Talk early and often about sex.

It’s not a matter of IF your children will learn about sex in their early years but whether they will learn it F-I-R-S-T from you or the culture.

Besides the fact that God commands parents to be their children’s primary teacher (Deuteronomy 6), there are several practical reasons to encourage you to start talking early with your children. Here are a few:

  • first exposure to anything is the most potent and powerful.
  • it’s easier to prevent wrong thinking than to correct it.
  • establishing a reputation as a knowledgeable and reliable authority is critical to building trust and respect with your children.
  • you are laying the groundwork for more in depth and sensitive conversations down the line.
  • you are also building a highway of communication you will travel more frequently when they get older.

You may be thinking at this point, “I hear you and I agree. What is appropriate to share about sex when my kids are young?” Great question! From the reading I’ve done, I would suggest between 0-7 years of age, you focus on the following:

  • establish that they are loved beyond measure by their parents and unconditionally loved by God
  • articulate the purpose and role of body functions
  • teach technical terms for body parts (making sure to give God credit for each part)
  • model and teach the importance of privacy and modesty
  • clarify the differences between boys and girls
  • distinguish between good touch and bad touch (and what to do if they experience bad touch)
  • communicate the basic facts of intercourse, conception and fetal development within the context of marriage

Talking often means you are consistently on the lookout for opportunities to weave this critical topic into your conversations. As Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  Talking often will help your children understand that sexuality is a topic to be celebrated and a topic they can freely discuss with you. If they can learn this at an early age, you will be well on your way to helping them develop a God-honoring sexual worldview where shame and embarrassment are not welcome.

Reflect and Respond:

  • How have you done at talking early and often with your kids about sexuality? Where have you excelled and where do you need to improve?
  • Sit down with your spouse and share your thoughts from the question above with each other. Then brainstorm an action plan for improving on your weak areas.
  • Consider purchasing the God’s Design for Sex series by Stann and Brenna Jones to help you talk early and often.

What Does Passion Week Mean to You?

There is no more important holiday celebration for those who are followers of Christ than the day we call Easter. While the origins of this name are not absolutely clear (some say it originated from the pagan goddess of Spring, Eostre; others think it is related to an old German word that meant ‘east’ or ‘dawn’), it is a name that has long been associated by many Christians with the day of Christ’s resurrection. Even so, I prefer calling it Resurrection Sunday.

Whatever name you prefer, it is the reason behind the existence of our faith. Our faith is founded upon the fact of Christ’s death and resurrection. Without the resurrection, our faith is meaningless or ‘futile’, according to Paul. It is the most important fact of human history we must teach our grandchildren.

With that in mind, I wonder what measures most of us take to prepare ourselves for this critical, celebratory day? I’m not simply talking about a liturgy (which can be very useful, by the way). This is about a personal journey to retrace the events of this week leading up to our Lord’s horrible crucifixion. I doubt we can begin to comprehend the price He paid for us. We rejoice in the Resurrection, but if we are to adequately teach our children and grandchildren the magnitude of the price our Savior paid for our sin debt, we ought to ponder the events of this Passion Week. 

To help you do that, I have listed some of the events in Jesus’ life during this week with Scripture references. I would encourage you to visit these passages each day and ponder the intentionality with which our Lord directed his steps toward the Cross. I have included a question for each day to help you process this Passion Week journey.

Palm Sunday (Matthew 21; Mark 11; Luke 19; John 2)

  1. Jesus rides on a colt into Jerusalem as the crowds shout “Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” 
  2. Spends the night in Bethany

Question: What does Jesus’ kingship really mean, and in what ways do you also miss what it means?

MONDAY (Mark 11:12-19)

  1. Back to Jerusalem 
  2. Jesus clears the Temple
  3. The Pharisees plot to kill Jesus

Question: The Bible says we are God’s Temple. Ask God to show you how you might be dishonoring that ‘temple’?

TUESDAY (Mark 11:20 – 13:35; Luke 20:1-21:36)

  1. Returns again to Jerusalem 
  2. Parable of the Tenants
  3. Paying taxes to Caesar
  4. Widow’s offering

Question: How do the teachings of Jesus in these passages reveal what Jesus’ mission was and how ought these to shape your life as a follower of Christ?

WEDNESDAY (Luke 21:37-38)

  1. More teaching in the Temple 
  2. Signs of the end of the age (Luke 21:5-36)
  3. Judas agrees to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16; Luke 22:1-6)

Question: As Jesus talked about signs for the end of the age, what do you think He meant by telling us to “keep watch”? How are you keeping watch?

THURSDAY (Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14:12-72; Luke 22:7-65; John 13:1-18:27)

  1. Passover with the disciples
  2. Gethsemane
  3. The betrayal and arrest
  4. Before the Sanhedrin
  5. Peter’s Denial

Question: What did these different events of this day reveal to you about our Lord’s heart towards us, even in our weaknesses?

GOOD FRIDAY (Matthew 27:1-61; Mark 15:1-47; Luke 22:66-23:56; John 18:1-27)

  1. Judas hangs himself
  2. Before Pilate
  3. The crucifixion
  4. The burial

Question: As you ponder the excruciating agony our Lord suffered on this day, do you have a better grasp of the depth of suffering He endured for you? How does that impact how you live your life now and the importance of telling the next generations what He has done for us?

Smartphone Conversations for Grandparents

Do you ever grow tired of the constant intrusion of smartphones in everyday life? Have dinner time conversations with your grandchildren been reduced to tweeting and texting activity while face-to-face human interactions almost come to a halt?

Few grandparents have much to say about whether their grandchildren are allowed smartphones, let alone when and how they use them. Mom and Dad have primary responsibility for how it’s played out. Everywhere, that is, except in your home space. 

Grandparents, you are in a position to determine the parameters for smartphone use in your home, if you are willing to set an example. You are the king and queen of your home, and you can help change the way your grandchildren think about and use their smartphones. It requires some intentionality and grace, and perseverance.

Before I share some ideas, you must first believe you can have a transformational impact in your grandchildren’s lives, even when you are not living close by. The Bible makes it very clear that grandparents are just as important as parents in teaching and training our grandchildren to walk in the truth. If your grandchildren are young, you can establish that influence early on by reading Bible stories and other good stories with them, and by talking with them about both the good things and the dangers of technology.

If your grandchildren are older grade schoolers and teens, we may assume they don’t want to hear anything grandma and grandpa have to say. That will be true if we only criticize and “preach” at them about stuff we don’t like. If, on the other hand, we establish an atmosphere of trust and vulnerability (we can still learn some things too), the opportunities are there to engage them with conversations that cause them to think more judiciously about the choices they make. 

Now, for a few ideas regarding smartphones in your home…

  1. Assess your worldview about God’s creation. Does it line up with Scripture or culture? If  God created man in HIs image, he also created him to create good things. Does that include technology, or is it inherently evil? Like all of God’s creation, it is good, but like everything else it is under sin’s curse. Still, if the bad side of technology is all you talk about, your grandchildren will have little interest in hearing what you have to say. That’s why the Gospel is so significant. God can redeem even technology. 
  2. Determine to be tech-savvy.Know what you’re talking about. You don’t need to be an expert, but invest some serious time in learning about the capabilities, dangers and purposes of smartphones. A smartphone is not neutral. It has a specific purpose—communication, but it also has an accompanying power to influence thinking and action. Do you know how to have conversations with your grandchild about these things? If not, I recommend you check out this free resource produced by AXIS Ministries. You might also want to share it with the parents of your grandchildren.
  3. Build a culture of blessing in your home.Make it a regular practice to intentionally speak a word of blessing over each of your grandchildren when the opportunity arises. There are so many negative messages coming at them. Your words of blessing and value as image-bearers of God can be transformational. We have a free download called Creating a Legacy of Blessing that can help you make the most of this tool.
  4. Establish meaningful guidelines for smartphone use in your home. Here are ways to build a focus on relationships and less technology dependence. I call them Tech-Free Zones or Recess Periods:
    • Family Table: Let it be understood that mealtime is set aside for family interaction. No smartphones or other devices are welcome at the family table. This is too valuable a time to allow smartphones to disrupt.
    • Other tech-free zones/recess periods: When the grandkids come to visit, help them understand the value of personal interaction by creating tech-free recess periods (pre-planned activities) in which smartphones are turned off and put away out of temptations reach. Here are some examples: baking cookies together, reading a book, working on a puzzle, sharing stories. You probably have a lot more ideas you could create for doing life together without smartphone interference.
    • Special Outings: If your grandchildren are old enough, plan for some outings with them where smartphones are not allowed (assign one person in charge of the emergency phone). These could be visits to a museum, zoo, play, picnic, etc. Make plans for things they would enjoy doing, but no smartphones allowed.

(You’ll find a few other suggestions in my book: Courageous Grandparenting)

Grandparents, you can tell yourself that it is not your responsibility to teach your grandkids about their use of smartphones or any other technology. But that is cop out. God’s design is that we should work together—parents and grandparents—to train up a child to walk in the truth.

If you and your adult children are not on the same page about this, make sure you are on the same page with God’s truths about life and His creation. Ask God for wisdom and understanding to help your grandchildren avoid the dangers and make the most of technology for God’s glory and purposes.

Cultivating Godly Adult Influence

At the young age of twelve, I attended a True Love Waits Conference and pledged to remain sexually pure until my wedding night.  23 years later, on August 16th, 2015, I handed that pledge to my husband on our wedding night!

While waiting those 23 years to meet Greg, I dated many “frogs” and wondered if God would ever bring a godly man into my life to marry. Again and again my parents (and other key people in my life) encouraged me to choose hope and continue living my life to the fullest. It wasn’t easy as I found myself attending countless weddings and baby showers! But my support network challenged me to use my singleness to do great things for God…and by God’s amazing grace, that’s exactly what I did. I shared my journey of singleness (and sexual integrity) with as many young people as I possibly could. My goal? To give them hope that they’re not in this battle alone and to inspire them to wait for God’s best.

What helped me wait to be sexually active until my wedding night? Was it a stellar sense of self worth?  Maybe self-control made out of steel?  No, neither of those.  Sure, some might blame it on the fact that I am a firstborn – you know…the responsible, rule following type.  But it goes much deeper than that. What led me to make different choices than my peers was primarily one thing, godly adult influence – people that were Jesus with skin on to me.

The first place I met Jesus was in the home – through my parents.  My parents have been married now 44 years and have done an amazing job modeling a healthy marriage to my brothers and me.  Not only did they model covenant love to each other, they also loved us unconditionally.  They listened to us, believed in us, and encouraged us. Most importantly, they consistently pointed us to Jesus and discipled us into a saving relationship with Christ. Their presence made all the difference in the world!

In addition to my parents’ influence, God brought quality mentors into my life that spoke the same truth into my heart.  Their words of wisdom and guidance strengthened my conviction to wait to be sexually active until marriage and in turn, stand out from the crowd.

Godly adult influences were an anchor for my soul when the storms of life tried to blow me over. How well anchored are your children?

Reflect and Respond:

  • If you’re married, what does your marriage demonstrate to your children? Is it time to get away and focus on each other? Consider Family Life Today’s Weekend to Remember. Check out familylife.com/WTR to learn more.
  • How many godly adult influences do your children have? Consider each of your children individually and work together as a couple to brainstorm the godly (and not so godly!) influences in their lives. Then after spending time in prayer, make a list of action steps you can take to build more godly adult influences in their lives while minimizing the negative ones.
  • Read and discuss Proverbs 11:14 and Proverbs 15:22 as a family. Discuss the importance of having advisors/mentors throughout life. Make a point to mention that it doesn’t matter the age or stage of life we’re in, we all need one! Consider brainstorming as a family the qualities of an ideal advisor/mentor and who may already be playing that role in their lives.

 

Teaching Our Children the Value of Waiting

I remember playing the role of Mary in the Bible story of Mary and Joseph. I was 14 years old at the time and the man playing the part of Joseph was 25. I wasn’t the boy crazy type of teenager, but when it came to “Joseph,” I fell head over heels. I even told my mom that I was going to marry him. Yikes – yes, I really did believe that! No, I didn’t marry “Joseph” but as I reflect back on that time, it’s evident that God planted the desire to marry deep in my heart at a very young age. Then he had me wait 21 years for that desire to be fulfilled!

Waiting is a common theme in the Bible and one every human being is familiar with. If we stop and think about it, waiting is a regular part of our lives. Whether it be small things like waiting at a stoplight, in the drive thru at your favorite fast food restaurant or at the doctor’s office, we all wait for something. Or it might be big things we wait for…like a student waiting to hear back from their top college pick, a man waiting to hear back on his blood work results or a married couple waiting to receive word that they can meet their adopted child. We can’t avoid it and we can’t escape it.

Waiting is a reality and a normal part of life. The question we must not ask ourselves then is, “How do I get out of this situation?” but rather, “How can I make the most of this situation?” Paul David Tripp put it this way: “…God never wastes our waiting, frivolously prolonging what we get at the end of the wait. Rather, waiting is fundamentally about who we become as we wait. Waiting should always build character.”

Waiting until I was 35 to meet and marry my “holy hunk” challenged me more than anything. It required me to depend on God as my Provider and Sustainer, it tested my identity and where I found my worth, it confronted my propensity to compare myself to others and ultimately it led me to surrender my will to God’s will. Waiting for my husband was the instrument God chose to use in my life to build godly character and to establish His truth deep in my heart.

You might be thinking, “What does waiting have to do with teaching my kids about Biblical sexuality?” Everything! The culture teaches them to let their feelings be their guide; Biblical sexuality teaches them to walk by faith. The culture teaches them to be the master of their own lives; Biblical sexuality teaches them to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The culture teaches that they are to set their own standard of right and wrong; Biblical sexuality teaches that there is one standard and it’s found in the Word of God.

If you want your children to embrace Biblical sexuality, a good place to start is by allowing them to face experiences where they have to choose between faith and feelings, surrender and control, Truth and their own standard of right and wrong. Shepherding them as they face these kinds of experiences will help develop their character and teach them the value of waiting on God. If this is what you want for your children, what are you waiting for?!

Reflect and Respond:

  • How well do you wait? How well are you modeling the concept of waiting to your children?
  • Read Paul David Tripp’s article on waiting called “The Waiting Room.” (https://www.paultripp.com/wednesdays-word/posts/the-waiting-room)
  • Discuss with your spouse how the two of you can work together to give your children more opportunities to wait well.

 

Three Misleading Emotions

Three misleading emotions commonly keep parents from having courageous conversations with their children. Can you relate to one (or all!) of these?

DISQUALIFIED “I didn’t wait, so how could I talk with my children about saving sex for marriage?” No one is more qualified than you! You know from personal experience why sex is best saved for marriage and the natural consequences that come from going outside God’s bounds. You have an opportunity to cast a God-glorifying vision for your child’s life while also helping them navigate around the detours and pitfalls that come from pre-marital sex.

The Bible is full of stories about people who sinned and yet went on to represent God and uphold His holy standards (i.e. King David, the apostle Paul, etc). To disqualify yourself from speaking Truth to your children because of your past sin is to give victory to Satan. He will do anything he can to get you to focus on your mistakes, your mess, and your inadequacies rather than watch you lay your sins before the Cross and receive forgiveness that’s yours in Christ Jesus. It sounds trite but it’s true – if you step out in faith, God will take your “mess” and turn it into a message.

DISTRACTED – “With everything else we have going on at home, we don’t know when we’d fit this in. Honestly, we wouldn’t know what to say if we did find the time!” Don’t let busyness rob you of valuable conversations with your kids. Whether it’s at the dinner table or before they head to bed, capitalize on every opportunity you can find. Let go of the pressure and expectation that you should have all the answers. If you don’t have an answer to one of their questions, be honest and tell them you will get back to them. Then make sure you do! If you don’t know where to begin, check out my website www.sexbydesign.com to learn more about my film series Sex by Design: Unpacking the Purpose and Practice of Purity. It was designed to give you a road map for having ongoing conversations with your kids about sexuality. It could very well put to rest the misleading emotion(s) you’ve been feeling and give you the courage to press in. It doesn’t take a PhD to positively influence your children – it just takes the committed and loving presence of parents fully invested in their children’s life!

DISCOURAGED “When I bring up the topic, my child gives me one word answers and changes the subject.” This is a normal response especially if you’ve just recently broached the topic. Ask God to soften your child’s heart and provide you with opportunities to try again. Consider starting with a different topic (just as valuable but maybe less awkward) like modesty or dating and see where God takes it. Consider going out for coffee, ice cream or dinner for uninterrupted time together.

Reflect and Respond:

  • Do any of these misleading emotions ring true to you personally? If so, share your thoughts with your spouse and ask him/her to help remind you of the Truth when the misleading emotion rears its ugly head again. Commit your misleading emotion(s) to prayer and then be on the watch for how God will transform your heart!
  • Read the article “Teaching Your Kids About Sex When You Have Sexual Sin in Your Past.” (http://www.intoxicatedonlife.com/2013/11/14/sexual-sinners-teaching-sex-ed/) What Truth stuck out to you? Consider writing it on a notecard to be posted on your bathroom mirror, the dashboard of your vehicle or in your personal journal. Review it regularly so it becomes part of your belief system!
  • Commit to praying about how to move forward as you invest in your child’s Biblical understanding of sexuality. Again, check out my website (sexbydesign.com) for practical help.

Parents Matter Most

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Parenthood surveyed 1,000 teenagers and asked them what the number one factor was in shaping their decisions on sex. Was it social media? their friends? siblings? sex education? No! The majority of the teens said their parents were the greatest factor. Praise God!

Unfortunately, when the parents of these 1,000 teens were asked how their teens answered this question, fewer than 1 in 4 answered correctly. I think this reveals that many parents are being deceived and discouraged by the enemy and all things media. They are having a hay day getting parents to believe their influence doesn’t have lasting impact and that their voice can’t compete with culture’s.

The truth? Y-O-U matter most! Not the government, not the school, not even the church. You have been called by God and know/love your child better than anyone. Don’t believe the lie that your voice doesn’t make a difference – because in reality, it makes the biggest difference of all!

It will require patience (as you may not see fruit develop immediately), persistence (to not give in or give up but keep pursuing your kid even when they hold you at arm’s length) and prayerfulness (because you cannot transform your kid’s heart – only God Almighty can do that).

The best part is that God is just asking you to be faithful in talking with your children about sexuality. The results? Well, He wants you to leave that to Him! Will you accept His invitation?

Reflect and Respond:

  • On a scale of 1 – 10 (1 = lowest, 10 = highest) how would you rate yourself on the three P words I mentioned above: patience, persistence and prayerfulness? Choose your lowest rated word, and commit to working on that this week.
  • Check out the resource page on my website for quick access to articles, books and downloadables you can use in conversations with your kids.
  • Consider asking other parents to get together monthly with the purpose of encouraging and praying for one another. Where two or more are gathered in His name, He is there! (Matthew 18:20)

Parents As Rock Stars Or Radically New?

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7-8).

 

Have you ever wanted to be a rock star? When I was 15 years old that’s exactly what I wanted to be. I played drums and practiced hard until I became a rock star in my own mind. I enjoyed the applause that came along with that lofty pseudo-status. But when the gospel of Jesus rocked me into reality, I became radically new.

Paul (Saul) was a rock star in his own right: a rabbinical rock star. When you read Philippians 3:4-6 you can see why Paul had more reason for “confidence in the flesh” than anyone else. If anyone had reason to be self-assured because of the way things were in his physical world it was Paul. But when Jesus met Paul on the road to Damascus, he became radically new.

Jesus blinded Paul with his glory and gave him new eyes to see that all his accomplishments in the flesh were worth less than nothing in comparison to knowing him. We can tend to think of the “flesh” as the bad stuff, like lustful desires. But in this case the flesh is not just the bad stuff. It is also the seemingly “good” stuff that is outside of Christ. So Paul pulled up a big bucket labeled “garbage.” And he threw everything that was outside of Christ into that bucket. Everything.

Can we fathom the idea that all of our parenting accomplishments in the flesh are worth less than nothing compared to knowing Christ? Click To Tweet

Can we fathom the idea that all of our parenting accomplishments in the flesh are worth less than nothing compared to knowing Christ? That’s hard for us to swallow. Truth be told, most of us have a little lingering desire to be rock stars. And this desire creeps into our parenting. If you are striving to be a good parent, that’s a good thing. But in your striving, what is the source of your confidence, your boasting, your joy?

Rock star parents put “confidence in the flesh.” They seek self-assurance from the way things are in their physical world. They feel good about themselves when they accomplish some parenting goal or fine tune some parenting skill. They gain bragging rights if things go well. When things don’t go well they are undone. Their joy level rises and falls with the applause at the end of the show. That’s an exhausting way to live.

Radically new parents seek to “worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus.” They have assurance because of the way things are in the spiritual world. The Holy Spirit is leading them to worship God and not their parenting prowess. They are living as the radically new people they are. They have confidence in their role as parents, not because of what they can do for their children but because of what Jesus has already done for them through his death and resurrection. Their identity is in Christ. Their boast is in Christ. Their joy is wrapped up in the all-surpassing worth of Christ. That’s a life of freedom and power.

Our children don’t need rock star parents. They need humble moms and dads who are radically new in Jesus. If you know Jesus in a saving way that’s you. Isn’t that good news? Oh dear friend, may our communion with the risen Christ be so full that it overflows into every effort we make to parent our children and present them mature in him (Col 1:29).

Application Questions:

  1. In what ways does your joy level rise and fall with your seeming successes and failures as a parent?
  2. How would the assurance of being radically new in Christ, and the experience of daily communion with him, impact one area of struggle you are having as a parent right now?
  3. If you are a grandparent, or serve as a “spiritual parent” to children, how might the reality of being radically new in Christ change the way you interact with the children you know and love the next time you see them?

Abby, Would You Talk To My Kid For Me?!

My name is Abby and I’ve been speaking to young people on Biblical sexuality for over 15 years. When I came on staff with The Navigators in 2011, my target audience was kids 12-18 years old. I spoke at schools, churches, retreats, camps – you name it, I would speak there! About a year later, I started receiving requests to speak to parents….I thought to myself, “I’m not a parent. What do I have to share with them?” Then God told me: I have a powerful testimony, a talent to communicate tough stuff in a tactful yet honest way, the time to research/read everything I could get my hands on regarding Biblical sexuality and I loved creating tools parents could use at home to talk with their kids about sexuality. So I courageously stepped up and began speaking to parents. It didn’t take long for me to realize that my primary audience needed to shift from young people to their parents. Why?! As much as youth were engaged when I spoke and soaked in much of what I taught, they needed these critical messages drip-fed over the course of their entire upbringing; they needed their parents to be their primary influence! Unfortunately, even after hearing me present, parents would come up to me and ask (with hope in their eyes) if I would come home and talk to their kid for them. This was something I obviously couldn’t do but something they were called by God to do.

The question was and still remains, are parents ready to step in and train their children on Biblical sexuality? Unfortunately, when it comes to shaping their children’s view on sexuality, most (not all!) parents don’t feel equipped to fulfill their God-given role as shepherd and teacher. This reality birthed a vision in my heart – to create a “hub” parents could turn to for everything related to teaching their kids about Biblical sexuality. In 2015, my film series Sex by Design: Unpacking the Purpose and Practice of Purity was published and endorsed by four national leaders, including Josh McDowell. It is a 7-part teaching series (I’m going home with you in a sense!) that is accompanied by a parent guidebook and teen guidebook to foster consistent and ongoing conversations. You see, my mission is not to replace you but rather assist you as you assist your kids in building a Biblical worldview on sexuality. If I do my job right, my film series, blog posts and speaking events will serve as a springboard for personal reflection, rich conversation with your kids or a combination of the two. So, let’s dive in and see what God has planned!

Reflect and Respond:

  • Read and reflect on Deuteronomy 6. What is God’s instruction to parents about bringing up their children?
  • Read and reflect on Psalm 78:1-7. What do you take away from this passage?
  • Is there something in particular that holds you back from fulfilling your God- given role as parent and shepherd of your children? Ask the Lord to reveal a lie you might believe, a stronghold that may have been planted in your heart or a past experience in your life that could be the key to unleashing you to fulfill your purpose as a parent.