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Navigating Three Grandparenting Landmines

Larry and Sarah sat in my office, visibly frustrated. Tears came to Sarah’s eyes when she spoke, “I think the discipline of our grandson has driven a wedge between us and our son. We used to be close, but that has changed.”

Larry began to explain what happened, “Our son and his wife went away for a seven day vacation to Hawaii and we offered to take their three children. We thought it would give us some extended time with our grandchildren.”

Sarah chimed in, “Yeah, but instead it’s caused a lot of problems. We learned we were not prepared to deal with media and food choices as well as discipline.” Larry stated, “There was some misbehavior from our oldest grandson Nathan and I had to deal with it. Nathan snuck out in the middle of the night and was out half the night. Someone called me and made me aware that it happened.”

Sarah jumped in, “We never expected to have to deal with this sort of thing as a grandparent. It kind of caught us off guard.” Larry continued, “When I found out it happened I sat him down and told him he betrayed our trust and that he was not going to be able to go out with his friends until his parents got back.”

“And that isn’t all,” Sarah added, “We were shocked how much time our grandchildren spent on their phones texting friends and watching stuff, so we had them put their phones away after dinner each night. Two of the three grandchildren were picky eaters and refused to eat half of the meals I served. I wish I would have known about their media and eating habits before they arrived.”

The frustration was evident on Larry’s face, “The most difficult thing was when Nathan texted his mother, who said he was allowed to go out with friends and use his phone. It caused a big disagreement. I told Nathan that his mom and dad had given us the authority while they were gone and we were going to stick with our decision. We were given the responsibility and authority and we acted upon it. We had hoped to build memories with our grandchildren, but instead we experienced conflict that’s caused division in our family.”

Larry and Sarah’s boundaries were appropriate, but they were not on the same page as their children. Grandparents are partners with parents working together to encourage a child to know, love, and serve Christ. In order to successfully partner together, parents and grandparents must be on the same page regarding numerous topics including how and when grandparents are to enforce boundaries while watching a grandchild. This article will equip you to partner together by having a conversation with your adult child that focuses on three sticky subjects grandparents often face: discipline, media, and food.

Discipline

The first topic to discuss with your child centers around what to do when a grandchild is under your care and is disobedient. The more time you spend with a grandchild, the more important it is for clarity around this topic, especially if you watch grandchildren weekly or for an extended period of time. Here are two examples of questions you might consider asking your child.

How would you like us to navigate discipline? In general, you want to learn if your child wants you to administer some form of discipline or wait until the grandchild goes home and allow the parent to deal with the child’s disobedience. If a child prefers that you do not discipline a grandchild, then ask your child how he or she envisions boundaries being enforced at your home. If your child wants you to administer discipline, then it may be helpful to talk about specific examples such as what to do if a child refuses to go to bed or is repetitively disrespectful. Ask a couple of questions about “What should I do if…?” The goal is not to insinuate that grandchildren have behavior problems, but rather to communicate expectations and reduce surprises.

What discipline methods do you want us to utilize? Your aim is to arrive at an agreement about the methods you can utilize to discipline a grandchild in your care. What is your child’s preference about time outs, grounding, taking away a personal item like a phone, or other methods you might use? Do you have the freedom to spank a younger grandchild or does your child view this as their responsibility? Most grandparents do not want to spank a grandchild, but some grandparents watch grandchildren on a weekly basis and have been asked by their children to do so in order to maintain consistency in a grandchild’s life. You want clarity about how you should discipline a grandchild at your home.

Media

When my oldest two sons were in preschool, they were blessed to spend a couple afternoons each week at their grandparent’s house. One day, they came home and begun talking about a Star Wars movie that they had seen at grandma and grandpa’s house. I was disappointed because I had envisioned watching Star Wars at some point in the future as a fun father and son activity. I asked their grandparents if the boys had watched Star Wars at their home. As it turned out, the boys had only watched a commercial for a new Star Wars movie. It reminded me not to jump to conclusions and helped me realize I had expectations about television and movies that I had not communicated. It led to a productive conversation about media usage when grandchildren were at their home. If you have never discussed this topic, here are some questions you can ask to clarify media expectations for a grandchild:

  • What movies and shows is a grandchild allowed to watch?
  • What video games can a grandchild play?
  • How much time do you allow your child to spend on devices such as iPads or smart phones?
  • Would you like us to ask permission before watching something a grandchild has never seen?

If parents are conservative in their media choices, air on the side of caution with the use of technology in your home. If parents are liberal in their media consumption, do not speak poorly to a grandchild or be condescending to adult children about their choices. If you are going to establish media boundaries that a grandchild doesn’t have in his or her own home, you can do this by stating that at grandma and grandpa’s house we only watch television for an hour per day because we want to spend time having fun together.

Your goal is to learn parent preferences, discover unstated expectations, and arrive at an agreement about what is acceptable and unacceptable regarding screen usage at your home. For younger grandchildren, invite your child to provide a list of parent-approved shows or send movies that a grandchild can watch. For older grandchildren with a phone, ask your child to share how the phone is used at their home. Is the phone allowed in the bedroom at night? Can the grandchild text or call others? Is the grandchild allowed to go on the internet? You will build trust if you let your child know that you want to honor his or her media preferences when a grandchild is at your home.

Food

Craig approached me with a big smile on his face and asked if I wanted to see a picture of the vegetable drawer in his refrigerator. His mischievous smile told me that I wouldn’t see carrots or lettuce. “Sure,” I said, intrigued by what I would find. Craig pulled out his phone and showed me a picture of a fully extended vegetable drawer that was halfway filled with full sized candy bars of all varieties. “I love to feed my grandchildren vegetables and they love to eat them,” he said with a chuckle.

While there is nothing wrong with feeding grandchildren “vegetables,” have you ever asked yourself where this idea of grandparenting comes from? Who decided that a grandparent’s job description includes spoiling grandchildren with large amounts of sugar?

The truth is that Craig longs to be a good grandparent. He’s doing what he thinks grandparents do and that comes with a daily quota for sugar distribution. Craig loves his grandchildren and he wants them to love Jesus. But without realizing it, Craig’s approach to grandparenting created frustration because his son purposefully limits the amount of sugar his children consume.

Craig’s experience with sugar and Larry and Sarah’s experience with picky eaters is not uncommon, which is why a third topic to discuss with your child revolves around mealtime and food preferences. For some parents, food is a major issue due to food sensitivities, allergies, or eating habits. Generally, if there are food issues that matter to your child or grandchild, it should matter to you. Here are a handful of questions that you can ask your child to gain clarity about what food to serve to a grandchild at your home:

  • What are your food preferences?
  • How can we accommodate specific eating habits?
  • Are there any special diets, allergies, or sensitivities we should be aware of?
  • What meals, snacks, and drinks are your children’s favorites?
  • How much sugary foods and beverages are allowed?
  • What would you like us to do when a grandchild refuses to eat a meal or does not eat everything on his or her plate?

If your adult children or grandchildren have different eating habits or preferences than you, accommodate as possible. One of the secrets to making grandma and grandpa’s house special is food that everyone enjoys and feels good about.

Initiate a conversation

Larry and Sarah were not prepared for some common problem areas that grandparents often experience with grandchildren. I hope that Larry and Sarah’s painful experience encourages you to initiate a conversation with your adult child about some sticky subjects that often are overlooked, but are important to discuss so that you can be on the same page with one another. You can do that by simply inviting your child to grab coffee or casually bringing up one or more of these topics on the phone.

God designed parents and grandparents as partners working toward the same biblical goals, but with different and complementary roles. Wise grandparents do what they can to learn parenting expectations and implement parenting preferences. These three topics should help you get on the same page with your adult child, avoid common problem areas, and strengthen your family by being a disciple-making grandparent.

The Importance of Teaching the Whole Bible During the Early Years

It is not uncommon to hear a well meaning parent or pastor suggest that children cannot handle portions of Scripture and should not be taught key biblical truths until they are older. A ministry leader made the following recommendation about delaying the teaching of topics such of morality, humanity, creation, government, family, and economics, “I would suggest a starting age of at least 11 since [the author] presents ideas for which younger children probably lack enough familiarity to reason through what he is saying.” That type of recommendation is opposite the pattern and priority of Scripture.

Paul speaks about the importance of the early years in salvation and spiritual growth when he said to Timothy, “and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). The Psalmist states, “O God, from youth you have taught me” (Ps. 71:17). The early years are critically important and we must not buy into the lie that children are too young to handle the deep truths of Scripture and wait to teach children the whole counsel of God’s word.

James Montgomery Boice recognized that the habits of youth often become the habits of adulthood. He states, “The decisions of youth form habits that guide us from that point on and are hard to break. If we form good habits when we are young – reading the Bible, spending time in prayer, enjoying the company of God’s people, going to church, rejecting sin, and practicing to be honest and do good – these habits will go with us through life and make good choices later in life easier. If on the contrary we make bad choices, later we will find good choices harder to make and the bad habits nearly impossible to break.”[1]

JC Ryle, an English pastor that lived from 1816-1900, has a strong warning for all parents and grandparents to heed, “What young men will be, in all probability depends on what they are now, and they seem to forget this. Youth is the planting time of full age, the molding season in the little space of human life, the turning point in the history of man’s mind. By the shoot that springs up we can judge the type of tree that is growing, by the blossoms we judge the kind of fruit, by the spring we judge the type of harvest coming, by the morning we judge the coming day, and by the character of the young man, we may generally judge what he will be when he grows up.”[2]

JC Ryle continues, “I say it because experience tells me that people’s hearts are seldom changed if they are not changed when young. Seldom indeed are men converted when they are old. Habits have deep roots. Once sin is allowed to settle in your heart, it will not be turned out at your bidding. Custom becomes second nature, and its chains are not easily broken. The prophet has well said, ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil’ (Jeremiah 13:23). Habits are like stones rolling down hill–the further they roll, the faster and more ungovernable is their course. Habits, like trees, are strengthened by age. A boy may bend an oak when it is a sapling–a hundred men cannot root it up, when it is a full grown tree. A child can wade over the Thames River at its fountain-head–the largest ship in the world can float in it when it gets near the sea. So it is with habits: the older the stronger–the longer they have held possession, the harder they will be to cast out. They grow with our growth, and strengthen with our strength. Custom is the nurse of sin. Every fresh act of sin lessens fear and remorse, hardens our hearts, blunts the edge of our conscience, and increases our evil inclination.[3]

If you are discouraged by these comments due to an adult child or older family member who has not embraced Christ, then I want to remind you that there is always hope for transformation in Christ. The Scriptures are full of individuals who trusted Christ later in life such as the prodigal son who returned home, Nicodemus sought Christ to be born again when he was old, and the thief who trusted Christ at the end of life so no man may despair. If you are prone to worry, the Bible reminds you that the remedy is to trust God and bring your burden to the Lord in prayer (Phil. 4:6-7).

Research creates additional urgency as to the importance of the early years in the discipleship of young people. A survey from the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) found that 63% of individuals become a Christian between the age of 4-14, with the median age being 11.[4] The same survey also found that 34% of individuals become a Christian between the age of 15-29. According to this study, 97% of individuals become a Christian before the age of 30.

A child’s beliefs, his or her worldview, is almost fully formed by the age of 12. Before a child becomes a teenager, his understanding of the world, views of God, perspectives about morality, convictions about Jesus, and a long list of other topics is nearly complete.

Delaying doctrinal training, abdicating discipleship to pastors or schools, or avoiding difficult topics is a recipe for spiritual disaster. It is important to note that beginning early is not a guarantee that a child will embrace Christ or live biblically as it is the power of the Gospel, not the correct methods that change hearts. However, we are wise to recognize and utilize the patterns and principles of Scripture and resources that help us shape the beliefs of the next generation.

[1]James Montgomery Boice, Psalms, An Expositional Commentary, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing House, 1998), 977.

[2]JC Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men (Nelson South, New Zealand: Renaissance Classics, 2012), 6.

[3]JC Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men, 6-7.

[4]National Association of Evangelicals, “When Americans Become Christians,” accessed March, 26 2019, https://www.nae.net/when-americans-become-christians/?inf_contact_key=3fe6d503a91e14eb09034cd02b6b233081cb00e0c63e6f917e88c5746d3481dd

Five Characteristics of Biblical Discipline

Jeff and Jessica sat in my office, clearly distraught. “Our four year old runs our home,” Jeff said, “and we don’t know what to do.” “We’ve tried everything. Positive reinforcement. Ignoring bad behavior. Rewards. Threats. Time outs. Lots of love. Nothing seems to work.”

Tears welled up in Jessica’s eyes as she recalled a story that had become routine in their home. “It started as a simple trip to the store to get milk and eggs, but ended as another parenting battle.” “I told Ethan to shut off the television and get his shoes on. Ethan was watching one of his favorite cartoons and ignored me.” Jessica cracked a smiled, “Sometimes, I wonder if he has a hearing problem, but I had a few things to get ready before leaving, so I didn’t press the issue.”

Jessica continued, “After a few minutes, I poked my head into the living room and said,” ‘Come on Ethan. It’s time to go.’ “Ethan half-heartedly responded and told me,” ‘Not yet mom. The show isn’t over.’ “I could feel the frustration growing and this time my voice grew louder as well.” ‘Ethan. Let’s go!’

“I waited a few moments to see if Ethan would respond, but it became obvious he had no intention of getting up. At this point,” Jessica admitted, “I snapped. ETHAN!” “That got his attention and he got up slowly, inched his way to the television, and took in every last second he could.” “When he reached the television the pleading began.” Ethan begged, “But mom, can’t we wait until the show is over? It won’t take long. Please mom.” “I was so frustrated,” said Jessica. “and told Ethan, No! We have to pick up milk and eggs so we can make your sister a birthday cake before she gets home from school today.” Ethan just kept pushing, “But mom. Please mom.” At this, I yelled, “ETHAN! I TOLD YOU TO GET YOUR SHOES ON! SHUT THE TV OFF!”

“Ethan knew I meant it this time, but his pleading turned to defiance. He shut off the television and complained all the way to the back door. With his shoes in hand, he started to cry. It wasn’t a sad cry. It was a mad cry. It was an ear-piercing, neighbors-can-hear-it-through-the wall cry. And it turned into a full-blown temper tantrum complete with kicking and screaming as Ethan thrashed on the floor.”

When it comes to discipline, there are lots of parents like Jeff and Jessica that are frustrated and confused, lost in a sea of opinions, and unclear how to correct a child. Jeff and Jessica want to be good parents, but they don’t understand the biblical principles of discipline or how to apply them to parenting.

Biblically, it is helpful to understand that discipline is a key component of discipleship. Discipline is the problem solving side of parenting that recognizes something is wrong in the heart of the child. Hebrews 12:10 tells us the goal of discipline is holiness that yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:10-11).

God commands parents to discipline children (Prov. 19:18; Heb. 12:9-10; Eph. 6:4). God didn’t call parents to the task of discipline without telling us how to accomplish it.

With that in mind, let’s explore five characteristics of biblical discipline:

  1. Biblical discipline begins by establishing parental authority.

God has given parents authority over children. You are in charge, not because you are bigger or smarter, but because God has placed you in authority to act on His behalf. If you are unclear about your authority as a parent, you will not provide the spiritual leadership your child needs. There will be a lack of consistency, boundaries will regularly change, passivity will permeate the home, and a child will lose respect for you. If you abdicate or share authority with a child, you can expect problems just like Jeff and Jessica.

Our culture swings between two faulty forms of authority, harsh control and permissive freedom. God instructs parents to exercise authority, not to make children do what we want, but to train children to live obediently under God’s authority. As a parent, you must exercise authority because your child is required by God to honor and obey you. When a child disobeys a parent, ultimately it is God who is being disobeyed because the child is rebelling against the authority God has placed in the child’s life.

Parental authority is often compromised when children are young. Your goal is to establish your authority as early as possible. The earliest battlegrounds seem minor, but they set the pattern for all other areas. Bedtime, mealtime, and what children wear need to be under parental control. Children should not be given the freedom to decide when they go to bed or whether they will attend church as children quickly learn that parents are sharing authority. As children age, a precedent is established that is repeated in other areas of life and results in a painful battle for authority between parent and child.

If you are a new parent and you wonder where to begin, start by establishing your parental authority in love. Obedience is the foundation upon which all other teaching is built. Without obedience parents cannot begin focusing on character development or spiritual growth. The Bible states that obedience is the first commandment with a promise (Eph. 6:1-3). It will not go well in your home if children do not learn to respect your authority.

  1. Biblical discipline is an expression of love.

Discipline is the tool God has given parents to deal with a child’s sin and save a child’s soul (Prov. 23:13-14). Discipline helps our children move in this direction and deters them from destruction. From a biblical perspective, discipline is an expression of love (Heb. 12:6-7). Love is what makes discipline beneficial. The Bible teaches that the absence of discipline is unloving (Heb. 12:8). Correction without love, done in anger, is what makes discipline abusive. The parent who exercises authority in gentleness and kindness will generally find that a child does not resist or run.

  1. Biblical discipline focuses on the Gospel.

Your primary parenting problem is that your child is a sinner (Ps. 51:5; Gen. 8:21). The author of Hebrews helps us diagnose a child’s behavior as a “struggle against sin” (Heb. 12:4). Disobedience, at its heart, is rebellion against God, not to be excused as brain development or misdiagnosed as a disorder. Discipline, done correctly, points children to the cross where they see the depravity of their heart, understand the need for a Savior, and want to live in a way that is pleasing to God.

Parents must understand their child’s behavior in terms of heart motivation (Mark 7:21; Luke 6:45) and believe that change is the result of a child internalizing the Gospel and seeking to live in obedience to God. When discipline methodology does not deal with the heart, it strays from a biblical form of discipline. Be wary of anyone, including Christians, who present a model or methods for discipline that is not focused on the Gospel.

The Gospel should be at the heart of all discipline. We must seek to understand the attitudes, action, and motives of a child’s heart and hold out the beauty of the Gospel for a child to embrace. A child’s sin will only wither when the Gospel is brought to bear on it and Jesus is savored as more beautiful and satisfying than the sin.

  1. Biblical discipline leads to repentance.

Biblical discipline is a rescue mission that calls the sinner to repentance. True behavior change begins with conviction. Children will not change if conviction has not occurred. We must pray that God will convict our children of sin and that the child will understand more fully the reality of his or her actions. Discipline should help a child confess to God and the person they wronged. When this occurs, true heart repentance has happened. Jeremiah 34:15 states, “Recently you repented and did what was right in my sight.” Repentance combines two things, a recognition of wrong and a desire to do what is right in God’s eyes. We should help our children recognize the difference between worldly sorrow (I’m confessing because I was caught) and godly sorrow (I’m confessing because I’m grieved I sinned against God).

  1. Biblical discipline applies God’s methods in Scripture.

2 Timothy 3:15-17 is one of the most helpful passages on discipline. Paul tells us that God has given us the Bible for teaching, reproof (conviction), correction, and training in righteousness; it is to be used for these purposes. All four of these items are critical in the discipline and instruction of children, but for the sake of space I will simply provide a few comments on correction.

One reason God has given parents the Bible is for the purpose of correcting a child. In other words, the Bible has the power to correct. The word “correct” literally means to straighten up what is wrong and reform. Parents are to use the Bible to treat spiritual problems. God has given us, in the Bible, all the tools to address attitudes, actions, thoughts, and motives that do not align with the character of Christ. Anxiety, anger, complaining, a child who will not submit—all these parenting issues and more are dealt with in Scripture. The Bible is given to us as the means to bring about repentance, confession, and righteousness. Of course, the Bible itself does not do these things, but it is in the pages of Scripture that we come into contact with Jesus.

For far too long the church has tried to integrate non-biblical sources with Scripture to address the topic of discipline. The resulting marriage has produced bitter fruit. The Bible is robust enough to provide us with all the categories and concepts we need to correct children. Let us use it for that purpose.

Why Homeschool? 15 Reasons We Choose to Home Educate Our Children

  1. Education is a parent’s responsibility. God commands parents to bring up children in the Lord. Education is a means to that end. Parents who homeschool have the opportunity to limit the competing voices that children hear and teach all subjects from a Bible-centered curriculum.

  2. Education is discipleship. Children will become like their teachers. Luke 6:40 states, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” If we want our children to love Christ and live like Christ, it makes sense to place them under the influence of individuals who will help toward this end. Education is best learned by doing life together.

  3. Biblical worldview training. Public schools teach a secular view of science, history, math, gender, marriage, and justice. When a child marinades in this view for 16,000 hours, it is very difficult to train a child to think biblically about all of life. High percentages of children absorb secular views even while trying to follow Christ. Studies have shown that Christian children who attend a public school and attend church weekly are familiar with the fundamentals of Christian doctrine, but do not think biblically about politics, economics, education, or social issues. The students tend to think like secular humanists.

  4. Class size. Many schools selling point is small class size. What is better 15 to 1 or 5 to 1?
  1. Socialization. Homeschooling allows children to receive a higher percentage of adult socialization. Children do not become mature, godly adults by being around immature, ungodly children. They mature by being around people who are older, wiser, and further along in their walk with Christ (Titus 2:2-6). Homeschool children who are socially awkward typically have socially awkward parents. It is worth noting that there are also plenty of socially awkward public and private school children.
  1. Academics. Studies consistently show that homeschool children do better academically than public and private school children. Many colleges recognize this fact and recruit homeschool students.
  1. Tailored education. Homeschool children can go at their own pace, learn subjects of interest, and do so from curriculum that is Bible-based. Education, at least for our children, is enjoyable. It is a delight not a duty. Parents can attend to the unique educational needs of each child rather than teach to the masses.
  1. The price is right. Average cost per child, per year of education for our family is approximately $500. Sure beats $5,000 or $10,000 per year, per child.
  1. Flexibility. The school calendar does not control the family calendar. Children are free to build friendships, serve God, work, learn life skills, and the family is free to go on missions trips, vacations, or daily outings as they wish.
  1. Family time. Time with children is not limited to evenings and weekends. Love for many children is spelled T.I.M.E. Homeschool families have plenty of time together.
  1. Support. There are more resources available to help parents homeschool then ever before. My grade school children are in band and gym classes and we are part of a community of homeschool parents, which provides support to help us with any homeschool questions or needs. Gone are the days of homeschooling alone.
  1. Extra-curricular opportunities. There are countless opportunities for homeschool children to be involved in athletics, music, and countless other activities. An incorrect assumption is that homeschool children have little opportunity to interact with peers or be involved in activities outside of the home. Nothing could be further from the truth. And, because homeschool children do many of these activities during the day, their calendar is not over-scheduled.
  1. No homework. Tired of the homework hassle? Tired of evenings spent working through projects, papers, and profiles? Homeschool children have time to do these things during the day giving them greater freedom to participate in church, build friendships, and invest their time in other ways.
  1. Adequate sleep. Studies consistently show that children need a high volume of sleep. Early school start time requires children to wake-up earlier than their body is ready. Homeschool children have the option to begin their day later, thus avoiding over-tired children.
  1. School in pajamas. Who doesn’t love being in comfortable clothes!

Understanding Biblical Authority: 3 Categories of Illegitimate Authority

Every child will look to an authority to determine truth. The authority the child chooses will determine what the child believes and how the child lives. To choose the Bible as authority means that a person believes the Bible has the right to decide what is good and bad, right and wrong, true and false and to direct how he or she lives.

Authority is not a popular concept. We like to have authority, but not to be under authority. Man in his depravity will continue to rebel against the Bible as truth and God as the ultimate authority. The Apostle Paul tells us that rebellion against God and his Word is natural since man is born spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1; Rom. 3:10-18), blind in his understanding (Eph. 4:18), and unable to accept the things of God because they can only be understood spiritually (1 Cor. 2:14). Only redemption by the Holy Spirit making the sinner spiritually alive can change this reality (Eph. 2:4-5). Newness of life results in illumination of the Bible. The new believer can now understand that the Bible is the Word of God (1 John 2:20). Those who do not have God as their Lord will not have His Word as their authority.

Young people often believe the lie that freedom is acquired by being their own authority. Freedom is not found in the absence of authority, rather it is experienced by submitting to God’s authority and living within His boundaries. The commandments of God in the Bible are a means of liberation and the wisdom of the Bible is a path to blessing. Whenever we put happiness before obedience, we will be destined for misery. Those who place themselves under the authority of God’s Word will experience joy.

God is the source of all authority. The Bible gives absolute authority to God over all his creation. God is the all-powerful creator all things (Gen. 1-2) and owns the earth (Ps. 24:1). Psalm 62:11 states, “power belongs to God.” Jesus claims, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). The titles “Lord” and “God Almighty” declare that God has authority over all the earth.

The Bible is our ultimate authority because it is from God. We do not give the Bible its authority. The Bible is authoritative regardless of what we believe about it. We must decide if the Bible will have functional authority in our life or if we will live according to a different authority. The Bible is our authority when we acknowledge it is true, embrace it, submit to it, and walk in obedience to God’s Word. The supreme authority of the universe has given us His Word; therefore, it must have authority over us.

Many Christians claim the Bible is their authority only to choose a different authority by their actions. Christians look to many other sources for authority. Here are three of the most common that I’ve observed.

Three categories of illegitimate authority

  1. Science

Secular voices have convinced many Christians that the Bible is unsophisticated, outdated, superstitious, and unscientific. Andy Stanley, Pastor of North Point Community Church, stated “When religion and science conflict, at the end of the day if you are an honest person, science must win!” Maybe you’ve heard someone say, “I know what the Bible says, but you can’t deny science.” In reality, nothing could be more absurd than thinking human ideas are a more reliable source of authority than God’s Word in the Bible. Science is servant to Scripture, not the other way around.

Science becomes an illegitimate source when authority is deferred to human experts. What is science? Science means knowledge. Science is a means to learn about the world God created. The Bible is God’s book of science. It contains the foundational truth about biology, history, geology, anthropology, and astronomy. The Bible is an infallible science book. When we create and discover, we are using the laws of physics and chemistry that God has put in place. The laws of science exist because God created an orderly world. The Bible is our scientific authority because the Word of God tells us how God created the world and how the world works.

  1. Pragmatism

Pragmatism is an approach that determines actions by the results one desires. It first determines what results are preferred, then decides the actions to achieve the desired outcome. Without realizing it we have become answerable to what works. If giving a reward results in a well behaved child, wonderful, but if not, threats or ignoring negative behavior may be more effective. If teaching the Bible will attract children to our school or church, great, but if not, focusing on academic rigor or entertainment may be a more effective strategy.

Pragmatism becomes an illegitimate source when authority is determined by personal experience. Pragmatism occurs when we look to our personal experience for direction rather than God’s Word. Pay attention to the question, “Does it work?” When this phrase becomes the justification for a decision, you know pragmatism is occurring. Ultimately, pragmatism is the result of biblical ignorance or a lack of confidence in the power of Scripture to do what it promises.

For example, let’s consider evangelism. When we look to artificial methods to stimulate conversion or manipulate emotions to get to a desired end, we know that pragmatism is at work. God does not need us to make the Gospel relevant. There is not a single creative idea that will bring the spiritually dead to life or contribute to a person’s salvation. Paul tells us what brings about salvation, “How from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). The Bible is able to bring about salvation because it brings us into contact with Jesus.

  1. Man’s Word

The Bible is often replaced by man’s authority, which can take many forms. I worked with a pastor who always wanted to make decisions by surveying the congregation rather than applying the wisdom of the Bible. Christians often turn to psychology to solve their relational, marital, or emotional problems rather than the provision that God offers in His word. The church has even attempted to replace God’s Word by declaring itself as the ultimate authority.

Historically, there have been times when the Word of God has been placed under the authority of the church with priority given to its creeds, counsels, articles, and tradition. The Roman Catholic Church is founded on this principle. In their view, the Bible is the Word of God because they have decreed it to be so and confirmed this reality in numerous infallible church councils. There is a major problem with this view. Who authorized the church to make this kind of decision? What is the source of authority to do so? The church can affirm the authority of Scripture, but it is not the source for it. Mark 7:8 points out what is happening, “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”

Martin Luther argued that the Catholic Church and the Pope did not trump Scripture. Luther was brought before the Diet of Worms in April 1521 and was ordered to recant his beliefs about justification as well as ecclesiastical and biblical authority. His reply left no doubt about his source of authority:

“Since then Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

Ultimate authority belongs to God and God alone. The Bible is to be the foundation for every area of life. Like Luther, we are to be captive to the Word of God. Far too many Christians have a diminished confidence in the Bible. Jeremiah 5:30-31 states, “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority.” An appalling and horrible thing has happened in my homes, churches, and schools – man’s word has become the authority. The Bible is God’s Words of truth that determines how we live, not surveys, psychology, or even the church.

How does the Bible have functional authority in our life?

It is one thing to say the Bible is our authority, it is another to submit to the Bible as our authority. We must come to the settled conviction that the only authority we have comes from the Word of God. Here are four functional ways the Bible has authority in our life.

Turn to God’s Word for guidance. We must develop the pattern of looking to God’s word for answers and guidance. Psalm 24:4-5 can be our prayer, “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your path. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”

Test thoughts and ideas with God’s Word. We must learn to cultivate the habit of the mind that filters everything through God’s Word. Paul exhorts us to “Test everything, hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).

Take every thought captive with the Bible. We must critique arguments from a biblical perspective and discipline our mind not to allow ungodly ideas to take residence. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us how to do that, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Teach the Bible. We must communicate the whole counsel of the Bible to young people. The Apostle Paul gives Titus this assignment, “These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:15). Titus is given the responsibility to speak with authority, which comes from the Word of God. Our teaching is not to be occupied with object lessons, good suggestions, or pithy axioms, but God’s Words from the Bible.

Our authority as parents, grandparents, pastors, and educators comes when we teach and preach the Word of God. This is your responsibility. The Bible is to be your content and curriculum. Titus 2:15 gives three methods to teach the Bible: “speak, exhort, reprove.” Speak the Bible so a young person hears and understands it. Exhort so that you persuade a young person to believe and apply God’s Word. Reprove by holding a young person responsible to obey and submit to the Bible. We do not invent the message. It is our responsibility to deliver it with faithful interpretation and passionate proclamation so that they understand, believe, and obey God’s Word.

Jesus is our example. He taught authoritatively. In Mark 11:28, Jesus was confronted by the Chief priest, the scribes, and elders who were troubled by Jesus authority and asked Him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus did not quote rabbis, rely upon the latest research, point to his title or educational degrees, or suggest it was his extensive ministry experience or communication skill that gave him authority. Jesus tells the religious leaders, “My teaching is not mine, but His who sent Me” (John 7:16).

If I walk into your home, your church, or your school will I hear the Word of God taught, read, discussed, sung, prayed, and proclaimed? Or will I hear a different authority? Will I find that you turn to God’s Word for decisions or has an illegitimate authority usurped God’s Word when you need direction? Is your confidence in God’s Word is high or low?

The Bible is to be your authority. It was given by God to parents, grandparents, and pastors to instruct children and grandchildren (Deut. 4:9, Deut. 6:6-7). The Bible is able to bring every child to saving faith (2 Tim. 3:14-15). Paul wrote that all Scripture is from God and is useful for teaching, conviction, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Bible is to be your authority for parenting, grandparenting, and ministry to children.

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.

Could We Be Whistling Past Our Grandchildren’s Graveyard?

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” I John 1:8

I remember not long after our first child was born, a new mother in our young adult Sunday School class declared in the middle of a discussion about original sin, “I believe children are born good. Children learn about sin from other adults.”  Have you ever heard a parent say something like this about their children? This mother was adamant about her feelings. She would not accept the idea of original sin. By her way of thinking, children were too innocent to have a sinful nature. We adults are responsible for children’s sinfulness.

Chuck Colson once described this kind of thinking as “whistling past our children’s graveyard”.

William Golding didn’t believe in original sin either, at least until World War II changed his thinking. In 1954 he published his first novel, Lord of The Flies, a powerful and disturbing parable about the sin nature in every man, including children. The story powerfully portrays what happens when kids stranded on an island lack any moral guidance by adults.

Reasonable men and women don’t need Golding’s Lord Of The Flies to convince them of what happens when adult moral guidance is missing in any family and society. Kids raised in a moral vacuum where they are expected to figure things out for themselves, will likely find life meaningless and hopeless. Without intentional conversations and training about moral implications and the consequences of our choices, we relinquish the authority for such “training” to the Enemy, who will gladly assume the responsibility.

Parents and grandparents who take a hands-off approach to training children how to walk in the truth, open the door wide for those we don’t want training them to fill the void. Moral guidance is the responsibility and command God has assigned to godly parents and grandparents. It is the hallmark of a Gospel-shaped family.

Grandparents, even if your grandkids are blessed with excellent moral instruction at home, your responsibility to also teach and model righteousness is not removed (See Deut. 4 and 6). And if moral guidance is missing at home, then your responsibility becomes even more critical and necessary. Don’t fall for the lie that they will figure it out on their own, even though, by God’s grace, some will figure it out. Such foolishness is akin to whistling past your grandchildren’s graveyard.

What are you doing to provide a godly moral compass for your grandchildren? May suggest three things you can do to make sure your grandchildren are hearing from you how to walk in the truth?

  1. Pray for them regularly. Obviously, entering our own personal prayer closet to seek God’s wisdom and grace for the task is a good starting place. However, I also believe there is great value in getting together with other grandparents to pray, study God’s Word, and share ideas for teaching the truth to our grandkids. Grandparent’s Day of Prayer on the second Sunday of each September is a great way to engage with other grandprents.
  2. Get a copy of A Practical Guide to Culture by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle. This excellent resources will help you understand the culture of our time, how to identify the lies that bombard us every day, and how to engage with your grandchildren in conversations about these things. Click here to order your copy.
  3. If the parents of your grandchildren are receptive and on the same page in their worldview, sit down together and ask them how you can come alongside and help them teach your grandchildren well. There are two chapters in my book, Courageous Grandparenting, that will help you do that.

Remember, there’s just too much at stake eternally if we don’t take this seriously. Wouldn’t you agree?