3 Things Christ Following Parents Need to Constantly Remind Their Kids

My wife and I have been parents for a little over 3 years now. We have a 3 1/2 year old daughter and a 4 month old baby boy. No, we are not getting sleep at night and yes, we still love being mommy and daddy. Just the other night I was holding our 4 month old, Caleb, as he had fallen asleep in my arms. I began to look at him, gently rub his head and pray for him. In the background I could hear our 3 1/2 year old daughter running around, avoiding brushing her teeth and getting ready for bed. She is a constant reminder of what energy and laughter is. I thought about the world they will grow up in. I then thought about the solar eclipse that occurred this past Monday and what an incredible display of the awesomeness of God it was. I thanked God for who He is and how He graciously continues to reveal Himself to us. I thanked God that no matter how crazy our world gets, He is still on His throne.

As I was looking at Caleb I began to have a thought I have had many times before, “What do I really want our kids to learn and grasp?” As a Christ following parent, if I could remind them of a few things over and over, what would those things be? These three things came to mind…

God loves you more than you will ever know. Yes, it is crazy important for our kids to know how much we as parents love them. We are very intentional to constantly be affirming and loving with Madelyn and Caleb, even in the tough moments. Yet, even in their very young minds, we want to instill in them that the greatest love they will ever know is the love of God. As much as mom and dad love them, God loves them more. While being raised in a Christian home, having a dad who is a pastor, and being taught the Bible at church and at home, a relationship with God is personal. We desire for our kids to personally know and embrace how much God loves them. He loves them so much that He sent His one and only Son to die for their sins so they can have a right relationship with Him.

This world is broken. Just yesterday morning, while working from a local coffee shop, I had conversation with someone about brokenness in their family. Divorce in the midst of an affair had broken a more than 20 year marriage within their family. As I talked with this person, the conversation led into how an 8 old girl had been effected by the situation and the things she was being exposed to. In one word, brokenness. An 8-year-old sees this and an 88-year-old sees this. We live in a broken world as a result of sin. We need to constantly remind our kids that the brokenness they see is NOT the way God intended the world to be. Yet, He still is crazy in love with us even when we make decisions that do not bring Him glory. We must instill in our kids that yes, brokenness will always exist on this side of eternity but, they can choose to pursue Jesus.

Jesus is always better. Our kids will face many temptations and decisions along the way.  When it comes to choosing the God-honoring path or the worldly path, may we always instill in our kids that Jesus is simply better. He always is. The world offers quick, temporary “happiness” and Jesus offers eternal joy. There is a big difference in these two things. From the young child that yells, “But Mommy, I want it now!” to the teenager that keeps asking, “But why…?!” we need to constantly keep Hebrews 12:1-2 on the hearts and minds of our kids. Why? Because Jesus is better, in every single circumstance that may arise.

From one Christ-following parent to another one that is reading this right now, I know it is hard. We in no way have this parent thing figured out. There are parents that we lean on and ask for Godly advice all the time. We are praying for you as you raise kids in a world that does not love and pursue Jesus. We pray the Gospel of Jesus Christ will so grip your kids hearts and minds that they will passionately live for Jesus and His Kingdom. We are constantly praying this for our kids.

 

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Following Jesus.

We live in a world that embraces superficial things, is always looking for whatever is “new and next,” and will ultimately follow things that are only important to them. The moral compass of what is right and wrong is ever-changing and it seems that every time we turn on the TV something is going wrong. In the middle of this we do see things that excite us and things that are good. Maybe its our kids achieving a goal they have worked really hard on, our team excels and is in the state playoffs, we get a promotion at work, we find out that “the news” at the doctor’s office is not as bad as it could have been.

In the middle of all these ups and downs is the prominent priority that is on every Christ followers heart, following Jesus. As a pastor, I get asked all the time, “How do I know if I’m truly following Jesus?” For the most part, at the bottom of this, is a sincere heart that desires to make the name of Jesus famous. While it may not be announced from a stage with a microphone, it seems that many Christ followers, at the same time, feel as if they are consistently wondering what God thinks about them. “Man, I messed up this week” or “Wow, that didn’t go like I had hoped, how did that go so wrong” fills our minds. This leads us to wonder if our commitment to Jesus is genuine. While the enemy is masterful at “getting in our head” and lying to us in order to take eyes off of Jesus, I believe there are at least four indications that we can tangibly see that affirm we did have a genuine relationship with Jesus, the Savior.

The pursuit of God in His Word. A follower of Jesus Christ is simply this: A person who admits they are a sinner, in need of saving. They believe in their heart that Jesus can forgive them of their sins and have confessed Jesus to be the LORD and Savior of their life (Romans 10:9). It is not a speech given, it is a life lived. After making this life-changing commitment to Jesus, the pursuit of God in and through His Word is the desire of the heart. Each and every day we wake up and crave to be washed in the Word, wanting to know Jesus more, and leaning into His promises. It is absolutely impossible to follow Jesus apart from His Word. It simply cannot be done. If you claim to follow Jesus then you should be able to comfortably answer these two questions, “What are you reading in God’s Word right now?” and “What is God teaching you as you read His Word?”

The people around us. The people that we allow to influence our lives and the people we in return influence is a great indicator if you are following Jesus. If you claim to follow Jesus then you should be able to comfortably give exact times, groups, and locations in which you are in biblical community. What local church are you a member of? What small group are you apart of? How are you serving the body of Christ? This whole idea that “My relationship with Jesus is private” is simply not biblical. When you read the book of Acts, you see the early church on fire for Jesus and you see them accomplishing it together (Acts 2:42-47). While a relationship with Jesus is a personal, individual decision, the Christian life is not a solo act. A Jesus follower has people praying for and encouraging them while they are doing the same thing for others. They also have people in their life they trying to reach with Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our perception of life and eternity. A true follower of Jesus has an eternal mindset on all things. When Jesus changes a heart and life, how we deal we conflict, how we react to situations, and how we view what is most important all changes. We do not simply live for the here and now. A Christ follower knows that eternity is at stake. They simply do not go to work with the goal of making money. While bills must be paid, we go to work and view it as a mission field. A Jesus following high school football player is not simply on the team to break records and get a scholarship. He views his team as a mission field. A Christ follower wakes up with this on their mind, “Jesus, how can I love and pursue you more today than I did yesterday?”

The manner in which we pray. The more we follow Jesus, the more we will be conformed to His ways and thoughts. I love to hear a genuine, heartfelt, prayer of a faithful saint. In this you will hear struggles, victories, and a heart for the nations. A true Christ follower rarely prays for something that will only benefit themselves. A key question to consider here is, “Do I tend to pray more selfishly or sacrificially?” Your prayers and your “Christmas wish list” should not sound the same. While it is definitely appropriate and encouraged to pray for your walk with Jesus and things on your heart, a Christ follower is always others-focused.

John 15 is an incredible chapter in the Bible. It has great words of wisdom from Jesus about abiding in Him. John 15 shows us that if we are truly connected to the True Vine, others will be able to see it. Can others see this in you?

John 15:8 (CSB), “My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.”

Click HERE to download the Following Jesus Worksheet which will practically help you evaluate if you have a genuine walk with Jesus.

Three Prayers for Graduates

Graduation is an exciting time in the life of families. When students walk across the stage and receive their diploma, wave at family and friends, it closes one chapter and begins a new one. Christ following parents pray for years that when their high school senior reaches this season of life that they are equipped to engage the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They pray that would not simply know Bible stories but that they would know the story of the Bible. They pray that they would know exactly what they believe and why they believe it.

This is also a season of the unknown to a graduate. Sure they may know where they are going to school and what degree program interests them. Sure they may have a job lined up. However, for many graduates, it is their first time to have this much independence. The first time to experience what life is like in adulthood. So what should we pray for high school graduates entering this season of life?

“God, reveal yourself to me.”

Psalm 25:4a, “Show me your ways, Lord,…”

Every single believer in Jesus Christ should pray this often and with a sincere heart. If you have no desire for God to reveal Himself to you, then you are not walking with Jesus. You may know a few things about Him, but you are not walking with Him. What was the first thought you had this morning? What was the first action that you acted upon? For me, I answered 2 text messages and 4 emails before I even said hello to my family or got ready for the day. Don’t get so busy with life, work, and relationships that you place the most important relationship in your life on hold. When you wake up, may your hearts’s passion be: “God, reveal Yourself to me in a new and refreshing way.”

Then, be ready. If you really want God to reveal Himself to you, it will change your life. It will change your head, your heart, and your hands. 2 Corinthians 4:6 reads, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” 

“God, refine me through Your mission.”

Psalm 25:4b, “…teach me your paths.”

There is a ton of self-help philosophy out there these days.  “3 ways to be a better you!” “4 things that must be accomplished today!” “6 ways to climb up the latter in life!” “5 ways to get what you want!” You know what the difference in philosophy/life theories and walking with Jesus is? Philosophy is connected to a system. Christianity is connected to the Savior. Systems, as good as some of them may be, will fail you at some point. They will let you down. Jesus will never, ever fail you, even in your worst moments and on your worst days.

The second half of verse 4 says, “teach me Your paths.” Don’t walk in your own strength and in your own wisdom. Jeremiah 6:16 encourages us by reminding us that, “This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”

 “God, ready me to live my faith strong.”

Psalm 25:5, “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”

Then, what is the action item? David prays in verse 5 that the LORD would guide him. Our world does not love Jesus. What is one of the best things you can do for a world that does not love Jesus? Ready yourself, in and through the Holy Spirit, to live a strong faith. What are some ways you can tell you have a strong faith? As a result of your faith, do others ask you about your faith often? Do you lead well in your home, church, and in your circle of influence? When things don’t go well, what or whom do lean on? Your faith in Jesus or what you can simply figure out? 2 Corinthians 5:7 reminds us of an incredible truth we must live by daily, “For we live by faith, not by sight.” In life, you may not see what is coming around the corner but, you serve a God that knew it was coming before you ever even existed. Trust Him, with all your heart.

Congratulations class of 2017.

Why I’m Using Pencil and Paper More Often

I love technology. I use various forms of technology multiple times a day. I’m writing this blog post on a MacBook Pro, while wearing an Apple Watch, while seeing a notification on my iPhone laying next to me. It is safe to say I use technology to its fullest.

With all that being said, at the beginning of the year I made a little bit of a switch and moved away from using some soft of electronic device for everything. Honestly, it has greatly helped me. So what have I done? I am using pencil and paper more often. I know, earth shattering stuff right there. More specifically, there are two things I’m using pencil and paper more often for. First, I use a Moleskine Weekly Planner for my weekly to-do list and appointments.  This is a great tool with the week’s dates on the left side (appointments) and a blank lined page on the right side (to-do list). Second, I’m carving out my messages for Wednesday nights in a journal. Full disclosure, for both of these things, weekly planning and messages, I still save them digitally. I use iCal for events and appointments and all my messages end up in a word document, saved in my Dropbox. I still teach from my iPad more times than not. It is simply easier all around for me.

So why use pencil and paper more often? What differences have I seen?

I remember more. It is amazing how many tasks and appointments I accomplish and don’t forget about quite as easily when I simply write it down. I will put it down on my weekly calendar which I look at multiple times a day. I remember to pray for people more often as I look at their name. I can also see what it most important to me. Simply put, I forget less and pray more. What I have also found is that if I don’t write it in my weekly planner, I more than likely will end up not doing it.

It feels more intimate. I’m sure there is some sort of formal scientific explanation here but, there is something about writing things down and looking at your own messed up handwriting that makes your content feel more intimate. I feel like it is more personal and in some ways, more from the heart. I’m not saying this can’t be the case when you are looking at a digital screen, it just, to me feels more intimate when I read what I have wrote down. This is also a reason that I am using a hard copy of God’s Word more often. It encourages the students and leaders I lead to bring a copy of God’s Word, to highlight and underline in it, and to make notes. It is great to go back and look at what God taught you in different seasons of life.

I’m more organized. When writing things down, I can see what I have to do and how I’m going to manage it and ultimately do it. This goes beyond simply not forgetting tasks and appointments and into mapping things out ahead of time, being proactive with my schedule instead of reactive, and making sure the most important things get done before anything else. It can also serve as a great evaluation tool as it will tell you what you spend most of your time doing during the week.

The takeaway… I have found using pencil and paper helps me more than I realize. It works for me. It won’t work for everyone. The bottom line here is to find a system that works for you. One that comes naturally and that is not forced. You will be amazed what you learn about yourself and how much your leadership skills will improve as a result.

Caleb Andrew Kinkade

On April 7, 2017 we welcomed our second child into the world, Caleb Andrew Kinkade. Madelyn is doing great as a big sister and everyday we continue to learn and grow ourselves as parents.

At the end of the day, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

We are praying three specific prayers over Madelyn and Caleb’s lives as we raise them to love and pursue Jesus more than she loves anything else.

  • Our first prayer is that their lips would proclaim the glory of God to the nations.
  • Our second prayer is that their hands would be about the work of the LORD.
  • Our third prayer is that their feet would walk in truth.

Baby Caleb

Making God-Honoring Decisions

Some people love to take charge and make decisions. Others hate it and avoid it at all cost. No matter what end of the spectrum you find yourself, we all have to make decisions. No matter if you are asking, “Where will I take my family to eat tonight?” or if you are asking, “Who will I marry?” decisions, big and small alike, are very crucial in life. THE most important decision one can make is accepting Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior. All other decisions don’t even compare to this one.

After begin a youth pastor for almost a decade now, I have seen incredible God-honoring decisions made and I have seen terrible decisions made. Decisions tend to make or break us in one form or fashion. They have consequences and rewards. They mature us.

So the question, and one that many people struggle with, is “How do I make God-honoring decisions in my life?” The question behind the question is, “How do I know if I’m making the right decision that will please God and cause me to pursue Him more?

I believe Philippians 4:8-9 gives us an incredible framework and lenses to go by. Here we see eight characteristics that Paul is telling believers to “think about such things.” These can serve as a lenses in which we filter and make God-honoring decisions.

Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV), “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

1. True: Am I prayerfully grounding this decision in the truth of God’s Word?

2. Noble: Is this in line with Godly character?

3. Right: Will this encourage and help others?

4. Pure: Are my thoughts, motives, and actions pure in this?

5. Lovely: Will this help build community?

6. Admirable: How will this effect my testimony?

7. Excellent: Am I choosing best over good?

8. Praiseworthy: Who gets the credit, you or God?

Click HERE for an expanded tool that includes these eight questions and more content to equip you making God-honoring decisions.

Christ Followers, Committed Athletes, and the Faith Journey

I’m a big sports fan. It is not the most important thing in my life or even the second most important thing in my life but it is something that I have committed a lot of time, energy, and resources to over the years. In fact, I don’t remember to many summer vacations growing up because most my summers were spent on the baseball ball field. Therefore, my family would vacation during the Christmas break. Currently, I serve with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as a Character Coach at a local elementary school.

We live in a sports-crazed society no doubt. A week rarely goes by in which we don’t learn about some sort of “breaking news” in the world of sports. Recently, three men were inducted into Cooperstown, the Hall of Fame for Major League Baseball. This week is the Super Bowl in the National Football League. There is a lot of hype, analytical work, and money spent on things like this.

As Christ followers, Jesus desires certain traits and characteristics in us. When you read the Scriptures you see the type of people He called to follow Him, to join Him on mission. You will notice things such as hard work, devotion, and passion. You also see these traits in athletes that are successful on any level of competition. Furthermore, I believe we as Christ followers can learn a lot from the lifestyle, work ethic, and passion of committed athletes. Allow me to highlight four of these areas.

Train effectively and often. The coaches I had growing up taught me this: Games are won in preparation. If you have lousy practices during the week, you will probably not find yourself in the win column that often. Committed athletes train physically no doubt but, it is just as important to train mentally and emotionally as well. Winning athletes wake up before any else to train. They are the first ones in the building and the last ones to leave. Their dedication to their team and sport is undeniable. As Christ followers, how often are we training spiritually? This goes way past picking up a Bible every once in a while. Some Christ followers might tell you Jesus is the most important aspect of their life but then will scramble to find their Bible for church on Sunday mornings. It is not only important to train often but also effectively. Things such as accountability, biblical community,  involvement in the local church, and consistent gospel conversations, are crucial in the life of a believer and help us grow in our walk with Jesus.

Forced to think “we” before “me.” Sports, in large part, are team-oriented sports. You have to be successful as a team unit in order to be effective and win. The most successful teams are full of individual team members who work hard to be the very best at their specific job so that the overall team is successful. With that being stated, there is no denying teams are full of self-centered, egotistic, “all about me,” athletes. What do you see come from this? Distractions and a broken team unit. While they may be incredibly gifted athletes, they end up hurting their team instead of helping their team. Committed, successful athletes are forced to think and thrive on “we” before “me.” A quarterback-wide receiver combination is only as good as the offensive line is. In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 9, Jesus told His disciples you must deny self, pick up your cross daily, and follow me. The mission of God is all about one person, Jesus Christ. It is not about us, it is about something  way bigger than us.

Make others around them better. This is possibly the single most important trait of a committed, successful athlete. When they step onto the field or court, they make others around them better. Their skill set allows others to shine. I love seeing an elite quarterback make an average wide-receiver look incredible. This also gets back to the theme of work ethic. When leaders in the locker room work endlessly, it is amazing how often others on the team exemplify that. On the other end, when leaders in the locker room have terrible attitudes, it can destroy the team as well. Jesus spent His earthly ministry pouring into a few men with an incredibly calling on their life. He taught them, spent time with them, prayed with and for them. Why? Ultimately because He loved and cared for them but also because He knew the type of impact they could and would have. Being around Jesus, His Kingdom and mission makes us better believers, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, employees, and so on.

Play through the pain. Committed, successful athletes want to be on the field or court at all cost. They will do whatever it takes to be able to play and help their team win. It kills them to stand on the sidelines and watch. They play hurt and convince the training staff they can play even when they probably shouldn’t. Their attitude is “cast it up” and lets play ball! The Christian life is hard, no doubt. It is a life of self-denying sacrifice that comes with victories and hardships, bumps and bruises. At the end of the day though, a committed, successful athlete knows it is worth it. Following Jesus is not always easy, it is always worth it. Every single time.

So to the Christ follower… are you training effectively and often or are you being lazy and apathetic? Are you thinking “we” before “me?” Are you making others around you better by the example you are setting? Are you playing through the pain or are you giving up?