5 Things Children Need In Order To Have Contentment

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I remember taking a humanities class where the professor had us watch this movie from 1994 called: Bullets Over Broadway. 

This movie was the start of cultural post-modernism and still affects the way most people who aren’t captured by Jesus’ love think. It even got turned into a musical. 

The main character in the movie is played by John Cusack. He lives in the early 1900’s in downtown New York City. 

He has a girlfriend but he also has this temptation and opportunity to have an affair. 

He’s talking to his friend named Sheldon, and Cusack says to his friend, “I want to have this affair, but I don’t want to feel guilty for being unfaithful to my girlfriend.” 

And this is what Sheldon says, this is his advice: 

“Guilt is crap. It’s made up. A real artist creates his own universe.”

Remember how in 1 Corinthians 13, verse 6 it says that love does not demand it’s own way? 

Well, Cusack does. He has this affair with this other woman, doesn’t tell his girlfriend about it and then he finds out later that his girlfriend cheats on him with another man. 

And Cusack loses his mind. He’s all, “How dare you betray my trust. How dare you go back on your commitment. How could you be unfaithful?

He says, “Who were you with?”
And she says, “I was with Sheldon.” 

Because Sheldon says an artist creates his own universe.

(This movie came out 25+ years ago so any spoiler alert thoughts can be put to rest. You’ve had time to see it.) 

The driving point of Bullets Over Broadway is what’s wrong with the human race. 

People not devoted to Jesus are creating their own universe by saying, “Who’s to say what’s right and wrong?” They create their own moralistic codes to live and usually it’s based on how they want to feel in the moment. 

In April, 2018, GQ Magazine published an article, by the editor himself, entitled: “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read.

Number 12 on that list was “The Bible”, calling it overrated.

The article went on to say that there are some good parts  of the Bible but it’s not the finest thing man has ever written (I agree, since man didn’t write it).

I consider the Bible the only compass that leads to contentment. Without the Bible pointing us to Jesus, we would be headed down the path of creating our own universe, our own moral standards, and that path leads away from love.

When you’re watching a movie or reading an article or listening to a friend’s opinion, just know that culture’s worldview is set by creating their own moralistic universe of what is right and what is wrong and you need to get back to God’s Word and align yourself to what He says. 

Because what He says is said in real love and true wisdom. 

Yes or no: When you read your Bible on a daily basis, do you give more love to others verses days and weeks you go without reading the Bible? We know the people here can’t experience life without first experiencing God’s love for us. 

Specifically, our children can’t experience real love and true wisdom without us experiencing those things from God first. 

My wife and I catch ourselves as parents feeling like, “Oh my goodness. We give so much to our children. We give so much to them and they give such little back.” 

But this is what unconditional love is. You don’t love and serve and forgive and be patient and bite your tongue and train what is right and clean up messes and endure heartache and stay up late at night and worry yourself silly and invest time and energy into them and pray for them daily because they can give you something in return. 

You do it because you love them unconditionally. 

Before our kids know what love is behaviorally, they have to experience love first from the behavior of those closest to them. 

Whatever your opinion of statistics are, I read a study that shared this one:

Between the ages of 18-28, 80% of people who have a faith in Jesus choose to walk away from Him permanently. 

And they never come back, because they weren’t equipped by their parents, their mentors, their church family to handle the temptation, stress, and hardship that comes with growing up. 

Only 20% either stay faithful to God or eventually return to Him.

To do so, what children need is not academic success, athletic or artistic accolades, more likes on their social media posts, romantic love or even the desires of their hearts and dreams. 

Here are five things they need in their lives continually in order to experience real love, true wisdom and a life full of joy and peace: 

(1) A Loving God  

I want my children and your children all to know Jesus intimately close where they can trust Him at all times and they can known His guidance and believe His power is available for them even at the youngest of ages. They will know that they don’t have to do life on their own, that God is for and with them.  

(2) A Loving Book 

We call this amazing book, the Bible. It will point them in the direction of a lifestyle that leads to legacy. If they know their Bible, they will lead a life that is full of life and purpose and distinct compared to the rest of their friends and the world around them. If they keep the Bible in their minds and follow Its instruction, they will be able to work through disappointment in a mature way and stay strong in down seasons emotionally. Their compass in life has got to be the Bible, it cannot be their own heart. 

(3) A Loving Parent 

This is critical: each parent sets the spiritual pace and expectation of their child. 

As Paul wrote to Timothy, Imitate me as I imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Who spends more time with a child of a church, the teachers and volunteers in the church or the parent of the child?

In a recent study, (where are my mom’s at?), in a recent study 1/3 of children ages 8-12 said they wish they could spend more time with their moms.

Same age range, ages 8-12, it doubles for dads. 2/3s of children wish they could spend more time with their dad. 

In this same study, (52,000 students were polled) 9 out of 10 middle school and high school students said they have no desire to see their parents take a lesser role in their lives, but a greater one.

Parents need to step up. They’re going to be gone before you know it and I’m afraid the norm in our culture is to keep our kids so busy and so happy that life gets so blurry that we forget our main priority is to train them to be faithful.

The job of the leaders and volunteers in a church is not to babysit your kids. Their job is also not to make sure your kid makes it to heaven in the end. No, their job is to equip parents and grandparents and guardians to know how to make a daily, influential investment into the lives of their kids. Your responsibility as parents is to do everything you can daily to make sure your kids love Jesus while they’re in the home and are faithful in that 18-28 age range, – and our leadership’s responsibility is to help you do that.

(4) A Loving Friend 

Every kid and teen needs at least one close friend who shares a common faith in Jesus and that friend will be there for them during church activities, but also will take a stand with them at school and as they get older, will stand with them on the weekend and during the summer when the spiritual pressure builds up. 

If each of our kids had a radical, faithful friend to stand with, it would be more difficult for them to walk away from God and toward the world. 

(5) A Loving Voice 

When I say our children need a loving voice, I mean someone who is older than them, who will encourage them in love and challenge them in truth from God’s Word and will care for them enough to hold them accountable to be there for them when life gets difficult, lonely, or sin looks appetizing.

A loving voice gently shares the truth in love.

In the church let’s not say the cheesy line that children are the future of the church. I’ve not a fan of that belief. The children are in the church now, they’re part of the church now, they have a role in the church now and we need them today and tomorrow.  If they’re going to worship with us tomorrow and love on others tomorrow and be there with Jesus tomorrow they need right now:

A loving God (Jesus)
A loving Book
(Bible)
A loving Parent
(mentor)
A loving Friend
(transparency)
A loving Voice
(truth in love)

Your kids, the kids of your community, they need these things. You need these things as well. 

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