Monthly Archives: March 2017

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Red Means Stop, Green Means Go: Spiritual Driving Lessons

By Brian Shultz

Watch Out…New Driver!

If only driving, and life, were easy…

I just got out of the car, this time from the unfamiliar passenger side, as my teenage son just completed his first ever driving lesson with me, just minutes after passing his written test and getting his permit at the DMV.  All he had to do to pass the test was to not miss more than 5 questions of the 25, and he only missed 1 (Fist pump!).

The wait in line was much harder than the actual test, and to his credit, he said, “That was way too easy, Dad. They should make it harder, because I don’t want to be on the road with people who are missing 4 or 5 of the questions!”

I agreed with him, while I thought to myself, “I don’t really want to be on the road while YOU are driving, because a test means nothing, and you have so much to learn,” but I refrained.

The First Lesson

Now, fast forward an hour later, and I’m handing him the keys to the “war wagon”, our rusted-out 2005 Chevy Suburban, parked uphill in the slanted driveway, just a foot or two from the garage door.

“Son, did you check behind the car to make sure no bikes, skateboards, (or small children) are on the ground. If not, get out and check!”

“Alright, now make sure you and all the passengers are buckled and adjust your seat and mirrors…and start the car.”

“Now release the parking brake, and oh, before you put it in gear, make sure you have your foot on the brake pedal.” “Oh, and one more thing, Son, you’ve got to think of this car as a weapon. You can really hurt someone with it, if you don’t use it properly.”

Sensing he was getting overwhelmed, I decided to say no more at that moment, so thankfully, I noticed he put it in DRIVE instead of REVERSE, or we would have been replacing a garage door for the rest of our Spring Break.

A (Scary) Reality Sets In

And then, after a short chuckle together of what could have been, it hit me. Before ever leaving the driveway, or the neighborhood, I have to somehow take everything I’ve ever learned about driving and begin to teach it to Ben, and FAST! 

The car parked across the street behind us was in danger; the Korean Grandma passing down the sidewalk behind us, pushing a stroller – she was in play…and what about the dangerous blind curve at the first stop sign down the street?

I would also have to teach him how to navigate the turn signals and when; how to accelerate, and steer, and brake smoothly (I think I still have a little whiplash); how to look for potential dangers ahead of him; how to read the mirrors and how often; how to avoid debris in the road without hitting the parked cars or the oncoming traffic – how do you even begin communicating all that?

I finally settled on, “Son, just try to use common sense… Look to protect other people and their property, and then look to protect yourself!“ And, on and on I went as he drove, imparting truths, reminders, warnings, and encouragements. After all, I had just signed documents at the DMV stating I was financially responsible for any damages he would incur as a driver until he was 18.

30 minutes later, we were back safe and sound in the driveway, a little crooked, but nonetheless safe, never having ventured more than a mile from the house.  After a few relaxation breaths, I thought to myself, “Wow, that was decent, but we have such a looooong way to go!”

Spiritual Driving Lessons

And, so it is with parenting, in this spiritual journey through life that our kids are on. There are so many truths, warnings, reminders, and encouragements to pass on, and just like we would never dream of tossing the keys to our family car to our teenager after merely passing a written test, without first preparing them with multiple ride-alongs, nor should we launch them into the various stages of life without first preparing them both practically and spiritually. The task is important, and monumental, and it certainly does not stop when they are teenagers.

Just think about the first time you took your toddler to the grocery store. Remember how they pulled and tugged on your hand in the parking lot, trying to get away from you and exercise their independence? As a parent, you know the dangers of getting run over that they don’t understand yet, and so it is actually more loving to force them to hold your hand while you try to teach them about the dangers of parking lots than it would be to let them have what they want and run unprotected through the lot.

Here at FamiliesAlive, we believe strongly that Job #1 for parents is not only to equip them for practical things like parking lots and driving lessons, but also for the spiritual matters of life.

Where Do I Start?

It’s important to remember that different stages of life require different messages.

We’ve found that the early years should be full of the foundational teachings about who God is, the world He created, and why we can trust Him.  We should be telling our kids of the great stories of the Old Testament and illustrating to them about the concepts of respect, obedience, honor, faith, and the narrative of grace that runs through it all and points to Christ. It is never too early to talk about Jesus’ love for us, our sin, and our need of a Savior.  

As our kids hit the pre-teen years, the Psalms and Proverbs are great reminders of the concepts we’ve already taught them in the early years.

In the middle and later years of youth, often marked by drift and apathy, should actually be a time when our kids are putting down deeper spiritual roots to help them withstand the droughts that can be high school and college. Staying connected to the life and teachings of Jesus, digging deeper into the teachings of Paul, and the other New Testament writers can help serve that purpose at these times.  

Don’t get me wrong – God is not bound by time, and so there’s no perfect time and formula for when and how to guide and teach in these spiritual matters. We also can rejoice, knowing that He fills in the gaps where you and I fall short!

But neglecting to teach our children all these important truths would be like handing the keys to the car to your teen without any instruction. You have a lifetime of spiritual lessons learned that need to be imparted, and every one of them is just as important as “Red means Stop, and Green means Go”.

About the Author

Brian is the Director of Development of FamiliesAlive. He is the father of 6 and currently teaching child #4 how to drive. He teaches and coaches at Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch, CO, and uses his positions to teach kids about God on the field, in the classroom, and at home. Specifically, he is passionate about preparing Christian teens for the challenges of college.


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Helping Your Children Resist Sexual Temptation: A Look at Proverbs 1-9

by David Baer, President & CEO of FamiliesAlive®

The concept of sexual purity is increasingly foreign in our society.

We live in a “Vegas” day and age – Sin City, USA might as well be the motto and the rule for our culture.

But even a casual reading of the first nine chapters of the Book of Proverbs shows that helping children understand sexual purity is one of the most important aspects of parenting. What follows is an excerpt from the new Read More about Parenting book, Raising Wise Children, Part 2: Helping Your Children Resist Sexual Temptation (available soon!)

Introduction for Parents

Since so much of the first nine chapters [of Proverbs] are devoted to this subject and since our culture values it so little, wise parents zero in on this topic early on in their children’s lives and then give guidance to their children all along the path leading to their maturity. We’re talking about the wisdom our children need to embrace as they move through childhood into puberty and beyond, as they become sexually mature adults.

For children to gain this kind of wisdom requires parents who are ready and able to talk about more than merely biological changes that happen with puberty. The writer of Proverbs addresses parents and the need for them to teach their children by word and deed what Godly sexuality and marriage look like. This positive teaching precedes and underlies the teaching our children need to stay pure for the sake of their union with another believer and their continuing relationship with God.

Main Idea: The writer is concerned that his sons learn to submit their sexuality to the high standard of the God of the Bible – not to the low standard of society. Today’s culture is no different.

Chapter 2 begins with the father encouraging his son to accept his words, listen carefully to what is wise and cry out for insight and understanding, searching for it as a great treasure. In response, his father says, the Lord Himself will give wisdom, knowledge and understanding. For God “…holds victory in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones” (Proverbs 2: 7-8, NIV).

Further, the wisdom that God gives will save the son from wicked men and “from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God. For her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead. None who go to her return or attain the paths of life. Thus you will walk in the ways of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous” (Proverbs 2: 16-20, NIV).

These verses introduce us to the role of parents, especially Dads, when it comes to teaching, mentoring and guarding his sons and daughters in this important area.

The concept is echoed throughout Proverbs chapters 2-9.

In addition to “My son, if you accept my words…” found in chapter 2, verse 1, similar admonitions are found sprinkled throughout these chapters. In 3:1, “My son, do not forget my teaching, in 3:11, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and in 3:21, “My son, preserve sound judgement and discipline, they will be like to you as an ornament to grace your neck.”  

In chapter 4, the generational aspect of this construct becomes crystal clear.

Each generation of fathers is to pass on to the next generation the wisdom that comes from fearing God and following His commands:

“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. When I was a boy in my father’s house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said, “Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor. Listen, my son, accept what I say…” (Proverbs 4:1-10, NIV).

This is followed later in the chapter by the reason why it is so important for parents to impart this kind of wisdom…

…and, correspondingly, the reason why it is so important for children to listen and respond.

“My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

You see, godly parents pass on the wisdom of the Lord to their children not to be killjoys, but because life lived in this wisdom refreshes and enlivens both the body and soul and enables a person to live in authenticity and joy.

It is in this same fashion that our Creator God has given the Ten Commandments to His children. He knows what makes for the best life possible and wants His children to avoid the heartache of living in any other fashion.  

Beginning in chapter 5, the parent’s instruction that must be heard and heeded is linked with sexuality and marriage.

Proverbs 5:1-23 is an extended passage that speaks of the folly of immorality and the remarkable, even captivating nature of marriage. Note once again that this is part of the wisdom passed on from fathers to sons. The chapter begins, “My son, pay attention to my wisdom…” and expands in verse 7 to: “Now then, my sons, listen to me…” And the father’s wisdom that needs to be heeded? Sexual satisfaction is to be found only in the arms of your wife and nowhere else.

The godly parent first warns against sexual infidelity and the ultimate cost it exerts upon a person’s body and soul.

“My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.

Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel, lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich another man’s house. At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. You will say, ‘How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! I would not obey my teachers or listen to my instructors. I have come to the brink of utter ruin in the midst of the whole assembly.’” (Proverbs 5:1-14, NIV).

Then comes the parent’s poignant conclusion that highlights where the greatest blessing lies for a young man or woman.

Here is just a glimpse of the captivating and exhilarating nature of sexual love within the bond of a covenant marriage:

“Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love. Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man’s wife?” (Proverbs 5:15-20, NIV).

Finally, chapter 5, helps wise parents understand why this is so important for themselves and for their children.

“For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths. The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly” (Proverbs 5:21-23).

You see, nothing remains in Vegas. Your spiritual welfare – and that of your children – is at stake.


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One Thing We Must NEVER Do As Parents

by Becky Shultz

Got kids? Then you’ve got wonderful blessings – gifts from on high!

You’ve also got disagreements, issues, messes, worriment, and trouble.

And the older those kids get, the bigger the problems get, the more difficult those difficulties are to handle.

Let me tell you about this little trap we fall into when our children are small. I’ll just call it the If-I-teach-them-the-right-things-they’ll-do-the-right-things TRAP. It becomes easier and easier (especially if we have a compliant child) to believe that, as long as we parent well, MY child will do what’s right.

We see other people’s children and the mistakes they’re making, and think MY child would never do that!  

I fell into that trap.

Our eldest daughter, Laura, was your typical firstborn – compliant, rule-following, eager-to-please. She loved when we praised her good behavior, so that’s exactly what we did. We set up boundaries, knowing she’d not cross them (at least not out loud). We’d read a parenting book or two, fell into a nice routine, and I started to feel like a pro!

Enter Hannah.

Oh. Merciful. Providence!

She was lucky she was cute and sweet, and a great sleeper.

Of course, we absolutely adore daughter #2, but talk about a wake-up call.

Shortly before Hannah turned one, we started to see glimpses of her “rules are made for breaking” mentality. By two, she was well on her way to crossing every boundary we had set up. Hannah had no desire to please us.

The difference between our eldest daughter and secondborn.

The difference between our eldest daughter and secondborn.

l&h

They might look alike, but they couldn’t be more different!

Thank God for our small group and one of the best parenting books we’ve ever read – Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

There was a great light bulb moment as we read and discussed this book. The focus of our parenting needs to be about the hearts of our children, not about behavior.

I’ll be honest, it’s still difficult. When I’m told things like, “Your kids are so well behaved”, I have to stop myself from welling up with pride, and remind myself that good behavior is not the desired end result. When my kids aren’t behaving well, I have to do the same. Otherwise, I’d be greatly embarrassed!

What is the desired end result?

That our children love Jesus and love others. Period.

And Jesus-lovers and others-lovers are not, I repeat, NOT perfect! I love Jesus. I love others. I screw up on a regular basis.

So, parents, we need to hear this…

We live in a fallen, broken world. We are fallen, broken people. Our children are fallen, broken children. No matter how well we teach them what is right, they will mess up. They will make unwise decisions. They will cross lines. They will make bonehead mistakes.  

And, you? You will feel like throwing in the towel. You will feel like quitting. You will feel like tossing up your hands in surrender and saying, “I quit! I don’t want to do this parenting thing anymore!  

So, what do we do when parenting is hard? We pray. We pray some more. We pray even more. We pray for the hearts of our children. We pray that the Lord would give us wisdom as we parent. And, we don’t quit. We get back out there and keep doing this thing.

There is this beautiful, hard word that seems to be a theme throughout Scripture. It’s the idea of perseverance. When the going gets tough, by God’s grace, we keep doing this parenting thing.

If you’re struggling through some tough issues with your children (younger children, medium-sized, older), hear this:

There is nothing new under the sun!

If your child has made some big-consequence mistakes…

There is nothing new under the sun!

If your child is trying new, crazy, dangerous things just to be cool…

There is nothing new under the sun!

If your child is turning his back on everything he’s been taught and walking down a path that will only lead to trouble…

There is nothing new under the sun!

You may feel alone, because frankly, we don’t have to share every mistake our children make. These are their stories, too. It’s good and right to sometimes quietly persevere. But, persevere we must. Even when we don’t know what to say or what to do.

We pray. And we persevere.

If you’re not there yet, be prepared. KNOW that some tough parenting is coming. If you notice someone else having to do the tough stuff, don’t sit in judgment. We are sharing in one of the most beautiful, rewarding, heart-filling, ugly, messy, gut-wrenching missions of all time.

We must be filled with compassion and grace as we share in this parenting journey.

And,

We must never give up.