Youth Culture Today is a 60-second daily radio spot from CPYU and Walt Mueller, now available as a podcast. It provides a quick glance into the world of teenagers and today's youth culture for parents, youth workers and others who care about kids and want to help them navigate adolescence in ways th…
There's a little daily devotional guide that I've been using for several years entitled, “Seeking God's Face: Praying With The Bible Through The Year.” It's good, and I highly recommend it to you. Each and every year I land on an October entry that takes me into the passage in Second Samuel eleven where we read about King David's sin with Bathsheba. His lustful look led to him summoning Bathsheba to his bed where he committed the sin of adultery and Bathsheba became pregnant. The story is sobering as it shows us the deep, wide, and abiding consequences of sin. I love the closing prayer for the day and want to share it with you here: Covenant God, we know the well-worn path of sexual sin – a lingering look, a lustful desire, a wicked thought, a word of invitation, and finally the actual act. Single or married, keep us true to your intention for the bodies you gave, always honoring you and others in them. In Christ's name, Amen. That's a prayer to pray for ourselves and our kids.
Recently, our friends at Lifeway research offered some very helpful directives for those of us who desire to see our kids grow up to love, follow, and serve Jesus Christ. There are three factors in particular that parents must be aware of that research tells us are present in the churches of those who grow up to embrace a life of Christian discipleship. First, churches who foster an environment of trust and guidance are churches where teenagers feel the freedom to go for help and direction. Teens who grow up in a church like this are less likely to drop out of church and walk away from the faith. Second, churches that provide youth leaders who truly care about their students leave kids less likely to drop out of church and walk away from the faith. Make sure your church is training and equipping strong leaders. And finally, churches where adults reach out to kids, take an interest in them, invest in them, and foster relationships with them are more likely to see kids stick around. Is this what's happening in your church?
Today's culture offers kids many options as they search to find an answer to the question, who am I? In the New Reformation Catechism on Human Sexuality, we find this question and truth filled answer about identity. “Why is it comforting that we have a new identity in Jesus Christ?” The answer? “I am being remade into the image of Christ, to have a true identity, in body and soul, throughout the whole course of my life, to enjoy god and glorify him forever. He redeemed my life with the precious blood of his son, and has delivered me from the lie of Satan in the Garden. He also watches over me in such a way that he might free me from all sexual impurity as the temple of his indwelling.; in fact, all things must work together to remake me into the image of his Son. Because I have this new identity, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, also assures me of God's steadfast love, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to enjoy true freedom as a new creation.”
What are we to do if we have or know children and teens who are choosing to live outside of God's good design for sex and gender? Sadly, in today's world, many of us are afraid to love our kids enough to confront behavior that's undoing them. But “I love you enough to tell you the truth” should be near the top of our list of parenting mantras and commitments. Yes, we have to have to show sensitivity, grace, and deep ongoing kindness to any kid who is grappling with any kind of broken desire or sinful behavior. There is no compromising on that fact. . . none whatsoever. But let's remember that love is not the same thing as affirmation. Love looks out for the best and it communicates truths. . . sometimes hard truths. . . which need to be heard by someone who is way off-course and lost in sin. I need it. You need it. Our kids need it. And, in the context of sensitive, grace-filled, and kind relationships, truth can and will be heard. Let's be parents who love our kids enough to tell them the truth.
All this week we've been looking at the Apostle Paul's New Testament letters and some trustworthy statements that we must know, embrace, and communicate to our kids. These are life-giving truths that must be completely accepted and believed. In Titus three eight, Paul writes, “This is a trustworthy saying, that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.” Doing good is not only a response to the grace and mercy God has showered on us through the gift of salvation. It is also something that affects Christ's followers in positive ways as we receive the blessing of pouring ourselves out in service to others. In addition, Paul wants us to know that good deeds attract others to the truth of the Gospel. Our witness becomes compelling to the watching world. Our kids need to know that to serve and glorify God by serving others leads to their spiritual growth and flourishing. Let's tell the truth to our kids, so that our kids will in turn live the truth!
All this week we're looking at the Apostle Paul's New Testament letters and some trustworthy statements that we must know, embrace, and communicate to our kids. These are life-giving truths that must be completely accepted and believed. In Second Timothy two, verses eleven to twelve, Paul writes, “The saying is trustworthy, if we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure with him, we will also reign with him, if we deny him, he also will deny us, and if we are faithless, he remains faithful.” This passage affirms that one of the duties to which we are called as followers of Christ is to suffer for Christ. As Jesus said, when we follow Him we take up a cross. But the beautiful promise Paul shares is that if we endure with Christ, we will also reign with Christ. Parents, what are you doing to embrace a life of faithfulness, even in the midst of difficulties? And, are you pointing your kids to a life where out of gratitude to God for his grace, they are willing to endure difficulty?
All this week we're looking at the Apostle Paul's New Testament letters and some trustworthy statements that we must know, embrace, and communicate to our kids. These are life-giving truths that must be completely accepted and believed. In I Timothy 4, verses eight and nine, we read this: “”Godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.” Our kids need to know that there is a double blessing that comes when we place our faith in Jesus Christ and live to his glory. Charles Spurgeon calls these the blessings of earthly and heavenly springs, or of time and eternity. Paul is talking here about engaging spiritual exercise, the benefits of which are showered on us both in the present and the future. Teach your kids to study, understand, and apply the truths of the Scriptures to their everyday living. Lead your kids to embrace that which is trustworthy.
All this week we're looking at the Apostle Paul's New Testament letters and some trustworthy statements that we must know, embrace, and communicate to our kids. These are life-giving truths that must be completely accepted and believed. In First Timothy 1:15 Paul writes, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” In world where a culture of marketing offers all kinds of false redeemers, our kids need to learn that the hole in their souls is God-shaped. Consequently, it can only be filled by God through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Material possessions, social status, and personal achievements can never fill us, save us, or make us whole. Our kids need to learn that when they make idols of these things, the end result is only increased emptiness. Their yearning is ultimately for a restored relationship with God, through faith in Jesus Christ. Are you leading your kids to live out that which is true and trustworthy?
Living in a world where information comes at us at breakneck speed makes it almost impossible to know what to believe and what not to believe. This has been pounded home to us over the course of the last several months as we continually hear about fake news. As parents and youth workers, we teach our kids how to discern what is true from what is false. We must also communicate the truths of God's Word in ways that help them to walk the narrow road that leaves to life, while avoiding the wide road that leads to destruction. The Apostle Paul uses the word “trustworthy” several times in his New Testament letters. In each case, his use of the word is in reference to a saying that is true, and that is to be completely accepted and believed. Are you searching the Scriptures in order to know the truth that is not only to be accepted and believed, but that gives life? Then, are you sharing that with your kids? For the rest of the week, we'll be looking at several of Paul's trustworthy sayings.
One of the best lessons I learned from my parents is that there is more to life than sitting around and doing nothing. My parents were available to us on those quiet evenings when it would have been easy to plop down in front of the tube. But they always had something fun to do. We would play board games or cards, wrestle or box with my dad, build models, work in the basement woodshop, etc. Sure we watched TV, listened to the radio, and played records. But those voices were tempered by the involvement of our parents in our lives. We even learned to enjoy listening to our parents; there was good communication taking place. Because I had such fun-loving parents most of the neighborhood kids wanted to spend time at my house. In today's world, the two greatest distractions to family time and fun are first, a full schedule of organized activities, and second, everyone keeping their faces buried in their phones. Make an effort to connect by disconnecting from the distractions.
In his daily devotional book on wisdom from the book of Proverbs, Tim Keller has several entries helping us understand and apply Proverbs to matters of human sexuality. Keller tells us that in today's world, we've trained ourselves to take physical pleasure without the full personal commitment of marriage, ultimately separating body and soul. Sex becomes a sloppy physical encounter from which we walk away wiping our mouths. So, how should we think, teach, and practice regarding sex? Keller writes: “Sex should instead be a way to both display and deepen full trust. It is a radical, unconditional, deeply personal means of self-donation. It is God's created way to say to someone else, ‘I belong wholly and exclusively to you.' If you use it to say that and mean that, as times goes on it will enable spouses to indeed become more indissolubly one and each other's. If you don't use it like that, you've turned it into groceries. It will be routine, then boring. There will be no wonder left.”
Here at CPYU we are always telling parents that there are three essential elements to a healthy, biblically-based response to an alarming youth culture trend. First, when we realize that something is trending, we are to exercise a prophetic influence by speaking Scripture related to the trend into our teen's life. Second, we are to exert a preventive influence by establishing borders and boundaries designed to protect our kids from harming themselves while providing for their well-being. And finally, when our kids fall prey to the trends and enter into making poor decisions that lead to bad habits and sinful behavior, we must do all that we can to help them experience recovery from the consequences of their choices while moving them to a place of repentance and restoration as they own their mistakes and experience grace. This is the redemptive influence we are called to have. Parents, fulfill your responsibility to parent well with a balance of the prophetic, preventive, and the redemptive.
The latest research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding our kids and suicides are quite alarming. With mental health issues like anxiety and depression on the rise among our kids, it should come as no surprise that more and more kids are opting to choose the darkness of self-inflicted death, over a life which to them seems inescapably darker. Since the start of the covid pandemic in 2020, the suicide rate by firearm among children and teens ages one to eighteen had risen by eleven percent. Parents, we need to teach our kids that on several occasions Jesus told his followers they could expect pain and persecution. The Psalms are full of the moans and laments of human suffering and emotional misery. But all of God's Word points to the fact that God does not leave us alone in times of trouble. In Psalm forty-six one we read these words of truth and comfort: “God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble.” Teach your kids to lean into the hope of the Gospel.
Parents, are you familiar with the term financial sextortion? If not, you need to not only become aware, but to warn your teens about the growing number of instances of financial sextortion. Here's how it works. Your teen is spending time with someone else on a social media platform when that person sends a message asking the teen to snap a picture of himself or herself naked while also showing their face in the picture. All along, the teen has been thinking that they've been talking and flirting with a peer, usually of the opposite sex. Your teen snaps the photo and sends it, just as they were asked to do. Suddenly, the other person, who many times had been chatting it up for days and even weeks, demands money be electronically transferred, or else they will make the photo go public to family and friends. Officials at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children say that financial sextortion has exploded in recent years. Parents, sexting of any type is wrong and dangerous.
In today's world, one of the ways in which we divide people into groups and rate their value is according to their jobs. Parents, we have to teach our kids something different. I love these words of truth from Abraham Kuyper: "Preachers and plumbers aren't any different. What God requires of them each is the same: not a dime's less than everything. Missionaries are no more holy than factory workers or soccer players or the unemployed. Life, lived near unto God, is holy service. . . Whether you do art, bus tables, lay concrete, clean toilets, bring up kids, care for the elderly, perform brain surgery, pump gas, clean teeth, play football, or shine shoes - no matter what you do - do it to his honor and glory. After all, our life is a whole, the component parts of which - play, duty, leisure - must be wrapped in our love like a present, then laid at the feet of our God." Parents, God has gifted your children in unique ways. Teach them to live into their gifts, that all work matters to God, and all work brings him glory!
The Bible speaks from beginning to end about the presence and benefits of suffering. James tells us that we're to “consider it all joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance,” which then leads to maturity. The teenage years bring difficulty for both teenagers and their parents. As a result, we can experience the joy of going deeper with God and depending on him during the challenges of adolescence. We've learned that the harder the difficulty, the deeper God is taking us. He wants us at the place where we drop our arms to our sides, look to him in desperation, and then confess, “Ok Lord, I've got nothing.” Suffering is a process God uses to refine us and our kids into His image and likeness. If we had to do it all over again as parents, would we change the circumstances that led us to suffering and helplessness? Absolutely not! It's been a gift that's taken us deeper in our dependence on Him.
Today I want to speak to the mothers who are listening. If you know anything at all about today's youth culture, you are aware that your daughters are facing tremendous body image pressure. As a result, all kinds of disordered eating have reached epidemic proportions among children and teens. If you've watched television, been on social media, or seen magazine covers you have a pretty good idea where much of this body image pressure comes from. But what many moms forget is that they can be a source of body image pressure as well. Every mother out there has been hammered by the body image pressure present in our culture. Consequently, your own words and example can actually fuel the same pressures in your daughters. In fact, experts at the Mayo Clinic say that Moms are probably the most important influence on a daughter's body image. Mom, where do you find your identity? By finding your identity in Christ, you will help your kids to do the same.
There's something about just hearing the word pedophile that makes the hair stand up on the back of our necks. We wonder how there can be people out there who actually take the time to carefully approach and groom kids into situations where they sexually assault and exploit innocent and unsuspecting children. The folks at Defend Young Minds are now warning parents to be aware of the many places and ways that predators engage our kids in the world of gaming apps. Specifically, these predators are using the chat features in a variety of games, including Roblox, Minecraft, and Fortnite, which are all games played by a younger crowd. After the initial grooming takes place, the predators then move the conversations to different messaging apps, thereby keeping parents out of the loop. Parents, you need to know that where kids play, predators are playing as well. Talk to your kids about the dangers, monitor their online time, and be sure to use parental controls.
The father of a young fourteen-year-old girl in Spain was recently quoted in a news report as saying this: “Today a smartphone can be considered as a weapon. . . a weapon with a real potential of destruction, and I don't want it to happen again.” What was this father talking about? He was the father of one of the over thirty twelve to fourteen year old girls in a town in spain who were victimized by a group of male minors who used an artificial intelligence app to remove clothing from the girls in photos. The app, called Nudify, is one of a growing number of phone apps that uses AI to change a photo into a nude one. These fake nudes are then distributed through social media, leading to what's rightly being called the direct exploitation and abuse of women and girls. In some cases, the photos are used for extortion purposes to get money from the victims at the threat of posting or sharing the photo online. Parents, teach your kids that exploitation of this or any type, is sinful and wrong.
I recently read Miriam Grossman's new book, Lost In Trans-Nation: A Child Psychiatrist's Guide Out of the Madness. At the beginning of the book she writes a few paragraphs in a section called “A Note on Language.” She includes this: “We face crusade, a juggernaut, that seeks to demolish male and female, and its success hinges on the control of language. Under those circumstances, to call a man ‘she' is not a kindness, it's a concession – to a scheme to control our belief and advance an agenda, one pronoun at a time. In this book, I emphasize that male and female, after being established at conception, are permanent. I urge parents to be honest and consistent with their children, and to at all times stay grounded in biological reality. I have always done that in my office, and I'm not going to stop now. . . Finally, with each pronoun capitulation. . . I will have fostered his delusion, perhaps moving him further along a dangerous path. . . all because of words and ‘kindness.'” Well said, Miriam Grossman.
One of my sons is a high school physical education teacher. I recently asked him about his experiences with students and discipline over the course of the first couple of months of this school year. He reported that the students have been quite easy to handle with the exception of one particular issue: vaping in the bathrooms. The latest research says that over two-and a half million youth here in the United States are currently vaping. One fifteen year old student from New Jersey recently told Yahoo life, “You walk into the bathroom and it smells like fruit and people are passing around a vape and asking people who look chill if they want a hit. Some sit on the floor, but most go into the stalls with their friends. Everyone does it.” Another student describes his bathrooms as being nothing but a cloud of fog in there. Parents, we need to prepare our kids to steward their God-given bodies. Warn them about the addictive nature of vaping and the associated health risks.
One of the ways that we can stay up to date on the rapid changes in today's culture is to pay attention to the dictionary. You see, new words are added and words deemed outdated are removed on a regular basis thanks to how our culture is morphing and changing. For example, the folks at dictionary.com told us a few months ago that their latest revisions included three hundred and thirteen new dictionary entries, one hundred and thirty new definitions, and one thousand one hundred and forty revised definitions. One sphere of life that's always adding and changing words is the sphere of our understanding of sex and gender. One new word added this year is abrosexual. The prefix abro comes from a Greek word meaning graceful, delicate, and pretty. The dictionary defines this adjective as noting or relating to a person whose sexual orientation is fluid or fluctuating over time. Parents, this reflects how culture is defining sexuality. We must lean into God's unchanging Word to define our sexuality.
If it hasn't yet happened somewhere near where you live, it most likely will at some point in the future. What I'm talking about is the debate over who gets to use what bathroom in your local public school. Thanks to activists and the spread of the transgender ideology, more and more school boards are facing the pressure to allow students to use the bathroom they believe corresponds to their felt gender identity, rather than the bathroom that reflects their anatomical makeup and biological sex. Here in Pennsylvania, one high profile case is that in the Perkiomen Valley school district in suburban Philadelphia. In September, the Perkiomen Valley school board shot down a policy that would require students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their biological sex. One month later, the school board reversed their decision. The reversal came after four hundred high school students staged a walkout in support of protecting women and girls. Sometimes it takes kids to show us what's right.
Over the years, teen culture has seen many slang terms come and go as negative references to girls who it is assumed promiscuously sleep around. Now, there's a new derogatory term that's being used to bully and shame someone for engaging in allegedly promiscuous behavior. The term is “lala-bop”. It originated in a 2021 sexually explicit song from rapper Almighty Rexxo. Social media bullies will use the term on TikTok and X as a way to label and demean girls, accusing them of sleeping around and being passed from guy to guy. The trend has become so common that schools are now taking steps to inform parents of the trend. In years past this trend has also been termed “slut-shaming.” We all know that our girls can be especially unkind to each other, especially during the middle school years. We would do well to warn our kids that this is not a behavior they should engage in, nor should they bully others. Instead, they are to treat each other with Christ-like kindness.
A researcher from Baylor University reminds us just how important sleep is for our developing children and teens. Dr. Sonal Malhotra, professor of Pediatrics who works in sleep medicine at Texas Children's Hospital says this: “A good sleep schedule is one that has good quality, quantity, and consistency. At this age, kids are trying to learn as much as they can while doing extracurriculars and being social, so their sleep time is important for their bodies to relax and reset from the day.” Dr. Malholtra not only reminds us that teens need eight to ten hours of uninterrupted sleep during the night, but that they should avoid any caffeine consumption or screen time before bed. They need time to wind down. Parents, God has made us for a rhythm of work and rest. Too much busyness at the expense of rest compromises our physical, mental, relational, and spiritual health. Take stock of how much sleep your child is getting, and where changes need to be made, make them!
I recently ran across the transcript from an interview I conducted fifteen years ago with theologian and author, David Wells. My last question to Dr Wells was this: If you were to address a room full of youth workers and you had the opportunity to communicate one message to them, what one message would you communicate? Here's his answer, and it applies to parents as well: It is time to get brave. Let's stop the pandering. Kids see right through it. Let's give them the real thing. They are looking for it. No one has demanded anything of them; let us tell them that if they come to Christ, he bids them die. No one has told them that they can know truth as something other than their own private perspectives; let us tell them there is Truth and those who know it, lose their lives. No one has told them that there is a different way of life. If we tell them that they can have Christ on their own terms, we are selling them down the river. They instinctively know that. So, let us not make fools of ourselves anymore.
Christopher Yuan has struggled with same-sex attraction his entire life. His story is one of God's life-changing grace and redemption, as the Lord brought him out of being fully entrenched in the homosexual lifestyle and to himself. In his book, Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God's Grand Story, Christopher talks about what happened to him as he began to understand who he really was as a follower of Jesus Christ. He writes, “I read the bible more and more. As I did, I realized I'd placed my identity in the wrong thing. The culture tells those of us who are same-sex attracted that our sexuality is at the core of who we are. But God's Word paints quite a different picture. Genesis 1:27 informs us that we are all created in the image of God. The apostle Paul says that in Christ “we live and move and have our being.” Thus, my identity is not gay, ex-gay, or even straight. My true identity is in Jesus Christ alone. This is a message of truth we all need to embrace.
In today's world, our kids are encouraged by the cultural narrative to live their lives at the level of their experiences and feelings. If a decision needs to be made or a belief is embraced, those decisions and beliefs should be based solely not on some outside authority, but on the authority of one's own opinions. For the Christian, the only trustworthy authority is God's unchanging Word. In his second letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul reminds timothy to embrace the Scriptures, which are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.” Paul continues, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Paul is telling all of us to submit our beliefs and behaviors to trustworthy authority of God's Word. The late James Montgomery Boice says this: “We must evaluate our experiences by the Bible's teaching, rather than the other way around.”
Have you ever read a line or two in a book that forced you to stop in your tracks and pause to reflect on the power and truth of the words you just read? I was recently reading Rico Tice's book, “Faithful Leaders and the things that matter most.” It's a book about growing in faith as we develop the kind of leadership skills that will benefit those we lead, including our children and teens. Tice tells the story of chatting with a woman after a funeral at which an older lady asked him, “Rico, do you know what failure is?” “No – tell me” he answered. Tice says that what she said next has stuck with him forever. “Failure is being successful at the things that don't matter.” Parents, our culture is spinning a narrative about success that is enticing, seductive, and compelling to all of us, parents and kids alike. I want to encourage you to evaluate everything you see and hear in today's culture under the truth-filled light of God's Word. It is there and only there where we will understand what really matters.
I once thought I knew quite a bit about raising kids. Then I had them. . . and the older they grew, the less I realized I knew. You know what else I learned? That the place where God wants us is in total dependence on Him. That's the place where we need to pray for answers – answers to our questions about raising and relating to our teenagers. Paul's words in Philippians four-six have become more and more real to me through the times of struggle I've faced as a parent: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Prayer is a wonderful gift God has given to us as we learn to depend on Him and His power to keep us on track as dads and moms. And when we pray, we don't change God or His mind. Rather, the beauty of prayer is the changes it brings in us. Yes, prayer does change things. And by God's design and for our benefit, we are the things that prayer changes!
“What were we thinking?!?” I've heard more and more parents ask that question as they look back on their willingness to get their child a smartphone. Parents are increasingly coming to understand that even though smartphones are a helpful tool, too much technology too soon can undermine the mental, spiritual, physical, and relational growth and development of our kids. Researchers continue to study the dangers of smartphone use among our kids. Parents, we need to pay attention to what's being discovered. Canadian researchers have recently confirmed the link between screen time use and anxiety and depression in kids. But here's what's really important for us to hear: Researchers found that parent stress is a key predictor of screen time. In other words, we try to manage our parenting stress by putting phones in our kids hands. We need to manage our stress in more God-honoring ways. Let's put ourselves in God's hands when we are stressed, rather than putting phones into our kids hands.
I will never forget the overwhelming wonder and amazing joy I felt when my first child was born. I said to God in gratitude, “I'm not worthy! What did I do to deserve this?” Shortly thereafter, our first child became a teenager. During my weaker moments, the challenges, confrontations, and difficulties that come with parenting sometimes left me asking God, “What have I done to deserve this?” Then I was reminded of Solomon's wise and truthful words in Psalm one hundred twenty seven: “Don't you see that children are God's best gift? The fruit of his womb his generous legacy? Like a warrior's fistful of arrows are the children of a vigorous youth. Oh, how blessed are you parents, with your quivers full of children!” Parents, whether God graces you with easy parenting times or strengthens you during difficult parenting times, those children God gave you as gifts on the day they were born are still God's gifts. Treasure the gift of your teenage children!
Sometimes some research comes along that confirms what we already know just from intuition. But we need to listen to that research as it reminds us of things that should be getting our attention. A new study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that chaotic home environments have a negative influence on family communication, specifically leading to reduced conversations and sharing between teenagers and their mothers. A chaotic home is one that breeds the kinds of unpredictability and tension that leads kids to clam up and avoid conversations. Parents, the responsibility to maintain peace in our homes falls on us. We need to eat together, engage in fun activities together, attend worship together, and pray together as we nurture our children in the faith. Our prayers must echo the words of this benediction: the Lord make his face to shine upon us, and be gracious to us. The Lord lift up His countenance upon us, and give us peace, this day and forever more.
Statistics tell us that each and every day here in the United States, around sixteen hundred children and teens under the age of eighteen try their first cigarette. Statistics also tell us that each and every year, almost half a million Americans die prematurely as a result of health conditions related to smoking, or from exposure to second-hand smoke. This is why we need to be engaged in ongoing efforts to help kids steward their God-given bodies by avoiding smoking of any type. British researchers are now pointing to new findings that teens who had started smoking by fourteen years of age had significantly less grey matter in the section of the brain known as the left frontal lobe, which is the part of the brain linked to impulse control, decision making, and rule breaking. Parents, God has given us the responsibility to raise our kids in ways that lead to a physically healthy adulthood. Yes, they will make their own decisions, but we need to educate them from a young age regarding smoking's dangers.
One of the questions I field from frustrated youth workers just about everywhere I go is this: How can I get parents to sit up and take notice of the many dangerous cultural trends influencing their children and teens today? They just don't seem to care. They know these things are out there, but they believe that these things just won't ever effect their kids. Truth be told, I share the frustration of these youth workers. I tell them that I typically find that parents sit up and take notice after something negative happens to their kids and they find themselves in crisis. It's then that I hear parents ask, “Why didn't we see this coming?” while saying “I didn't think this would ever happen to us.” Parents, take note of what's happening the world in terms of the pressures, challenges, and choices your kids are facing. Exercise prevention rather than ignorance. And heed the words of Proverbs 22:3: the prudent sees dangers and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.
I was recently reading what the book of Proverbs says about those of us who are older, and those of us who are younger. Proverbs sixteen thirty-one says, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.” Proverbs 20:29 tells us that “the glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.” I love how Tim Keller helps us understand the truths contained in these verses. He writes, “We live in a culture that idolizes the beauty, energy, and creativity of youth. Proverbs, however, takes a remarkably balanced view of the unique splendor and glory of every age and stage of human life. The young have a strength and an unwearied ambition that older people cannot muster. The old have a perspective, wisdom, and dignity that younger people have not yet to acquire.” What a beautiful thing it is that God's counter-cultural order and design encourages and allows us to benefit from those who are different. Let's work together to love and serve the Lord.
At one time or another, all of us were teenagers. And regardless of what generation you are from and when you went through your teenage years, you experienced having to navigate the developmental task of forming your identity. It's during the teenage years that the search for the answer to the question “Who am I?” reaches it's peak. In today's social media saturated world in which our kids are encouraged to create your own authentic self, Identity is not longer seen as something we receive from outside of ourselves, but something which we choose and create for ourselves. In fact, in today's world, our kids are always becoming rather than being. They are on a never-ending search for their true selves. This is evidenced in big ways in the way that kids are choosing rather than accepting their gender. What our kids need to know is that they have been created by God in the image of God, and when they are in Christ they are sons and daughters of God. That is where we are to find our identity.
Journalist and mother Jennifer Wallace recently released a book looking at the roots and effects of putting pressure on kids for high academic achievement. Specifically, she was pushing back on the pressure kids face to engage in what's been called “grind culture: where kids have to grind it out academically in the hope that they would get into the most respected and high quality institutions of higher education. Her book is titled “Never Enough: When Achievement Culture Becomes Toxic, And What We Can Do About It.” Parents who give in to this pressure may push their kids into the twenty-five percent who believe that they are looked upon fondly by their parents more for what they do and how they perform, rather than for who they are. This is not the way it's supposed to be. Parents, we are to love our kids for who God has made them to be. Love based on performance undermines their well-being. When it comes to academics, expect them to do their best, and celebrate with them when that happens.
The National Kidney Foundation reports that about ten percent of people in the united states will have to deal with a kidney stone at some point during their lives. While I've been spared the agony myself, some of you have firsthand knowledge of just how painful a kidney stone can be. The data suggests that kidney stones are most common among middle-aged, Caucasian men. But doctors are now reporting that they're seeing a marked increase in kidney stones among teenagers, especially among our teenaged girls. While researchers are still trying to figure out what's causing this, they are speculating that it's a combination of diets high in ultra-processed foods, the increased use of antibiotics early in life, and dehydration. Some hospitals are even opening pediatric stone clinics to deal with this issue. Parents, since we have given the responsibility by God to serve as stewards of our children's health, make sure your kids are drinking enough water, and eating foods that are healthy.
One of our Research Fellows here at CPYU, Dr. Jason Engle, wrote one of our CPYU Parent Prompts on youth sports and church participation. Jason tells us that for families with young athletes, the pressure to participate in travel and club teams continues to intensify, with parents having to make difficult decisions about whether or not their child will participate on a Sunday morning. Jason offers this advice regarding how youth sports can become an idol: Jesus teaches that, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. Jesus alone stands as the only worthy object of what our hearts look to as supreme treasure. This should shape the goal of every parent for the heart of their child: to know and treasure Jesus as supreme. We fall into idolatry when we instead set our hearts' supreme affections on anything other than the One who is worthy of it. Anything that makes high demands of our calendar and our bank account can quickly pull us toward idolatry, including youth sports.
Our friends at Tim Elmore's Growing Leaders organization recently chatted with a group of students between eighth grade and twelfth grade about their attitudes and practices regarding social media and screen time. It seems that many of the students interviewed realize that too much social media and screentime is harmful. One senior girl said this: “I was just on a trip with a group of friends, and a group of us girls sat down to make a list of the pros and cons of social media. The only pros we could think of were communication and how it helps you connect with people who you haven't even met yet. It's pretty convenient, but the cons way outweighed it so much. We mainly talked about how it was a waste of time and how easy it was to compare yourself to other people.” Those are some great insights. Parents, why not sit down with your kids and have them draw up a list of the pros and cons related to social media and screentime. Help them see the benefits of peeling back.
Back in February of this year, a sixteen-year-old high school junior at St. Joseph's Catholic School in Renfrow, Ontario Canada, was suspended for voicing his concerns and moral objections to the school's transgender bathroom policies. Josh Alexander was actually arrested and suspended for stating that he believes it is a biological fact that there are only two genders and two sexes. Josh says, “I got suspended for comments made during a class discussion. It was about male students using female washrooms, gender dysphoria, and male breastfeeding. Everyone was sharing their opinions on it, any student who wanted to was participating, including the teacher. I said there were only two genders, and you were born either male or a female and that got me into trouble. I have chosen to follow Christ, and that's the path that I'm on right now.” Parents, we need to teach our kids God's good design for their gender. And, they need to know that standing for truth is sometimes costly.
Those of us who live here in North America have been deeply blessed in terms of material provisions and wealth. Relative to the rest of the world's population, we are incredibly rich. Jesus warned about the dangers of money and wealth, and these are warnings we must heed ourselves, and teach our children to heed as well. In Luke sixteen Jesus speaks these words, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or her will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” I recently read these helpful clarifying words of commentary on this saying of Jesus: “Sin arises not when we possess riches but only when our riches possess us. To set our hearts on wealth is to turn away from God.” Parents, we need to model and teach a proper, God-glorifying perspective on money and wealth. We must warn our kids against idolatry, and to use all they have and will be given to God's glory.
As one who has raised kids who were involved in youth sports, who has coached youth sports, and who now has grandchildren involved in youth sports, I've watched the evolution of parents and their sideline behavior, including an overall decline in civility. I want to share a message shared recently by my oldest son, a high school phys ed teacher who has also coached at the high school and college levels: He says, If you are a parent of an athlete, I urge you to double-check your priorities. Your son or daughter will be a mother or father before an athlete. Your son or daughter should play the game because they love it, not because you love it. Your son or daughter is not defined by performance but by character and attitude. If you feel winning is more important than the hard work and character that is the recipe for winning, then you need to reprioritize your thinking. These are timely words! Parents, how we choose to spectate and play should be seen as an act of worship to our sovereign and holy God.
With fall's football season in full swing everywhere from our youth fields to the professional gridiron, it's once again time for us to pass on to you some of the latest findings from the Concussion Legacy Foundation on the effects of exposure to repeated impacts to the head. As one who loves football, I know how easy it is to ignore what's being learned about the effects of concussions, especially if it threatens our views on the game and even our own childrens' involvement. The latest research has found that among a sample of one hundred and fifty two young athletes exposed to repetitive head impacts who died before the age of thirty, just over forty-one percent had neuropathological evidence of Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy, or CTE. Included in the study was the brain of Meiko Locksley, the deceased son of University of Maryland Head football coach Michael Locksley, who is warning parents to use caution and wisdom, as his son started playing tackle football at age seven.
The great eighteenth century preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon way back in August of 1740 that included some words to parents, educators, and the church which ring just as true today as when he spoke them almost three hundred years ago. Edwards said this: “Children ought to love the Lord Jesus Christ above all things in the world.” Jesus said the same thing this way Mark 12:30: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Whether we are children or adults, love for God is the very thing for which we have been made. As you consider this, realize that the culture is educating your kids twenty-four seven to love and serve themselves above all else. Parents, take stock of how your example and words speak loudly to your kids about what's most important in your life. Are you modeling the compelling lifestyle of Christian discipleship and loving Christ above all else?
As Christian parents, we must embrace the need to pray for our kids. But what should our expectations be regarding how we pray for our kids? Theologian J.G. Vos offers these helpful words: "We should expect and believe that God will answer our prayers in his own appointed time and way according to his holy will. That is, in all our praying we must be careful to maintain an attitude of submission to the sovereignty of God. We may never presume to dictate to God as to when and how our prayers are to be answered. If God in his sovereignty chooses to delay the answer to our prayers, we are not to become discouraged and give up praying; we are to exercise Christian patience, and keep on praying with 'perseverance, waiting upon him.' If God does not answer our prayers in the way we desired, we should realize that this is not an unkindness or lack of love on God's part, but because to grant our requests as we asked would not really be for God's glory and our own good."
We're only a few weeks past the end of summer vacation, so you might find it odd that I'm already encouraging you to think about planning now to take a family vacation together next summer. This past summer our family, which now includes our children and grandchildren, celebrated our twentieth anniversary of staying year after year at the same lake cabin for a week. Everyone loved it. Teen and child psychologist Dr. Erika Velez recently posted a TikTok video encouraging parents to get their kids away on a family vacation. She said that even though kids may protest from time to time, get a bit grumpy, and cause some frustration, the evidence points to the fact that memories are being made and family bonds are being strengthened. So much so, in fact, that our kids look forward to these times away. Parents, as you fulfill your responsibility to nurture and raise your children in the Christian faith, don't discount opportunities like family vacations as great times to make that happen!
Unless you've been living under a rock, you are aware of how the transgender ideology has been sweeping through the medical, educational, and legislative communities. This has created a growing sense, especially among our kids, that assuming a gender identity other than your birth gender is not only an option to explore, but an admirable thing to pursue. Salvo magazine reports that the trend may be taking a turn in the right direction, citing bioethicist Wesley J. Smith's list of four signals that the tide might be turning against the cult-like push for trans-positivity. Smith says that first, European countries are back-pedaling on policies that allow medical transitioning for kids. Second, detransitioners are now speaking up to tell their horrific stories. Third, some are now suing those who influenced and helped their transition. And fourth, states are passing laws to protect minors from predatory medical practices. Let's educate our kids on God's design and his good gift of gender.
Today, I want to tell you about some questionable adult behavior that is trending on social media. It seems that parents are now recording and posting videos where they break a raw egg on the forehead of their unsuspecting children. The short videos in this viral trend typically start with a older or younger child standing at the kitchen counter, either watching or helping the parent cook. As they wait to watch their parent crack an egg in a bowl, the parent turns and cracks the egg on the unsuspecting child or teen's forehead. The recorded responses that you will find on these videos run the gamut from kids laughing, to acting surprised, to crying and becoming visually upset. This trend reveals the foolish and embarrassing lengths some parents will go to in order to gain online attention and followers. Parents, the Lord has entrusted our children to our care. Embarassing them, seeking attention, and compromising their trust in this way is simply bad parenting.
One of my recurring nightmares about high school is that I arrive to school on the first day and can't remember or find any of the classes that I've been scheduled for the year. Perhaps I wouldn't have to have that nightmare if I had had the smartphone app known as Saturn that our kids are using these days. The Saturn app's website says that it's now live at sixteen thousand schools. It's a calendar app that helps kids see their schedules, telling where to be and when to be there. It also helps them connect with classmates as they share their schedules. The site says, “High School runs on Saturn.” Now, law enforcement and concerned parents are speaking up to warn others that since the Saturn app shares lots of identifying information, including the daily whereabouts of students, many as young as twelve years old, that the app could become a playground for predators and for the distribution of harmful content. As school districts now are banning the app, parents should be aware.