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Fear vs. God

Many kids go through stages where fear seems to be ruling their lives. They may have trouble sleeping and avoid any situation that might involve whatever fear they are preoccupied with in the moment.

It’s not just kids, of course. Parenting itself creates the opportunity to be afraid of all kinds of new things we had never worried about before. Some of us become fearful people on behalf of kids who don’t seem to have the sense, yet, to know what they should be afraid of for themselves.

But we also have a unique opportunity as Christian parents to begin equipping our kids with the primary tool for vanquishing fear now and for the rest of their lives—faith in a bigger God.

We’re pulling our talking points for the week from Psalm 46, a psalm that describes very real dangers in relationship to a very powerful God to make the point that God is bigger than whatever may frighten or worry us.

We hope a few of the following questions will provoke a good conversation with your child about fear and trusting God to take care of us.

Talking Points:

Making Passion Week Personal

Most of our churches will spend this week emphasizing the events and messages of Passion Week, the celebration of what was accomplished through Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection on the third day. But the week also provides an opportunity for families to personalize those events and ideas by talking about them together.

We’ve taken a little different approach with our Talking Points this week. We’ve suggested Scripture readings and questions about what Jesus came to earth to do. These can be used all at once, but might best be discussed one at a time throughout the week whenever your family has a few minutes of uninterrupted time together.

We’ve formatted these along the lines of a countdown to the resurrection, but you could pick and choose which passages or questions are the best fit for your family in any given order. And these conversation starters could be used at any point in the year, of course, in addition to the Easter season.

Happy Easter!

Talking Points:

700 Years:
Read Isaiah 53:5: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

33 Years:
Read Luke 2:10-14: ” ‘I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ ”

3 Years:
Read John 1:29: “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

1 Year:
Read Mark 8:31"He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.”

3 Days:
Read Matthew 26:38-39: “Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ “

2 Days:
Read Mark 15:37-39: “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’ “

Zero Hour:
Read: Mark 16:6: ” ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.’ “

Our Resurrection:
Read 1 Corinthians 15:20-22: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

More Walking Talk

Picking up from last week, we’re looking for opportunities to talk more with our kids about what it looks like to live as a Christian—what it means for them to walk instead of crawl as they grow to be more like Jesus.

You might be tempted to see the bullet-pointed list of commands in the middle of Romans 12 as a kind of legalistic, performance-motivated approach to being a Christian. But to actually follow the list, you’d have to give up that idea. There’s no room in those one-liners for the pride of performance.

Instead, Paul describes what is looks like in everyday life to be a living sacrifice. (See verses 1-3.)

What we should want for our children as they grow in Christ is to do what is so hard for us—to set themselves aside, to give themselves away, to commit without fear to enjoying God and trusting Him to meet every need. Maybe that starts with a conversation with us about what this walk should look like.

We hope a few of the following questions will help with that.

Talking Points

Talking about Walking

What are your spiritual goals—or hopes—for your Christian children? What benchmarks of progress are you looking for in their relationship with God?

It’s not an easy question, and I think we can fall out of balance in one extreme or the other. On the one hand, some parents can become obsessive about their child’s spiritual development, pushing kids to feel big emotions in response to the grace of God or voluntarily perform great acts of service or simply display near-flawless attitudes of humility, obedience, or zeal much sooner than is reasonable.

In that way, we can be like the first-time parent who begins obsessing about the fact that his eight-month old can’t yet walk, driving himself to distraction looking up all the conditions that might eventually keep a baby from graduating from that “wounded soldier” crawl. We have to be patient and allow kids to develop at their own pace.

On the other hand, we wouldn’t think highly of any parents who did nothing to help their child move toward walking or feeding herself or graduating from diapers. We expect parents to participate in the development of their kids’ physical progress.

As believers, we can also set spiritual goals for our kids that are way too low, hoping for nothing more than a little respect, obedience, and avoidance of “big sins” like sex, drugs, and grand theft auto.

In the middle somewhere, is a healthy attitude that expects to see our Christian kids making progress toward walking after Jesus in some specific ways—not as a legalistic list of do’s and don’ts, but as a normal part of their spiritual maturity. (We should expect to see these same things in ourselves, as well.)

To that end, we’re hoping to talk with our kids this week (and next) about some of the walking skills listed in Romans 12:9-21. And we hope a few of the questions below will help to get that conversation going.

You might want to have a Bible handy to read a few of these verses together if that fits naturally into some of the talking time you have available.

Talking Points

Show Them the Fool

We’d all like our kids to grow wise. One great way to do that is to show them what foolish looks like by comparison—and hopefully not in our own daily words and actions.

Another approach is to find an opportunity to dwell on some of the descriptions of fools in the book of Proverbs. There’s a lot of them, and you might be surprised how much some kids will love to talk about them. By describing and discussing non-specific fools—and even comparing them with the foolish behavior of people in our own lives—you’ll be teaching wisdom without even trying.

We’ve included a few examples of fool verses from Proverbs in the talking points below, but you can find a whole bunch more by typing “fool” into the search box on BibleGateway.com.

Note: It would be really easy to turn a conversation like this into a scolding lecture as you and your child notice some similarities to their own youthful foolishness. Steer clear! They’ll get it. Let the Word do the work. Much more effective would be to humble yourself by finding examples of foolishness from your own life that fit with the proverbs discussed. They almost always remember—and often learn from—appropriate stories about how we blew it.

Have fun!

Talking Points

Praise Him to Them

Has God been good to you over the course of your life? Can you point to specific moments when He answered your prayers in powerful ways, when He surprised you with His goodness, when you were overwhelmed with the evidence of His love for you?

Our goal with this week’s conversation starters is simple—to look for opportunities to commend God’s works to the next generation, to be intentional about telling of His mighty acts in our lives to our kids.

We’re pulling that big idea from Psalm 145, where David’s description of praising God includes praising Him to the generation just coming up. In short, worship includes praising God to our kids.

What do you have to praise God for personally? Maybe a few of the questions below can help you and your child to praise Him to each other.

Talking Points

Zoom Out

We spend a lot of time with our kids helping them to do their best in the day to day—helping them do well with this semester’s grades, this season’s sports, this week’s behavioral challenges. We want them to succeed now and to learn the skills for succeeding later.

When they get into high school, we start to help them begin to think about what they might do with their lives. The big decisions are the same ones we faced: college, relationships, majors, marriage, and “the future.”

This week, though, we’re encouraging conversations about an even bigger view of life, zooming the map even further out to talk about our big “P” purposes as followers of Christ. Wherever they go, whatever they do with their lives, we can help them now to begin to see how their small existence is super-powered by God’s Spirit to fit into in His big plans for the universe.

We’ll be pulling our talking points from Acts 1:1-11, where the disciples heard the resurrected Jesus’ cryptic words about power and purpose then watched Him leave the scene as they tried to figure out what He wanted from them next.

Talking Points

No Reluctant Father

Valentine’s Day is over, but we’re still talking about love here on RWP. Specifically, we’re getting more specific about God’s joyful fatherly love for His kids.

Is your child convinced—are you—that God’s love for him or her is eager, joyful, tender, and complete? God is no reluctant Father. He doesn’t take us on as a burden or an obligation or a government program.

We’ll be looking for chances this week to talk with our kids about how God wanted us—as well as what He wants for us. To begin to understand God’s enthusiastic love for us provides a child with a security and stability for all of life.

We’re more comfortable, of course, talking about what God wants from us, what He requires of His children. But before that should come a foundational understanding of what He wants for His children, what He longed to give to us.

And you alone, as your child’s parent, may be most qualified to communicate this idea of God as a loving Father excited to give the best imaginable of everything to His kids. Your explanation of your own love for your child might be the closest example—though far inferior—to describing the perfect, grace-filled and endless love of God.

We’re pulling our talking points for the week from Ephesians 1:3-14, and we hope a few of the questions below will help you to spark a good conversation about God’s love with your kids.

Talking Points

Bigger Love

Do you make a deal out of Valentine’s week at your house? Families vary in their celebrations and/or avoidance of the day, but the cultural focus does give us a chance to talk about a big idea with our kids: love.

Is there a more important truth to communicate to anyone than the fact that they are loved by the God of the universe? It’s an easy thing to say, “God loves you, and so do I,” but parents play a key role in convincing children that is is possible for them to be loved both because of and in spite of themselves.

This week, we’re encouraging a conversation about exactly that. Talking won’t prove to your kids they are loved by you and/or by God, but some good listening will give you insight into how they are perceiving what it means to be loved or to pass love on.

Talking Points

Practical Faith

What does it mean, really, to trust God, to “have faith”? One opportunity we have as Real World Parents is to show our kids exactly what trusting God looks like, both in our daily lives and in the ways we talk with them about walking in God’s wisdom.

We’re pulling this week’s talking points from Proverbs 3:1-12, which mostly gets specific about what it means to trust God in some very practical ways. These classic wisdom verses reveal wise actions we can take and the payoff that follows those actions.

Of course, the most powerful wisdom classroom our children have is to see how wisdom and foolishness pays off in our lives, how our choices to trust God in specific ways lead to success, failure, joy, or fear in our families.

We can solidify that teaching by opening up with them about the wisdom choices we’re facing, how we’re processing those choices as believers in Jesus, and how we’re processing what comes next. Hopefully a few of these questions from Proverbs 3 will help keep that conversation going. Consider reading those 12 verses together sometime as part of the conversation.

Talking Points

 

Praying Together

How we pray in front of our kids over time might teach them more about how we think of God—and what we think is most important for people—than any number of family devotions or Sunday School lessons. So this week we’re suggesting making time to pray together with your child in a specific way for some specific people.

Think about picking someone—a believer or group of believers—to pray for as a family project this week. It could be another family in your church, a relative, someone sick, a pastor or missionary. The only qualification should be that your child knows the person or group of people personally.

The conversation you’ll be having with your child will be about the conversation you’ll be having together with God. And what you’ll be praying for is very specific; we’re going to pull the prayer items from Ephesians 3:14-19.

You can make a point to pray several times this week—or just once. You can break the points up into sections or just tackle it together in one sitting. If it is not too much of a stretch for your family, consider asking your child to pray for some of these things either out loud with you or on their own during the week.

Our hope is that praying these requests together for someone else will make an impression on your family about what matters to God and what we as believers need most from Him.

NOTE: If you would like to make a daily habit of praying Scripture for your child, check out our Daily Prayer feature. Each day, you will receive (via e-mail or Twitter) a prayer based on a verse correlated to these Conversation Starters and the daily devotional for students over on PlanetWisdom.com.

Talking Points

Responding to Sadness

We know days or even seasons of sadness can be par for all of us, but that doesn’t make it easier to watch our kids struggle with loneliness or depression or “the blues.” And those kinds of feelings are a lot more common this time of year—maybe especially this year.

It’s already been a long winter in many parts of the country—and it’s not over, yet. But Christmas is, and any new excitement from getting back into the school routine has likely worn off. Add to that the continuing financial concerns for many families and the empathy generated by the coverage of the Haiti earthquake—and there are good reasons to be sad.

And that list doesn’t include whatever unique situations your family or child is facing this week. We thought it might be a good time to find an opportunity to talk with our kids about how we can respond to feeling sad. To that end, we’re pulling our talking points from Psalm 42, the famous poem about the psalmist’s downcast soul and his stubborn refusal to quit praising God.

We suggest reading it with your child, if you get the chance, and building from some of the questions below to get into a talk about coping with—and even thriving in—sadness.

Talking Points

More about Grace

Can we talk too much about grace? Probably not, unless we’re getting the concept wrong. And we sometimes do that because it is way too simple to make natural sense to us.

If your child has grown up in a Christian home and church, he or she has probably heard all about the grace of God repeatedly. Hopefully, our kids have also seen us reflecting God’s grace in how we talk about—and relate to—ourselves, our spouses, and them.

But it’s worth talking about again. For one thing, we live in a performance and reward culture. Be the best and get the best. Do bad things and get bad results. In our attempts as the church and as parents to teach the reality of wisdom and folly, we can unintentionally tuck the grace of God off to the side as an asterisk:

“Yes, we are saved by grace, but . . .” Or, “Yes, God’s love and acceptance of us after we are saved continues to be a free gift of grace, but . . .”

We’re pulling our talking points for this week from 1 Timothy 1:12-17 as a refresher for ourselves and our kids on the dead simple truth that God’s grace means He pours out on us good we do not earn. Look for opportunities to apply the big idea of grace to specific things going on in your family this week.

Talking Points

Jesus Above All

During Christmastime, our kids hear a lot about Jesus being the reason for the season. Now that Christmas is winding down, we want to say again that Jesus is the reason for every season, not just the holidays. All of life is His story.

Stories are powerful teachers, and we all resonate with the story of Jesus’ birth. We know the characters. We know the setting. We know the plot. It’s a rescue story, a redemption story, and love story.

But it’s not the whole story. If it were, who would be the most obvious hero? Mary, maybe? And who would be the most powerful beings? The supernatural angel army, right? Without an understanding of how the chapter of Christmas fits into the saga of Jesus, Christmas can become a distortion.

So this week, we’re pulling our talking points from Hebrews 1, where the writer reminds us that Jesus did not stay a baby—or even a sacrificial lamb—He is Lord of all time and space, superior to the angels, sitting at the Father’s right hand right now, and destined to wipe out God’s enemies and rule forever.

We hope of few of these questions will help you to talk about some of that with your child. It might be beneficial to read Hebrews 1:1-14 together.

Talking Points

Telling Time

My five year old said on Christmas Eve, “I wish all of the seasons were the Christmas season!” We probably all remember feeling that way at some point. We recognized we were in a good season, and we didn’t want it to stop. Why wouldn’t a five year old want it to be Christmas all year long?

The Bible teaches two big ideas about seasons that we want to try to talk to our kids about this week. One is that our times are in God’s hands. He is the maker of time, and He controls what happens and when. It’s a hard lesson to learn that we live in His seasons; we can’t speed up the clock or slow it down or skip a season.

Second, seasons always change. Our talking point this week come from the famous poem in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 that asserts there is a time for everything. Biblical wisdom includes learning to recognize what time our families are in and to learn to live as best we can in that time—until a new time comes.

Yes, these are big ideas, but many kids find them fascinating to think and talk about. A few of the questions below might help. A good starting place for this New Year’s conversation would be to read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 together.

Talking Points

Shepherds First

Why talk to your kids about shepherds and angels this week? Hasn’t it been discussed enough this month? Part of our goal is not just to talk to our kids, but to hear from them how they are processing the message of Jesus’ birth this time around. What do they imagine when they think of the shepherds and the heavenly host and the baby in the manger? Do they think it matters to them personally?

It’s an easy conversation to have on Christmas week and the meaning of Jesus’ birth and God’s favor is always worth talking about. A few of the following questions might even fit around a reading of the Christmas story in Luke 2:1-20 if that’s something your family does together this time of year.

By the way, we hope you have a great Christmas and enjoy spending time together with your family.

Talking Points

Faith Like Mary

Many scholars assume Mary to have been a teenager—maybe even a younger teen—when she became pregnant with Jesus. That fact amazed me when I was in junior high. It amazes me even more now when I look around at the middle school students I know. Do they get younger looking every year for everyone, or is it just me?

I know her culture and ours are apples and oranges. Mary was engaged to be married, after all. Society expected more maturity of her than it does of the braces-wearing, iPod-equipped 14-year-olds in this time and place. Still, the amount of faith she exhibits in the face of visits from angels and an unplanned pregnancy is inspiring.

And that’s our hope this week, to prod our kids to be inspired by—and to aspire after—Mary’s faith. And we hold her up as a role model not because she was extraordinary (which she was) but because she was a normal human teenager just like they are. If Mary can trust God in the middle of a difficult opportunity, they can, too. We want our kids to catch that they, too, can trust God when it’s hard and be used by Him right now, often in unexpected ways.

It might be helpful to talk about Mary’s faith in God and willingness to obey after catching a church Christmas program or Christmas movie on TV. If you get a chance to read through Luke 1:26-45 together, even better.

Talking Points

Big Grace

One of the challenges of parenting for Christians is that we want our kids to be as excited about God’s unbelievable grace and forgiveness as we are—but we still want them to perform. We pray they’ll be absolutely convinced that their place in God’s family (and ours) is not conditional on how well they follow Christ or obey us, but we still stress repeatedly and doggedly that their best option is to follow and obey.

Paul could relate. We’re pulling our talking point for this week from the very beginning of his letter to the Christians and the church in Corinth. It’s a letter that spells out in explicit detail everything they’re doing wrong as individuals and as a group in how they are “doing church.” He uses some harsh-sounding words to reveal their selfish, selfish hearts. He derides them for misunderstanding God’s grace to mean they should have the right do whatever feels good all the time.

But Paul begins his letter to these sinners by expressing his deep assurance that the Corinthians Christians were sanctified receivers of God’s grace enriched with the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. He states unequivocally—before dismantling their wrongdoings—that God will keep them strong to the end so that they will be blameless on the day of the Lord. He wanted them to choose to do right not to earn God’s love but because they already had it and were empowered to imitate it in serving Him and each other.

We encourage you to read these first nine verses, maybe with your child, and to use the opportunity this week to emphasize God’s endless, perfect grace for His flawed, selfish children. And since we’re just weeks away from Christmas, it will be easy to point to that event as evidence of God’s grace and love in spite of all of our selfish sinfulness.

Talking Points

Talk About Humility

How many naturally humble people do you know? The answer is “none.” Human beings don’t come in that flavor; we are instinctive self-promoters. Some of us may be more obvious in our arrogance, but no child is left behind when it comes to inborn sinful pride.

And, yet, finding and choosing humility is absolutely essential. Without it, we cannot come to simple faith in Christ for our salvation. Without it, we cannot live as Jesus did. And without, it we are doomed to remain fools all of our days.

As Solomon put it: “With humility comes wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2)

One important element in raising wise children is to lead them to a right understanding of their own stubborn pride and deep need for humility. So we’ve put together some talking points for this week to help jump start conversations about pride and humility. We hope they’re helpful.

Talking Points

Talk about Saying Thanks

Thanksgiving week is both the best and worst of times to try to teach kids about gratitude. It’s easy for all of us to tune out the message to “be thankful” when we hear it from every corner, even the secular ones urging us to buy more stuff and root for our favorite teams.

But the conversation is still worth having, especially if you can break through the “Thanksgiving noise” in a creative way. We’re pulling our talking points this week from the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19. Yes, it’s a familiar account—but it’s also a shocking one.

Would we say thanks for being spontaneously healed of a terminal disease? We’d like to think so. But do we express a lack of gratitude about other good gifts that might be just as shocking to God—or to people in cultures where those good gifts are hard to come by?

Something else to think about if you can provoke your child into a good discussion about thanks: Have we confused politeness with a true sense of gratitude to God? Do our kids equate giving thanks with saying “excuse me” after they burp? Is it just an act of civility or a real reflection of the heart?

We hope a few of the following questions will help you to dig into these ideas with your kids.

Talking Points

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Ask God to help your child not to get the details of God’s commands wrong. (See Gen. 3:2-3.)

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