09 Nov 2017
A few years ago my best friend from college called me in tears. Their six-year-old son typed a “potty word” into a search engine and, for three weeks, watched hard-core porn videos until he was caught.
No one wants to be an overprotective parent. Overprotective parents breed ill-equipped kids. But we must be appropriately protective. Even though boys 12-17 are one of the largest per capita consumers of Internet porn, the threat of porn exposure is very real for younger kids and girls. Almost all kids are exposed to porn in their tween and teen years. The call is clear: We have to both minister to [Catching Your Child in Sexual Sin] and protect this rising generation in the face of such a media-savvy, sexually-broken culture.
I know this will sound alarmist, but it needs to be said. Parents will harm their children if they fail to take steps to first, protect them, and then second, to help them manage their use of media and the Internet as they grow older. [Should Parents Gouge Out Their Child’s Eyes?]
This post is about taking specific steps of protection: In part one, I will cover an inside-the-home protection plan, and in part two I’ll discuss an outside-the-home protection plan.
What ways can we protect our home from pornography usage? Our family protection plan includes overlapping means of protection. Some of these might seem like overkill, but trust me, they are necessary.
Inside the Home Protection
- Filter Your Router
All your wireless devices (laptops, tablets, e-book readers like Kindle, smartphones, gaming consoles, and even newer TVs) can connect to the Internet via your Wi-Fi router. Filters act like walls that prevent users from accessing inappropriate content, and filters that connect to your router block porn at the source. Routers can be filtered by installing software like OpenDNS, but another option is to get a hardware device that filters all Internet enabled devices you assign to your home Wi-Fi network.
In my home, I spent a one-time purchase of $99 on such a device, Circle with Disney. After downloading the Circle app on my wife’s phone, we customized the filter for each child and each device. We can set time limits, view search histories, block specific websites and apps, and set bedtimes, all customized to each of my four children. Other devices like this include Torch and Clean Router. And there are more devices coming on the market in response to the need for parental oversight. So far, Circle with Disney is working great for us.
There are, however, two things these awesome router filters can’t do. First, if your child takes her device over to a friend’s house, she can access the Internet on that family’s Wi-Fi but without your router’s protective settings.
Second, even if your child is at home, he or she can go into the settings on a smartphone or tablet and switch off its connection to your Wi-Fi. Then the cellular data plan kicks-in, and the device accesses the Internet via their data plan.
- Enable Password-Protected Search Engines
Some may think that if you have router protection, then this step is unnecessary. However, we advise multiple layers of protection. While there are many search engines like Yahoo and Bing, as of now, Google is the only major search engine that gives the option for password-protected parental controls (Google Safe Search).
Our kids are in a war, outwardly assailed by the world and inwardly wrestling with lust, selfishness, confusion, and shame. If we abdicate talking about these struggles, and if we simply neglect to protect them, we leave them isolated and vulnerable in this war.
The big point here: You must set and guard the password for using any search engine. Why? Because search engines have become the highway that leads to pornographic websites. Just type in a word and it’ll take you right there. Without a password-protected search engine, even the small image icons will present hard-core porn.
Everything mentioned so far restricts access to inappropriate content on the Internet, but you will need one more, crucial element to your family protection plan.
- Install Accountability Software on All Devices
Accountability software is a program that records all the websites a device visits. Accountability software will email a report of Internet use to an accountability partner; it’s the hall monitor of the Internet. Router protection only filters and blocks (and that is not foolproof), so we recommend accountability software as well.
A filter is simply mechanical, but accountability is relational. An accountability report invites discipleship conversations with your kids that you can talk not only about their Internet behaviors, but also about their heart and walk with the Lord, as you see what is most important to them via what they are accessing on the web. Adults need honesty too with peer accountability partners, their brothers and sisters in Christ.
There are a lot of great companies offering accountability software: Covenant Eyes, Net Nanny, and many more. The big point here is to actually check those accountability reports. Accountability software only works when accountability in relationship is in place.
Our kids are in a war, outwardly assailed by the world and inwardly wrestling with lust, selfishness, confusion, and shame. If we abdicate talking about these struggles, and if we simply neglect to protect them, we leave them isolated and vulnerable in this war.
So, use everything we’ve mentioned in this post to move toward your child’s heart and encourage them with the grace and hope of Christ. They need that in the face of their hyper-pornified culture.
You can watch Dan talk some more about this on his accompanying video: Protecting Your Home from Porn – Part 1. These short videos can be used as discussion starters in small group settings, mentoring relationships, men’s and women’s groups, etc.
04 Nov 2017
The Internet is wonderful, but it’s also a dangerous wild-west of pornography and other inappropriate content. Just as you wouldn’t send your young child on a trip all alone, you shouldn’t do the same for when they log online. They need appropriate guardrails. Dan Wilson talks about three keys steps every parent needs to take in this two-part video and blog.
Click here to read Dan Wilson’s blog on this: Protecting Your Home from Porn—Part 1
02 Nov 2017
I, like every other father in the world, have a perfect daughter. My four-year-old princess is the only girl among four children. In theory, I know that my “perfect” daughter is a sinner. In reality, I actually believe that somehow she miraculously dodged the infection of original sin. At least, that’s the best rationalization I have in the fantasy-based, biased view I have of “daddy’s special girl.” Given her long, Shirley Temple curls, radiant smile, and warm personality, can you blame me?
This sentimental conception of my precious daughter works fine now as she currently emerges into “big girl” phase from toddlerhood. However, this naiveté will present major problems for her if I cling to it as she starts to enter school.
In my years of youth ministry, I have watched parents struggle to accept the realities about their maturing children. It’s hard. It’s sad. It’s a source of grief. We mourn our babies growing up and progressing toward adulthood. But here’s the truth: children do not remain babies forever.
I often have observed parents resisting this struggle in conversations about pornography and Internet protections. I tell all parents in all talks about technology in our church that they need an Internet reporting device on any screen to which their child has access. Just checking the Internet history is insufficient as 70% of kids admit to erasing history or concealing online activity from parents.¹
More times than I can count, I have suggested to parents of middle school boys that they install a filter and reporting device on their children’s phone and tablet. Too often, I have watched in amazement as parents suggest that their 14 or 15-year-old boy isn’t interested in things like that yet. He’s still so young.
I understand the struggle. I do not want to admit that my precious angel ever could have an interest in pornography. I can hardly imagine the thought of her receiving a sext solicitation from some teenage punk—and caving to the pressure. However, two sources tell me that I should not be so foolish.
If you have a boy, I promise you, that boy really wants to look at pornography. Porn is an incredibly powerful temptation for your son. Statistics suggest that your daughter has enough of a temptation to look at pornography that the risk warrants protecting her.
First, statistics tell us that the rate of teens accessing inappropriate material online is rampant. In the United States, 93% of boys and 62% of girls have looked at pornographic videos online before the age of 18.² And 54% of young people ages 18-22 admitted that they engaged in sexting while they were minors.³
The second (and more reliable) source, which warns of the risks and temptations of teenagers, is Scripture. The Bible does not paint a pretty picture of the human condition. Jesus said that “people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19). Not “people have a mild attraction to” or “people stumble from time to time,” but people love darkness.
James writes that temptation is not simply evil wooing us from the outside. He said, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire (James 1:14, emphasis mine). Our sinful nature wants to be tempted because it is inherently attracted to darkness. He does not say that the flesh tempts some people but that it tempts “each” and, thereby, every person.
Here’s what I am saying about your child’s inherent sinfulness as it relates to sexual sin and technology. If you have a boy, I promise you, that boy really wants to look at pornography. Porn is an incredibly powerful temptation for your son. Statistics suggest that your daughter has enough of a temptation to look at pornography that the risk warrants protecting her.
As challenging as accepting this reality may be, your children—like my children—have not escaped the effects of the fall. They have a natural affinity to sin sexually. Of course, your child needs you to be their champion and cheerleader who believes the best in them. Simultaneously, your child also needs you to be the responsible adult who realizes that his or her sinful flesh can lead them into very damaging places if they are not protected. If parents cannot accept their child’s inherent sinfulness and take action, then they will endanger their child.
Jesus said “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29). He exercises hyperbole here in telling people to exercise whatever means possible to distance themselves from temptation and sin.
While Christ’s words here pertain to our own sanctification, this principle can be extrapolated to parenting, as well. Technology opens doors to sexual sin for your child—so close them. Install a filter/monitoring system on every device and apply parental controls.
Parents, I plead with you, do not be naïve. Protect your child.
³Van Ouytsel J; Ponnet K; Walrave M. “The associations between adolescents’ consumption of pornography and music videos and their sexting behavior,” Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2014 Dec; 17(12): 722-8.
As we conclude this blog series on coming out and parental responses, let’s review where we have been. I’ve discussed three things parents should do in responding to this process of coming out.
Part 1: Get to know your child. Love is getting to know your child more deeply and learning the details of how he has wrestled with his sexuality or gender.
Part 2: Reflect on what is in your heart too. Do not neglect all that is happening in your own heart as a result of your child’s situation.
Part 3: Have wisdom in ongoing conversations. Keep track of the good, the bad, and the hard as you seek to display Christ accurately through the relationship you have with your child.
Now we look toward two final things you should do when you discover your child is identifying as gay or transgender. As you consider the road ahead, I want to encourage you to do two things: Set your expectations on loving your child as Christ has loved you, and keep a long-term view in mind.
As Christ has loved you, so love
God has called you to the challenging place of loving your child just as he loves you. Your child’s decision to come out and embrace an unbiblical identity will, of course, be the major issue that causes you pain. But in that, there will be other relational sins that your son or daughter will commit against you that go along with the pursuit of what he or she feels will be ultimately satisfying. I encourage you to make every effort not to count your child’s sins against him. Doing so will cause great harm in your relationship.
Rather, seek in multiple ways to show her the mercy and grace that you have received in Christ. It is important to remember the words of Colossians 1:21: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior” (NIV). Always remember that God demonstrated his love for you by sending his son as a propitiation for your sins. You were once his enemy, living for yourself and spurning his love and lordship. Not only so, but he continually demonstrates his love, patience, kindness, and compassion towards you every day.
Does this reality shape your love for your child? I find that we often forget that we are broken, sinful people ourselves, in need of his constant grace. If you do not engage your child with this mindset, it will be impossible to love her.
But showing this love will not be easy. The situations you face will not be black and white. For example, you find out your teenage son has had a boyfriend for the past year. How do you respond? Loving your child will entail determining what boundaries you think are appropriate to set with him regarding this relationship, communicating this to him, and standing firm on these limits even when there is resistance. It will also look like disciplining him when he goes beyond the boundaries while still communicating that you recognize his strong desire for this relationship. Voicing your understanding, or asking questions in order to understand, shows compassion for his struggle to obey. This demonstrates how God sets boundaries that are for our good. He disciplines us in love when we rebel and comes alongside us to help in our struggles.
As I mentioned in my second blog, I encourage you to bring others in to help you so that you may receive clarity on how to love your child, given the details of your particular situation. If there is a group of parents who are also going through this (like we have in our parent groups), then it would be ideal to reach out to them. Discerning how to respond to a multitude of situations in ways that display God’s love will require more wisdom than you have within yourself.
Keep a long-term view in mind
Although you don’t want to hear this, I need to say it: You are most likely in for a long journey. This is where you need to set your expectations. Most parents initially set their gaze on the short term, pushing their child to see the right counselor, listen to the right sermon, and read the right book, all in hopes of changing their child’s mind.
If your child feels like a project that needs fixing, he will close himself off and not give you access to what’s really in his heart
Although all these things can certainly be helpful given the right setting, this yields minimal fruit more often than not, especially if your child is resistant. Parents who pull out all the stops to help their son or daughter may find that this does more harm than good, damaging the relationship with their child. This can cause your child to distance herself, close up, and move away from you (emotionally if not physically). If your child feels like a project that needs fixing, she will close off and not give you access to what’s really in her heart.
Part of having the long-term view in mind is understanding that change is slow and, even more importantly, that God’s time frame is not ours. God is ultimately the one who sovereignly works in your child’s life. We all appreciate the success stories of someone coming to Christ and experiencing complete freedom from ingrained sin patterns, but God doesn’t always work that way. A more accurate picture of repentance is a gradual process of turning away from sin and turning to God more and more, usually with many bumps along the way.
Consider the father in Luke 15 who waited for his son to “come to his senses” before finally returning home with a repentant heart. The father was waiting right there to embrace his son, showing him the surprising grace, love, and compassion of our heavenly Father. This will be very challenging to consider that your child may have to experience some form of trial or suffering, like the son in this story, before she changes direction. No parent wants to watch their child go through hardship, but this may be the path God uses to bring her back to himself.
So what does patience and trust in God’s sovereignty look like? It doesn’t make your role passive; rather it allows you to have the patience to look for opportunities to display Christ to your child when those opportunities present themselves over time.
This may look like listening to him when he is in a vulnerable moment, praying with him as he struggles with the usual ups and downs of life, carefully throwing in your thoughts about how only God is ultimately fulfilling when he experiences unfulfillment in his sexual or gender identity or just has a deep unrest in his heart. As in the language of Jeremiah 2:13, his “broken cisterns” will be sure to run dry in the end and never ultimately satisfy. Your relationship with him over time may give you an opportunity to point him to the living water in specific moments of pain and unfulfillment.
Intentionally seeking to love your child as you experience Christ’s love for you, and resting in his sovereignty as you wisely seek opportunities to engage your child’s heart, will enable you to be an instrument in God’s hands. He is the agent of change—not you. In doing so, you will find freedom and peace as you entrust your life and the life of your child into God’s hands.
In Part I and Part II of this four-part blog series, I talked about the experience of a child coming out to his or her parents, and I mentioned two essential things you can do when your child is identifying as gay or transgender:
First, get to know your child. Listen to his or her unique experience, and ask thoughtful questions out of a desire to love and understand them.
Second, reflect on what is in your heart too. Be honest about all that you are experiencing as a result of your child’s decision to come out. Invite God and others to share in the burden of pain and keep the sinful responses of your heart in check.
Now I want to add another useful step to help you to respond to your child in wisdom.
Have wisdom in ongoing conversations
Knowing how to navigate ongoing conversations with your son or daughter over this will be challenging. One thing that will make this more difficult is the likelihood that your child will have bought into how our culture believes truth is arrived at today: by the authority of one’s individual experience rather than viewing oneself and the world through the lens of Scripture. Because your child has been greatly influenced by these worldview beliefs, it will be important for you to use discretion as you engage in conversation with him. You want to avoid throwing Bible passages at your kid over and over again as if this will change his mind. Rather, you want to aim toward engaging your child’s mind and heart by bringing God into the conversation in the context of his real-life circumstances.
Here are three categories of conversations to consider as you engage your child.
You want to avoid throwing Bible passages at your kid over and over again as if this will change his mind. Rather, you want to aim toward engaging your child’s mind and heart by bringing God into the conversation in the context of his real-life circumstances.
Keep track of the good you see in your son or daughter. Affirm your love for your child by celebrating the unique way that God has made her and the strengths and gifts that God has given her. Point it out to her when you witness these gifts at work. Communicate to your daughter if you see something she has done that is praiseworthy.
Don’t be afraid to speak about the good you see! If he did well in his classes, if you enjoyed spending time with him on his visit home, if he talks with you about something on their heart, if he did something caring or thoughtful for another person—share how you appreciate these things, and tell your child that you are proud of him in areas you can sincerely identify.
Here’s the bottom line: Do not reduce your child down to sinful behaviors, allowing her coming-out decision to be the only way you see from here on. Continue to genuinely love her, and say it to her. This is your child! Loving your child in all the ways she has been gifted communicates a gospel perspective: that God sees us even in our sin and rebellion and continues to show his love toward us.
As a parent, it’s okay to affirm and show compassion—doing this does not necessarily communicate agreement with the direction in which your child is going
Ask to be invited into what is hard. Your son or daughter is also going through suffering and hardship as well. Seek to identify what that struggle is and enter into it if your child will let you. This may not be easy to do, especially if your child’s struggle is way beyond your experience.
So begin by looking for things in your child’s life where he shows or expresses pain. Acknowledge the struggle and ask to hear more about it. An example of this could be if you have a son who identifies as a girl and has long felt different from his male peers. You can be sure he has struggled to a great degree with confusion and shame.
It’s appropriate to voice that pain back to him and ask him to help you understand how hard it has been to live with it. As a parent, it’s okay to affirm and show compassion—doing this does not necessarily communicate agreement with the direction in which your child is going. This gives an opportunity to demonstrate and speak to your child about the compassion Christ has for us in our struggles.
Loving your child also means mirroring back what is bad and ultimately destructive to our souls. Again, you do not want to badger your child, but you do want to lovingly display the mirror of God’s truth to her. By taking those opportunities when they arise, you help your child see—even if it’s just a glimpse—when her decisions or behaviors are self-destructive and ultimately self-defeating.
Where are those opportunities to do this? When your child experiences some of the negative consequences of his actions. Perhaps he shut out others in the family who have not affirmed his coming-out decision, so as a result he feels unloved and discriminated against. An appropriate response is to help your child see how the demand to be loved on his own terms will damage relationships in his life.
By mirroring her behavior back to her, you are lovingly keeping her accountable for her actions while helping her see some of the negative consequences of her sin. It may be a temptation to avoid these hard conversations out of fear of damaging your relationship with your child. I know this area of communication is going to be the most difficult to pull off. However, we must not shrink back from telling the truth in love. Doing so demonstrates that God’s love does not allow us to remain in rebellion and sin that is ultimately destructive to us.
In all of these conversational areas, you must recognize that, above all, your son or daughter’s greatest need is to see and experience the love of God and understand his or her fundamental desperation for his saving grace. A relationship with God must be more meaningful to your child than the desire for fulfillment through perceived sexual or gender identity. Repentance is a fruit of being moved by the love of Christ through the gospel. As you have wisdom in ongoing conversations, you can be instrumental in showing the love of Christ for your child more comprehensively in these particular ways.
Coming out. It’s a scary expression for most parents. It is a far too common experience today for a parent to discover their child is identifying as gay. Teens and young adult children suddenly coming out as transgender is also a growing occurrence in Christian families.
News like this is a very difficult thing for parents to navigate when they hold to biblical convictions of sex, sexuality, and gender. It is hard to know what to do when you are thinking of how to love your child while moving them towards walking in the truth of the gospel. At this point, most parents want to do just about anything to keep their kid on the right path after hearing this news. Their approach to their child can swing in wildly opposite directions.
On one end, parents may try to argue with their child to no end about their decision to come out, seeking to convince them of how misguided they are, and use everything in their power to change them. On the other end, parents may seek to keep things light and superficial in hopes to not ruffle feathers or push them away and hurt the relationship. They refrain from bringing this issue up altogether. Wherever you find yourself on this spectrum, this is a very hard journey to walk.
Wanting your child to turn back from what they are considering is what your heart and emotions scream for, but as it stands now, you have some important work to do—work that is smack in the middle of these two opposite poles.
And the work you need to do… should be directed toward keeping your relationship open with your child. That’s the only way you will still have a voice in their life.
And the work you need to do—as much as it depends on you, as Romans 12:18 says—should be directed toward keeping your relationship open with your child. That’s the only way you will still have a voice in their life. And working to stay connected is still the way to show them how much you love and care for them.
So, I want to give you five things you can do that will help this situation. Five things that won’t guarantee your child will change, but that can be used by God to stir up his or her heart.
Get to know your child
Here’s the first one. Whether your child is 14 years old or 24 years old, you need to get to know your child’s unique life experience and what has led to their decision to identify this way. When someone first comes out as gay or transgender, they most likely have been wrestling with these thoughts for years. There was an interior life that you were not part of, and now one of the most significant ways you can know and show love to your child is by listening to their story.
Here are some sample questions you can use to help you get this important (and yes, scary!) conversation started:
- When did these feelings of (same-sex attraction) begin? Or, when did you start to feel that you were a boy (or girl)? What made you feel that way? (As much as possible, move toward getting specific here, but don’t push too hard at the beginning—this will be a difficult conversation for both of you.)
- What was it like to grow up in our Christian home and struggle with these thoughts and desires?
- How did you feel sitting in our church and struggling all this time in isolation? What were you thinking when you were feeling so alone?
- Why did you feel like you could not come to us when you knew you felt attracted to people of the same sex (or feeling like you were in the wrong body?) Why? What was one thing that kept you silent?
- How do you envision yourself living out your sexuality (or gender) from here on? What do you want your life to look like?
- How do you see this decision to come out and identify as gay or transgender as being OK for a Christian?
- How do you want our relationship to be now that this is in the open?
These questions are by no means meant for interrogation (although that may be a temptation). I encourage you to sincerely desire to know your son or daughter’s experience, not as a means to “fix” them, but out of a desire to love and know them more fully. It’s never too late to have these conversations, even if you are farther out from their initial disclosure.
This discussion (or series of talks) may be an opportunity to strengthen your relationship by talking about past relational hurts or experiences that have impacted your child. It may also present opportunities for you to speak truth to them in a way that they can be open to receive it. You might just be surprised by what they share.
24 Aug 2017
In the last blog, we explored how to weave the biblically weighty word faith into conversations when we talk to our kids about their sexuality. Using the language of Scripture, such as the word and concept of “faith”, elevates our conversations with our kids from merely addressing rule-breaking to matters of the heart and their relationship with God. But what do we do with other biblical words, such as “repentance” and “love”?
Using the word “faith” is not hard, but here’s a question for you: Would you use the word “repentance” in conversations with your kid? Would that just be too weird, and would you fear sounding like a Puritan who just got off the Mayflower?
Despite how old-fashioned the word may seem, repentance is central to knowing Christ. In Mark 1:15 Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.” Faith and repentance go hand in hand. Martin Luther’s first of his famous 95 Theses was, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent,’ he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.”
I’d like to encourage you to use not only the word “faith” but also “repentance” regularly in your parenting, and not just when one of your children stumbles into a sexual sin. To incorporate repentance into your language as a natural part of your conversation, let’s look at two things repentance isn’t, one thing it is, and why using the word is so good despite its puritanical associations.
Two Things Repentance Is Not
First, tears, remorse, and regrets are not repentance. Many of us are looking for the signs of repentance in our kids. And we can be fooled by tears, but those may be the signs of what Paul calls “worldly sorrow” in 2 Cor. 7:10. Your children may be extremely sorry they got caught, but their sorrow might be selfish: “I no longer get to enjoy this,” or “I’m frustrated that I got caught.” Worldly sorrow is not repentance.
Second, begrudging “repentance” isn’t true repentance, either. This is where repentance gets a bad public relations image. It has all the allure of a dentist drilling cavities without Novocain. This view of repentance is principally about having to give up something you enjoy. You resent God whom you see as a killjoy instead of a good God who wants what is best for your life. This is a religious (moralistic) mind-set, where one repents to gain favor with God, to obtain a ticket to eternal reward. If we approach repentance as a necessary evil, we have failed to truly repent.
What is Repentance?
So what is genuine repentance? Repentance is a turning from sin and turning to God. True repentance is a change of heart and mind that results in action. Romans 2:4 says that it “is the kindness of God the leads (us) to repentance.” Genuine repentance leads us to see that the “fun” of sin is slavery to an awful idol. In turn, we see knowing God as the great reward and His blessings as the truly good life.
Scripture speaks of the “fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25), and we still need to remember that sin does not magically become un-tempting in the heart of a repenting believer–particularly for a child! Repentance is often a series of steps that move toward God; it’s not often an immediate, complete turnaround. And it is in these steps that we can experience joy, peace, and a delighting and soul-satisfying fellowship with God—a fellowship in the love of God. A Christian kid can, indeed, experience this loving fellowship and grow in newfound desires, as David writes in Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Since genuine repentance always displays itself in practical steps in faith and obedience, we can enter into conversations with a sexually struggling child by asking two questions:
How can I help you turn from this?
If your child’s sin struggle was facilitated by a device (say, looking at online porn), parents need to help students install a filter/blocker or replace a smartphone with a dumbphone. If the sin committed was with a person or peers, we need to step-in to oversee, limit, or stop the relationship.
How can I help you turn toward Jesus?
The second question goes further and deeper with our kids. Here we want to guide our children into the means of grace. Or, in other words, we want to shepherd them into ways they can seek the Lord and learn to delight in him. We can help them do this by praying with them, getting them a devotional book or Christian music for them. You might even suggest, “Would it help if we went out for breakfast once a week to spend some time in prayer and Scripture together?”
What About Our Repentance?
The language of repentance won’t seem like such a foreign language if we are actively sharing about our repentance. You might say to your kids:
Kids, recently I’ve needed to repent of … how angry I was getting stuck in traffic … of how much time I have been spending on Facebook … looking at the news … participating in fantasy football … binging on Netflix
And I have been asking the Lord help me turn from my idols of … entertainment, comfort, worry, etc.
When we incorporate repentance language when describing our life, it can become a normal part of our conversation. Even more, when our kids observe us turning from our familiar sins, they see evidence that we are fellowshipping with God. When they see us delighting in the Lord, then they will see the value of a life of repentance as something good.
I hope you have caught the vision of building your kids faith by using the word repentance accurately. This is how we can rehab its negative reputation, and show that it is the path toward enjoying God and experiencing his blessings.
In the next blog, we will put faith and repentance together with love, to form a triad of crucial terms for living the Christian life and helping our kids be conformed more and more into the image of Christ.
10 Aug 2017
Did you ever want a glossary of biblical terms to use in raising your kids, like faith, repentance, or love? This is a new blog series on how to weave biblically weighty words that our kids hear in worship and read in Scripture into the ways we speak about matters of sexuality. Like all of us, our kids need to be marinated in the language of Scripture so that those very words can transform their hearts and minds (2 Timothy 3:16).
The language of the world teaches us to “love the world or the things of the world,” but all that is in the world is “passing away” (1 John 2:15, 17). Curated Instagram accounts and witty tweets won’t make it past Jesus’ second coming. Furthermore, Paul warns us in Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human traditions, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
Our kids need to know Christ, and the language of Scripture is there to help them discover Him. The Spirit grows the mind of Christ within our kids as they encounter the Scriptures and its language (1 Cor. 2:16b). Let’s start with the lofty term of faith.
What is Faith?
To use the language of faith with our children, we’ve got to know what it is ourselves and how it plays into sexuality. Faith has three inseparable aspects: knowledge, assent, and trust.
Knowing about God is foundational to grasping what faith is. This why Scripture commands us to teach our kids about God and the content of the Bible. Deuteronomy 6:7 commands us: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Kids can’t put their faith in what they don’t know. This is a call to us as parents to work towards teaching the content of Scripture to our children regarding life including sex and sexuality. And we must teach more than the letter of the law, the “do’s” and “don’ts.” Take the seventh commandment against adultery for example. We need to go deeper to “why’s” (we are to faithfully love our spouse as Christ loves us) and the “why not’s” (we shouldn’t selfishly use others sexually because it destroys others, and because it does not honor Christ).
Assent moves forward on the basis of knowledge. It is not just when our kids intellectually understand something as a fact but when they agree with that fact as true. It might even be helpful, from time to time, to ask our children, for example, “Do you believe that a husband and wife ought to stay together even if it is hard?”
The third part of faith, trust, seems like it is very similar to assent; however, trust is more personal than assent. When our child trusts God, he or she is banking on God, and the assurance that faith brings results in gratitude, love, and willing service. And what started as mere intellectual knowledge culminates in knowing God in fellowship and intimacy; it becomes an active relationship that changes one’s life.
In its fullness, faith is not something we can manipulate but something only God can create in our hearts (Matthew 11:27). This truth, above all, drives us to pray for God to transform our kid’s hearts.
Because of our sin nature, humans naturally put their trust not in God but in created things, god-substitutes, or idols, and this results in sin upon sin, idolatry upon idolatry. Because our faith is exercised daily, either in turning to God or god-substitutes, how can we integrate the language of faith into how we talk about sexuality?
Integrating the Language of Faith: Cultural Moments
I strongly suggest having intentional conversations with your children about what exactly faith is. God is pleased when we have faith (Heb. 11:6,) and God highly values our growth in faith (“more precious than gold … though it is tested by fire,” 1 Peter 1:6-7). Talk about how faith — knowledge, assent, and trust — play out in how we live our lives. One way to do this is to use a pop-culture moment or song as a discussion starter. Check out our friends over at CPYU (CPYU.org) for great resources on cultural analysis and how you can use that to effectively talk to your children.
Integrating the Language of Faith: When Our Kids Sin
Another important way to integrate the language of faith into parenting is to talk about faith when our children sin. Let’s say your late tween or young teen willfully used porn, sent a sext, or got caught kissing someone. Instead of accusingly asking, “Why did you do that?!”, we can directly engage their misplaced faith by asking:
What did you believe doing that would do for you?
Did it satisfy your expectation?
Of course, our kids are not cognitively aware they are rejecting faith in God’s loving wisdom and providence in favor of using their own “wisdom” to take care of themselves and whatever situation they find themselves in. But, by asking good questions, we can point this out.
Here, we can bring the truth of Jesus to bear on their situation, contrasting the empty promises of sexual sin with the reality of Jesus. So, as we ask questions to try to uncover their heart’s motivation for their actions, we can weave in some suggestions on how they might think and choose faith in Christ rather than sin. With the sexting example, you might ask, “Don’t you think it would be better to talk with me about how you are feeling pressured by your friend to send pictures of yourself that are inappropriate? That would be a way to follow Jesus during a real difficult time.”
Faced with a myriad of temptations, faith in God is hard to implement; it must be Spirit-given. It’s always good, then, to let kids know that putting our faith in Christ will be difficult in this world. But it’s helpful to come back to the truths of Scriptures, to match them up with the empty promises of what the world, in its “wisdom,” offers.
When we employ the language of faith, we get to turn a sinful situation into a gospel opportunity by having intentional conversations that also ground our kids in the language of the Scriptures. When we do this, we prepare them both to live the Christian life in the reality of God and to understand how the foundational building block of faith makes a difference in everyday life.
That’s it for now; the next installment will be the language of repentance.
27 Apr 2017
In part one of this blog, I laid out a multi-layered plan to protect your family from porn while they are at home and connected to your home Wifi network. Now, let’s get to the outside-the-home protection plan.
How can I protect my kids when they leave my home or access their data plans?
One great way to eliminate the temptation for your kids to use their phone for sexual sin is to get them a basic phone. Do they really need a hand-held device that is more sophisticated than the information technology that sent the Apollo Space missions to the moon—especially when an unfiltered smartphone can connect to porn in mere seconds? We at The Student Outreach know of brave teens who’ve asked their dads to let them trade in a smartphone for a “dumbphone,” because they were sick of being tempted by porn.
But if your kid must have a smartphone, how can you protect them?
1. Install Filters and Accountability Software
First, you need to buy filtering and accountability software for each Internet-enabled smartphone, tablet, or laptop that leaves your home protection.
Remember Circle With Disney from our first post? Circle with Disney filters every device using your WiFi router. Circle with Disney just recently released an app called Circle Go that applies those very filter settings used on your router to devices as they leave the home. This might be a great way to kill the proverbial two birds with one (and a half) stone(s).
2. Disable the Downloading of Apps
It used to be that one had to use a browser to find a website. Today, apps are the new web browsers. As you might guess, kids can use many apps to access porn. You need to go into the settings of your child’s smartphone or tablet and disable the downloading of apps so they can’t add apps on their own. If you install a filter/accountability app but don’t disallow adding new apps, your child can load an app that works around the filter/accountability app or delete the one you just installed!
The parental settings, including disabling the downloading of apps, should be password protected. That way, when you kid wants to load a new app, they have to have a conversation with you about it. In other words, we don’t lock down the apps so that kids with a smartphone can only make calls. We lock down apps so that, when they want to download one, they have to come to us to do so. All this, like receiving accountability reports from your kids, facilitates dialogue.
3. Research and Dialogue about Devices, Apps, and Media
Your child says, “Can Johnny drive us to the game tonight?” Before we say, “Sure,” we parents ask some questions and even do a bit of private investigative work, like calling another trusted parent for the inside scoop. So don’t take your kid’s word on how appropriate an app, artist, or movie is. Research it yourself.
Use Google to your and their spiritual benefit. Go to Google and type in, “Is (blank) safe for kids?” or “Can (blank) app be used to access porn”? We recommend Common Sense Media, too. It is the best place I can find for new apps, websites, TV shows, movies, etc. Iparent.tv also includes many “how-to” videos, reviews of apps, etc. Pluggedin.com is also a good resource.
All of this research facilitates a running tech-dialogue. When your child has to come to you for the downloading of an app, it gives you time to research it. It also helps you begin to ask good questions of your child in the meantime: “What do your friends use this app for? What are some benefits of the app that you can see? What might be some downsides to having this app? What would you like to use this app for?”
4. Test Your In-the-Home and Outside-the-Home Protection Plans
You won’t be doing anyone any favors by failing to check to see if things are running smoothly. Randomly test the protection systems you’ve put in place. You may find yourself on a site that you don’t want to see, so do your checking together as a married couple or with a trusted Christian friend. Check all the devices. Something almost always doesn’t work from time to time. Nothing is foolproof.
After being as faithful and savvy as we can to protect our kids from the sexual corruptions of the world, we must trust the Savior and Redeemer with our kids. Only He can save our kids from the sexual corruption, self, and sin within. We must trust Jesus to work in our kids’ hearts and in the sexually broken world they inhabit until His kingdom comes in fullness. Knowledge of and trust in Jesus’ power helps us parent out of dependence, trust, and faith. And that’s a good place for any of us to be.
In all of this, we want to keep the dialogue open with our kids about technology in the home. We want to be talking to them about the measures we are taking to steward technology well. We want to be talking to them about both the dangers and the benefits of the technology we have. And most importantly, we want to approach them as fellow sufferers, not just sinners, in this crazy world, who can approach the throne of Jesus together for help and strength in our moments of weakness.