Category Archives: Spiritiual-Parenting

Psalms 141:5. The End of Excuses

Psalms 141:5 Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.

For the last two weeks I’ve been involved in a counseling ministry with a group of prisoners at Belle Isle Correctional Facility. This program uses Biblical stories to help offenders get a clearer understanding of how their actions affect victims, and prepare them for life following incarceratoin.

this morning we went through an exercise thinking about excuses Zacchaeus may have made for taking extra tax money

  1. People disrespected him
  2. He had debts to pay
  3. In younger years he didn’t have much
  4. Somebody else would get the job anyways (why not him?)
  5. And he was trying to motivate others to fight against Rome

it was interesting through the exercise to find Zacchaeus had some good, legitimate reasons for doing what he did. And those reasons became rationalizations (excuses) as to why his sin wasn’t actually a big deal.

As we finished the session it seemed as if the men started to grasp how excuses (even legitimate reasons) kept them from seeing how their actions affected others.

It was a blessing to be used by God to show their excuses didn’t make sin right. But it was also a reminder that each one of us hide behind our excuses occasionally.

the words of David in Psalms 141:5 are strange because he calls smiting a kindness! In my personal opinion he is referring to a reproof (confrontation) that points out sin that needs to be dealt with.

This confrontation is a blessing because its goal is to bring repentance and growth in a persons life (Galatians 6:1) instead of tripping the person up spiritually (Psalms 140:1-5). Though painful, those experiences restore the relationship with God, and fellow Believers.

Of course this doesn’t mean that we can go around being “Jerks for Jesus” and condemning everyone that we see. But I’m afraid the awkwardness of these confrontations keeps most Christians from doing it at all.

The point is cutting through someones excuses and revealing their sin is a kindness, even if they don’t feel that way.

Discipline in Organized Chaos

Between Bible Club (at Church) and park Bible Club (shorter and more evangelistic) I try to have a brief game-time. This usually consists of an organized game that everybody can play together

The truth is I struggle with game-time because it doesn’t directly teach Scripture, and it’s a lot harder to control 🙂

The “organized chaos” of game-time used to go like this

  1. I explain the rules and they play properly for a few minutes
  2. One of the boys begins playing football (soccer) with it
  3. This devolves into a game of soccer with the boys who refuse to share with anyone else
  4. Once order has been restored, we go a few other minutes before children begin to complain the other team has an unfair advantage.
  5. This is followed by loudly calling out “you see!” every time they win and pouting with tears
  6. Often things towards the end turn into free-play that inevitably ends in more tears and a skinned kneee or arm

So why allow game-time to continue?

Because it allows me to bring structure into the chaos

The thing is it doesn’t take a lot to bring structure into chaos. You just have to have rules, and implement them.

Oh and you have to be a heartless jerk

While I’m a kind-hearted person during game-time I go into full-fledged “jerk mode”

  1. If you play football instead of the proper game you sit down and watch everyone else play
  2. If you say complain more than once about not being fair you can go home instead of playing
  3. Every “you-see!” is met with a time out, and I have no compassion whatsoever for your fake tears
  4. And while “Dr. John” is sympathetic to game-time injuries, I won’t tolerate too much craziness during free play

In a sense the children are used to getting their way (through complaint, tears, or refusal to listen) and because following through with rules is exhausting (trust me I know) they usually get what they want.

Which is why game-time is such an important part of ministry…there must be an area where they are told “no” regardless of how much they whine, complain, or throw a temper tantrum.

Of course that is a place to be filled by their parents, but for now I as a spiritual parent must fill it.

Down the road from the Church is a park where I go for a very short-time to share Bible stories each day. I used to spend a lot of time there, but it is an extremely “toxic environment” with children fighting, cursing each other, and showing little respect for others.

The reason for this is they don’t have anyone who tells them no.

There is a lady there whose supposed to keep control, but she never interacts with them at all. She sits in one spot and shouts to stop if they kick a ball or fight too much, other than that there are no rules.

Sadly in much of society children are in environments like this left to rule themselves. And because of this a part of ministry is creating a place where children are told lovingly but firmly “no”

Reach Them While You Can

Yesterday during prayer meeting a Church member asked us to pray for the school where she is currently student-teaching. Yesterday a 14 year old student refused to become part of a “gang” with friends, so after school five of them beat him up so badly he was put into the hospital.

While this is an extreme illustration, I have seen children who couldn’t learn enough about God three-years ago but today have no interest in the Lord whatsoever. It’s sadly as if once they reach the age of twelve, they turn from things like “Church” or “Bible Club.”


Of course this doesnt mean I stop trying to reach Secondary Students, I’m still praying God  would open doors to do that.  However, more than ever the Lord is challenging me to reach young people at a young age when they would actually listen.

Of course part of reaching is sharing the Gospel with them…but it also involves adding structure to their lives. Something I refer to as “spiritual parenting.”

It’s my personal opinion that the lack spiritual parenting (a form or mentoring or discipleship) particularly from Godly men, is what leads to things like gangs of fourteen year olds bringing weapons into a Secondary School. Without someone who lays down (and enforces) rules children can just make up their own.

The need for spiritual parenting in the Vincentian culture (along with teens turning from God) has burdened me to start reaching out to children at an early age.

This morning I spent 30 minutes with three second-grade boys teaching them reading. However, the majority of that time was spent doing some extreme spiritual parenting.

One of the greatest ministry tools I have here is a stack of fake money used by Child Evangelism Fellowship missionaries in the States. I use them during every Bible Club, and reading help session to play a game.

The rules are very simple…whoever has the most dollars at the end gets a Jolly Rancher. To obtain a dollar you must:

  1. Look up-watch me and only me
  2. Sit up-your hands are in front of you, not touching anybody else
  3. Hand up-self explanatory
  4. And of course Zip up-NO TALKING!

Many times the following scenario takes place

  1. Child disobeys and I give a warning
  2. They keep disobeying so I take away a dollar
  3. Child puts their head down and starts to cry thinking that will make me give the dollar back (they’re wrong)
  4. Child eventually dries their tears, gets their attitude right, and is rewarded with a dollar

I’m not foolish enough to believe fake dollars will keep a child from rebelling later in life, but maybe instilling structure (right from wrong) in them at a young age can create a respect of authority later.

This morning a boy who had lost a dollar for calling out the answer last week during someone elses question came and sat down with an incredibly serious face. When I asked him why he looked so serious he responded “I’m not telling anyone anything!”

Though he did lose a dollar for shouting out answers (old habits die hard) I’m grateful to see God beginning to do a work in his heart. May the Lord help us reach children while they are open to Christ instead of waiting till the hardened teen years.

The Power of Relationships

Yesterday morning I didn’t expect a large crowd at Church because my car was being worked on (will get it back tomorrow) so I was surprised when a family that lived over the hill waked in

I was shocked a few minutes later when two children walked in, and apologized for being late!

It actually wasn’t their coming that shocked me.  They attend regularly, but get a ride to and from Church.  

Walking to Church meant:

  1. they got ready to come to Church on their own initiative 
  2. Paid attention to the time when Sunday School started
  3. And took it upon themselves to walk over (it wasn’t a long walk, but still impressive)

Their coming yesterday reminded me that relationships are more powerful than any reward

I know many children who will come to Church if I give them a ride, but of course for most of them the ONLY REASON they are coming to Church is being able to ride in a car!

This isn’t a terrible thing initially, which is why my main ministry goal of 2019 is to purchase a Church van for Tabernacle Baptist.  However, at some point the motivation must be deeper than just “I want a ride!”  And one of the greatest ones is a strong relationship.

Those children didn’t come because I was going to give them something, but because they loved me, and knew that I loved them.

We spend about two-hours together every afternoon during Bible Club, Bible reading, and Homework help.  That probably developed a respect for me in their eyes, but it also gave attention that they desperately craved, and showed I was somebody who cared.  

And that understanding was what brought them to Sunday School

It’s not easy building relationships in the lives of others.  But we must persist because people both young and old are desperately looking for someone who genuinely cares about them.

Leaving the Easy Mission Field

The favorite part of my walk every morning is going past the two elementary schools in Barrouaille.  Usually before making the turn off the main road children already notice me coming and start calling out “Mr. John!” to get my attention.

Since coming two years ago the Lord has opened a great door of ministry with children.

  1. Through bible stories
  2. Computer tutoring in the afternoon
  3. Daily Bible Club (we are working through the book of Mark)
  4. Weekends playing frisbee or football
  5. And sharing the Gospel

While no mission field could be called easy, my personality and spritual gifts, along with a love for working with children makes it easier for me to reach the children of Barrouaillie.

I personally believe the Lord in His Sovereignty puts us in places where we can be used effectively for him….the important thing is to make sure we don’t spend all of our time in that easier mission field.

For a few months, the Lord has been challenging me to move on from children’s ministry and begin reaching adults as well as teenagers (secondary school students).  Children’s ministry is obviously important, but it’s incredibly easy to only become involved in ministries where we are gifted. Over time this can create a works-based view of ministry (“look what I did”) instead of humble reliance upon God.

So I began moving away from the “Mr. John” ministry opportunities and prayed God would open the door to new fields.  That prayer was answered yesterday as I met with a principal about volunteering at his secondary school in the Fall.

After the meeting I stood outside and watched the high-school students interact with each other during their lunch break.  To be honest part of me didnt want to give up my “rock star” status of Mr. John for a mission field of teens who would definitely be harder to reach.  It would be easier to just stay in the ministry area where I’ve spent two years developing relationships and people know me instead of basically starting all over  (the school is fifteen minutes away)

Standing there in the school parking lot I said “Lord why have you called me to this place?  I don’t have a clue how to reach these teenagers, and am not skilled to do it!”  The response was “that’s exactly why I’ve called you here John.”

The thing about missions is it’s meant to glorify God instead of ourselves.  Which is why the Lord takes great pleasure in opening the new door of ministry.  It’s in those moments of weakness, anxiety, and social awkwardness that all praise goes to Him.

I may be wrong but I’m pretty certain I won’t be greeted by shouts of “Mr. John!” at the secondary school.  But that’s okay because my weakness gives a great opportunity for God’s glory.

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