Dads, Ask Better Questions

Recently, I met with a father who is facing a phenomenon that is all too common. His teenage son asked a question that he found difficult to answer. The particular question he faced went something like this:

“Dad, I know smoking pot is illegal, but that seems to be changing in some states. If it were legal for a person of my age – would it still be bad?”

Normally the teen follows this question with a summary quote of a study that compares the effects of marijuana and alcohol on the brain and body. The common conclusion is – marijuana seems safer than alcohol. Typically, the proactive teen can even produce a couple of studies that seem to conclude that marijuana even has some health benefits.

The dad I had lunch with was quick to produce a verse. He mentioned Ephesian 5:18 where Paul warns us, “do not get drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit”. Dad proceed to take the principle of the verse and make application to marijuana, prescription drugs, etc.

Let me quickly say, “way to go dad!” you are showing your child your faith in the authority of scripture in your home – that’s awesome. In addition to this I would recommend you go a step further – ask a better question. Rather than simply asking, “is it bad?”, a better question would be, “why do you think people want to use marijuana?”. There are a number of reasons the honest teen will give for an attraction to the substance. It may be boredom, curiosity or peer pressure, however more often than not I am hearing teens say that they are tempted to smoke pot as a way of dealing with stress. Since that is the primary reason I am given I will show you how I address that response.

Stress in short spurts it can be helpful in that it gives us a dose of adrenaline for use in our natural, “fight of flight” response to a threat. It can energize us to tackle things properly. However prolonged stress is typically a form of what the Bible calls – worry. When a Christian is worried it should send them into a time of analysis. First, we should acknowledge that all worry is sin. Second we ask the following questions:

  • What specifically am I stressed about?
  • Are there practical things I can do to better the situation?
  • Are there things out of my control that I should trust God’s sovereignty about?
  • Am I acting in love toward all the parties involved – friends and enemies?
  • Is there any area that I need to store up or offer forgiveness toward someone?
  • Am I thinking on things that are true (Phillipians 4:8) or am I imagining things that I don’t have evidence of?

When we wrestle through such questions we typically find that we are humbled, driven near to God, and our stress (or worry) is turned into sense of peace and confidence in our Lord. The enemy offers a myriad of substances as an alternative to dealing with stress biblically – marijuana is one. Mood altering substances can become a crutch that keeps us from addressing the real problem.

More broadly – healthy things can also become crutches. Working out, for example, can serve to clear your mind, give you a burst of endorphins and enable you to do the hard work of biblical analysis. If, however, working out becomes an end in itself – it will also become a crutch and a replacement to working through your stresses biblically.

When addressing the question of recreation drug or alcohol use – consider a similar paradigm of questions depending on the teens response. If they are using primarily due to peer pressure, you want them to better understand what God’s word has to say concerning friendships.

When you deal with the issues of life this way it will not eliminate the temptation your kids face entirely but it will reduce a 10 temptation down to perhaps a 4, which is more manageable. In conclusion, remember – ask better questions.

Meals and Mission – Episode 1: Russia, Beef Stroganoff and Russian Salad

[DON’T MISS THE VIDEO AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POST]

Dining is, quite seriously, a religious experience in our home. A friend of mine quotes his father as saying,

“I do not eat, I dine”.

I know exactly what he means! The greats have always viewed meals as special! Henry David Thoreau said,

“He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise.”

Meals are special. History can be understood as a series of meals from the first bite of forbidden fruit (Genesis 3) to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19) with one major meal, the Last Supper, in between (Matthew 26). Jesus’s strongest critics focused on when he ate (Mark 2), how he ate (Mark 7), what he didn’t drink (Matthew 11), and whom he ate with (Mark 2). According to most biblical historians, practically every service in the early church involved a meal.

So, it is not surprising that the primary discipling of our families is expected to happen around the dinner table.

Deuteronomy 6:6–7 (ESV) And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 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.

We have found that there is no better place to disciple our children than around the dinner table. That is why we make it a priority to have an evening meal together at least 4 nights a week.

The conversation often turns to what God is teaching us, what we are studying in the Scriptures, and how we are trying to influence others for the Gospel. Recently, my wife and I wondered if there was a way to use that evening meal time to keep the Great Commission (Matthew 28), the mission field, and the work of missionaries in front of our children and in our regular conversation. We have created a tool to help to that end – we call it Meals & Mission.

My wife (Julie) is an incredible cook. She specializes in ethnic cooking. Since we are already in the habit of cooking one or two ethnic meals a week, we wondered what it would look like if we were more intentional in the selection of the meals. Seeking to find recipes from around the world that will allow us to circle the globe in the course of a year is our goal. Simultaneously, I will write a short devotional (2-3 paragraphs) that will communicate the climate of the missionary endeavor in that part of the world, introduce a missionary family, and give a few ways we can pray for the spread of the Gospel there.

From there, the idea began to grow. We figured, if we are going to go to the trouble to produce this material, we might as well seek to share it with you – the readers of my blog. So here is what we are attempting to produce at least once a month:

  • A recipe from a particular mission field
  • A short video that will teach you how to cook the meal
  • A devotion that you can print and read to your family

This will be a major undertaking for our already busy schedule. SO WE NEED YOUR HELP. We would like for you to consider sending us a recipe for an ethnic meal complete with a list of ingredients and instructions. Be sure to tell us where in the world the meal originated and, if possible, which people group you wish to focus on. We will do the research needed for the devotional, but if you have thoughts or resources to be considered, include those as well. You can leave your recipes, meal ideas, and devotional thoughts in the comment section below.

2a8a8d5e-69c4-427a-ba22-3bbb9b9935c3Now that you understand the context of what we are trying to accomplish, let’s begin with Episode 1 – Russia.

The Christmas Family

The following is a fictional story, more of what C.S. Lewis called, “a Supposal”. Suppose we were allowed to look into what occurred in heaven just before Messiah was born. This is what my sanctified imagination came up with…

A Christmas Supposal:

TITLE

It happened many years ago, although in the Celestial City, time is irrelevant. The Angelic Hosts were gathered in two companies before the Great Throne, arranged by their rank and duty. The two great ones, Michael and Gabriel, were seated on lesser thrones at the head of each company, with scores of cherubs, seraphs, and soldiers arranged behind them.

The time was at hand. After epochs of waiting, longing, wondering…that of which the prophets have spoken in the Holy Scriptures had arrived. It was now time for Messiah’s Advent. That second Person of the God-Head, the eternal Son of the Almighty, the Manifest One, would now be sent to a tiny blue planet to redeem the creatures on whom His affection was set.

Angelic hearts began to race. They had dreamed of this day. There were so many questions that would now be answered. Some expected the Messiah to travel to earth on a chariot of fire like that which gathered the prophet Elijah heavenward years earlier. Others had heard a rumor that God would form Messiah’s body of the dust of teh ground as he had done in the beginning. Yet, in actuality, eye had not seen, neither had it entered into any angelic heart, what God had prepared for the Advent of His Son.

From the midst of the throne thundered a voice that was at once both terrifying in its power and comforting in its tone. The decree of God sounded forth, informing the Angelic Host that,

“Messiah will transition to Earth by means of that ancient institution, the family.”

One could hear the angels gasp- a family. A human family. Out of all of the potential methods the Ancient of Days could employ, He did that which no one expected. Michael raised the question that was on everyone’s mind:

“Oh, Eternal One,” he asked. “They have all turned aside, all of them have gone astray. Even the mightiest of men wrestle with pride, with fear. Their lives are filled with drama. Who could handle such a responsibility?”

At that very moment, before the throne arose a great mist. Flashes of lightning and circles of rainbows proceeded from the mist, and images began to appear! The angels could now see beyond the Celestial City, through time and space. The images grew clearer and clearer until they revealed a scene unfolding on earth: it was a young man and a virgin at their betrothal ceremony.

Gabriel whispered, “They are so young.”

Then, the Almighty again spoke:

“Behold, My servants, Joseph and Mary of Nazareth, of the tribe of Judah, descendants of David. Mary will carry Messiah in her womb, and she will nurse Him. Together Joseph and Mary will see my Son through His earthly pilgrimage.

Don’t let their humble estate fool you. They have the greatest of all human traits: THEY TRUST ME. They walk by faith and not by sight. These two ordinary people will soon be husband and wife. They will carry all of the stress any other couple carries, and added to that, the enormous weight of being the earthly parents of Deity.”

No angel would dare question the wisdom of the Creator, yet God knew their hearts were troubled about this plan. Once again God explained,

My beloved messengers, the human family is my most mysterious, yet powerful creation. For that reason, the fallen ones from your ranks have waged war against families from the beginning. Yet the truth remains that if a husband and a wife will simply walk with Me, I can make from their union a cocoon that will transform a simple boy into a mighty man of valor. I can convert a little girl into a jewel among women. The very Son of God can grown in favor and stature with God and man, until He is ready to pay the ultimate price.”

“Master, an angel asked, “will we be allowed to set a legion of our best soldiers to watch over this family?”

You will have your part, as always,” answered the Almighty, “but please remember that I forge a family as I form a diamond. They will experience stress and enormous pressure. They will at times fear for their lives and the life of their Son. Yet, as they walk with Me, I assure you that the mission will be accomplished. So, let’s begin…”

There was silence in Heaven for about half an hour as a new star exploded into existence above the hillside of Judea. Then suddenly, the silence was broken by the crying of a baby, as all of Heaven toward Bethlehem did lean.

A Letter from the Future

I am constantly trying to come up with creative ways to bring truth to bear on the hearts of my kids. My latest attempt was to write a letter to my son from his son in the future. My son Cole has a brilliant imagination. Hopefully this letter from the future is speaking his language.

Dear Dad (Elijah Cole Terry),

I am writing you from the year 2034. In my time you are 31 years old and I am 9. My name is Eli. I hope you get this letter because there are a few things you really need to know.

  1. Take care of your legos – they are antiques in my day and you often tell me if we ever need money we can sell them on cloud 9 (it’s similar to what you call the internet).
  2. Whatever you do, don’t date the girl you have a crush on when you are 19, she turned out to be psycho.
  3. Mom is really pretty and you guys are best friends. She says, that she hopes you pray for her even now. She will not let me tell you when you guys meet for the first time, but learn how to play golf!
  4. You tell me often that prayer was always your greatest weapon. I guess you should start becoming good at it now and you will be even better in my time.
  5. Make sure you get a female labrador retriever at some point. As I write this letter my favorite dog Samson is sitting beside me, apparently he is the great grand-dog of your Levi.
  6. In 2031, remember that kids make mistakes, your hair WILL grow back and it was JUST A JOKE!!!
  7. Oh yeah, one more thing – hug Papa Zach for me and tell him when he buys the condo on the Moon to make sure it has bunk beds for the grandkids.

Your Loving Son,

Eli

Israel Trip 2014

 

HolyLand

We are planning a once in a  lifetime trip to Israel September 26 – October 5, 2014. Join us for the unforgettable trip as we see where Jesus walked, and where He will one day walk again. Click Here for the full brochure about the 2014 Israel Trip with Pastor Zach Terry

For more information about this trip please fill out the form below. Please fill out a separate form for each person planning to go on the trip.

Redeeming Santa

Nederlands: Sinterklaas tijdens het Het Feest ...

PREFACE: There are great Christian families on both sides of the Santa issue. This blog post is about how our family handles the concept of Santa.

As parents, Julie and I had to decide several years ago what we were going to do with Santa. In the interest of full disclosure – we don’t tell our children that a heavy-set guy with a long white beard is going to magically come into our home on Christmas Eve and bring them free gifts. Here’s why. When I was a kid, I never could sleep on Christmas Eve. I wanted to hear the reindeer on my roof! I couldn’t get over the magic of how Santa could be at the mall, and make it over to Hill’s Department store so quickly. Yet there were rumors that Santa wasn’t real and parents were actually the ones who bought the gifts. Also, I noticed that Santa brought me, an only child, really big and awesome gifts, while my little cousins in a large family down the street only got a few toys. I assumed, of course, they were just really bad kids.

I discovered the truth about Santa around age 8 when I figured I could get to the bottom of the rumors. I told the “Mall Santa” that I wanted all G.I. Joe toys, while telling my parents that I wanted He-Man action figures. When I woke up on Christmas morning, the tree was surrounded with a set of toys that would make Castle Grey Skull proud. The myth was over and my parents were busted. I was disappointed, but I couldn’t wait to go tell my cousins that they weren’t that bad after all!

So what does a Christian parent do with this massive character that’s all over our culture called Santa Claus? What about this religious tradition of celebrating Christ’s birth? How do we avoid developing materialistic children and lying to our kids?

WELL…our conclusion was to do our best to redeem Santa. We teach our kids the stories about St. Nicholas. He was a Pastor just like dad, he did some great things, and most importantly, he loved Jesus.

Brother Nicholas:

The late 200’s and early 300’s were an important time in church history. It was during this time that Christianity was legalized in the Roman Empire and ultimately became the state religion. It was also during this period that the heretic Arius had developed a significant following in Alexandria and he was teaching that Jesus was not fully God. It was at this time God raised up Athanasius of Alexandria to defend the Deity of Christ, which also led to the council of Nicaea in 325 where the Church came together to formulate a confession on the Deity of Christ.

In attendance at that Council of Nicaea was a Bishop from Myra in Lycia named Nicholas. This Nicholas cast his vote affirming his belief that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. Like most of the pastors in attendance, Nicholas had suffered persecution for his faith. He had been imprisoned for preaching Jesus and he had been exiled. It was said that the vast majority of the men in attendance at the council of Nicaea were missing limbs and/or were blind, having been tortured for preaching Jesus. 

Nicholas was born March 15, 270 AD to a Greek Family in Patara, a village in what is now Turkey. He became the Bishop of Myra in Lycia. Both Patara and Myra were cities visited by Paul during his missionary journeys (Acts 21 & 27).

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Esperanto: Patro Kristnasko kaj malgranda knabino Suomi: Joulupukki ja pieni tyttö (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nicholas had been born into a wealthy family, but lost his parents to a plague when he was a young child. During a trip to Jerusalem, Nicholas was converted and ultimately leveraged his inherited wealth on behalf of the poor children of his homeland. According to theresurgence.com, “He was known to frequently give gifts to children, sometimes even hanging socks filled with treats and gifts. Perhaps his most famous act of kindness was helping three sisters. Because their family was too poor to pay for their wedding dowry, three young Christian women were facing a life of prostitution until Nicholas paid their dowry, thereby saving them from a horrible life of sexual slavery.”

Because he pastored in a seaport community, he became very popular among the Greek and Italian sailors. He was their pastor. Keep in mind that most of these sailors had worshiped the pagan Roman and Greek gods, so they were accustomed to praying to Poseidon prior to conversion. It was very common for converted Christians to replace their pagan traditions with Christian substitutes. Nicholas became the replacement for Poseidon and a type of Patron Saint for Sailors.

In the late 1100’s, the Catholic Church began to officially recognize Sainthood. It was after this that Nicholas was officially declared a Saint. Dec. 6th became the day when the Catholic Church celebrated Saint Nicholas. It really had nothing to do with the birth of Christ, but rather a celebration of this man Saint Nicolas the Bishop of Myra. Dec. 6th was a kid’s favorite holiday. That is, when parents would hide toys in the kids’ wooden shoes if they were Dutch and in their stockings if they were German.

What does that have to do with Jesus’ birth?

Celebrating births was not a tradition in early Greco-Roman cultures.  So, for the first few hundred years of the early church, no mention was made of a celebration of the birth of Christ. According to Clement of Alexandria (200AD), several different days had been proposed by various Christian groups. Clement writes: “There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus, and in the 25th day of [the Egyptian month] Pachon [May 20 in our calendar].”

However, the leading theory as to why it was celebrated on Dec. 25 is as follows:

  • The Romans had their mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December
  • Barbarian peoples of northern and western Europe kept holidays at similar times
  • To top it off, in 274 C.E., the Roman emperor Aurelian established a feast of the birth of on December 25
  • January 6th, the day the Epiphany, was also celebrated as early as the 4th century

Thus, December 25 seemed to be a good move for the church to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Reformation Controversy:

English: Photo of Jonathan G. Meath portraying...

English: Photo of Jonathan G. Meath portraying Santa Claus. Date approximate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During the Reformation, however, Nicholas fell out of favor with Protestants, who did not approve of canonizing certain people as saints and venerating them with holidays. Over the next few hundred years, the desire of people to celebrate Saint Nicholas wouldn’t go away. The Protestant Church was divided on whether or not to celebrate Christmas. You see, the idea of Sola Scriptura tells us that Scripture is the source of faith and practice. It doesn’t tell us to remember the Birth of Jesus, but rather his death (through communion).

The Puritans in Boston in the 17th Century would fine you 5 shillings if you said, “St. Nicholas”.  You would even be fined for singing a Christmas Carol! But this celebrating just wouldn’t stop.

As a result, the Puritans in America began to combine St. Nicholas Day and Christmas together,  but they would often celebrate on Christmas EVE rather than Christmas Day. That is why to this day many people exchange gifts the day before Christmas and most Protestant churches have Christmas EVE celebrations rather than Christmas Day celebrations. So there you see how St. Nicholas Day and Christmas sort of merged on December 25 over time. Additionally, about 100 years ago, department stores began to recognize that there was  great opportunity for a market in the holiday of Christmas. They began holding grand Pageants and making it a bigger and bigger deal.

Various Secular Traditions that Merged into Dec. 25th

SANTA – Dutch Immigrants came over with the tradition of St. Nicholas (Sinterkaus in Dutch) visiting children. The Germans, however, had a tradition that Christ Kindle (The Christ Child) would do the same thing… bring gifts to kids. The British changed it to Father Christmas. But they were all trying to react against Catholicism.

In America it all got muddled together.  What we practice today is the combination of a lot of different traditions that have melted together.

CHRISTMAS TREE – In the 700’s, St. Boniface was a missionary from England sent to the Germanic tribes to teach them about Jesus. When he arrived, he discovered a practice where they would sacrifice slaves on a great Oak called the, “Oak of Thor”. In an attempt to show them the falsehood of their doctrine, he took an axe and began to chop down the oak of Thor… suddenly a great wind came up and blew the tree over. It was perceived as a miracle and ultimately the people began to convert to Christianity.

Boniface did what many missionaries did during that period. Rather than eradicate the traditions of people on the mission field, they would replace them with a Christian alternative. This is similar to what we do as a Protestant church with Parent/Child Dedication.

There was a long standing tradition of evergreen firs symbolizing life because they don’t go dormant in the winter. Remember that 1000 years ago winter was a very scary thing. People died every winter because they froze to death or they ran out of food. So it was common in the winter for people to desire to have evergreens close to their home to remind them of life. He used the triangular shape to symbolize the Trinity. The Germans would cut down fir trees and bring them into their homes and hang them upside down to point to the Godhead.

What does our family to do redeem Santa? 

  • We honor the man Nicholas and talk a lot about how much Santa (Nicholas) loved Jesus.
  • As a church, we have the Christmas Eve Service, where we take communion, read the Christmas story, and all go eat Chinese food afterward (long story).
  • We watch the Nativity movie.
  • We decorate in a way that reminds our family of the reason for the season.

Resources: 

Buck Denver Asks, “Why do we call it Christmas?”

Thoughts on Family Worship

I trust there are none here present, who profess to be followers of Christ who do not also practice prayer in their families. We do not have a positive commandment for it, but we believe that it is so much in accord with the genius and spirit of the gospel, and that it is so commended by the example of the saints, that the neglect thereof is a strange inconsistency. – Charles Spurgeon

 

If therefore our houses be houses of the Lord, we shall for that reason love home, reckoning our daily devotion the sweetest of our daily delights; and our family-worship the most valuable of our family comforts. . . . A church in the house will be a good legacy, nay, it will be a good inheritance, to be left to your children after you. – Matthew Henry

 

Devotions can be a time of true togetherness when family members share questions, doubts, thoughts, problems, and answers. Hearing one another pray or learning verses of Scripture together regularly establishes and reinforces the fact that God is at the center of the family unit. In my opinion, the success of family devotions relies much more on the parents’ conviction to have them than it does on a specific technique or carefully chosen material. The fact of the matter is this: If you truly consider family devotions vital to you and to your children’s welfare, you will make sure it becomes an integral part of your household routine. – Henry Brandt and Kerry Skinner, I Want to Enjoy My Children

 

What a heritage to pass along to our children . . . memories of home intertwined with memories of praise and laughter and song and the strong, undergirding arms of the living God. (Jack Hayford, “Making Your Home a Worship Center”)

 

If we want to bring up a godly family, who shall be a seed to serve God when our heads are under the clods of the valley, let us seek to train them up in the fear of God by meeting together as a family for worship. – Charles Spurgeon

Family Devotions that Work

I’ve been a dad for 11 years. During that time we have struggled to find the best way to do consistent family devotions. This has been a difficult journey for us for a few reasons:

  1. I was determined to create a time my kids didn’t hate. It is a sin to make the bible and prayer boring.
  2. As a recovering legalist I wanted this time to be very beneficial, something we yearned for, rather than one more hoop to add to our pride.
  3. When I commit to something I tend to commit fully, and typically “overdo” it. So I’m prone to make spiritual disciplines too ornate, with too many steps, and too many moving parts. I felt like when we got it right, it would be very simple.

If you have a discipline you intend to follow throughout your life, KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Here is what we do:

  1. About 8:30PM everyone gathers in the living room of our home.
  2. I break out my IPAD and open my ESV study bible app.
  3. We read one chapter (Currently reading Revelation)
  4. I give some insight from the text. Typically, these are things that a mature Christian can gather from a cold reading of the text, no commentary or study work needed.
  5. Others contribute what they see in the text and we may discuss a bit.
  6. We quickly take prayer requests and pray.
  7. Kids sent to bed, tucked in, complete with both mom and dad praying over each kid.

It’s simple, it works, it’s actually fun. It’s a nice conclusion to our day. What do you do to spur your tribe on to love and good deeds? Let us know in the comment section below!