If you can think about the 7-8-9 things your allocate your time to – school, work, family, church, hobby, TV, Facebook, sports, shopping, reading. My schedule doesn’t reflect this every day, but if I were to prioritize what is important to me, my current 9 things would be: 

1. Devoted and faithful husband
2. Committed and present father
3. Being a consistent and generous friend
4. Being an eager student and teacher of God’s Word
5. Working bi-vocationally
6. Coaching recreational soccer
7. Taking graduate school courses
8. Exercising daily
9. Writing weekly blog 

That’s nine things easily.

What if I want to add two new things to my schedule? No big deal, right? I’m just going to go +2 to my life routine, and those two added items are: 

10. Swimming lessons for kids
11. Country line-dancing.

I just want to go from 9 things in my week to 11. On the Fibonacci scale, check out the number on the right when adding more to my schedule: 

1. Devoted and faithful husband
1. Committed and present father
2. Being a consistent and generous friend
3. Being an eager student and teacher of God’s Word
5. Working bi-vocationally
8. Coaching recreational soccer
13. Taking graduate school courses
21. Exercising daily
34. Writing weekly blog
55. Swimming lessons for my kids
89. Country line-dancing 

I just added 2 more things but I went from 34 to 89.
That’s a lot more added to our effort and mentality. 

When we keep adding things we’re not just adding to our schedule, we’re adding weight to our well-being. We’re adding he weight of coming through, the weight of not giving up, the weight of anxiety and putting on the good face for everyone. It’s not a 11, it’s an 89 and it’s going to crush us eventually. 

Here’s a true/false quiz (10 questions) to help us figure out whether or not we need more rest in our schedule. I’m trying to keep us honest here.

1. True or False: You’ve cut through a gas station to avoid stopping at a red light.

2. True or False: You don’t like to take vacations where there isn’t always something to do.

3. True or False: You frequently look at your phone or a clock nearby throughout the day.

4. True or False: In conversations you like to get right to the point. You don’t enjoy small talk.

5. True or False: People who talk slowly irritate you.

6. True or False: You become annoyed when the person at the checkout line in front of you chooses to pay by writing a check.

7. True or False: You often find yourself finishing other people’s sentences for them or interrupting people during conversation.

8. True or False: When you go to sleep at night, your mind often rehearses all the things I didn’t get done that day or what I have to do the next day.

9. True or False: When delayed and running late, you are irrationally upset.

10. True or False: You have difficulty finding time for things like a haircut or a physical or an oil change. 

We just live at this frantic pace and as we get older it doesn’t slow down, it only increases in speed. 

Because we’re not prayerful, because we’re arrogant, we think I can handle more. And if we’re not protective of our time and energy for what really matters in this life – God and people – we’ll watch life slip away and miss out on things like legacy, purpose, evangelism and the more we add the more devastating it’s going to be when we ask, How did this happen? Look what I wasted!

Jesus says it this way: 

“Are you tired? Worn out? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 / MSG)

God doesn’t get upset when you take a break. God doesn’t get disappointed when you tell someone no, I can’t do that for you right now because I’m needed somewhere else more important. 

If you say as a family, we’re going to eat a family dinner around the kitchen table 4 times a week for the rest of this year, no phone or TV, all intentional conversations, no matter what – most of the world might think that’s bizarre but God will smile on that commitment because you’re saying to God and family: Here’s what’s important to me. 

If you say, As a Christ-follower, I’m going to add attending worship weekly, but that means I need to let go of other things. I’m going to go from attending worship monthly or less to attending weekly, to give weekly, to serve weekly – because I’m showing God and God’s family that’s important to me. 

OR, I’m going to get up 10 minutes earlier to read a chapter in the Bible to start my morning off focused in prayer and reflection for how I want to live.

OR, I’m going to fast from something I lean on daily so I can pray in those moments I want to give in to sin.

As I look through the pages of the Bible there are a handful of instances that show why living this life of God’s rhythm makes so much sense. If you don’t run your schedule your schedule will run you. Be prayerful adding one more thing to your routine. I recommend adding rest and intentionality.  

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

What Every Parent Should Be Downloading Into Their Child (1,900 words of parenting advice)

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Back in the day when I was a pre-teen, I used to make mixtapes. Those born in 1990 or later probably don’t know what a mixtape is. A mixtape is a cassette tape (Google it) with favorite songs inserted on it to listen to. It’s an archaic Pandora playlist. It took tremendous patience and focus to make the perfect mixtape.

I would lay on my bedroom floor, next to something called a boombox (a radio that played music through speakers), I’d have my radio playing and I would wait for some of my favorite songs to come on so I could record them onto this tape. 

You had to be coordinated. You had to hit play and record at the same time, and you didn’t want the DJ’s voice on the tape, just the song. 

I had all kinds of mixtapes. I had love song mixtapes I’d give to girls I had a crush on. I’d leave the mixtape in their school locker with a creepy, cheesy note attached. For sports, I had mixtapes that would insert into my Dad’s yellow Sony Walkman to pump me up. On my sports mixtape to get me stoked I had “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, “Jump” by Van Halen, “Momma Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J and anything Michael Jackson.

I know that mixtapes are a thing of the past. With technology today, you can download any song that’s ever been recorded and you can make all kinds of playlists on your smartphone. And whether you like to listen to it while you’re in the car, or while at work or school, or exercising, or just chill’n with friends, it can’t be taken for granted what those who came before endured through in the mixtape years. 

Today my young child can grab my phone, open up my music, download new songs she  likes, delete songs she doesn’t like (my favorite songs) and make a playlist. In seconds she can do it. 

As a parent, I realize that my children are being lied to wherever they go. They are downloading lies other influences are pushing on them, and if unchecked, they will start to believe those lies as truth. One of my roles as a guide for them is to delete the lies that they download each day and replace it with truth. 

Mom, dad, grandparents, aunt, uncle, youth leader, teacher, influencers of young children and grown children, here’s what will happen if we don’t get proactive in deleting the lies this culture is pressing down on our children:  

They will be mugged by the mirror. 

We’re in the selfie generation. The reason everyone is taking selfies is to show others how they look. And maybe each time you look in the mirror, each time you take a picture of yourself, you’re asking the fairy tale question, Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? The more we invest in how we look, the more we believe the lie that we are worth the amount of how beautiful others say we are. 

In her book, I Want to be Her, author Michelle Graham writes this: “There’s nothing quite like a glance at a Victoria’s Secret catalog to invoke a flood of insecurities and feelings of disappointment.”

Graham goes onto say: 

If Barbie were a real human being, her proportions would make her anywhere from 6 feet 10 inches to 7 feet 5 inches tall. In order to achieve her perfect figure, she would need to have two ribs removed along with several major organs. Barbie has no hormonal cycle to affect her complexion and no metabolism to struggle with. This is the image that has been marketed to young girls all over the world as an inspiration to womanhood. And we eat it up. Barbie has become a $1.5 billion dollar a year industry. Don’t worry, I’m not on a Barbie-burning crusade. And I’m certainly no expert on the psychological effects of Barbie on young children. But I do know that at a very young age I bought into the idea that unless my Barbie was physically perfect, she wasn’t as good as the other Barbies on the block. In fact she embarrassed me. As I grew into adulthood, I left my Barbie behind. Unfortunately I struggled with the belief that unless I am physically perfect (a perfection that is unattainable and unrealistic) – I’m somehow not as valuable as everybody else. Barbie moved out, but Victoria moved in.”

A recent study shows that 70% of teenage girls and women feel depressed, sad or guilty when they look through a fashion magazine for more than 3 minutes.

Americans spend 20 billion dollars a year on cosmetics and 74 billion dollars a year on diet foods.

Just flip the remote control and the TV will tell you that outer appearance is what’s most important. It’s why you post more pictures of yourself online than you do Bible verses.

Because I’m a father of girls, I have a passion for all young girls to find their purpose in God and not in what others think of them. Girls, you may not know this, but an average woman in our culture is 5 foot 4 and weighs 170 pounds. An average model on the runway 5 foot 11 and they weigh 108 pounds and their body mass index is borderline malnutrition. 

Because of photoshop and airbrushing, what we look at in magazines and on the big screen is a fake. It’s not real. It’s all a lie. Delete the lie that external beauty is all there is.

Let’s download the truth that God loves you no matter what you look like. God created you the way He wanted to and to get where God wants you to go to love on who God wants you to love on (which includes yourself). You’re beautiful.

If they listen to the wrong voice, not only will they be mugged by the mirror, but: 

They will be pick-pocketed by the past. 

Your child failed the test. They stole what they shouldn’t of. They drank. They smoked. They lied to their parents. They feel responsible for their parent’s broken marriage. They succumb to sex, hurtful language, gossip, back-stabbing, anger etc. Even my own past tries to walk into each present day I have in an attempt to steal the future God has in store. 

But if you download the love of God into your child’s daily life, how much He loves you and them no matter what’s been done against Him and against others, then they’ll come to realize that our past does not define your present or your future.

You are not what you have done. Whatever it is that haunts you, whatever secret things you’ve done that no one else knows, that your close friends, your youth leaders, your parents, your siblings have no idea – and if you’ve been listening to the wrong voice about what you’ve done – then you’ve probably bought into the lie that God couldn’t love you, or God couldn’t forgive you. 

The one true God doesn’t only forgive people, He frees them. I don’t want the joy and energy and faith that my kids have as a child to be pick-pocketed by reminders of their past mistakes. Author Joanna Weaver writes:

“My deepest fear is waking up twenty years from now still the same person I am today. With the same annoying habits and petty attitudes; with the same besetting sins and false beliefs. I can’t imagine anything more terrible than getting to the end of my life only to discover that God had so much more in mind for me – more freedom, more joy, more peace, more true effectiveness. And I had missed it all, simply because I refused to believe it.” 

Don’t be mugged by the mirror and think external looks is all there is.
Don’t be pick-pocketed by the past and lose your joy in Christ. 

A third lie our children and us will download if not exposed to the truth: 

They will be robbed by relationships. 

Relationships are hard work, right? They can wear you out, make you tired. 

As if I didn’t already date myself with all the talk about mixtapes, let me talk about a woman named Louise Ciccone. Maybe you know her as Madonna. She’s sold over 300 million albums of her music worldwide. She’s worth an estimated 500 million dollars. TIME Magazine listed her as one of the 25 most powerful and influential women of the last 100 years. 

When she was a little girl, her mom died. Her dad quickly remarried and she didn’t forgive him for that. She severed all ties with him as her father and ran away. And I think the reason why Madonna, still in her 50’s, has always jumped from one man to the next is because she was robbed of a relationship she didn’t have with her father when she was young. 

After a concert in Detroit, in an interview with Vanity Fair a few years back, Madonna said: I have an iron will, and all of my will has always been to conquer some horrible feelings of inadequacy. I push past one spell of it and discover myself as a special human being and then I get to another stage and think I’m mediocre and uninteresting. Again and again I go through this vicious cycle. My drive in life is from this horrible fear of being mediocre. And that’s always pushing me, pushing me. Because even though I’ve become somebody, I still have to prove that I’m somebody. My struggle has never ended and it probably never will.

Life doesn’t have to be that way. 

If the statistics are right, many of our teens are being robbed by a relationship with a parent. Mom and Dad haven’t or aren’t doing something for them that parents are supposed to do. I don’t know what is more tragic than a parent who doesn’t love their kid in a way God loves them, and I don’t want to downplay this possibility,  so if you’re from a broken home, if you’re in a tough home, and maybe there have been hurtful things said back and forth and maybe you’ve been more of a parent than your mom or dad has been to you. And maybe you’re angry over that.

If bitterness is a prison, forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door.

Forgive your mom. Forgive your dad. Forgive your child. Forgive your sibling. Forgive your church. Forgive your friends. Forgive your enemy. Tell them, to their face, or in a hand-written note, that you forgive them. And then trust God going forward when reminders of those painful moments start to resurface. 

All of this to say: I guess before we teach our children about external looks not providing true identity, before we teach our children that in Christ our past mistakes cannot depress us today and before we teach our children that forgiveness is what gives life to relationships and bitterness is what kills them – we have to model it to them. We have to delete the lies of our culture and download the liberating truth of God’s Word. 

Put your heart right. Reach out to God and face the world again. Then all your trouble will fade from your memory, like floods that pass and are remembered no more. Job 11:13 

Thanks for reading. No matter your looks, your past or your status of relationships today, you are loved. 

Z

Real Housewives, Tim Tebow and Telling Your Kids “No”

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Flipping channels I came across the television show, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. One of the wives on this show, her name is Kyle. Looking it up, she has over 2 million followers on Instagram. Besides her amazing acting skills on reality TV, she’s an author. One of her books has made The New York Times Best Sellers List.

In this best-selling book she writes, “If you cheat on your spouse don’t tell your spouse. Everyone gets one free pass.” – Kyle Richards

This is her advice.

Hmmm.

I’m going to sound like a really, really old man when I say this, but I’m going to say it anyway: 25 years ago, that line of thinking was not normal. And now it’s a best-seller?

Contrast the worldview of Kyle Richards with the convictions of Tim Tebow.

This is a guy committed to guarding his virginity. It’s someone who is raising and giving away millions of dollars to help orphans around the world and special needs children in this country. He smiles when his team loses and gives his teammates credit when he wins.

Tebow is antagonistically asked all the time why he talks so much about his love for Jesus. This is his response, “If you’re married and you have a wife and you really love your wife, is it good enough to only say to your wife, “I love you!” the day you get married? Or should you tell her every single day when you wake up at every opportunity? That’s how I feel about my relationship with Jesus Christ. It is the most important relationship in my life. I’m going to take advantage of every opportunity I can get to let him know that I love him.”

Boom.

This sounds normal to me. It’s foreign thinking to the world.

There’s a high school in America where you can take a class on transgender pornography. It’s an elective. In this same high school the teens are not allowed to pray in the cafeteria. And if you say the name Jesus during a graduation speech they’ll keep your diploma and expel you.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you (1 Peter 4:12).

Do you know when I feel this cultural drift-effect the most? I feel the pull this world has on me the most when I’m trying to make a good decision for my kids.

I know as my daughters get older, they’re going to see a bunch of really nice stuff their friends have that they don’t own. Christmas lists’ are going to get expensive. Birthdays are going to be big deals. Already I can’t get home from a business trip without my three year old asking what I got her before she hugs me. It starts early.

My wife and I are already thinking about what to do when our daughters start asking for expensive gifts. It’s not that the money isn’t there – and please don’t read into this, I’m not telling you how to parent because I’m very wet behind the ears still – but just because we can afford to buy something that doesn’t mean we need to buy it.

I am convinced our goal as parents is not to get children more and more stuff or plan more and more activities for them. Already we see that doesn’t suffice. It’s all temporary until the next thing they can get or do.

Our goal as parents is to raise children to be more like and to depend on Jesus each day of their lives.

That’s not typical today. The majority of families are all about the stuff and the activities.

Which families, in their daily choices, are all about Jesus?
Which husband prays with his wife, asking how he can pray for her?
Which parent prays when their kids are afraid?
Which kids are asking their parents how can they pray for them?

Where are the families reading their Bible together, attending worship together, loving their neighbors together, forgiving each other, baptizing each other?

My six-year old child knows kids her age with an I-phone. She wants her own I-pad for her birthday. As a family we have one already. She likes the thought of using make-up. When she sees her friends get into this stuff and get these things from their parents, we will teach her to be excited for them and not jealous of them or even angry at her mom and I for not getting her another thing, but to be grateful she has a warm home to sleep in and a full belly and a clothed body and a family that is centered on Jesus and full of laughter and joy.

We will go through seasons of getting things for our girls or not getting things for them, but we both believe it will be good for them to hear us say “no, you can’t have this.”

I’m not a mean father, but every so often my children need to hear “no” from me and here’s why:

I hope that someday my daughters are going to have a relationship with Jesus that is their own. They’ll be introduced to this awesome daily thing called prayer, where they can have a real live conversation with the Creator of the universe at any point during their day. And they’re going to ask God for something they think they need or something they really want and God, who sees the future, protects His children, knows better than they do about what they need, He’s going to say “no” to them at times.

I don’t want my children to be spiritually confused, or so physically spoiled, that they get angry at God for not being the genie they expect Him to be because I, as their earthly dad, didn’t say “no” to them while they were growing up. It’s normal to whine. Who’s living simply, patiently, gratefully?

Let me be even more vulnerable as a parent: When I say “no” to my of our kids, for some reason I feel guilty for not getting that thing or that activity for them.

WHY?

Why do I feel like I should cave in when my girls give me the droopy-lower lip, or the tear down their eye, or when they don’t feel like they fit in with their friends?

It’s this cultural undertow that screams our kids deserve the best and it’s tempting us to forget that gratitude, simplicity, generosity, Jesus and His ways are really what’s best for them. Not the next thing their friends may get or what the commercials show. Deep inside we know what everyone else is doing isn’t working.

The only way to live a better life is to live a different life.
Let’s not be so obsessed with being 
happy. Let’s be holy.

Thanks for reading. You are loved.

Z

Three Areas to Fumigate in the Home

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I have a friend living in northern California who wanted to upgrade in homes after his wife gave birth to their first child. When it came time to put his home on the market to sell, he found out that before any offer on his home can become final the home has to be entirely fumigated. Before you can sell a home, the final step is to get all the people out of the home, all the clothes, all the food, all the furniture, (I recommend leaving the cat inside), then these guys come and put this huge tent over the home for sale and these ghost buster looking fumigation soldiers come in and spray inside the home and all over the property because in California there’s these little tiny termites that get into the wood of the home and if you don’t get rid of these harmful insects, the home will collapse.

Fumigation is a tough but necessary act. It’s vital to get what can be harmful out of the home.

What if God is trying to do some big things in our home but can’t move as effectively as He desires because there are some harmful things affecting our minds and the minds of our kids?

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. (1 John 2:16)

Here’s how I would define what the Bible describes as “worldly” –

Worldly: Anything that alienates you from God

Anything – any worldview, any media or song or movie or TV show or thought or behavior or relationship or addiction – if it doesn’t drive you closer to God, it’s of the world. It’s worldly. We’ve got to fumigate that out of your life.

It’s embedded in our instinct to love the world. It’s in our natural desires. It’s what we’re comfortable. If not watched, it’s what we veer toward unconsciously.

Here are three worldly influences that I see in our homes, (This is for me too. It’s not like I’m going over your home for dinner and I’m excusing myself at the table to go look through all your worldly stuff. My family needs to fumigate as well):

1. What We View.

Movies, videos, websites, posts, all of the websites and videos we’re privately viewing. If we wrote down all the viewing pleasures we have that alienate us from God it would be pages. We’d get a hand cramp.

I wonder if we could fill a post-it note with the things we’re allowing ourselves to view that God approves.

A father informed me that his teenage daughter wanted to go see a movie that he knew was not going to help her spiritually grow closer to God. He told her calmly that she couldn’t go see it. He said to her, It’s not going to usher you closer to God and my responsibility is to love you and the best way to love you is to bring you closer to God.

She was frustrated. Said some hurtful comments. No matter how long she was steamed, we need more Christ-following parents like that who protect what their kids view, and do it not to be mean or restrictive, but because God calls you and the entire family to journey toward Him, not worldliness.

Maybe I’m off on this, but isn’t the Christian parent’s dream to see their kids following Jesus with all of their heart? If your dream as a parent is to make your kid happy in the moment and give them permission to do whatever they want, then sure, you’re not going to observe what they view. I want your dream to be bigger than making them happy. Making them happy with no boundaries could enslave them. I want your dream for them to be following Jesus with all their heart. That will free them.

The world is sewage. If a parent allows this ungodly sewage to be pumped into a child’s mind, then the characteristics of Christ cannot be formed in them. That’s on mom. That’s on dad.

I have two daughters. My primary goal is not to get them to ball practice, or to get their ACT score higher than before, or get them on a fun vacation – on and on and on – good things, just not primary. My primary responsibility is to make sure that when they leave the nest, they are sold out to Jesus, and before that, they are trying to become more like Christ each day.

Geez Zach, you have no clue. You’re so naive. Your oldest child is in Kindergarten. Raising Christian kids is tough with all that is around my child. 

I know it’s tough. I was one of the worst kids. I need moms and dads around my family to parent faithfully so when my daughters fill themselves with sewage and lose sight of Jesus, I can lean on you and see what you did to make sure your kids stayed close to God and close to their Bibles.

Here’s the 2nd area we need to be cautious of:

2. What we listen to. 

This is not me saying that Christians need to throw out all the music in the home except the Point of Grace CD’s from the 90’s, but parents, let’s not think that the music today is the same kind of message and content as the music 20 years ago. Let’s not ignorantly think that our kids like the song because they like the beat but the lyrics aren’t marinating on their developing minds. They are. The pain and lust and confusion and rage and bitterness of the world has been transferred into the sound our families voluntarily choose to listen to.

This is not a rant where I ask who wants to go move into a cave with me so we can all sing kumbaya while we pass around the baked beans until the apocalypse happens. We just need to take the time to decipher what we and our kids are listening to. Some of it is good music, good lyrics, others of what we’re listening is good music, bad lyrics, and some of it is just bad music with harmful lyrics.

Music is powerful. I can start singing half a line from a pop song in a room with teenagers in it and the teens finish the lyrics verbatim, but if I quote a commonly known Bible verse in that same room, can they finish it?

I feel like this post might come across as legalistic. That’s not my intent. That’s not who Jesus is. I just want families to get more serious about allowing their kids to watch and listen to things that bring them closer to the Lord.

Why can’t a parent walk into their kids room and tell them that the music being played isn’t honoring God and that it needs to be gone? Fumigated.

I didn’t get serious about God until I was 20. I played the Christian game for 20 years. The primary reason I was so disobedient, and rebellious, and in trouble, the primary reason I wasn’t sold out to God was because of the music I was listening to was so contrary to the life God wanted me to live. I threw all my awful music into a trash can outside on campus in college and I lit it on fire (I got in trouble for the fire, but it felt good to fumigate).

Your kids may not like the fact that you are going to fumigate the music in your home, this is what godly parenting is all about: Pain now for the long term good.

It’s how God disciplines us: Pain now for the long term good. There’s a balance. Fumigate the bad music, keep the good (and that’s not fumigate the non-Christian music, keep the Christian, there’s a balance). There’s some amazing non-Christian music. In my family, when we listen to lyrics that can be harmful in a song, we press the pause button and try to  redeem the lyrics making sure our children know what is right and what is wrong in God’s eyes.

It’s not just the music we hear, it’s the jokes amd language we hear and the gossip we are participating in, so many things we’re hearing keep us from God.

Here’s the third thing that could be keeping us from God:

3. The Public Schools.

Now everyone reading pays closer attention, right?

Let me be very clear that just as there are good things to view in TV and websites, and just as there are good things to hear, as in music, there are good things about the public school. There are also potentially harmful temptations in private and home schooling.

As a leader in the church, I am never going to take a stand on where kids should be sent to school, whether public, private, or home school. Being a leader in the church is not for me to propagand my opinion on schooling, or on politics, or whatever. I only want to help share how to make the family more Christ-like, and FYI, my children will always be attending public schools because my wife and I want to send light into darkness, and that includes sending loving, wise kids into public schools where hope and health are decreasing.

What I am saying is that if you’re sending your kid off to a public school, and you’re not paying attention to the stuff they’re learning, and you’re not paying attention to the friends they’re making and hanging out with and the types of coaches that are influencing them, if you’re just sending them off to the world day by day, having uninterrupted social time, it could be keeping them from God. Athletics is included in this. If sports and practice are keeping your kid from growing closer to God, let’s find a balance.

For you, whether you’re a parent or a kid or an in-between, the kinds of things you watch, the kind of music you hear, and the people you hang around – it is the center bulls eye kind of person you’ll become.

The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:12-14)

It’s just having some quality, intentional conversations with our family and having the wisdom and courage to fumigate what tempts us from our purpose.

Thanks for reading. You are loved.

Z

Thoughts on Abortion

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Roe Vs. Wade, the January 22nd, 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion throughout pregnancy, turned 45 years old this week.

Abortion has become a politically-charged subject, with lines drawn in the sand.

One political party says, We are pro-life. Another political party says, We are pro-choice. One party protects and fights for the rights of an unborn baby while the other party protects and fights for the rights of the pregnant woman. It’s become an either-or proposition where people are forced to pick a side. The problem for me as a Christian, when culture forces me to pick a side, is that Jesus is both-and.

Jesus is for babies and for women.

The church is messing up her witness because Christians are loudly arguing what they are against instead of gently stating in love what they are for. Christians would do well to stop yelling at what issue they are against and start sharing in love that they are for Jesus. Jesus is for babies and for women.

Surely at some point in his earthly life, Jesus’ birth-mother sat Him down and walked Him through all the pain, fear and humiliation she went through as an unmarried, teenage, pregnant woman. It seemed to have shaped Jesus’ love for children and women on the outskirts of culture.

Since Jesus is pro-baby and pro-women, so am I. Here are some reasons why:

I am for the Sciences.

What the scientific community has discovered is that life begins at conception.

Let’s say a baby is conceived on January 1st, (which means it must’ve been quite a New Year’s Eve party). Here’s what happens after conception:

JANUARY 1: All 46 chromosomes are present giving the baby a unique genetic make-up that cannot be replaced or reproduced. 

JANUARY 21: The baby’s heart begins to beat. 

FEBRUARY 7: The baby’s eyes, legs, and hands begin to develop.  

FEBRUARY 21: The baby starts kicking and swimming in the womb. 

FEBRUARY 28: Every organ in the baby’s body is in the proper place, bones are taking shape, and fingerprints have begun to form.

Most abortions take place at this stage of development. If that’s not a human being then I am not a human being. This is why ultrasounds are so critical in the process of a woman deciding to abort or give life.

78 percent of all expecting moms wanting an abortion, decide not to have one after seeing the ultrasound of their baby. 

The owner of the largest abortion clinic in the United States testified before Congress and said this:

“Of course human life begins at conception. This isn’t new news; it’s just overlooked information.” – Aileen Klass

50 million babies have been systematically exterminated because of overlooked information?

Even if I didn’t believe a single word in the Bible, I would still be pro-baby and pro-woman because of my intellectual commitment to science.

I am for the Law. 

I am utterly grateful to be living in a country that is legally establishing gender equality. There is a ways to go still, but as a father to two daughters who are growing into women, they will live in a time where women can thrive better than ever before. The law is to thank for that. I pray for our political and judicial leaders. I am for them.

There are some inconsistencies in America’s legal system. If a woman chooses to terminate the development of her baby, it’s considered, by law, a choice. If someone else harms her while she is pregnant, and terminates the baby growing inside of her, it’s a homicide, it’s murder.

In America if you destroy an eagle’s egg you’ll go to jail for two years.

The law says what develops inside of an eagle’s egg is more valuable than who is developing inside of a mother’s stomach. It doesn’t seem to line up with these timeless words written by Thomas Jefferson:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” – Thomas Jefferson

Since the inception of these words in the year 1776, America has fought numerous wars in numerous countries. Our country defends everyone’s right, globally, to life. 1.3 million American soldiers have laid their own lives down so that other people in other countries could live.

Why wouldn’t we fail to protect the rights for the unborn to have life?

Maybe you remember a man from history class named Dred Scott. Scott was slave from Missouri. His owner moved him to Illinois where slavery was illegal and Dred Scott took him to court because his owner tried to sell him to a state where it was illegal to have slaves. It was a courageous move.

The case went all the way up to the Supreme Court and the decision sadly ended up being that slaves were property, not people. But the Dred Scott case ignited a nationwide controversy and eventually it led to the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, which thankfully led to the 13th Amendment in our constitution stating that all people are people, not property.

And it’s not just race. Husband, remember your wife is not your property. Treat her with kindness. Boyfriend, your girlfriend is not yours. She’s God’s. Parent, your child/children are not your property, they’re God’s children you get to influence for a short time. Employer, treat your employees fair and honor them when they do well. They’re not your property either. Which means an unborn baby is not property

In her book, Who Broke the Baby?, author Jean Garton makes this observation,

“History has proven us wrong about Native Americans. History has proven us wrong about African Americans. We cannot afford to wait for history to prove us wrong about the unborn.” – Jean Staker Garton 

If it’s proven scientifically and medically that unborn babies are people, does it matter if we kill them before they are born or after they are born? Right now the only thing that separates abortion and euthanasia is the law.

There is a greater category than science or law.

I am for the Scriptures. 

The songwriter in Psalm 139 sings this about God,

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! (Psalm 139:13-17)

God has so many great thoughts about life in the womb and not one of them is abortion. Here’s how God begins the book of Jeremiah,

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

Before any person is born, God knows them intimately, loves them unconditionally, values them above all creation and has a purposeful, specific plan for their life.

When Mary was pregnant with Jesus by the Holy Spirit, she went to her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant at the same time with John the Baptist. When Elizabeth saw her cousin Mary, she said,

When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. (Luke 1:44)

Not birth matter. Not uterine content. Elizabeth says, the baby jumped for joy. From the very beginning of the Bible and of humanity, God’s message is clear.

God has a heart for the voiceless and the weak. It’s always for the child. The church must echo God’s heart. This is why in the book, Answering the Call, author John Ensor points out a big tragedy in the Christian community. He writes –

“The abortion industry could not survive financially without paying customers drawn from the church.” – John Esnor

No Christian needs to be protesting outside of abortion clinics. They just need to stop going inside them.

Anytime I am listening to someone who has an abortion in their past, whether they chose it, their parents forced it, their boyfriend forced it, or they funded it, I try to communicate this truth:

You are either forgiven or forgivable. 

If you’re a follower of Jesus, and you’ve been shamed over sin in your past, Jesus already has forgiven you of all of that. It’s gone. It’s clean. The evil one will try to remind you of it, but remind him Jesus has forgiven you and that your future is good and his is frightening.

If you’re not a follower of Jesus, and you’ve been shamed by choices you’ve made, you are forgivable. God willingly, overwhelmingly will forgive all of your past. If you’ve had an abortion, Jesus died to forgive that act and He rose from death to free you from being chained by that memory. If you haven’t admitted your past to a friend, reach out and share it bravely to experience liberation and healing.

If you know a woman who is pregnant and scared, the guy isn’t involved, the finances aren’t there, her parents are angry, her future looks bleak, say this to her:

You may have an unwanted pregnancy, but you do not have an unwanted baby. 

Adoption is a great option. Life is always the right option. I’m convinced that each Christian should let Proverbs chapter 31:8 marinate in their membrane over and over:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; (Proverbs 31:8)

I’m pro-baby and I’m pro-woman because of my intellectual commitment to science, because of my moral commitment to the legal system, and also, more importantly, because of my spiritual dedication to Scripture’s truth and wisdom.

Thanks for reading. You are loved.

Z

Choose Your Parents Carefully

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Fa-la-la-la-la, la, la, la lots of extended families are going to reunite and spend time together over the holidays. There will be lots of weight-gaining. Lots of gift-giving. Lots of tradition-keeping. There will also be a lot of people holding their tongue, sweeping annoyances and issues toward loved ones under the Christmas rug.  We would love for the holidays to be a time we look forward to, not just something we have to get through.

One of the things all of us have in common is we were all once children. I was a child. You were a child. We’re all brought into this world through a biological mother and a biological father. If you didn’t come into the world that way, either you were lied to or no doubt NASA would like to talk to you.

One summer on a road trip to visit loved ones I saw a billboard alongside the highway that read this:

Choose Your Parents Carefully. 

It made me COL (Chuckle Out Loud) because the greatest irony in life is we get to pick our friends, pick our interests, pick our college, pick the vehicle we drive, pick our job, pick our sports teams, pick the church we’re involved in, pick the person we want to marry, pick the names of our children, pick the home we live in, but when it comes to the MOST formative relationship we will experience on earth, who raises us in our developmental years, we don’t have a say in the matter whatsoever. No one gets to choose their parent(s) or the people who raise them.

The parent-child relationship is the most influential earthly relationship because it affects how the child’s future adult relationships will look. I’m not sure every parent is asking, Am I raising this child to have adult relationships that are set up for health and success?

In culture today there’s another generation (this isn’t new) rising up that is being wounded by parents who were wounded by their parents. Many parent-child relationships are just surviving and getting by instead of thriving and loving life together. There’s much baggage there to be reminded of and it’s a very uncomfortable place. Holiday get-togethers seem to bring this to the surface.

For the parents who maybe weren’t spiritually-equipped to raise your children and you have this heavy regret that sticks around in your heart, there is so much grace from God for you.

For those of you who grew up in a home where your parents were not adequately, spiritually-equipped to raise you and you’ve got pain and anger and mental struggles, there’s grace from God for you too.

Let me make sure what I hope we all know already: there’s no perfect family. Anywhere. Enjoy your Christmas movies but know you don’t live in Whoville. The family I grew up in was a strong Christian home but there was still pain and drama. Even Jesus’ earthly family had conflict and separation. There are no perfect parents, no perfect children, no perfect outcomes in the home. If you’ve got it rough at home, so does everyone else in some way. We’re not looking for perfect. We should be looking for healthy.

Healthy relationships start in healthy homes led by healthy parents. 

If our children are going to have healthy relationships as they grow older it begins by healthy parents showing them what a healthy home looks like. If we can see how God has made the parent-child relationship as it is supposed to be, it will help all of us see how our adult-adult relationships are supposed to look as well.

God created man and woman to be together – not just sexually, not just in the same home, not just as roommates, not just stuck with each other, not just some good moments – but to love and serve and enjoy each other every day, together.

One theologian put it this way:

“We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with our weirdness, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.” Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

That’s deep. That’s Barry White deep.

When a man and a woman fall into this mutual weirdness called love, God then invites them to participate in what He does best, which is creating life. God created the man and the woman to become one flesh, this mysterious collection of body and soul coming together and what that physical and spiritual union produces is this small, purple wrinkly, cone-shaped head little baby that eats and sleeps and ruins onesies 24/7.

This is when the most important earthly relationship begins. A parent doesn’t just love the infant, they begin to shepherd them towards emotional, relational and spiritual health.

Parenting is the most exhausting thing you’ll continually participate in (and all the parents reading this blog said,  AMEN). Parenting is the most selfless, hardest, most rewarding activity one can do this side of heaven, when it’s done as God intends. There’s selfish parenting. There’s fear-filled parenting. There’s lazy parenting. There’s heart-aching, abusive and absent parenting. That’s not what God intends.

A woman told me that her husband walked out on their family, leaving her to care for their three young kids by herself. She said to me, I’m realizing after serving my husband for years, he never really loved me as God intended him to. 

That’s hard to swallow.

After she factored in some more hindsight she said, I’m seeing it clearly. The reason he didn’t or couldn’t love me is because the love of God wasn’t in him. He’s not a Christ-follower. She had some more revelation and said, The more I think about it, the love of God was not in my husband’s father either. Then she said, And neither was the love of God in his grandfather.

BINGO.

Our values and behavior patterns aren’t only formed in us physically. They have been passed down to us from our parents. This is where we have a choice to make. It’s a choice on whether or not we are going to pass these same values and behavior patterns onto our children and the next generation.

The child in the home is supposed to look at mom and dad and see the clearest picture of God they will see in any of their upbringing relationships. The best picture of church a child can see is not in a church building. It’s at home.

If mom and dad don’t live like God then the children they have will be confused about who God is.

They’ll be confused about how God loves, how God forgives, how good and committed God is, how God serves, how God provides, how God is holy, how God heals.

What also can be said is,

If mom and dad don’t trust God in all things then their children will have issues trusting God.

A baby is wired to be dependent on mom and dad because a baby is completely helpless. If mom and dad don’t provide the physical/emotional/spiritual health every child deserves and needs when they are helpless, that baby will grow to learn to depend and provide for only themselves and eventually they’ll struggle to trust adults. They will struggle to trust God. They will be confused about what God created them for by living independent from (against) God and living independent (isolated) from others around them.

If you haven’t yet put the puzzle pieces together on why you’ve had trust issues in your relationships, why you’ve struggled experiencing contentment no matter the circumstances, why you’ve had difficulty giving and receiving love, the answer can be this simple: Maybe mom and dad didn’t do what God had called them to do. Forgive them. Love them still. Be who they were supposed to be for you going forward. Be right now who you needed when you were younger.

Prove your love to your children by choosing to shepherd them. We agree our kids grow up and leave home in the blink of an eye, so there is no questioning how fast time will go. The question is will parents be ushering their children toward unhealthy adult relationships, or healthy ones?

Set a resilient goal to not have any arguments over the next month when celebrating the birth of the One who came to bring peace.

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)

Thanks for reading. You are loved.

Z

3 PRACTICAL GOALS FOR SINGLES (3 OF 3)

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For the first time in American history single people households outnumber married people households. If you’re not single currently, you have single friends and family, your kids are going to be entering single adulthood if they’re not there already. They’re an important, valued group the church should not ignore.

I have a deep love for singles, wanting them to thrive and live wisely.  I want to humbly offer three practical goals singles can steadfastly commit to. The first two practical goals for singles can be read here and here. Here’s the third practical goal for singles to get serious about:

STAY OUT OF BED. 

I’m not talking about sleep being overrated. You know where I’m headed with this.

Paul was of the first leaders of the early church. He was single. He wrote 31% of the New Testament that we know of since the book of Hebrews is up in the air with no certainty on who authored it (although I would love for time to reveal a woman wrote Hebrews). Anyway, Paul lived during the 1st Century. Much of his writing was to a sexual culture that was worse than what we see and hear about today. It was worse then.

Back then, this whole idea of human sex-trafficking was legal and permissible. Back then, men literally owned women. Women were owned by men for their sexual pleasure and for slave-work. The moment a man got tired of a woman he was with, all he had to do was go down to a pagan temple providing prostitutes and slaves for sale and trade his wife in for someone else.

This is not the kind of culture God intended but this the kind of culture the church was born into.  Paul writes these words in an attempt to reorient culture back to Christ:

Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18) 

This isn’t saying that sexual sin is worse than other sins to God. God views anything sinful on a linear level. Some sins have worse consequences in our lives, but God views sexual sin like He does gossip and greed. There’s not a separate category to put sexual sin in. It’s not worse than other sins, but it is different. It’s a different level of damage.

Think about it. If you make a bad financial decision, you accept the reality, pay it off, take a credit hit, get an extra job, downsize or file for bankruptcy. You move on. You might have some regrets, but you venture forward.

There is something about sexual sin that haunts us and stains us and it follows us into every relationship we enter into. It has a way of negatively sticking around. Sexual sin doesn’t just affect our emotional state, it affects our body and our soul. It’s just different. Sexual sin is a soul violation.

When you engage in that, outside of God’s desire and boundary of marriage, you do things more than just to your mind. It’s more than just pleasure. It’s pain that will hang around forever – yes it will be forgiven by God, anything is, and He can sweep it away in His mind, but for us, in this life, it’s pain that hangs around forever. It’s different.

What would we expect God, our Creator and Lover of our soul, to say about something that could be damaging to us long-term? He says, RUN! Stay away from it because God knows if given into, it will hurt what good we have and harm what good awaits us. That’s wisdom for Christians and non-Christians alike. But then he takes it up a notch.

Then he talks to just followers of Jesus. If you believe Jesus rose from death, if you believe He’s God, if you were baptized into the water to confirm your belief in Jesus, you are no longer your own decision-maker. You now beautifully adhere to Jesus in all things. The very Spirit of God lives inside the Christian and you take the Spirit into every conversation/relationship/choice you have.

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

The Jesus-follower no longer belongs to themselves. When we sing, I Surrender All, that includes giving Jesus our body, it includes giving Jesus our sexual desires. Not just our sexual sin in the past, but we give Him the right to choose how we act and what we desire going forward.

Dating today is all about the chase and impulsiveness and conquest and when you don’t get what you want (what you wrongly think you deserve) you move on or get angry.

Some of you ladies feel like you have to give in to what can be considered modern-day prostitution where he pays for dinner, pays for dessert or drinks, pays attention to you and then he expects you to pay him back with favors he defines.

Ladies, you owe no man anything. Jesus has bought you, honor Him with your body. If you have to do something outside of God’s boundaries just to keep a man around, that’s not a man you’re with, it’s a little boy who’s not full of Christ, but full of selfishness.

Ladies, if you feel like you have to give in to keep him around – if that’s your mindset – my advice is that you take a year off from dating – a year – just to right your mind and search God’s Word out on your true identity and what godly way He lays out in store for you to live. Maybe you need to choose purity for an extended amount of time, staying away from temptation.

Maybe it’s time for parents of children who are dating to make sure they are being pure with the person they hang out with. Don’t assume they’re being pure, set God’s standard for them and lovingly hold them accountable to honoring God, not their desires. Talk to your them today to be pure because you don’t want their soul to be damaged.

If you’re in a relationship currently and you’re living together before marriage, don’t be afraid to find the research yourself or talk to others who have been there: Cohabitation does not increase your chances at a happily ever after. It decreases it. I’m not sure why people prolong marriage, but I want to encourage you to move out to honor God, test the relationship living in separate homes and have a more solid marriage in store if it works out.

My encouragement, whether you live together pre-marriage, or are in sexual sin while dating someone, or are sleeping around – take time off. Back away. Be abstinent. Pursue Jesus so you can think clearly.

I am praying daily that the men who get to pursue my daughters will be men who honor them and honor Jesus; men who think about a good legacy, not a good time.

Jesus says something in Matthew chapter 5 that we could spend days studying together and still not get the richness He provides. He says:

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

Do you see the connection? There is something about moral purity that allows us to see God and what He is up to clearly.

How many of us know the opposite of this? I do. When you’re living in moral impurity – when you’re hiding and scheming and lying and cheating and lusting it’s like you’re living in a fog. You don’t know who you are or where you’re going. You might even blame God for how life is going because you can’t see Him clearly. He’s there, you’re just sinning so much it’s fuzzy.

No wonder single people who sleep around or live together before marriage get cold feet when thinking about marriage. They think, I don’t know if she’s the one. I don’t know if he’s Mr. Right. Sometimes sparks are there. But it’s up and down. The person I like is great some days and then they’re really hurtful other days. Thoughts like that breed little trust and give minimal stability and security.

We can’t see clearly because of impurity in our daily lives and Jesus says He will make us pure from our past, we will rely on His example, teaching and strength to be pure going forward and then we’ll be able to attain the clarity around us we desperately crave.

Get out of debt. Clean out your closet. Stay out of bed.

Thanks for reading You are loved.

Z