What Does it Mean to be a Gospel Shaped Grandparent?

After a speaking session about intentional grandparenting, a grandmother approached me to say how much she appreciated my emphasis on intentionality. “I’ve decided to be intentional about getting my granddaughter to come to church with me. If I can just get her to church, she will be exposed to the Bible and the Gospel.”

As I explored this more with her, it became clear that this grandmother did not understand her responsibility to share the Gospel with her granddaughter. It was the reason she was so determined to find a way to get her to church, so the “professionals” could do it right.

That was ten years ago, and it awakened me to the sad reality that too many grandparents have a similar misunderstanding of their responsibility to their grandchildren. “If I can just get my grandkids to church, then everything will work out” is a common notion. I realized that more emphasis needed to be place on understanding what the Gospel really is and our responsibility to talk about it in our own families. I also realized we need to know what it means for our lives to be shaped by that Gospel. 

You will often hear me use Gospel-shapedas a description for biblical grandparenting. It is also the motivational factor for the title of this blog and my signature book—Courageous Grandparenting. Additionally, it is why I have chosen to work closely with my friend at Renewanation, Josh Mulvihill. We are working with several ministry partners to build the Gospel Shaped Family web site where discipleship resources, blogs and events will be collected to encourage and equip Gospel-shaped parenting and grandparenting. 

Five Essentials

So, what does it mean to be a gospel-shaped grandparent? Here are five essential things I believe describe the essence of what it means:

  1. It means having a clear grasp of how the Bible defines Gospel.
    • The Gospel is the good news that by God’s grace I am saved FROM His wrath, deserved judgment, and just condemnation for my sin—an egregious offense against His holiness.
    • The Gospel means new birthin which I am saved FOR good works. I am made alive in Christ to display His glory and bless others.
  2. It means a new way of thinking, living and seeingthrough the lens of a biblical worldview(seeing the world and all of creation as God made it). It is the way of truth in which my mind is renewed, my life is marked by a desire to magnify Christ in everything I do or say, and repentance is a perquisite to wholeness. The Gospel so transforms me that great joy springs from an all-satisfying delight in Him. My driving desire is to make much of Christ in the eyes of my grandchildren and others I encounter.
  3. It means my desire to share the Gospel with my family, including grandchildren and great grandchildren, is priority #1. I will not outsource to others what is my responsibility as one of the most influential people in my grandchild’s life. It is mine and I take it seriously.
  4. It means my life is driven, not by despair over the condition of the world, but by hope in the promises of Godand my eternal reward. I follow Christ and His commands knowing He is with me and has given me everything I need to fulfill His purposes through me believing that a glorious inheritance awaits me.
  5. It means prayer is my first offensive and defensive weaponry against the schemes of the enemy, and my declaration that I am utterly dependent upon the power of God to do through me more than I could ever imagine or think.

As a grandparent, does your life bear witness of these vital realities? Is your approach to grandparenting shaped more by Gospel transformation or cultural validation? It takes courage to embrace the former. And, while a Gospel-shaped life is no guarantee your grandchildren will respond to the truth, there is little doubt that those whose lives are transformed by the Gospel will make an impact because God who is at work in you.

May God give you sufficient courage so that now and always Christ will be exalted in you… for the sake of another generation who needs to know the truth that the Gospel really does set us free.

What’s On Your Watchlist? – Part 3

There’s an old story of two Englishmen who traveled to Africa to explore the wonders of the interiors of Africa. They hired native tribesmen to serve as their guides and set out on their expedition. Thoroughly engrossed in the adventure and wonders of Africa, they soon realized that they had wandered farther than expected. Speed would be of the essence if they were to catch the next ship at port to return home. If they missed the ship, it would be weeks before another ship would show up.

They quickly ordered their belongings packed and told the tribesmen they would need to travel quickly to make up the time they had lost. For two days they marched feverishly through the jungle. On the morning of the third day, the tribesmen stubbornly refused to move. The Englishmen pleaded, even demanded they move on if they wanted to be paid, but they would not budge. Finally, the leader of the tribesmen spoke. “We have been moving too fast,” he explained. “We must stay here and wait for our souls to catch up with us.”

What is the Soul?

The subject for the last three weeks has been soul care, but what is the soul? It’s an ongoing matter of debate in theological circles. I don’t know what these tribesmen imagined their souls to be, but they knew it was important, and that the soul moved at a different pace than the body. 

Whatever your understanding of the soul, there is general agreement that it is that part of our being that is spiritual and connects us to the Father as His image-bearers. The heart and the mind are distinct components of our being related to soul. How we think, feel, relate and worship determine the condition of our soul. 

In her book, Soul Nourishment, Deborah Haddix, one of our Prayer Team leaders notes that “Our soul is like the silent, invisible yet necessary Central Processing Unit (CPU) of our person. Our soul, and thus our soul’s health, is the driving force behind everything that matters to us.” I like that—the CPU of our person. I also like John Ortberg’s description: “It is the coolest, eeriest, most mysterious, evocative, crucial, sacred, eternal, life-directing, fragile, indestructible, controversial, expensive dimension of your existence.” It’s a wondrous mystery.

Jesus addressed the crucial and “expensive dimension” of our soul when He said: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37). Our soul is who we are and our connector to our Creator. It is the center of our passions, beliefs and eternal destiny. It’s what makes us distinct from the rest of creation. It is eternal, and it needs redeemed. 

It also requires calculated care. Thus, we need to pay attention to the words of Jesus: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). 

Rest for the soul—letting our soul catch up with our frantic pace—is essential. God wanted His people to understand that when he spoke through Jeremiah: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). There it is again… rest for our souls.

How Do We Find It?

But what is this rest for our souls? How do we find it? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Want it bad enough to do what God says. The tragic reality of the Jeremiah passage is that God knows men’s hearts. “But you said, ‘We will not walk in it [the good way]’” (verse 16). What a typical response of man’s sin nature. If you are not convinced rest for your soul is important enough to make some different choices, you won’t find it.
  2. Admit the ‘good way’ and ‘my way’ are not the same thing. This is choosing the path of coming, taking up, and learning. Coming to Jesus is when I open my hands, let go and surrender my need to be in control. Taking up His yoke is choosing to lean on His grace as His work, not the burden of my works. Learning is choosing to stop and listen to the voice of God through His Word and His daily activity in my life.
  3. Create time and space with God.The quality of your life and its impact will be directly proportional to your relationship with God in Christ Jesus. If you don’t nurture that relationship with time and space to hear God speak, your soul will shrivel and so will the impact you have upon your grandchildren.

What’s on your personal watchlist for the new year? Does it include soul care? Soul care requires intentionality. Intentionality kicks in when I understand enough to say, “I must stop and let my soul catch up.”

GRANDPAUSE: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  -Jesus
(Mark 12:30)

What’s on Your Watchlist? (Part 2)

#2: Your Mind

“Ideas have consequences… bad ideas have victims.” -John Stonestreet

We started the year putting our focus on a personal “watch-yourself-closely” watchlist. As image bearers of our Creator, we must watch our heart, our mind, and our soul lest we fall prey to a shriveled soul—what I call ‘elderitis’. When a grandparent is afflicted with ‘elderitis’, their ability to influence their grandchildren to know and walk in the truth is diminished. We need to take Moses’ instructions seriously to watch ourselves closely.

In my previous post, I addressed matters of the heart. Now, we switch our attention to the mind. John Stonestreet’s comment that ideas have consequences ought to alert us to the fact that not every idea or Facebook post is true or worth giving our attention. It is our responsibility to carefully assess everything we let into our minds, taking every idea seriously because they do have consequences. It’s why Paul wrote, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

The thing about the mind is that it is a window to the soul. What we regularly allow our mind to absorb, what we dwell upon, will impact the condition of our soul. Guarding our mind is not the same as not allowing ourselves to be exposed to what is not true. We can’t avoid that. Rather, taking our thoughts captive involves sorting through the boatloads of information we receive through the lens of what is true—God’s Word. We make an intentional decision to guard, proclaim, and dwell on what is true, noble, lovely, admirable, pure, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). 

Guarding the truth presumes we know what is true. What we believe to be true shapes our worldview. Our worldview determines what we think and what we do. It comes down to whether we believe God is the source of all truth, or something else. 

If the Gospel has transformed our hearts, then the Word will transform our mind. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern (way of thinking) of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). 

Renewing Your Mind

How do we train (renew) our mind so that our souls are inclined to God’s good and perfect will? Here are four suggestions:

  1. Get in the Word. If you want a mind renewed, not according to the pattern of the world, but according to God’s pattern for life, you need to know what the Word says. Pay particular attention to Jesus’ teachings and how he addressed false teaching and ideas. Spend time in Proverbs and the Psalms to feed your mind with practical wisdom and truth that endures.
  2. Read good books that stimulate you to apply God’s truth to the world in which you live. There are some great Christian authors but there are also non-Christian authors who will stretch your thinking and illuminate the validity and glory of God’s Word. His truth does not break under the scrutiny of worldly ideas. 
  3. Engage the world around you. Be in the world, but not of it. Know what is going on in the world and let God’s truth expose it for what it is. Hang with people who will stimulate your thinking and test what you believe, and who are willing to examine what they believe in the light of what you know to be true.
  4. Talk to your grandchildren about truth. If you want your mind to stay sharp, open yourself to the questions and examinations of your grandchildren. Let them know you are not afraid of their questions or doubts, but gently lead them to explore and examine their own assumptions in light of the truth.

Truth does not flinch or recoil in the face of falsehood. It never falters in an assault of lies. What are you doing to prepare your mind for such an assault? You can’t guard the truth if you don’t know what it is. A healthy soul is dependent upon a renewing mind–that ongoing process that we dare not neglect lest we fall victim to bad ideas. Guard your mind for the sake of your soul, and the souls of your grandchildren.

What’s in Your Watchlist? Part 1

Your Heart

We can’t fake it, but we must fight for it. We can’t manufacture it, but we must work at it. If we neglect it, the consequences are devastating. What is it? The condition of our soul.

By now, most everyone who will make a New Year’s resolution has made it. The majority of resolutions involve losing weight, eating healthier, or some other personal goal we didn’t keep in previous years. I’d like to suggest a different kind of resolution—making a personal ‘watchlist’. 

Moses told the Israelites as they were about to take possession of the land God promised to them, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely!” (Deut. 4:9). Some translations say, “Keep your souls diligently”. Let’s follow Moses’ advice and create a soul watchlist. 

Your soul matters because it impacts life in two ways: Your mental, physical and spiritual health, and your legacy. If neglected your heart shrivels in despair and your faith becomes shallow, thin and irrelevant. If your faith would be described as thin and irrelevant, there would be little reason for your adult children or grandchildren to desire to carry on that legacy. 

Assuming you care about the condition of your soul, let’s talk about building a grandparents’ personal care watchlist this year. If we do not heed Moses’ words of wisdom and guard ourselves well, we will have nothing to give to our grandchildren that would help them live well in a world that does not function well. I know you don’t want that. I certainly don’t.

So, the next three posts will zero in on the three vital components of our humanity as image bearers of God that should be on our watchlist: heart, mind and soul. How we care for our heart and mind directly impacts our soul. The inclination of our soul shapes our heart and mind. We’ll explore how to guard them well—guard not only in the sense of protecting, but also healthy maintenance practices. The condition of our heart, mind and soul exposes what we truly believe to be true, and where we place our trust. Where we place our trust reveals the source of our greatest satisfaction and joy in life. And that influences what our family chooses to believe.

The Wellspring of Life

Let’s start with the heart—the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23). Our heart (not that thing beating in our chest) is our personal treasure chest. In it we will discover what we truly value in life. That’s why Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). In other words, what we treasure reveals what and who we love. What we love will determine whether our heart is filled with greed or gratitude.

I was blessed and honored to know a man who did quite well in life by human standards. Though not immensely wealthy, he lived in a nice but not extravagant home. He led a major ministry for many years and was in demand as a speaker. Yet, for all that we could say “he had going for him”, he had a heart inclined toward the things of God. 

While I knew him most of my life, I never really knew a lot about his family. He died a few years ago, and the church where his funeral was held was filled to capacity with people whose lives had been touched by him–especially his children and grandchildren. For a man who loved having a good time with his family, what stood out were the things his family talked about most. 

Those would be his family and, most of all, his Savior. He loved singing praise songs and hymns with his family and friends. He loved giving and going out of his way to help a friend and bless others. His grandchildren enjoyed many fun times with their grandpa, but what they talked about most was how much he treasured his family, his relationship with Christ, and the opportunities to tell others about His Lord. This was a man whose heart was good and full of gratitude.

What would your grandchildren say you treasure most—right now, because that is what they will talk about at your funeral. 

Here are two ways to keep your heart well:

  1. Prayer: Ask God daily to give you His spirit of wisdom and understanding so that you may know Him better and discern what is best. (Ephesians 1:17; Philippians 1:9-11)
  2. Practice Christ’s command to love as He loved us. (John 13:34-35)

As we begin this New Year, let’s make sure our hearts are on the watchlist so that the things we treasure are those things that will last well beyond our years and the generations that follow.


God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.  -John Piper


Seven Things You Can Teach Your Grandchildren: Part 1

Grandparents have been around the block a few times. Hopefully, that translates into wisdom and godly character. Grandparents are in a powerful position to influence their grandchildren in meaningful ways that produce good character.

A quality character is evidenced by a life of prudence (good judgment and self-discipline), knowledge and virtue. In other words, wisdom produces character. But wisdom doesn’t come automatically. It is the fruit of faithful instruction and warning about that which corrupts character.

I absolutely believe the most important thing grandparents (or parents) can teach their children and grandchildren is what it means to know, love and follow Christ with their whole heart. Why? Because Christ embodies wisdom and what true character looks like. 

The character that gives glory to God is undeniably shaped by the Gospel through the study of God’s Word, prayer and the example of other believers. The process of fleshing out those truths that produce godly character occur through teachable moments. 

Seven Character Builders

Here are seven character builders that grandparents ought to teach their grandchildren:

 1. Teach them to read good books. When my grandkids were young, I loved to read to them and encourage them to read as well. You can give them a love for reading, help them hone their reading skills, and give them a taste of good literature that is both entertaining and cultivates the mind. Do a book review together. Find ways to motivate them to read (rewards are not out of the question). Take an interest in what they are reading.

2. Teach them about your family heritage. Work on a family tree together, share some of your personal stories as a child and young adult, and remind them of their lineage and how it has shaped who they are. Write a legacy journal or do an ancestry album so they have some tangible reminder of their heritage.

3. Teach them some personal skills that you are good at. What are some skills you could pass on to your grandchildren—cooking/baking, gardening, knitting, sewing, woodworking, basic auto mechanics skills, art, a musical instrument, etc.? Perhaps they have little interest in that skill, but that doesn’t mean you can’t at least introduce them to it. You never know how they will respond until you give them the opportunity to experience it.

4. Teach them good manners and proper etiquette. We are society given to rudeness and crudeness. Many children and young adults have never been trained in manners or etiquette, which are simply expressions of respect and honor for others. Many know little about politeness such as rising from a seat when guests arrive, saying ‘thank you’ when someone is kind, opening a door for a woman or an elderly person as an expression of respect, saying “Yes, sir” or “Yes, Ma’am”, or genuinely listening to someone without being preoccupied with their smartphone. Teach them manners, but explain why they are valuable.

GRANDPAUSE: No amount of riches can atone for poverty of character. Unknown

A Grandparent’s Greatest Challenge: PART TWO

Guest Blogger Mark Gregston
Spend time with the wise and you will become wise,
but the friends of fools will suffer. (Proverbs 13:20 NCV)

Last week I introduced you to Mark Gregston, founder of Heartlight Ministries. Mark concludes today with his five steps (keys) for beginning the process of engaging and connecting relationships with your adolescent and older grandchildren. Last time Mark unpacked the first two steps: Show Interest, and Adapt to Their World. Now we turn attention to the final three keys to cultivating good relationships with your grandchildren.

Build Relationship

A real relationship takes an investment of time and effort. The key word is investment. The focus of that investment has to be the benefit of the grandchild, motivated out of love for that child.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and said, “We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).

Teens are looking for genuineness, authenticity, and relationships that offer something more than only correction when they mess up. They desire someone who is frank, honest and isn’t afraid to speak the truth in love because they know the motivation comes from a deep empathy for their plight.

Create Connection

The connection I’m talking about is the next step in the relationship with your grandchild. It’s when communication, effort, and desire to spend time together become a two-way street. This is what you want to happen with your teenage grandchildren. It is more important than the message you have to share. It has to be cultivated…and watered…and fertilized…and allowed to grow.

So here are some things I’ve learned about connection with grandkids:

  • • Connection is more than just a relationship.
  • • Connection is not measured by the number of pictures of your grandchild you post.
  • • Connection is having the relationship that is measured by two-way communication.
  • • Connection is not an opportunity for correction.
  • • Connection is a mutual love for one another established because a grandparent determines to pour life and love into a child.

Invite Questions

When I initially show interest in any teen, including my grandkids, I do it by asking questions about his or her life, thoughts, and heart. It’s not the interrogating type, but types of questions that convey value.

I want them to start asking me questions. You’ll know you have a connection when your grandkids start asking you:

  • • Can you keep a secret?
  • • Can I tell you something?
  • • Hey, want to get together for dinner?
  • • Grandma, did you ever fall away from Jesus…I mean, just not get it sometimes?

As a grandparent, this is what you’ve been waiting for. It’s their invitation to you to speak the truth (however painful that may be) into their lives. Their questions will let you know there is a connection, and they want wisdom.

Over time, you’ll find that talking about the hard stuff and sharing the reality of the lessons you’ve learned will convey those rare qualities of good relationships called genuineness and authenticity—two items in high demand in today’s teen culture.

Known as the “Teen Whisperer,” Mark Gregston can be heard on his nationally award-winning radio program, Parenting Today’s Teens with Mark Gregston, as well as his new book, Leaving a Legacy of Hope: Offering Your Grandchildren What No One Else Can. Mark is the founder of Heartlight, a Christian residential counseling center for struggling teens for nearly 30 years.