Wednesday, September 28, 2016

It's time for a reset of the measure of success for families in America

What success looks like in the Sabo family.
We have a way of measuring success in America that centers around a consumer economy. It's the insatiable appetite for materialism and the accumulation of things. Tragically, it spills over into the church and our kids with devastating consequences.

Our uniquely American economy of success is measured by things we don't need but buy anyway. We drive big new SUVs so that we have ample room to haul all the stuff we bought at Costco back to our McMansions that have huge garages to store all of our junk accumulated non-essential items. We wouldn't be caught dead with flip phones so we're armed with the latest technology everything -- much of which we have to ask our teenage kids how to operate -- and our walk-in closets are bigger than the bedrooms we grew up in and have enough clothes and shoes contained within to outfit an island nation.

Our secular practices have carried over to the religious. Our churches are virtual rock concert halls, becoming glorified entertainment venues with bright lights, big screens and all the essential high-tech bells and whistles. It's merely churchtainment, an emotion-driven vehicle that's a shallow push for "relevancy" in a culture that's increasingly ambivalent to Christianity. As a result, on any Sunday in any city in America it's possible to go church clubbing in our churchwear without ever hearing the power of the Word.

We are what we worship, essentially.

So where does that leave our kids?

We measure success in our kids by their accomplishments that we can post ad nauseum on social media. And we're motivated by our dreams of their success -- that we also can post on social media. The measuring stick is their future earnings and we're driven to ensure they're the top-performing kids inside and outside of our social circles.

We're consumed by the youth sports culture and no cost is too steep -- The best equipment! The top sports camps! The number 1 travel teams! -- to make certain our kids are the best at the one sport we select for them they pick. We're driven to get them into Ivy League schools so we make sure they do all their homework every night -- beginning in pre-school -- and harass any teacher who dares to give them less than an `A.'  We also make sure our kids are deprived of nothing -- whether it's processed food that's actually making them sick, high-tech gadgetry, prescription drugs to get them to "concentrate" and "focus," or colleges that will leave them indebted in perpetuity.

Meanwhile, they are spiritually impoverished.

We value all the wrong things and the consequences are tragic. We're lying to our kids by our actions, treating the world and the things of this life as the singular objective for them. It's the gospel of me. Sadly, it's a sentence of a life of emptiness. We're creating a generation with an insatiable drive to find fulfillment in things that will never satisfy.

These things I've mentioned, the houses, vehicles, sports, school, gadgets and other things, in and of themselves aren't bad. It's the place they have in our lives though that's the problem. It's their hold on us. They consume us. And it's reflected in how we value them and the resulting messages we send to our kids.

Take a step back. What's your measurement of success in your kids?

I've had to do my own reckoning in this. I've had to ask myself and pray through if what I'm valuing is what God values. Is what I'm seeking for my kids reflected in the life and teachings of Jesus?

They're hard questions. Especially in the culture we live in. Yet they are good questions. After all, what's more important? This temporary life and its earthly rewards? Or eternal rewards and a life together as a family with Jesus.

Jesus said that His kingdom is not of this world. So why are we so intent on creating a world for our kids that's the opposite of what He taught?

I can tell you this also. There's no greater joy I have in my kids, particularly my older kids who are making their own lives, than to see them following Jesus passionately. To know that for them, Jesus is both their savior and their Lord.

That's the true measure of success.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Parents, our kids and being faithful in an unreliable world

We are studying through 1 Corinthians on Sundays at Calvary Chapel Gloucester and we were working through chapter when verse 2 really spoke to me. "Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful." It's a simple concept and Jesus tackled it in the parable of the minas in Luke 19.

In this story Jesus told, essentially a rich ruler left of of his servants with some money and ordered them to engage in business until he returned. Some invested and traded and proved to be good stewards and were rewarded accordingly. One servant, however, put his mina in a handkerchief and did nothing, earning the ruler's contempt.

In the big picture, we can apply this parable told by Jesus to each of our lives. We're given a certain amount of time, resources and talents in this world. God expects us to be investing in the Kingdom and spreading the gospel as we await the return of Jesus. We're here to glorify God and carry out His work, quite simply. We're not asked to be brilliant, nor successful, nor dynamic, nor supermen or superwomen.

Just faithful.

If someone asked you to describe yourself, would "faithful" be a word that comes to your mind?

Would your kids use "faithful" to describe you? What words do you think your kids would use to describe you if faithful isn't one of them?

Our kids need to see us being faithful. Faithful to our spouses, to love them and speak kindly to them and to honor and cherish them. When things get hard -- and things get really hard in marriage -- they need to see us be faithful in working things out and forgiving.

Our kids need to see us being faithful in the practice of our faith. Faithful to read God's word, to pray, to be in church, to serve in church and to be faithful in our giving.

If our kids don't learn about being faithful from us, then who will they learn it from? Will they even learn about faithfulness?

Ask yourself this: What am I faithful to do? Is it work? Watch TV? Be on social media? Get your kids to every single sports practice and game? What we're faithful in reflects what's important to us. And our kids pick up on this.

In another parable, the one of the talents in Matthew 25, Jesus strikes a similar theme to the parable of the minas. Jesus lets us know we're to stay busy while He is gone, being productive and faithful with the gospel that's been entrusted to us.

The message is to use our time, money and talent for His glory to bear fruit for the kingdom. The application comes back to what each of us is going with what God has given to us.

Be faithful.

The world needs it. Our families need it. Our kids need it.