Jun 23, 2017

20 Funny Bible Quotes from Kids

It's Friday, so let's have some fun.  Here are 20 funny quotes about the Bible that kids have uttered.  From the mouth of babes...

A Christian should only have one spouse.  This is called monotony.

Lots wife was a pillar of salt by day, but a ball of fire by night.

Noah's wife was called Joan of Ark.

Solomon had 300 wives and 700 porcupines.

Joshua led the Israelites in the battle of Geritol.

The greatest miracle in the Bible was when Joshua told His son to stand still and he obeyed him.

The first commandment was when Eve told Adam to eat the apple.

Noah couldn't do much fishing while he was on the ark because he only had two worms.

Moses died before he ever reached Canada.

As the offering plate was being passed, a 4-year-old said, "You don't have to pay for me, daddy.  I'm under 5."

When you get scared, God will bring you your quilt.  He said the Comforter would come.

It says "the Lord thy God is One."  But I think He is a lot older than that.

Pretty soon all of the early people died off, except for Methuselah, who lived to be like a million or something.

Noah built a large boat and put his family and some animals on it.  He asked some other people to join him, but they said they would have to take a rain check.

Jesus had twelve opossums.  The worst one was Judas Asparagus.  Judas was so evil that they named a terrible vegetable after him.

The epistles were the wives of the apostles.

David was a Hebrew king skilled at playing the liar.  He fought with the Finklesteins, race of people who lived in Biblical times.

Samson slayed the Philistines with the axe of the Apostles.

Moses led the Hebrews to the Red Sea, where they made unleavened bread, which is bread made with out any ingredients.

When Mary heard that she was the mother of Jesus, she sang the Magna Carta.

Your turn.  Add to the fun in the comment section below.

Jun 22, 2017

Will the Next Generation of Kids Believe the Bible? The Latest Findings

The latest findings from Gallup Polls show that only 24% of Americans now believe the Bible is the literal Word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.  26% view it as a book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man.

This is the first time in 40 years that Biblical literalism has not surpassed Biblical skepticism.  About half of Americans fall in the middle, saying the Bible is the inspired Word of God but that not all of it should be taken literally.

From the mid-1970s through 1984, close to 40% of Americans considered the Bible the literal word of God, but this has been declining ever since, along with a shrinking percentage of self-identified Christians in the U.S.  Meanwhile, the percentage defining the Bible as mere stories has doubled, with much of that change occurring in the past three years.  Still, while Biblical literalism has waned, the vast majority of Americans -- 71% -- continue to view the Bible as a holy document, believing it is at least God-inspired, if not God's own words.

According to a National Study of Youth and Religion, a significant majority of teens still believe in God.  But this has also declined from 84% in 2002 to 78% today.  Sociologist Patricia Snell Herzon says, "A large majority believe that religion is important, but they become less actively involved as they age through adolescence.  Religion is just there in the background.  We describe it as the furniture of their life."

Many teens also have a distorted view of God, embracing what is called "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism."  This consists of beliefs like these:

1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about ones self.
 4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die. 

Other research shows that Americans are five times less likely to pray now as compared to the early 1980's.  Since 2004, fifty percent more Americans say they never pray.  Among Millennials, who are the parents of the next generation, 24% say they never prayed in an entire year.  

These trends should be a wake up call for all of us.  If it continues, an even smaller percentage of the next generation will believe the Bible is the Word of God, much less have a relationship with Him.

First of all, we must teach the kids who are attending our churches, WHY we believe the Bible is the Word of God.  They must know why they believe what they believe or they will more than likely be swept away by a culture that continues to walk farther away from God.  A good place to start is with this apologetics series.

We must also give the next generation a true picture of who God is.  This comes back to the Word of God.  A true picture of who God is comes from a true understanding of what the Bible teaches about God.

We must reach Millennial parents.  If we are to reach the next generation, we must reach those who influence them the most, their parents.  Reach Millennial parents and you will reach Gen Z. 

We must also help kids move beyond just knowing about God to really knowing God.  If He is simply a piece of furniture as stated, they will push Him aside as they grow older.  But if we are able to help them discover a true relationship with a living, true God, they can continue to grow closer to Him and deeper in their faith each year.

Stats can be seem empty and cold.  But what these stats represent are kids, moms, dads and grandparents who desperately need Jesus.  Real kids and families in your neighborhood and mine. 

We can look at these stats and be discouraged or we can renew our prayers, efforts and commitment to reach the next generation like never before.  The Gospel is just as powerful as ever.  One encounter with Jesus can change their life forever.  God is still at work.  He is simply looking for someone to say, "Here am I Lord, send me!"

Let's reach the next generation! 

Jun 21, 2017

4 Keys to Following Up with Kids Who Make a Salvation Decision at VBS or Camp

Lots of churches present the Gospel to kids at VBS and Camp.  It's normally one of the key times in the year when you will see kids respond to the Gospel.  It is always exciting to see the reports from churches during the summer of kids who have invited Jesus into their life.

But the big questions is this?  How will we follow up with these kids?  How will affirm that they understand the decision they made?  How will we help them get off to a good start in their walk with Christ?  What next steps will we have for them?

I believe there are 4 keys to following up with kids who make a salvation decision at VBS or camp.  Let's take a look at them.  

Key #1 - Involve the child's parents.  Since parents are the primary spiritual influence in a child's life, it is obviously crucial that we involve them.  Think about how you are going to communicate the child's decision to the parents.  A letter?  Phone call?  Text?  Email?  In some cases, the child's parents may not attend your church or not attend any church.  This presents a great opportunity to share the Gospel with the parents as well.  Which takes us to the next key.

Key #2 - Invite the child and his/her parents to a new believer's class.  I can't emphasize this enough.  Here's why.  It helps the child reinforce the decision he or she has made.  It also gives you an opportunity to see the parents come to Christ.

Several years ago, I stopped doing large group salvation prayers for kids and went to the approach of inviting kids who expressed an interest in accepting Christ to a class with their parents.  You can read more about that in this post.  This is not to say this is the only approach, but I have found that you are able to reach entire families if you do this.  Last year, the ministry I led used this approach and we saw 450 kids go through the new believer's class.  On top of that, every single child was accompanied by his or her parents.  This enabled us to also see many, many parents accept Christ with their child as well.

The class curriculum I wrote for this is called Starting Point and is being used in dozens of churches. The format works in any size church.  You can get more information about getting it at this link. 

Key #3 - Help the child take their next step.  We know the next step after beginning a relationship with Jesus is baptism.  It is important to help kids understand what baptism is and how they can the step.  The parents should definitely be involved in this.  Never baptize a child under 18 without his or her parent's approval.

Coming out of the Starting Point class, I take kids through a baptism class.  Parents attend this class with their child as well.  We explain what baptism is and isn't and why you should be baptized.  Having parents attend the class with their child again enables you to see many parents follow Jesus in baptism as well.  Here is more information about the baptism class I wrote for this.  I have personally seen hundreds of parents baptized with their child after going through this class.

Key #4 - Provide them with tools to grow in their faith.  What can you place in their hands that will help them grow in their faith?  A new Bible?  A devotion book?  Follow up questions for parents to ask at home?  Key verses to read?

What an awesome privilege we have to share the Gospel with kids and families.  With it comes the responsibility to make sure we present it clearly and thoroughly.  Recent stats show that 78% people who claim no religion actually grew up in church.  I wonder how many of these people went forward to "join the church" when they were kids, but no one took the time to make sure they knew they were doing?  Or how many of them prayed a quick prayer without understanding what it meant? 

Let's make sure the kids God entrusts us with are followed up with so they can get off to a great start in their walk with Jesus.  We want to see kids follow Jesus for a lifetime.

Jun 20, 2017

Transgender Children...A Christian Leader's Response

The front cover of a recent National Geographic Magazine issue was titled "Gender Revolution" and featured a picture of nine-year-old Avery Jackson of Kansas City.  Avery has lived as an openly transgender girl since the age of five.

"I am Jazz" is a a reality show on TLC about Jazz Jennings.  Jazz was born a boy, but at age 4, was diagnosed with gender dysphoria.  By Jazz's 5th birthday, the parents decided to support the child's female gender identity.  The show gives you an inside look at the child's journey and family dynamics.

Discussions and debates about transgender issues have escalated.  Much of this has been sparked by bathroom policies, which is a lightning rod.  Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old who was born female, but now identifies as a male, went to court to have the right to use the boy's bathroom at Gloucester High School.  In April of 2016, Target publicized a bathroom policy that stated customers were welcome to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.  “Inclusivity is a core belief at Target,” the company wrote. “Everyone deserves to feel like they belong.  And you’ll always be accepted, respected and welcomed at Target."  This sparked a protest and national boycott.

As Christian leaders that minister to kids and families, we can't ignore the transgender revolution, hoping that we will never have to be personally involved.  But as we look at Scripture, we see that Jesus didn't walk away from the messiness of a world broken by sin.  He walked right into the middle of it and met people where they were...offering hope, help and healing.

The quick thing to do is paint a broad stroke with cries of "sinful" or "against nature" or "perversion."  It's especially easy when you're simply typing words on a computer or posting on social media.  But when you interact face-to-face with families who are trying to navigate with their child who says he or she is transgender, it becomes very real and your words of condemnation slow down very quickly.  

So, how should we respond?  As I began to personally journey with families whose children are struggling with being transgender, I went searching for answers.  One of the best resources that I found was the book "Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture" by Dr. Mark Yarhouse.  Mark is the Hughes Endowed Chair and Professor of Psychology at Regent University and is one of the leading Christian voices in transgender issues.

In the book, Mark helps define terms, which is where we must start.

Transgender - an umbrella term for the many ways people experience a mismatch between their gender identity and their biological sex.

Gender identity - how people experience themselves as male or female, including how masculine or feminine they feel.
Gender dysphoria - deep or abiding discomfort over the incongruence between one’s biological sex and one’s psychological and emotional experience of gender.  In simpler terms, a boy feels like a girl trapped in a boy's body and visa versa.   A prior previous version of the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual included the diagnosis “gender identity disorder.”  It highlighted cross-gender identity as the point of concern.  The newest version refers instead to “gender dysphoria,” moving the discussion away from identity and toward the experience of distress. 

Transgender and homosexuality -  gender dysphoria and transgender issues are not about having sex or attraction to the same sex; they are about an experiential mismatch between one’s psychology and one’s biology.  People often confuse the two, likely due to transgender being a part of the larger lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) discussion.  

What causes gender dysphoria?  The most popular theory among those who publish on this topic is the brain-sex theory.  It proposes that the brain maps toward male or female, which in nearly all cases corresponds with various biological indicators of sex: chromosomes, gonads, and sex hormones.  In rare instances, the normal sex differentiation that occurs in utero occurs in one direction (differentiating toward male, for example), while the brain maps in the other direction (toward female).  Several gaps remain in the research behind this theory, but it nonetheless compels many professionals.

What normally happens as a child with transgender leanings grows up?  In 3 out of 4 cases, the gender identity conflict resolves on its own.  However, about three-fourths of children who experience lessening or resolution grow up to identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

So how should we respond as Christian leaders who minister to children and families?  Mark identifies three lens we can look through when it comes to transgender identity.

Lens #1 - The Integrity Lens
This lens draws a hard line based on Biblical passages.  It approaches the issue emphatically using passages such as Genesis 2:21-24.

So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening.  Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.  “At last!” the man exclaimed.  “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh!  She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man'.”  This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.

It sees transgender as one theologian put it, "the denial of the integrity of one’s own sex and an overt attempt at marring the sacred image of maleness or femaleness formed by God." 

This lens does reflect the truth of God's Word.  Scripture is clear about male and female distinction.  And as Christian leaders, we must have the integrity to uphold God's Word.  Truth does not change just because the culture changes.  Truth does not change to be "politically correct."  If we totally abandon the truth lens, we pull away the foundation that our faith rests upon.   

But the temptation when looking through the truth lens is to shove scripture at the family and tell them to align with God's Word...no questions asked.  To tell them to "repent" and "get their act together as a parent."  To give them hard rules and ultimatums.  It looks like...

"Your child cannot attend the children's ministry at church if they are dressed as the opposite sex."

"We do not want your child sitting in the group of kids they identify with as a transgender child."

"You are failing as parents."

"Your family is being immoral for allowing this to happen." 

"You must get your child in line and make them stop."

"We refuse to call your child by their transgender name."
To be honest, when I was first faced with a family going through this with their child, this is where my thoughts first tracked. I think this would probably be true for most Christian leaders.  We simply don't know, so we immediately look through the integrity lens first.

Lens #2 - The Disability Lens
This lens upholds the integrity lens, but it also understands that we live in a fallen, broken world.  It views gender dysphoria as a result of living in this broken world and not as a direct result of a moral choice.  Simply put...it is condition that comes from the Fall.  The person may make choices in response to their condition which have moral and ethical implications, but the person is not culpable for having the condition.  Think about it, with a  5, 6, 7, 8-year-old child, it is not a case of a child who is deliberately "rebelling against God" and choosing a certain lifestyle.  

When you sit down with a family whose child is struggling with transgender issues and talk with them rather than just dismissing them, this comes to light.  I am reminded of one family I journeyed with.  Their child had never been exposed to any outside transgender influences, had not been abused nor been encouraged in any way to be transgender.  None of the child's older brothers or sisters identified as transgender.  From an early age, the child began to identify as transgender.  At first the parents, who are believers, took the "integrity lens" approach with their child.  They drew a hard line and pushed their child toward the birth gender.  But as the child grew, it became more difficult to maintain the "integrity lens only" approach.  When your child is crying, struggling emotionally and seems to be going downhill fast, you begin to search for answers.  First and foremost, you are seeking to protect your child and keep them healthy.  You are haunted by the fact that 41% of transgender people attempt suicide sometime in their life.  

It's easy to cast judgment on families who have a transgender child.  It's easy to say "if it were my child, I would take care of it in one day" or "I wouldn't put up with it."  In my personal observtions, I have found the opposite is true.  It's a scary, heart-breaking journey for families who have to walk through this with their child.  If you've never walked a mile in their shoes, you really can't understand or truthfully say what you would or would not do.  

The disability lens helps you understand this and fills your heart with compassion for the child and family.  The disability lens helps you see parents who love their child deeply and are just trying to help them navigate through what they are facing.  The disability lens doesn't abandon truth, but it balances the truth with love.  The disability lens listens to the family with empathy.  The disability lens blends Scripture, the latest medical research and the personal story of the family.  The disability lens makes room for support and care.  

I believe this lens most accurately reflects the heart of Jesus.  It listens to the child and family facing gender identity with empathy and compassion.  It sits and cries with them rather than just denouncing them.  It provides pastoral care. 

Whereas just using the integrity lens most often will shut the door on any opportunity to minister to the family, the disability lens opens the door to walking with them.  

An example of this is honoring the family's request to use the child's preferred name and pronouns when you are talking with them.  If the child is a transgender male who's birth name was Joseph and the parents ask you to address the child as Jo Anne instead and use the pronoun "her" rather than "him," you should honor their request.  This is not the time to pull up the integrity lens exclusively.  Doing so will push the family away and forfeit the opportunity to establish a relationship with them.

I also want you to consider this.  The transgender child will remember how you responded for the rest of their life.  At the time when he or she needed you the most, what will the child remember?  A church that turned their back on him or her?  A church that refused to listen with compassion?  A church that walk away from the struggle rather than to the struggle?  Or will the child remember the church was a safe place where they could find help?  A place that cared and loved them unconditionally?  A church that pointed them to God's grace and redemption? 

Lens #3  - The Diversity Lens
This lens celebrates, honors and revers transgender persons.  This is a much more liberal alternative than the integrity or disability lens.  This lens promotes transgender with the desire to help people with gender dysphoria find acceptance and purpose in life.  This lens leans toward disregarding Scripture.

What should we do as a Christian leaders?

Avoid gossip.  In my experience, most families whose child is transgender will come to you in confidentiality.  The last thing they need is for you to "spread the word" to other parents.  This will only fuel the shame that drives these families away from church.  This does not mean you try to cover it up, but you should only talk about it with other families on a need-to-know basis.

Don't try to be a professional Christian counselor if you are not one.  You can minister to the family as a pastor, but for professional help, point them toward a licensed Christian counselor.

Embrace the messiness of ministry.  We must remember that ministry is messy.  As I stated earlier, that's what Jesus has called us to.  We are to enter the messiness of a broken world and help people wherever they are in their journey.  At the same time, we must remember that we can't "fix" people.  Our role is to point people to Jesus and help them grow in their relationship with Him.  It is the Holy Spirit that transforms people into the image of Christ.

Only using the integrity lens will cause us to join the culture wars and become known for what we are against rather than what we are for.  But if we are going to minister to children and families effectively, we must rise above this and be a witness to the grace and redemption offered through Christ.  We must remember that the church is a hospital for those who are struggling, not a museum where perfect Christians are on display.

As our culture continues to shift, many of you reading this will be called upon to walk through this with families.  I know of several churches right now who are.  These churches are working through the same questions you will be faced with from parents.
Can my child use the bathroom of their gender identity?

Can my child wear the clothes style of their gender identity?

Can my child be part of the small group that is their gender identity?

Can my child sleep in the dorm of their gender identity at camp?

Will you address my child by the name and pronoun of their choice?

What are you going to tell other parents who become aware of our situation and ask you about it?

Will you accept my child and treat him or her as the other children?

Do you have a counselor you can recommend?
Don't try to do this alone.  This is definitely something you should bring to your pastor, elders, senior leaders, etc.  The senior church leadership must help navigate this.  Many times, they will want to meet with the family with you.

As we navigate with transgender children and their families, I encourage you to consider Mark's concluding thought. 

"We can remind ourselves that the book of redemption in a person's life has many chapters.  You may be witness to an early chapter of this person's life or a later chapter.  But Christians believe that God holds that person and each and every chapter in his hands, until that person arrives at their true end—when gender and soul are made well in the presence of God."

I invite your thoughts and insight in the comment section below.