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What’s On Your Playlist

Did you know that before he was thrown out of heaven, Lucifer (aka Satan) was the angel in charge of music? He may be an outcast, but he’s still in the music business. In Ephesians 2:2 he’s called the prince of the power of the air, the spirit…in the children of disobedience. One of his most effective tools is music.

We all know that music is powerful, and it can be inspiring, but if listening to it leads us to adopt wrong attitudes and develop harmful thinking patterns, it becomes a destructive force in our lives. Under the influence of some music, we may open ourselves to Satan’s subtle lies. It’s important to be sure our music standards line up with God’s Word.

Below are four steps you can take that will help you make wise decisions about music. Everyone’s preferences are different, but what matters is that the music styles we listen to support the Word of God and build us up. Everything we do should honor and glorify God, including the choices we make about music.

Step One: Research the Artist

1. The Artist’s Lifestyle

Cary Schmidt states in his book Music Matters: “Music produces a lifestyle.” Before you listen to that next song, take some time to learn more about the writers of the music and lyrics. Look at their associations and check out their appearance.

Each person has a unique style, and you can tell a lot about people by what they wear and how they carry themselves. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 6:17: Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. This is a clear command to be different from the world. If an artist doesn’t look different from the world and doesn’t associate with people who support God, then that artist probably isn’t producing music that would be in a Christian’s best interest.

2. The Artist’s Intent

Consider these questions: “What is the artist trying to get people to believe or think through this particular song? Is this Christian artist producing music for self-gratification and personal glory, or for the purpose of pointing others to Christ and promoting His glory?”

This point is especially important in the realm of Christian music. Back in 2002, research was done on a Christian rock group that maintains a public display of Christianity by having Bible studies with distinguished fundamental pastors, but when it comes to concert time, things become much different. The members of the Christian rock group spray pentagram tattoos on themselves, employ the hard rock vocal style of Creed’s Scott Stapp, and on stage they’ve been known to act like crazy rock-‘n’-rollers.

If these artists’ intent was to truly point others to Christ based on their music, then why must they dress and play music in a way that relates to the world? Are they trying to build a bigger audience base? It’s God’s responsibility to draw more people to Him, but He wouldn’t use worldly ways to do that.

Step Two: Listen to the Beat

1. The Association of the Beat

To understand what makes rock ‘n’ roll what it is, let’s examine its specific characteristics. The first characteristic of rock music is the driving beat. The rhythm is the dominant sound. Many music therapists explain that it’s through our bodies that we first respond to the rhythm of music.

The second characteristic of rock music is the repetition and loud volume. Rock-‘n’-roll music consists of endless repetition of rhythmic, harmonic and melodic patterns. Steven Halpern, in his book Tuning the Human Instrument, states: “The loud volume, drums, and repetition of much of the contemporary rock genre bears a not-coincidental resemblance to trance music found in other parts of the world.”

Look at how Moses in the book of Exodus described the sounds he heard as he approached the Israelites’ camp upon his return after receiving the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 32:17–18 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. And he [Moses] said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.

When Moses came back from a rewarding time with God, he found God’s chosen people participating in gross immorality, and they were engulfed with music described as “a noise of war.”

We must be careful about taking music that has good lyrics and pairing it with the beat of the world. In that instance, we end up with music that still appeals to the flesh and takes on the form of the world, but has good lyrics. This would be like going to a bar and ordering a beer. Since you don’t drink, nor would you ever drink, you dump out the beer and replace it with apple juice. You know that it’s apple juice and it won’t harm you, but its container gives a totally different impression.

2. The Purpose of the Beat

When deciding on what type of music is acceptable, be careful to avoid listening to music whose beat strives to satisfy the flesh:

Romans 13:14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.

Worshipping God is not about an emotional breakthrough, it’s about giving reverence to God and recognizing Him for who He is. Dan Lucarini says in his book Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement:

“Is the rock music style used in so much CCM associated with any particular moral dimension?
I argue that it is clearly and unequivocally associated with immorality, especially promiscuous and adulterous sex, glorification of drugs, and rebellion against authority. But Dan, you must mean the secular godless lyrics, not the music. No, I mean the music style itself. Decades of rock music in our culture have permanently stamped that music style with the dimensions of immorality. Changing the lyrics and substituting Christian musicians cannot remove that stigma.”

When the beat of the song takes the form of something that’s negative, such as rock music, and appeals to our flesh in an uncontrolled way and gets us to focus on and do things that don’t please God, then we must abstain.

Step Three: Understand the Text

1. Do the Words Honor to God?

This principle mainly applies to secular songs. When listening to a song, ask: “Do the lyrics honor and glorify God or do they encourage me to think about something that doesn’t honor and glorify Him?”

Popular songs from big-time artists have lyrics that stir up lust and sinful thoughts toward others, and themes of cursing, drinking, drugs, and emotional unrest dominate many hit songs.

When thinking of worldly artists, it’s a no-brainer to know that their lyrics promote immorality, but if we aren’t careful, we’ll find ourselves justifying their words and enjoying their music.

2. Do the Words Support God’s Message?

This is where it gets tricky. Satan understands that we know that worldly songs are not good, so he’ll get us to listen to songs that aren’t downright ungodly, but the underlying message still goes against God.

This is also where popular children’s videos come into play. I grew up watching popular kids’ movies and cartoons. Many of the most famous kids’ movies come from a magical place in Orlando, Florida. Who doesn’t love Mickey Mouse!

If we aren’t careful, we can take those kids’ movies and assume that because they’re kids’ movies and geared toward a younger generation, the overall premise is safe and wholesome. The next time you play that kids’ CD or the latest and greatest DVD, I challenge you to listen closely to the words of their songs. Listen to the songs’ underlying messages, and try to figure out what they’re presenting. Yes, the messages may be subtle and may seem innocent at first, but many times the music from even the most wholesome kids’ programs encourages listeners to solve problems based upon their own rebellion or intuition. The songs begin to plant seeds in young viewers’ minds to make them think they can tackle problems themselves and shouldn’t let others tell them what to do.

Now, we shouldn’t live in a cardboard box and think that all kids’ movies are evil, but listeners should be discerning about what they allow to come into the gateway of their heart. Satan isn’t called the deceiver of the world for nothing!

Step Four: Check Your Heart

1. What is your intent in what you listen to? Are you seeking self-gratification or are you praising God?

It isn’t wrong to enjoy ourselves, but when we do something that gives us satisfaction outside the will of God, that’s a different story.

What is the will of God regarding our lives? We are to be filled with the spirit.

Ephesians 5:18–21 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

We need to abstain from music that would prohibit or have a negative impact upon the filling of the Spirit in our lives.

2. How is the music you choose to listen to affecting your inner life?

Cary Schmidt states in his book Music Matters: “Your music is intimately related to your spiritual battle. The choices you make when you turn on a CD or an iPod are intricately related to your inner life… Ultimately, your spiritual and emotional condition, as influenced by your music, will come out in your lifestyle.”

Going back to the story of Moses’ return to the Israelites’ camp after receiving the Ten Commandments, Exodus 32:17–19 states:

And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. And he [Moses] said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear. And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.

The music of the people was directly related to what was in their hearts, and their actions were a reflection of what was going on in their hearts.

So ask yourself, “Does the music I choose to listen to benefit my spiritual walk with Lord or does it hinder it?”

In conclusion, when listening to music, or when doing anything in the Christian life, it’s not about a set of rules to follow; it’s about interpreting our choices in light of the Gospel. Before you flip on the radio or turn on your CD player or iPod, stop and see if the kind of music you’ve chosen is what God would be satisfied with based on the artist, the beat, and the lyrics. Above all else, don’t forget our purpose on earth as Christians, which is this:

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 

1 Corinthians 10:31

From Beanie Babies to iPads

A Survival Guide for Ultimate Satisfaction in a Forever Changing Culture

Super Mario Brothers for Super Nintendo, a Classic Duncan Butterfly yo-yo, a new deck of Pokémon cards, the latest season of Power Rangers on VHS, the new Beanie Baby, and a case of “Squeeze It” juice bottles was the ideal Christmas list of any young teen during my teenage years. Now, in the year 2014, I’d venture to say that a young teen’s Christmas list would look completely different. In fact, I’d be willing to guarantee that a young teen would want nothing even close to what we wanted in the late ’90s.

We all have stories that begin with “When I was a kid…” in which we reminisce about the luxuries and popular items that kept us jumping with excitement. As time progresses, teens get excited about different things. The things that excited one generation merely bore the next. As the culture shifts throughout time and different styles come and go, let’s face it—some fads should just remain dead, never to be resurrected again. We can rest assured that no matter what happens, there is one underlying factor that will never change—the need for satisfaction.

Humans have been searching for satisfaction since the dawn of time. We have cultural shifts because one generation, bored with the popular trends, creates new ones in order to meet the demands of those searching for lasting satisfaction. Today’s teens may have a different hairstyle, wear different clothes, and choose different forms of entertainment, but they have the same underlying needs.

No matter how many inventions we enjoy or how cool the latest technology is, there will always be a void in a person’s life if he or she is not filled with lasting satisfaction. God tells us in the Bible, “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” Psalm 16:11. The only place that anyone will ever find true satisfaction is in God. God says that if we’re willing to follow Him with our lives, then He promises to provide for every one of our needs (Matthew 6:31–33).

Our teens today don’t need the newest gadget or the latest technology to keep them satisfied. These things might make them happy for a short period of time, but teens will soon grow bored of their new items. Teens need a personal relationship with God. When they turn their eyes from everything else that will fade and look to an unchanging God, their entire focus will change. They will receive ultimate satisfaction that nothing could ever diminish. This isn’t just what a teen needs, it’s what everyone needs.

……………………

Article by Brandon Joyner

The Challenge of Being Cool

There are many words in the English language that have a definite meaning. For example, “stop” means to cause to cease –– really no argument there. The beauty about the English language is the fact that there are so many words that change based on the context or values of the person saying the words.

This principle can work with just about any word or phrase. The word “fear” for one person can mean a totally different thing to another. The word “cool” is described by definition as, “fashionable, attractive, or impressive,” but the concept means something different to each person.

I love golf. I will make time to play golf regardless of my average score. I truly believe that golf is cool. I can’t say that about hockey. To be honest, I can’t stand hockey, so therefore my perception of the sport of hockey led me to believe that hockey is not cool. This again is my personal view of hockey, but there are many individuals who think differently. They love to play hockey, so in their mind, hockey is cool. An object or concept in and of itself isn’t cool, the view and perceptions an individual has about that concept makes that object cool.

Here is the challenge. Christianity today is not viewed by the world as desirable, positive, or, for a lack of a better term, cool. Sadly, many teens and adults who are Christ followers don’t necessarily make the Christian faith attractive because they don’t believe in their hearts that the elements of Christianity are desirous.

Jesus Christ commands us in Matthew 5:13 to be “the salt of the earth…” Our responsibility as Christians is to live in such a way that the outside world desires to have what we have. How can the world desire what we have if we ourselves don’t believe that the elements of Christianity are desirous? The problem isn’t Christianity; it’s the faulty view that Christianity isn’t cool. Once we understand that we have the opportunity to change the concept of “cool” in relation to Christianity, we can influence people to a generation that is sold out for God.

I saw this concept played out first hand my sophomore year of college. There was guy on campus that had it “all together.” He was easily the most athletic guy on campus, good-looking, made good grades, and didn’t have a problem making friends; in fact, everyone wanted to be his friend. With me being the new “runt on campus” I tried to follow everything the “big man on campus” did. Since he was cool, everything he did was cool. As I was walking to dinner one evening, I saw Mr. Popular walking back to the dorms from work. As he passed, there was a piece of trash lying on the ground. No big deal, we see trash everywhere right? Just before Mr. Popular passed, he stopped, bent down, picked up the piece of trash, crumbled it up, and kept walking. BINGO! Whether he thought about it or not, this guy made the principle of stewardship cool in a stranger’s mind.

God calls us to be more than disciples–He calls us to be disciplers. If we as Christians want to make a spiritual impact, we must first desire the things of Christ in our own hearts. We can change the negative perceptions of the things of Christ, but we must first make those elements desirable and cool in our own hearts. Let’s go start a revolution!

Article by Brandon Joyner
Youth Director at Valley Forge Baptist

Navigating the Digital Storm

Right now on the floor of the bedroom sits a black plastic milk crate. My wife came in and put it on my side of the bed and declared, “You’ve gotta do something with this.” I groaned in my spirit, because I knew this day was coming. You see, this isn’t any normal milk crate. This is a milk crate full of gadgets and gizmos whose day has passed. It’s the original iPod touch with a cracked screen. “But it still plays music!” It’s the iPod Nano that I got my wife for her birthday eight years ago that she used to take to the gym. “But it still works!” There is the GPS running watch with a battery that only lasts for 9 minutes. “Maybe I’ll use it for a REALLY quick run!” Then there are all of those brick-shaped power adapters that you’re not exactly sure what they go to, but you’re afraid to throw them away, lest you need them someday!

Yes, these are the confessions of a bleeding-edge, technologically obsessed, pathetically hopeless individual. You see, it’s my father’s fault. When I was 5 years old, he brought home a Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer from Radio Shack and my life was forever changed. When I was a child, my friends would endure periods of no television as punishment when they misbehaved, while my punishment was more severe—no computer! In 1997, I bought a Palm Pilot and it all went downhill from there. To be able to carry such information in your pocket was incredible at the time. I could carry my addressbook, a dictionary, and a calendar in one small device. I could even use the proprietary cable and plug it into my computer using proprietary software and sync it whenever I needed to make a change. Amazing!

Fast forward to the present, and the majority of Americans carry smartphones. We transfer funds between bank accounts at the red light, send a message to a friend on the other side of the world while in line at Starbucks, and stay in touch with loved ones, no longer bound by long-distance telephone rates or the need to be at home to call someone. What an amazing age we live in!

But imagine a world in which this technology wasn’t used for such lofty purposes. Imagine using this technology to escape from reality, to peer into the lives of others. Imagine that we used this technology to find out how boring and uneventful our lives are when compared with other people’s lives. Imagine that we determined our self-worth based on the number of times our peers clicked a digital thumbs-up button. Imagine that we had ready access to a computing device more powerful than the computer that put a man on the moon, and we used it to put a picture of our sandwich on the Internet for all to see. What a sad life that would be, right?

What if these technological wonders in our hands, while fostering relationships with people around the world, were actually alienating those in closest proximity to us? I took my wife on a date to a fancy Italian restaurant a few weeks ago. It was fancy for us at least, as it was one step up from Olive Garden, which is fancy for us! Before we were seated, I reached into my pocket and turned my phone off. I wanted the focus of our time to be on one another, and I am well aware of how easily I get distracted. However, as I looked around the restaurant, I was struck by the number of people who didn’t share the same conviction. One man was mindlessly scrolling Facebook while the woman across the table from him was smiling at her Pinterest app. Another man was watching basketball on his phone while his companion caught up on her email. Not a word was said at a table of four ladies while each one smiled and pecked away as she basked in the bluish glow of her smartphone screen.

I wish this were an isolated incident, but unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more common. Technology has become an idol for many. Below you’ll find some practical guidelines that I hope will help you to use the tool of technology without bowing to the idol.

Determine your priorities.

What is really important right now? If I’m ignoring my wife while checking sports scores, I’ve just communicated to her what is important. If my son is asking for help with his homework but I’m putting him off because of some cute YouTube video I’m watching, I’ve communicated to him what is important.

Develop guidelines in accordance with your priorities.

Determine what your priorities are and develop guidelines to help you live those out. For example, when we take a family vacation, our priority or goal is to draw close together as a family and create memories that will last a lifetime. So, for our family, vacations are completely cellphone free.

Use it for edifying purposes.

I’ve been guilty of firing up the Facebook app on my smartphone out of sheer boredom. Now, I’ve loaded the Kindle app on my phone and use idle time to read a book that will strengthen my walk with God. Waiting for your latte? Fire off an encouraging text message to someone who could use a kind word.

Guard your family.

With the advent of watches that integrate with your phone and eyewear with embedded computers, it’s obvious that technology is not going away. As a husband and a father of three precious children, I can choose to forbid the use of electronic devices or I can help lead my family in how to use them. By establishing safeguards to protect against inappropriate use and performing regular checkups of appropriate use, I’m able to see how my family is employing technology, and I can act quickly to correct any deficiencies before they become larger issues.

Get extreme.

Researchers from California State University tell us that excessive use of social media may be connected to attention deficit disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, voyeurism, addiction and more! Rather than attempting to describe all of these mental and physical conditions, I would instead point to the overarching issue of idolatry.
So what happens when technology becomes an idol? The only thing the Bible commands that we do is to destroy it. Can’t stop looking at pornography despite nearly losing your family? Cut off Internet access in the home. Obsessed with what your “friends” on Facebook are doing? Close your account. Feel tethered to your smartphone? Get a flip phone that only makes phone calls and is cumbersome for texting. While this sounds extreme by today’s standards, Jesus wouldn’t think so. After all, He did say in Matthew 5:30, “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee….” That’s pretty extreme, if you ask me!

Unbeknownst to many of us, our digital devices have become an extension of who we are. Most of us don’t need an extreme technology makeover, we just need to set our priorities with purpose and be more aware of how we spend our time. We need to use these devices as tools to live our lives to the fullest, not become slaves to them!

That milk crate is still sitting on the bedroom floor. It’s an illustration of how quickly the latest and greatest gadgets become obsolete and worthless. But that family vacation? The kids will remember it for a lifetime. Invest in what matters!

Note: For insightful and convicting reading on the effects of technology in relation to Christian living, check out The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies.

ANTHONY KING
Senior Pastor
at Huikala Baptist Church, Honolulu

Ready for Launch

May of 2013 will be Nineteen years since my high school graduation, and I can honestly say that time has flown by in what seems like the blink of an eye. Since that time I have become a husband and a father, graduated from college and law school, managed a busy legal career and currently serve in my local church in various capacities. Through it all there are a number of principles and life lessons that I often wish I had learned earlier in life, all of which my kids will hear me mention thousands of times, whether they like it or not.

If I were to speak to a group of seniors who will graduate this year, there are three key principles I’ve learned through trial and error that I’d offer to help those young adults avoid some potentially hard knocks that they’ll invariably face in life. Would you consider taking time now to apply them in your life?

PREPARATION OVER PROCRASTINATION

Whether the task at hand is a job interview, a school project, or a work presentation, a well-prepared person will have less anxiety as well as a greater sense of appreciation of the particular task accomplished. If only I had learned

This lesson when I was much younger, I could have saved myself countless sleepless nights. Procrastination never pans out, regardless of the final outcome. it robs you of the true sense of accomplishment any given task provides. Instead of procrastinating, get in the habit of setting early  readlines and being prepared. The Bible says in proverbs 6:6-8: “go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.”

BE CONSISTENTLY CONSISTENT

anyone can do a good job once or twice, but doing your best on a consistent basis shows that you are a dependable and faithful person. Today, this character trait is missing in too many young people. you may be a talented person, but if you are not demonstrating that talent day in and day out, no one will be able to rely on you when the time counts. By the same token, you may not have a lot of talent, but if you are consistent and faithful, you add value to your relationships.

CHOOSE YOUR FRIENDS WISELY

christian writer and theologian C.S. Lewis once said “[t]he next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.” during the past five years, I have had the privilege of developing friendships with other Christian guys that will last my lifetime. These men enjoy a good football game and are jokesters, but they also provide good and godly counsel in a time of need, even when I’m not in the mood to hear it. the more you see positive examples in your life, the more you will want to be a positive role model for others. Become friends with people who have goals and a strong work ethic, not just people you think are funny and cool. Proverbs 27:17 says it this way: “iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Life is an accumulation of choices that we make over a span of many years. During that time we make some good choices and some not-so-good choices. While there are many other lessons in life you will no doubt learn, begin applying these three in your life and you will reap the benefits just as I have.

. . . . . . . . . .

Canello_Staff-PicsArticle by Henry Canelo

Henry and Kim Canelo lead the couples for Christ class that meets every Sunday morning at 10:30a.m. Henry maintains his practice at the law firm of Wilson Elser where he specializes in general, professional, and employment liability matters in state and federal court. The Canelos have four children: Ashton, Alyssa, Jaeden and Gavin.

Tips for Teens

Ah, the teenage years. I feel like it was just yesterday that I embarked on those never-forget years of being a teenager. There were many memories made during my teen years: high school, heading off to college, first time to Disney World (I know, I was robbed in my childhood), and sports. There is one landmark event that occurs at sweet sixteen that just about all of us can relate to – driving!

I remember when I first got my driver’s license. It was a sunny morning and I carefully backed out of my driveway. As I was heading down the road, I glanced down to find my watch in the center console, then BAM! The car slammed into the side of the curb, jumping over the sidewalk, causing a popped tire on a brand-new Nissan Altima. I learned a very valuable lesson that day: “No matter how skilled (or in my case, unskilled) you are at driving, never take your eyes off the road!”

The teen years are tough, but they can be some of the most fun years of life! Much like driving, life has its surprises. Just as we pulled out that manual to study for our driver’s test, we can consult a manual for life – the Bible. Below are three basic tips you can find in both the driver’s manual and the manual for life.

Tip #1 – Check Your Surroundings

Adjust those rear-view mirrors, put your seatbelt on, look both ways – these are just a few necessities to make sure are in place before taking the car out of park. If we are not careful, we can get careless with checking our surroundings and end up in a trap. We can become unaware of our surroundings in everyday life and cause some deep heartache. Take a close look at your friends, your hobbies, and other things that you like to do in your free time and think to yourself, would this be something that is a true representation of me? Do I want to be like that? If we are not careful, our surroundings can become obstacles, and they can destroy us just like the curb destroyed my tire.

Tip #2 – Obey the Traffic Signs

Much like speed limit signs and traffic signals that help us maintain safety on the road, authority figures such as parents, coaches, teachers, counselors, and pastors are there to help guide us through life. Tip number two is to obey those authority figures. Like traffic signs, these various authorities have been placed in our lives by God to help us grow and mature properly. Believe it or not, these authorities do know what they are talking about.

Tip #3 – Always be Alert!

The third and final tip in driving down the road of life is ALWAYS be alert! Don’t be like me and get so comfortable with driving that you neglect to do the most basic thing – keep your eyes on the road! The Bible talks about the devil as being like a roaring lion looking for the next unsuspecting person to devour. Keep your eyes focused on the road. Don’t get sidetracked by the “lures of the world” and end up hurting yourself or someone else. Surround yourself with people who love you and want the best for you, but most important, look to God to be your ultimate guide in life.

We hope to see you at a youth activity sometime! Check us out at youthablaze.us where you will find a list of our meetings, activities, photos, and an explanation of what we are all about.

Article by Brandon Joyner
Youth Director at Valley Forge Baptist

The Most Basic Needs of Teens

Most likely you or someone you know has had to deal with a distressed teenager at some time or another. Let’s face it; our American culture has taken its toll on the emotional health and well-being of our teens. They face pressures today that put them on the brink of emotional breakdown. Consider some of the most common stressors that lead to mental, emotional, and spiritual overload.

Divorce of parents/broken families
Breakup in a relationship with the opposite gender
Rejection from peers
Dissatisfaction with body size and shape
Lack of academic or athletic ability
Unhealthy friendships

The list could go on, but any one of the above pressures alone could drive a teen toward harmful behaviors and habits such as depression, anger, cutting, substance abuse, sexual activity, fear, defiance of authority, truancy, poor academics, and threats of suicide. When we read this alarming list, we react with urgency for our teens to find a way to stop these behaviors as quickly as possible, and rightfully so; they are destructive. But if we analyze the situation a bit further, we can conclude that this list is just a litany of symptoms representing a deeper problem.
Underlying all these symptoms (produced from life’s pressures) is a deep-seated need in every human being on the planet. It is not costly to meet this need. It is not difficult to provide (or shouldn’t be). It does not necessarily require the honed skill of a trained professional to infuse hope into struggling teens in order to turn them around. It is basic and simple but profoundly foundational to all people everywhere, and especially teenagers. What is this basic need? The need to be accepted.

Teens are in the unique stage of life in which the need to “fit in,” be accepted, or find some sort of social standing among their peers is paramount to their existence. Most teens will trade in their moral standards, family values, academic success, and even plain old common sense in order to win the ultimate prize of acceptance from their peers. It is vital for parents to recognize this need so they can help their teen through this stage of life. Parents must provide unconditional love, a listening ear, quality time, and meaningful communication to help bolster their teen’s need for acceptance. Parents must also provide boundaries, guidelines, and even punitive consequences when their teen violates a family policy. This provides a sense of security that helps define the family social structure of which the teenager is a part. Further, parents must be consistent in holding their teens accountable to these desired boundaries.

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Article by Lamar Eifert
Associate Pastor | Valley Forge Baptist

15 Ways to Affirm Your Children

1. Speak Praise to Them—just pause in an unexpected moment and say, “Hey, I just want you to know I’m proud of you, and here are some reasons why!”

2. Write a Specific Note to Them—Write out the good qualities and successes you see unfolding in their lives. Even better—mail it to them. Their surprise is well worth the fifty cents!

3. Speak Highly of Them In Front of Others—When they can hear you, speak up to others about some of the ways you see them growing, doing right, or working hard. They will rise in their attempt to live up to your description!

4. Acknowledge Their Heart—Let them know you understand their good intentions, even when the outcome isn’t what you intended!

5. Seek to Understand Their Emotions—There’s something powerful about having “the way you feel” validated by someone in authority—even if the circumstances can’t change. You may not be able to give them their way, but you could let them know you understand how they feel.

6. Reward Them Tangibly—Pick up and give a gift for no reason other than the fact that you are proud of their good efforts in some area.

7. Honor Them Intangibly—Prefer them in a way that lets them know they are highly valued and esteemed by you. Treat them like you would treat someone very important in your world.

8. Spend Time With Them—They already know you’re busy, so giving them quantity and quality time will speak loudly as to your love and honor toward them.

9. Express Physical Affection Toward Them—Again, just randomly pause, wrap them up in your arms, and squeeze for a while. And while you do, say something like, “I love you so much! I can’t believe how awesome you are!”

10. Surprise Them—Their favorite restaurant or meal, a new book, a special event, or a spontaneous family memory—do something awesome that they aren’t expecting, and let them know it’s because you are proud of them.

11. Do a Random Act of Kindness for Them—Help them clean out their closet, fill their car with gas, send a quick text message, pick them up at school and go to lunch. There are about ten million other ideas you could come up with on your own.

12. Genuinely Admire Them—Pause, think about your child, and consider the ways they excel. Consider the areas in which you might even envy them—and then celebrate those qualities. (Be honest—some times and in some ways our kids flat put us to shame!)

13. Praise Them Publicly—This isn’t bragging if it’s done in the right way, from a grateful heart—but acknowledge what your children are doing right and what God is teaching you through them. One easy way to do this is to thank them in front of others.

14. Defer to Their Decision (When Possible)—Don’t fight over things worth losing. Preferring one another is a wonderful expression of love. For instance, let them choose where or what to eat for dinner. When possible, let them make a key decision and praise them for “getting it right.”

15. Made a Big Deal of Good Decisions—When your kids make a wise choice, go nuts! Celebrate spiritual victories with all the zeal and energy of a lunatic Super Bowl fan!

Article by Pastor Cary Schmidt
Senior Pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church in Newington, CT
Read Cary Schmidt’s Blog

Enjoying Life With Your Teen

Teenagers in Your Home?
You’ve lived through 2 a.m. feedings, toddler temper tantrums, and the back-to-school blues. So why is the word “teenager” causing you so much anxiety?  The teenage years are an intense time of growth, not only physically, but morally and intellectually.  Add to that after-school sports, a learner’s permit and a part-time job, and you have the ingredients for the “perfect family storm.” But God’s plan and desire for your family is so much better than the average “teenage rebellion” scenario we read about in many magazines.  When a family follows the principles of God’s Word, everyone in the family can experience God’s favor and blessings in their lives – including teenagers and their parents.

However, many homes with teenagers are experiencing great upheaval and conflict.  Parents who are worried that their son or daughter is not demonstrating character qualities such as self-control or responsibility tend to pull in the reins.  In these relationships, the parents are restricting their teenager’s freedoms while their son or daughter is attempting to spread his or her wings.  The result is teenage rebellion and strained relationships with parents.

We parents of teenagers share much in common. We experience pain, joy, heartbreak, and frustration. You are not alone!

    You might be the parent of a teenager if…
You have to text your daughter in the next room in order to communicate with her.
Your wife opens her makeup drawer and it’s empty.
You open the refrigerator, and it is also empty.
You actually know what a “grip” is, but you can’t get one.
You haven’t seen the TV remote control since June.
The three most-repeated words in your house are “Clean… Your… Room.”
The next three most-used words in your house are, “Sor… ree… DAD.”
The alarm clock in your teenager’s room serves no useful purpose.
Your bath towels turn up missing and months later are found shoved in a darkened corner under your kid’s bed.
You cannot successfully lift your child’s backpack.

Ready for the Teen Years?
Many kids announce the onset of adolescence with a dramatic change in behavior around their parents. They’re starting to separate from Mom and Dad as they become more independent. At the same time, kids this age are increasingly aware of how others, especially their peers, see them and are desperately trying to fit in. Their peers often become much more important, as compared with their parents, in terms of making decisions. Kids often start “trying on” different looks and identities, and they become very aware of how they differ from their peers, which can result in episodes of distress and conflict with parents.  Dads and moms, this is not the time to overreact!  This is the time to pray, be patient, and seek the wisdom that God shares in the Word of God.  You can join us this fall on Wednesday evenings and receive help, encouragement, and instruction from the principles of God’s Word.

Article by Pastor Scott Wendal
Senior Pastor, Valley Forge Baptist