As a parent, I am always looking for advice about how to raise my children to be Godly adults.  I want them to know that God loves them, to know that I love them, and to know right from wrong.  My goal is to raise children that would be the best friend a person could ask for.  But to be honest, some days I am just hoping that I don’t cause them to become serial killers.

As it should be, one of my primary sources of advice is the Bible.  So many lessons about how to treat people, how to react to adversity, and how to experience God.  Most of these lessons can be translated to parenthood as we try to make these stories and principals relatable to children.  But it is rare to find an example of quality parenting that can be put straight into practice.  I was fortunate enough to stumble upon one of those passages earlier this week.

Speaking to his son, Solomon, David was giving instructions for building the temple.  He gave a list of building specifics, went over blueprints, and let Solomon know that this was all straight from God.

Then David continued, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. (1 Chronicles 28:20a NLT)

I have always been inspired by the way the Old Testament refers to God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.  They talk about the God of their fathers.  That makes God personal and less like a distant deity.  And I think David does a great job making God a reality to Solomon.  He says that God is the Lord, but he is also my God.  That’s real.

Speaking from his personal relationship with God, David talks with authority about who God is.  He will not fail you or forsake you.  There is no reason for Solomon to be afraid or even nervous.  David is so convincing about who God is that his other advice about constructing the temple, and life in general, is flawless.  Be strong and courageous, and do the work.  Don’t be afraid or discouraged. 

If I can convince my children that my God is who I believe that He is, the rest of my advice should take care of itself.  However, like David, words alone will not be enough to convince anyone that my God is real.  I must have faith as he did when facing Goliath.  I must trust God as he did when preparing for kingship while surviving Saul’s reign.  I must work hard as he did to expand and secure his kingdom.  And I must obey God as David did by waiting to pass the temple project over to his son.

I may not have a temple for my children to build, but I have a God that I can’t wait for them to meet.  In the last piece of advice he gave to his own son, David gives instructions for how I can show them how great my God is:

“I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go…” (1 Kings 2:2-3 NIV)

As my son gets older, we have more and more fun together.  He has the dexterity and intelligence to play more games, our conversations are deeper and more meaningful, and his interests are becoming more and more…interesting.

There is one drawback to a child becoming more intelligent, however.  That is his ability to cover-up his misbehavior.  If he pushes his sister down, he can quickly come up with a story about how she tripped and fell.  If something breaks, he can hide it so we won’t find out or blame it on someone else. 

He’s good, but not that good.  You see, no matter how smart he thinks he is, there is some sort of involuntary reaction he has when he has disobeyed or done something wrong.  Even if I don’t see him throw a toy, if I happen to look his way in the moments following him doing so guilt is written all over his face.  His guilty look makes it impossible for him to hide his bad behavior.

I’m sure that, at some point, I had a guilty look.  But as I matured, I mastered the art of masking my embarrassment and shame.  I have become a pro at hiding my faults and my pain.  That is, except for when I am talking to God.

While I don’t have a physical guilty look that makes my transgressions obvious, I have yet to find a way to stop my soul from aching to confess to God.  It is completely involuntary.  Yet, I know I have done wrong and I cannot rest until I confess and ask for forgiveness.

I am sure this is what most people refer to as conviction.  However, it reminds me so much of my son’s guilty face.  He doesn’t want me to know because he does not want judgment or punishment put on him.  But he cannot hide it.  He can’t ignore it. 

Unfortunately, many grown-ups have managed to master the art of ignoring their convictions.  And when we start to ignore the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit, it becomes more and more difficult for us to discern His voice from that of temptation, selfishness, and sin.  It makes it easier for us to avoid confession and repentance.  It becomes easier to give in to the same sin over and over again.

While I am glad I was eventually able to shake the guilty look of my youth, I am very thankful for the one that keeps me confessing to my Lord.  The conviction of the Holy Spirit keeps me connected to who God is and His plan for my life.  Without it, I would be able to get away with things that would lead me away from Him.  And that…is just not worth it.

When I was a kid, it seemed like I could never keep a new toy working properly for any time at all.  It was like each toy my parents so graciously bought for me decided it could not get along with me for more than a couple of weeks, so it would malfunction in hopes that I would not play with it anymore. 

Well, I can’t completely blame the toys.  After all, I did take them all apart almost as soon as I got them.  That may have had something to do with their low functionality.  I mean, how accurately can a 10 year old reassemble a Talkboy?

I was just so curious.  I wanted, nay, needed to know how everything worked.  I would take a toy apart, make sense of what I could understand, and put it back together to the best of my ability.  Occasionally, I would experiment with the toys and see if I could improve or even alter the way the toy worked.  I was so eager to understand everything that I was willing to risk having nothing to play with.

Sometimes I still feel that way.  As I read through the Bible, I occasionally come out with more questions than answers.  I want to know more.  I want to know how, when, where, and why things happened the way they did.  I want to know what Jesus did when He was a child.  I want to know more about His sense of humor and how He related to His friends.  I want to know more about how my life can reflect His.

The fact that we don’t know more about Jesus’ life has often been a point of frustration for me.  Some aspects of His life are recorded with amazing accuracy and other parts are inexplicably vague.  Why could the writers not be more consistent?  Were these really the only things they saw as important?  Would the things they chose to leave out change the way we live out our faith?

Of course the answers to those questions would do very little to sooth my inquisitive mind, but at least I would have more answers about why I don’t have more answers.  I would be more able to articulate why there is so much of Jesus’ life we know little about.  I may be more content to know that I am not missing out on anything important.

There is one passage in the Bible, actually, that does give me a little comfort in this area. 

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.  (John 21:25 NIV)

I suppose that answers my questions to some degree.  The writers were not more consistent because they couldn’t possibly record every detail.  Also, I believe this makes it safe to assume that anything left out would not change the path of our spiritual journeys. 

As John seems well aware of the numerous other details of Jesus’ life, he clearly chose to share stories that are very much in-line with the other gospels.  That tells me that these stories are the core of who Jesus is, and our imitation of His life should find its foundation in them. 

While I fear my burning curiosity may be a permanent condition, it is very comforting to know that God orchestrated the Bible in such a way that its teachings meet His standards for what I need to know about Him.  Now, if I can only use it to help me get closer to His standards, then I’ll be in business.   

A couple of years ago, my son was obsessed with toy cars.  He had tracks, ramps, and more cars than we could keep up with.  So when his birthday rolled around, what did everyone buy him?  More tracks, more ramps, and more cars.  Our house looked like it had been sponsored by Matchbox.

Was I complaining?  Absolutely not.  I was spending all of my time racing cars with my son.  But I did learn many lessons during that time.  The first lesson I learned was how to tell the difference between the name brand cars (Hot Wheels and Matchbox) and the knock-off brands.  I could actually tell the difference without even putting them on the track.  It is all about the weight.

Like most products, the name brands use better, more durable materials that add weight to the car.  They put more of an investment into the quality of the product.  That is obviously why their prices are higher.  But if you want a toy car that will survive the wrath of a two year old, you’ll make sure to buy the heavy cars.

Like the knock-off brands, I feel like we are often more concerned with putting a product on the shelf than we are producing quality inventory.  In writing a blog for example, I know that I have to have a post ready every weekday.  Sometimes the big ideas aren’t coming as quickly as I need them to, so I have to go with other topics that I don’t feel as strongly about.

Or even in teaching Sunday School or Small Group lessons, or leading a monthly devotional at some work friends, it is very easy for us to put in just enough effort to avoid looking unprepared.  In a world where the minimum is very acceptable, it can be difficult for Christians to strive for excellence.  But if we really want to be like Christ, we must invest more of ourselves in the quality of our relationships with God and in the quality of our ministry. 

If somebody were to give your faith the “toy car test,” would they say that it is a name brand or a knock-off?  Would your ministry go in the “play” pile or the “pass” pile?  When it comes to your relationship with God, what do you weigh?  I think it’s time we all get heavy.

I, Jamie Boggs, get called a lot of names.  Like…a lot of names.  All the time.  First of all, since I have a unisex name, far too often I receive letters and emails addressed to Ms. or Mrs. Boggs.  I have to be careful when I subtly correct those people in my replies.

Then there is the fact that I started going bald at the age of fifteen.  Yeah, I’ve heard it all.  Baldy, cue ball, car with my sunroof open, Lex Luthor, and my personal favorite: baldilocks.  That’s not even to mention the fact that my hairline makes me look 5-10 years older than I really am.

Last but not least, you may or may not know that I used to be really skinny…unhealthily so.  That was not the object of the name calling, however.  Since I was so small, my ears looked absolutely ginormous.  I was called big ears, dumbo, a taxi with the doors open, wolfman, and for two years of my high school career I was called “yurs” by absolutely everyone, including teachers.  You see, yurs is the country pronunciation of ears.  And that was my name.  For two years.  That’s why I decided to get fat.

Being a constant target of name calling, I have learned to take it in stride.  I have often embraced these names and even allowed them to become a large part of my identity.  Since I handled it so maturely, however, the one name I was never called was childish.  Yet, I am not sure that would have been an insult.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.   And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.   Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4 NIV)

In order to enter the kingdom of Heaven, we need to become like children.  What does that entail?  I seriously doubt that Jesus wants us to do nothing but play all day and eat a steady diet of PB and J.  I really don’t think He wants us to revert our intelligence and lose our maturity.  So what in the world could be so holy and righteous about behaving like a child?

1.  Joy – Have you ever seen a child light up when their parent arrived after being away for even a short time?  Or have you witnessed a child doing what they enjoy most without worrying or even caring who sees them?  Joy is something that adults often run very short on, mostly because they worry too much.

2.  Forgiveness – I, for one, have never seen a child carry a grudge.  They are very quick to forgive, and their forgiveness is real.  That’s another rarity for us adult-folk.

3.  Commitment – We often think of children going from one toy or game to another, and that is definitely true.  But when they find something they buy into, something they absolutely love, they give their everything to it.  It may often borderline obsession, but if we could put that much focus on our faith just think about how much more impact we could have on the kingdom of God.

4.  Compassion – Sure, kids fight over toys and bicker with each other.  But if you have ever spent time with a child, you know that if they can wrap their minds around how they may have hurt someone then they are remorseful and more than willing to change.  They care about the feelings of other people, and they are not afraid of showing it. 

5.  Genuineness – With children, what you see is what you get.  They don’t try to hide who they are and they don’t try to act like anybody else.  Their lives are an open book, readily displaying the good and the bad for all to see.  That sounds like a group I would love to be a part of.

5.  Eagerness to learn – Children are like sponges.  They are always asking questions and wanting to know more and more about the things that interest them.  Not us, though.  We know it all.  Even about our faith.  How laughable is that?

6.  Willingness to follow – Since we feel like we know it all, it is difficult for us to get behind a person or even a cause and follow wholeheartedly.  For children, once you earn their trust, they will follow you almost anywhere.  They will do what they are asked to do without analyzing the issue to death or trying to find a more efficient method.  Just think how much more of His work we could do if we would just stop planning and get to it.

I realize this list is not exhaustive.  The more I learn about the character of God and witness the nature of my own children, the more I understand what Jesus is talking about here.  And the more I learn that I have so much to learn.  I personally cannot wait to see what my children teach me next about how to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.

I have spent most of my life trying to be cool.  Since the majority of the time I feel like a moron, I often over-compensate and try too hard to fit in, making me look even more ridiculous.  It’s a vicious cycle that I have come to terms with.  Well, I had come to terms with it…until I had kids.

Use whatever word you choose:  silly, ridiculous, stupid, goofy, awkward, embarrassing.  Any of those words can describe the way I have always felt about myself, but you would have to add them all together to illustrate what I have become now that I am a father. 

I have gone from telling corny jokes and being the guy that will take one bite of anything to the dad that would rather sing, dance, and play dress up than watch a ball game or go fishing.  But out of the all of the embarrassing things I do with and for my children, I never feel more absurd than when I have to spell out words to put one over on a three year old.

Of course, the reason I spell words out is so my wife and I can discuss things without our children knowing what we are talking about.  Sometimes we don’t want our kids to get too excited about something before we are ready to do it.  “It’s a nice day, maybe we should go to the p-a-r-k after dinner.”  Other times we are trying to avoid confusing or scaring the kids.  “Avery has an appointment with the doctor on Monday, and she is due for more s-h-o-t-s.”  But there are also instances when we do it to protect them. 

As I study the Bible, spend time in prayer, and listen to fellow believers share their experiences, I feel as though the more I learn about the character of God the more there is for me to learn.  I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that the finite potential of my brain cannot comprehend all that He is. 

I don’t think that He is intentionally withholding information as some part of game.  I don’t think He is selfishly keeping things from us because it helps Him feel more powerful.  I think it is more like He is spelling out words like I do with my kids. 

While I doubt He feels as goofy about doing it as I do, I believe it makes perfect sense.  He says and does things in ways that we cannot understand to keep us from getting confused and scared.  He understands how little control we have over our feelings, so He is discreet about things to help us keep our emotions in check.  He does not completely reveal Himself or His plan to us because He wants to protect us.

So as I grow and mature in my faith, I become more comfortable with the fact that I am not meant to know everything.  I am also starting to realize that I don’t want to know everything.  God is in control, and that is all that I need to know.

As a father, I read a lot of children’s books.  To be honest, I am pretty bad at it.  I try to do voices, get the characters confused, and leave my children wondering why the Whos want to ruin Christmas.  The sad part is that I really enjoy reading books to my kids.  The excitement on their faces when they bring me a book and plop in my lap is downright heart-warming.  So I try my best to do good enough for them to keep coming back.

Recently my son brought home a book from a book fair at school.  It is called “Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes.”  The book came with a link to download an audio version of the book.  Jackpot!  There was background music, sing-a-long songs, and a radio voice that made the book come to life.  Luckily, I could even download the audio version on my phone.  So, of course, this is my son’s new favorite book and we have to listen to it over and over while I do nothing more than flip the pages.  That’s what I call a win-win.

While my son loves the book for the songs and entertainment, I have to admit that I am a big fan myself.  The lesson in this book is fantastic and is actually summed up very well.  The last page reads like this:  The moral of Pete’s story is:  No matter what you step in, keep walking along and singing your song.  Wow, I could not have said it better myself.

People expect Christians to have perfect lives.  We are expected to always be happy and care free.  As we all know, that is not the case. 

We struggle.  We have trials and failures.  We mess up.  We hurt.  We cry.  Sometimes, we want to run away and hide.  (I think I just wrote a hit country song).

Because the world tells us we should be perfect, we try to act like it.  We mask our pain, hide our failures, and pretend like we have everything under control.  When we step in something, instead of walking along and singing our song we try to cover up the fact that we ever stepped in something in the first place.  We clean our shoes, get new shoes, or even try to go barefoot.  Anything to keep people from knowing that we are flawed.

In “Pete the Cat,” no matter what Pete steps in, he keeps singing about his shoes.  The trick is that instead of ending the song, he changes it to better fit the situation.  He adds what he has stepped in to the song, because that is now a part of his story.  That is part of his testimony.

So the next time you hit a bump in the road, if you are struggling with finances, relationships, sin, or anything else that you are tempted to hide, add it to your story.  What better way is there to show how great God is than to show what He has brought you through?  Isn’t that what a testimony is all about? 

The moral of this post is: No matter what problems you have, keep telling your story and giving God the glory.

_ While I did not grow up attending church regularly, I feel like I have been told stories from the Bible my entire life.  At some point, it seems like these stories become so much a part of who you are that you become numb to the details.  And while the majority of the time the moral of the story is the most vital point to remember, the details are often more revealing than we care to remember.

I realized this recently as I have begun sharing those timeless stories with my young children.  Have you ever tried telling a Bible story to a young child?  How did that work out for you?  Here are a few reasons I have found it difficult to share the Bible with kids.

1.  Fairy tale confusion.  – We tell kids fairy tales all the time.  We tell stories of mystical lands where magical things happen and everyone lives happily ever after.  And then we tell them stories from the Bible set in far off lands where amazing things happen and God loves everyone. 

While I clearly understand the difference between the two kinds of stories, it can be difficult to work a logical disclaimer in when you are working with a preschooler’s attention span.  I try to be clear that Bible stories are true and the other stories are just for fun, but I usually feel like that is lost in translation.  That’s pretty troubling for me.

2.  Magic vs. Miracles.  – Again, I know the difference.  But how can I clearly show my son that God tying up the lions’ mouths to save Daniel means so much more than Tinker Bell using pixie dust to help Peter Pan escape from Captain Hook?  How can I expect my kids to see the truth in Jesus healing people when I can’t do the same for them?  I have no idea how to explain the difference between “magic” and the all powerful nature of God.  I hope that understanding will come with age and maturity (on my part and that of my children), but that does not make it easier to work with in the mean time.

3.Death. – Oh my goodness.  As I have become numb to the details of many Old Testament stories, I have apparently forgotten how much death and destruction takes place.  Do you remember how many people died in the beautiful story of Noah’s Ark?  EVERYONE!  I can try all I want to focus on the pairs of cool animals, the huge boat, and the promise of the rainbow, but I know it is only a matter of time before my son asks what happened to all of the other people. 

I understand that death is a part of life, and that is a conversation I will have with my children soon enough.  But as I teach them about a God that loves them and His Son that gave up His life for them, I’d prefer to let that marinate for a while before telling them about the just, wrathful side of God.

It seems this has turned into a “confess your fears” session on my part, but I am okay with that.  Surely I am not the only person concerned about the best way to share my faith with my children.  From what I hear, that is kind of a big deal.

What fears do you have about sharing your faith with your children?  Do you have any tips to help others in the same situation?