“How far is too far?”

One of the most common questions I receive from youth and young adults is: “How far is too far?” Check out my response below.

One of the hardest Biblical commands for many people to accept is the command to save sex for marriage. To many, this “rule” seems like God is out to ruin their fun and restrict their freedom. However, behind every command God gives, are two motivations: to protect us and provide for us. Why? Because God is love. Love is the His core motivator for why He gives us commands. Therefore, His command to save all sexual activity for marriage comes from His heart of love!

The culture, however, will continue to bombard us with the lie that true freedom is found by living without boundaries and following our feelings. God calls us to faith rather than following our feelings because He knows our hearts are deceitful and will lead us down a road of destruction.

When you became a believer, your body became a temple where the Holy Spirit resides. This is a HUGE honor as well as a HUGE responsibility. Christ paid a high price (His life!) to rescue us and now calls us to pay a price of our own by pursuing holiness and pure living.

So how far is too far before it becomes sin? Not every sexual action is listed in the Bible with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ beside it. Some are grey areas. In 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 the Apostle Paul provides a great principle we can use to discern what to do when we face those grey areas: “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say – but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ – but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” Paul is saying that some things we have freedom to do are not good for us and can actually be a stumbling block for someone we love. Even if an action isn’t listed in the Bible as sin, it can still be selfish, unloving and harmful. Hebrews 10:24 reiterates this by saying, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” If you are unsure whether a particular action could be sinful, love (for God and the other person) demands that you refuse to go there.

When God says to FLEE sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 6:18 He is not joking around. The purpose of foreplay (sexual activity proceeding intercourse) is to prepare for sex. Since you’re not married and therefore not ready for sex, pressing the boundaries with foreplay will only bring about greater temptation and frustration, not greater love. He calls you to do a 180-degree turn from sin and not look back! Webster’s Dictionary defines the word flee as “to run away from danger or evil; to hurry toward a place of security.” God is calling you to run away from potential sin and toward Him – your only hope for security!

Instead of asking, “how far is too far?” how about asking, “How much can I save in order to honor God with my body?”

Scripture for further encouragement: 1 Corinthians 10:23-24, Hebrews 10:24, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, Hebrews 13:4, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, Jeremiah 17:9

 

 

Are You an Open-minded or Vertical-minded Grandparent?

“So, you own the truth!” This comment was directed at me by a grandmother during a recent session I was teaching about the core truths of a biblical worldview. She believed I had laid claim to the corner on what was true. She took issue with that because she had come to realize truth was much different than what I claimed the Bible said about it. She had learned to be ‘open-minded’ about other views and believed my views were narrow and close-minded… that I was, in fact, being intolerant of other more loving views.

Was she right? I certainly don’t agree with her view of intolerance unless making a statement about what I believe is true is intolerant… but then I suppose she would also be intolerant. However, as a grandparent my greatest desire is to know my children and grandchildren are walking in the truth. So, being ‘open-minded’ may, in fact, make it less likely that my grandchildren will know the truth.

If being open-minded means accepting the cultural mantra that all religions are equally true, and therefore, what you believe is a matter of preference, not objective truth, then I would gladly accept that I am not ‘open-minded’. In fact, I can think of nothing more dangerous than such mindless open-mindedness where there are no filters to determine what is true and what is not. If that’s what it means to be intolerant, I am guilty as charged.


But here’s the problem… truth will always be true, whether I believe it or not. That means that if you, as a grandparent, do not know the truth, how will you ever guide another generation to know the truth? Shall we just throw our grandchildren to the wolves and let them figure out themselves?

The idea that all religions are equally true is by all logical thinking a contradictory absurdity. The laws of logic say that opposite ideas cannot both be true at the same time and in the same way. It’s not possible.

If you line up all the core beliefs proclaimed by Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, Judaism and Christianity (or Athieism), you will find major differences about God, the meaning of life and life after death. They can’t all be true at the same time. Each give answers about these core realities of life that are mutually exclusive. Being open-minded does not change that. It only fills our minds with nonsense.

That’s the problem, now here’s the question that needs to be answered. What is the source of truth? Do you believe that truth is for you to determine—that matters of meaning are reduced to the insatiable pursuit of happiness and self-fulfillment? Or is there, as John Stonestreet expresses, a “fixed reference point” that determines what is true? I agree with John when he says, “A culture that abandons any fixed reference point and instead tells its young people that truth, purpose, meaning, and morality are purely subjective, will only, in the end, rob them of any truth, purpose, meaning, or morality worth fighting for.” I don’t want to be an open-minded grandparent who robs their grandchildren of the truth.

Our grandchildren do not need “open-minded” grandparents to help them navigate a world that is aggressively hostile to truth. They need “vertical-minded” grandparents who understand that truth does not originate with man, but with a transcendent, sovereign and loving God who cares deeply for those He made in His image—a God who has made His truth known to us through Creation, His Word, and the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

As I have considered that grandmother’s statement to me, “So, you own the truth”, I believe my answer must be, “Yes, I do own it, but I am not the source of it. I own it because it is God’s truth, not mine, and it is for all mankind. I do not decide what is true by picking through truth claims like I pick though a produce stand and choose what feels good for me. God is truth. My job is to walk with integrity by applying the mind God gave me to think critically and vertically so that I might to know the difference between the truth and a lie.”

Thankfully, God has not left us on our own to figure this out. He has graciously revealed His truth through men He chose to write as the Spirit moved them to write—what we call the Bible. I believe the Bible is the Word of God, not because I want it to be, but because the evidence supports it. Upon that Word I stand firm. I own it as my own, not because I know more than anyone else, but because God has revealed it as only God can… and I believe God over men.

What about you? What is your source of truth? You cannot force your grandchildren to believe the truth, but you can point them to the truth and live life according to that truth. If you want to be open-minded, then make sure your open-mindedness is contoured by a vertical-minded way of thinking.

John Stonestreet would urge us to teach our grandchildren to do the same by asking two basic questions:

  1. What do you mean by that? (we must define the words we use), and
  2. How do you know it is true?

I want my grandchildren to own the truth, not because I say it is true, but because they have been taught how to ask the hard questions that propel them beyond open-minded foolishness to critical-minded wisdom where truth is revealed to those who are vertically-minded.

Here’s a great resource for every grandparent (and parent): A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle; David C. Cook; Colorado Springs, CO.

The Gospel and Geocaching

Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunting game using a geocache app on GPS-enabled devices, like a smartphone. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) someone has hidden around that location. Unlike traditional treasure hunting, geocaching is more about the hunt than it is the treasure. In most cases, once the treasure is found, the treasure seeker simply records his/her name, leaves the treasure where it was found, and moves on to the next treasure cache.

Grandparenting can be a lot like geocaching. While our grandchildren are grand treasures to us, we must be careful not to forget what the real treasure is. Gospel-shaped grandparents intentionally seek a greater treasure—that our precious grandchildren will know the treasure of being made alive in Christ and the all-satisfying delight of living to the praise of His glory.

It is true that a new grandchild born into our family is a treasure. But we dare not forget the sad reality that every human being born into this world is born with a sin nature. It is easy to forget that when we gaze into the cherub faces of a newborn grandchild, or as we revel in the enjoyment and memorable moments with young grandchildren. We must not forget that they, like the rest of us, need the life-giving transformation that only Christ can provide.

The ultimate treasure we seek for these treasures delivered into our families is that they one day know and embrace the truth of the Gospel of Christ. If we do not seek that treasure for them, we are like geocachers who find a treasure, but then walk away without it. “Oh, that’s nice. Let’s see what else is out there.”

On the other hand, grandparents can serve much like the GPS system used in geocaching. We point them to the treasure that is available to those who seek and understand what a treasure it is. We do that by praying for them and with them, sharing the story of reality found only in the Bible, and by living a life that says what we profess to believe is evident in how we live.

Which means we know what we believe and why. Some say that is not the ‘treasure’ that is important, only the journey of seeking. And since there are many ‘treasures’ to be found, why stop with only one. Keep seeking and discover the joy of lots of different treasures—like geocache treasure hunters do.

That may work for geocaching where none of the treasures have any eternal significance. In the game of life, the treasure our grandchildren seek matters. We are responsible to point them to the true treasure and teach them to understand the significance of this treasure. They also need to know why no other so-called treasure can offer eternal life.

Godly grandparents want to provide a spiritual impact upon their grandchildren. Whether you do or not, is up to you. Do you want these treasured members of your family to find the treasure of all treasures—Christ, our Redeemer and Friend, or will they see no reason to believe it is the treasure we claim it to be?

[BTW, geocaching could be a great activity to do with your grandchildren, and to use it to talk about the difference between the kind of treasures being sought in geocaching and the true treasure of Christ’s love and grace. For more information about geocaching, click here.]

GRANDPAUSE: Thy love is most unsearchable, and dazzles all above; They gaze, but cannot count or tell the treasures of Thy love! -Charles Wesley

You may also view this post on the Gospel Shaped Family website.

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.

Six Lies Social Media Tells Your Grandchildren

Imagine being a parent of young children once more. How would you feel if you learned that every time you left your kids with a certain babysitter, that babysitter was brainwashing your children with stuff completely contrary to what you were trying to teach them? That’s what is taking place more often than we like to think through social media. 

As grandparents we have a more limited opportunity to help counter some of the lies that are often propagated on social media, but what opportunities we have can make a difference. In her book, Guardians of Purity, Julie Harimine identifies six of those lies that as grandparents we also need to know. As Julie comments in her book, “Underlying the enemy’s lies is the one that says God is not enough for me, and I am not complete unless I have someone or something else.”

  1. I’m worthless unless someone is attracted to me.
  2. I must be in a ‘relationship’ to be accepted by peers. 
  3. Everyone else is doing it.
  4. I’m defined by what others think of me.
  5. I’m not complete unless I’m in a romantic relationship.
  6. Casual romantic relationships won’t hurt me.

Each of these lies creep into the constant messages proliferated through social media, peers, Hollywood, contemporary music, and romantic novels. They falsely declare that real satisfaction can only be found in some kind of incredible romantic relationship. This is especially dangerous thinking for young girls. Perhaps we have contributed to this empty and futile thinking as adults in the way in which we model and discuss romance. 

Putting Romantic Love Back to Sleep

To counter this lie, we need to, as Julie says, “put romantic love back to sleep” by stressing the importance of cultivating Christ as our first love. 

How do we do that as grandparents? Here are a few thoughts from Julie Harimine’s book that I have adapted for grandparents so you can help your grandchildren be better equipped to identity those lies and reject them for something much better and infinitely more satisfying. 

  1. Be intentional about telling your grandchildren, beginning at a very young age, the grand love story that God has written for mankind and has planned for them. Let’s warn our granddaughters especially about the dangers of living a fantasy world of romantic love rather than in the reality of God’s true love story and grand purposes for them. Remind them that God is writing an amazing love story specifically for them, but it needs to be understood in the context of our intimate relationship with God, our Creator. 
  2. Help your grandkids develop a taste and hunger for God. How? Awaken in them a love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Here are some ways to do that:
    • Read the Gospels with them whenever you have a chance. Talk about what you read. Encourage them to read all the New Testament on their own as well.
    • Turn off the TV while at your house, at least for programs with any sexual or unbiblical romance content. Use the time to do a creative activity that lends itself to conversations about life. For teens, a movie night might be a good option if you watch one of the many good films that promote a biblical worldview. Talk about what you watched by asking questions about the values presented and how they differ from what Hollywood produces. Which will lead to the best outcome?
    • Ask them what messages they are learning from social media or among their peers. If they are not homeschooled, ask what it is like walking the hallways of their school. What sexual or romantic pressures do they experience?
    • Take every opportunity to affirm their intrinsic value, not based upon how they look or how they perform, but who they are as a child made in the image of God. This not about telling them how great they are or how attractive they are. It is about affirming their worth as a person that you value, God values, and for whom you want to invest yourself to help them be all that God longs for them to be.

Don’t Underestimate Your Impact

You may not have the same impact that your grandchildren’s parents have, but your impact must not be underestimated. As their parents, your adult children deserve all the help you can give. However, we need to recognize that this is not the same world you and I grew up in. So, let’s be observant, teachable and intentional… for our grandchildren’s sake.

And above all, pray! Pray for wisdom to understand the world your grandchildren are required to navigate and how to speak into that world. Pray for courage to be intentional and gracious. Pray for protection from the schemes of the devil, for he is relentless. And pray that your grandchildren will understand how much they are loved and valued because of who they are, not how they conform to worldly views.

GRANDPAUSE: Underlying the enemy’s lies is the one that says God is not enough for me, and I am not complete unless I have someone or something else. -Julie Harimine

Withstanding the Pressures of the Culture

In addition to a personal relationship with Christ and godly adult influences, what does a kid need to successfully withstand the pressures of the culture? I believe there are a few.

They need conviction. When they hear God’s Word and practice it they are taking God’s Word from their mind (knowledge) to their heart (conviction).

As you think about developing a conviction for God’s Truth in your children’s hearts, it’s key to know that a conviction starts in their thought life and over time (yes, it takes time!) results in a purposeful life. Waldo Emerson sums it up well with this quote: “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”

Building their lives on the rock of Jesus takes applying His Word daily until it become conviction.

They need external and internal assets. Search Institute (www.search-institute.org) has identified 40 healthy building blocks (or “developmental assets”) for children ages 3-18. As defined by Search Institute, developmental assets are: “supports, strengths, and non-cognitive skills they experience in themselves, their families, their schools, and their communities.”

The studies Search Institute has conducted consistently show a correlation between the level of assets and diverse outcomes. Basically, the more assets children have in their lives, the more likely they are to successfully grow up and make wise decisions.

Godly convictions around sexuality and a healthy amount of developmental assets will help your children withstand the pressures of the culture.

Reflect and Respond:
• Have you developed a personal conviction around God’s design for sexuality? It’s hard to pass along to your children something you don’t possess yourself! Don’t be overwhelmed if this is true for you. I would encourage you to open your Bible and read Scripture passages that provide principles and guidelines for holy sexuality. Consider starting with a few of the following:
– Proverbs 5-7 – Romans 1:18-32
– 1 Corinthians 6:9-7:7 – 2 Thessalonians 4:3-5
– Hebrews 12: 14-17, 13:4-6
• Share these passages with your spouse and at the right time, with your children. Ask yourself (and them): What does this reveal about God? What is God saying to me? What is one step I can take today to apply this truth to my life?
• Visit Search Institute’s website (www.search-institute.org/research/developmental-assets) to download the 40 Developmental Assets that pertain to your child’s age bracket. Work together with your spouse to assess the number of assets each of your children currently have in their lives. (Depending on their age and maturity level, consider inviting your kids into your assessment process.) Brainstorm ideas of how to foster the remaining assets that are missing.

Sm grandparents sitting on bridge with grandkids copy

Four Ways to Prepare Your Younger Children for Adulthood

Intentionality, more than proximity, is the key to impacting our grandchildren and helping them grow in their thinking and understanding as they grow from childhood to adulthood. God gave us, parents and grandparents, the primary responsibility for that task. It is foolish to think they will figure it out on their own, or that we can wait till graduation to talk about it. 

From preschool on, we must use the moments we are with them to teach them about life and the Creator of that life. Every connection with them is a teaching opportunity. This isn’t about being fun-snuffers. It’s about intentionally making the most of natural opportunities to teach lessons they will carry throughout life. It’s learning to use the fun times and the not-so-fun times to teach what is true and matters both now and for eternity

Here are four ways to keep life the classroom for learning and cultivating a biblical worldview with preschool and grade school age grandchildren when you are with them:

#1 – Start Meaningful Conversations About Life 

There are three very significant opportunities for engaging your younger grandchildren with meaningful conversations about life. They are…

  • Playtime:As you do fun things with your grandchildren, stay alert to spontaneous opportunities to ask good questions that have the potential of turning play into learning. For example, if working on a puzzle together, you might ask: “Did you know that life is kind of like a puzzle? Can you imagine what puzzle pieces of your life need to all be in place if the picture is to be complete?  Why do you think God designed us like a puzzle?”
  • Mealtime:This is a great time to ask questions about things they did or something that happened during the day. Use questions to encourage them to think about what happened or how it could have been handled differently. For example: “Natalie, why did you handle Jenny’s unkind comments about you today the way you did? Would you do anything differently if it happened again?”
  • Bedtime:There are few more powerful moments for debriefing life experiences or asking them about things they may be wondering about than at bedtime. It’s also a good time to talk about the difference between a child and an adult. You might be surprised to learn what they understand, or questions they will raise. 

#2 – Encourage Growth-Producing Events

With so much emphasis upon sports and digital devices today, you can encourage your grandchildren to do things that shape them into productive citizens and neighbors. Here are a few ideas to prime the pump:

  • Involve them with you in serving others—like the local Rescue Mission, food bank or Habitat for Humanity.
  • Bake cookies together and take them to a shut in or someone in the hospital.
  • Take them to a theater play (choose carefully) or a concert hall to hear music they might not otherwise hear. Talk about what you experienced.
  • Visit museums and art galleries—what is art and what is its purpose?
  • Instead of watching TV, read a book or a Bible story together. Gwen recalls reading Jesus Loves Meover and over to her twin grandchildren when they were toddlers. At age four, without any coaching from her, one of them announced, “Gram, I have Jesus in my heart!” To which his twin declared, “So do I?”.
  • Take them fishing or teach them a craft skill. Talk about God’s role in what you’re doing as you are doing it.

#3 – Work at Being Critically Open-Minded 

Be careful about being drawn into thinking that you should always be ‘open-minded’ about anything culture says is okay. Open-minded is not the same as critically-minded. Today, open-minded often means accepting without evaluation or examination to determine if it’s true (right), or not?

Make sure you know the difference between being critical-minded and being judgmental. Critical thinkers value truth over public opinion, even at the risk of being accused of narrow-mindedness, but they do so with compassion and grace.

When your grandchildren say something you are unsure about, ask them to help you understand. If you know what they are saying is wrong, instead of lecturing, ask questions like these: “Why do you think this is true?” “Who told you it’s true? What if it’s not? Would you want to know?” “How do you think we can find out the truth?”

#4. Be Careful What You Say

Little ears are listening. If you would not want your grandchild to repeat what you say, don’t say it. We are human, and sometimes things come out of our mouths we wish didn’t. Are you adult enough to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong saying what I did. Will you forgive me, and will you pray with me to do better?”

Impact requires intentionality. Children need our intentional commitment to train them in the way they should go, so they will grow to be mature, responsible and godly adults.

What are you doing to be intentional? Share with our readers some things you are doing.

Eye with world image

Does Worldview Matter to You?

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…”
2 Corinthians 5:17

I have an 18-year old grandson with Asperger Syndrome. He’s a brilliant young man. He’s also fun to be around, and so gracious and teachable. He does an amazing job of making friends despite his social awkwardness and diminutive physical size. He has difficulty at times relating to his peers. Yet, one thing governs how he sees himself — a worldview shaped by the Gospel. Here’s how I know.

Dear God

His mother found a letter in his bedroom that he had written as a prayer at age sixteen. What he wrote then is still true for him now:

“Dear God, I don’t want to get confused as to what my identity is. I don’t want to think that I am nothing less than Your child, Creator of all things. I am a child of You, Lord, that is who I am. Likewise I don’t want to base my identity, my worth, on what other people think, but on what You think of me instead. And don’t let me forget how dependent I am on You either. This is who I, Corban B…., truly am. I’m a Child of God.”

Where did this come from? It came from a worldview he learned and embraced that gives him identity in the world in which he lives. He sees his world as one God created, and one we messed up. Yet, because of God’s grace, he knows he is child of the One who made him and loves him deeply. That’s his source of worth, identity and purpose.

That’s an expression of worldview. It matters to all of us. And I’m glad to know it still matters to him today.

A biblical, kingdom worldview provides the motivation for us, as believers, to engage the culture around us. Our world is shaped by a non-Christian worldview, which is why our worldview matters.

I believe because of his worldview, Corban (who’s name means “gift devoted to God”), will one be of those who will make a difference, and maybe God will use his ‘different-ness’ to make an impact in very powerful way.

Worldview is Not Optional

John Stonestreet, President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, says worldview is not optional. It’s human,” he writes. “It’s as much a part of being alive as breathing is. We don’t decide whether we’ll engage the culture. Just how.”

Grandparents, does worldview matter to you? Does the worldview rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ shape how you see the world and engage with people in your world? Does it compel you to teach and encourage your grandchildren to discern and courageously engage this world? We can’t afford to hide our heads in the sand and ignore what’s going on around us. Only those who hold up the light will dispel the darkness. That’s why Jesus called us to let our light shine. It must not be hidden, but held high for all to see.

Available Resources

There are a number of tools available to help you have the conversations with your grandchildren about worldview–which is really a conversation about how we view life. Here are a few I would recommend:

  1. A Practical Guide to Culture by John Stonestreet
  2. The Story of Reality; and Tactics by Gregory Koukl
  3. Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side; and Talking with Your Kids About God by Natasha Crain
  4. The Secret Battle of Ideas About God by Jeff Myers

Check the Gospel Shaped Family web site for additional resources for young children.

Also, check out these podcast episodes (Part One; Part Two) with John Stonestreet talking about the importance of worldview.