Looking Through the Lens of Love Instead of the Target of Offense

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Parenting Points

Being offended is the fuel for many in our culture. Neighborhood Facebook groups thrive over the latest offense, whether it was the family who will not cut the grass quickly enough or the unresponsible dog owner who didn’t clean up on the neighborhood walk. Many people live in a state of constant offense, waiting on the next triggering incident.

Not falling into the trap of constant offense is a way that your family can stand out for Jesus in the triggered culture all around you. Proverbs 10:12 ESV says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” What would it look like if we began to teach our children to view the world through the lens of love rather than the target of offense? How would our own lives be different if we lived this way?

The Lens of Love Remembers What Actually Matters. Most of the things people are offended about are not really major issues. The present from the neighbor’s dog in the front yard, the grass that is a little too long, or the extra waiting time at the restaurant. Though in the moment, the significance of these things seems large, these are not major issues. We need to teach our kids and learn ourselves to weigh issues on the greater scale of what truly matters – eternity, relationships, health, etc. Everyday offenses then fall into their proper place.

The Lens of Love Considers Someone Else’s Situation. It is easy for us to respond to people before we take the time to recognize that the person who offended us is a person. They have been made in the image of God. They have their own struggles, hardships, and challenges. They are dealing with things on the inside that we may never know. Sometimes if we take a second to pause and remember that we would want to be given grace and the benefit of the doubt that we can extend that same grace to others. The lens of love makes the decision to let the first response to a triggering situation not be hatred or judgment but love. Love enough to pause and consider what really matters. Love to recognize the fingerprints of God on the life and story of the offending person. Love enough to let the light of Jesus shine through you and your family’s lives rather than the ammunition of being triggered at yet another offense.

Ben Birdsong-Dr. Ben Birdsong 

Missions Minister at Christ Church Birmingham 

Writer and Speaker

www.benbirdsong.com

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Parenting Points

One of the blessings that God gives us is relationships with others. As we have finished the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, we have had a focus on relationships whether it was those who attended our holiday parties, gathered around our tables, or mailed us a Christmas card. Our families have been blessed and made better by those who God has placed in our circles.

In his letter to Timothy, Paul encouraged him to make prayer a priority: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” (1 Timothy 2:1 ESV). God has given us a circle of people who our family can support through prayer. As we begin a new year, here are some ways your family can become more intentional to pray for those people God has placed in your circles:

Building a Prayer Needs List for Your Circle. Many times, we find ourselves in conversations where items for prayer come up. If we were in a small group at church, we would likely put them on a prayer list, but in everyday life, it is easy for us to pass them by. Next time someone tells you about their relative having surgery, their spouse losing a job, or their stressed-out schedule, take a minute to write that prayer request on a note in your phone. This note can be your ever-growing prayer list for your circle. When you see the person, you can encourage them by checking in on the need and tell them that you have been praying.

Christmas Card Prayers. Instead of throwing away or filing your Christmas cards, come up with a place to display one Christmas card a week. Spend some time intentionally that week praying for the family who sent the Christmas card. The next week move to the next Christmas card for the display for prayer.

Praying for People God Has Brought Across Your Path. Every day we see and interact with different people who God brings along our path. When your family gathers around the dinner table, take a few minutes to think over the day, remember who God brought across your path, and pray for them.

Through prayer, our families can bring others before God seeking Him to work in the circles of people, He has blessed us with. We can be both a blessing and an encouragement to our circles.

Ben Birdsong-Dr. Ben Birdsong 

Missions Minister at Christ Church Birmingham 

Writer and Speaker

www.benbirdsong.com

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Parenting Points

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate and remember. We are given a national holiday focused on thanks, yet sometimes, it is easy for us in our lives to celebrate our blessings without remembering the Source. 

In Daniel 4, King Nebuchadnezzar falls into the trap of forgetting the Source. As he looks around and sees all the blessings God has provided him, he comments, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30 ESV). In the very next moment, Nebuchadnezzar hears a voice from heaven saying that God will remove the kingdom from him and cause him to lose his mind. Nebuchadnezzar had forgotten the Source. It cost him his kingdom and his life as he knew it.

During our Thanksgiving holiday, it is easy for us and our families to get so busy that we also fall into the trap of forgetting the source. Though we may not be as bold as Nebuchadnezzar to say it out loud, we can easily think that the food on the table is the result of our hard work at the office. Amid our wealth, we can miss our need and utter dependency on God as our Source. Throughout the Psalms, we read prayers of thanks to God for His provision. In Psalm 9:1 ESV, David writes, “I will give thanks to God with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” One of the many ways to thank God is to remember all He has done as the source of all good in our lives. Psalm 136:1 ESV reads, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.” His goodness is all around us, yet we never slow down to notice and remember the Source.

This Thanksgiving, how will your family take time to remember the Source? What are some of the countless ways God has blessed you and your family? Where do you see the goodness of God? Maybe, this Thanksgiving dinner could begin with a time of praise for the Source rather than simply diving into another great meal.

Ben Birdsong-Dr. Ben Birdsong

Missions Minister at Christ Church Birmingham 

Writer and Speaker

www.benbirdsong.com

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Parenting Points

Halloween is October’s national holiday, yet for some Christians, Halloween is taboo. Due to the evil nature of the day with ghosts, goblins, and devils, many Christians have sought to avoid the day by either turning off all the lights to hide from kids in costumes or running down to the local church for the latest “fall festival” activity. But what if Halloween became a strategic day for your family to build connections with your neighbors?

When it comes to cultural engagement, theologians have debated over the course of many pages what the appropriate Christian response is to engaging culture. Should Christians seek just to become another part of the broader culture? Should we create our own Christianized copy of the culture (i.e., fall festivals)? Or should we seek to look thoughtfully for opportunities to step into a cultural moment to shine as the light in the darkness? In the middle of the darkness of Halloween, followers of Jesus have an excellent opportunity to be the light. In choosing to be the light in the darkness, we can be like John the Baptist, standing in the darkness and pointing to Jesus as the light: He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him” (John 1:7).

Your family has an opportunity to bear witness to Jesus’ light this Halloween. When we think of this statement, our minds may rush to ideas of passing out tracts at the door or making people listen to gospel presentations for a free mini-Snickers bar. Just as Jesus came into the darkness relationally, our approach to being the light of Jesus to our neighbors must first and foremost be relational. We want to love our neighbors well, befriend them, and point them to the hope we have found in Jesus through our words, actions, and deeds. Engaging your neighbors for Halloween begins by being intentional about being home on Halloween night. Halloween is a great night to meet neighbors and begin to build relationships. Through these connections, God may open doors to go deeper into relationships.

This Halloween may be a great opportunity for your family to stop hiding from your neighbors in the back of the house or run to attend the fall festival at the local church. Trading these activities may open the door for your home to be a place of light, hope, and healing for those around you.

Ben Birdsong-Dr. Ben Birdsong

Missions Minister at Christ Church Birmingham

Writer and Speaker

www.benbirdsong.com

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Parenting Points

It is easy for us to get caught in an every day Groundhog Day. Like the Bill Murray movie, we can find ourselves and our families constantly living the same routine, going to the same places, and interacting with the same people. 

If we take the time to stop and think about this, we end up filling our world and the worlds of our children with people who are just like us. We are likely of the same race, go to the same churches and schools, are in the same economic class, and have the same political views. We have not just created the repeating world of Groundhog Day; we have also created a world by us, for us, and many times surrounded by people just like us. When we live in a homogeneous world, we miss what God is doing in the world around us. As we seek to expand our view of the world, we will experience:

The Creativity of God. As we get to know people from different cultures and who live in different places, we see the creativity of God. He made all peoples and every culture in its own unique way expresses the beauty of its Creator.

The Depth of Need. When we go to another culture, we may see needs and opportunities where we can serve. We may have some resources, knowledge, and relationships that can be leveraged on behalf of others. We can be the hands and feet of Jesus to a needy world.

The Truth that Our Ways Are Not Always Best. In approaching another culture, we must come with a spirit of humility. We don’t know everything, and there is much that could grow in our own lives if we were willing to take the place of a student to learn from others. Experiencing other cultures helps us from falling deeply into the trap of believing that our ways are always the best and our world is the standard.

Let us look for everyday ways to break out of our little box of normal we have created to join God in what He is doing in the world around us. We will see God’s beauty, opportunities to join Him in mission, and can grow as we take the posture of a humble student.

Ben Birdsong-Dr. Ben Birdsong 

Missions Minister at Christ Church Birmingham

Writer and Speaker

www.benbirdsong.com 

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Parenting Points

We live in a world where people feel alone. From the social separation of the pandemic to the distance of social media, many people feel like outsiders. As followers of Jesus, we are called to care for outsiders. 

In writing to the church at Philippi, Paul wrote of Jesus coming from heaven as an outsider into our broken world. He left heaven’s perfection to go into our world’s brokenness. The true outsider became an insider to rescue people like us living as outsiders on the margins, lost in our brokenness. In describing this picture of Jesus to the church, Paul writes that Christians should “let each of you not only look to your own interests, but also the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4 ESV). We have been invited to join Jesus in engaging the outsiders in the world around us. 

Who are today’s outsiders? The outsider could be the single mom at church who doesn’t have a place in the church’s small group structure. The outsider could be the Afghan or Ukrainian refugee who has moved to your community. The outsider could be the new student at your child’s school. The outsider could be a widowed neighbor down the street. Here are three ways our families can seek to care for outsiders. 

1. Notice the Outsider. It is easy for us to get busy with our lives and miss the people God is putting on our path. Noticing takes both time and intention. Pray that God would open you and your family’s eyes to the outsiders around you. 

2. Engage the Outsider. Start a conversation, take them a meal, invite them to come to sit at the lunch table beside you, and tangibly show them love and grace. Be willing to get to know the outsiders around you.

3. Befriend the Outsider. Let the engagement be the launching point for the relationship. Bring them into the life of your family. Let them join the lunch group in the elementary school cafeteria. Go together to the ball game.

As we engage outsiders by inviting them to be a part of our family, we will be able to point people by our love and friendship to Jesus, who took outsiders like us and made us part of His family.

Ben Birdsong-Dr. Ben Birdsong 

Missions Minister at Christ Church Birmingham

Writer and Speaker

www.benbirdsong.com 

 

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Special Feature

The words “until death part us” never rang truer in my thoughts that day. My grandfather was 101 years old when he said his final goodbyes to the love of his life. My grandmother passed one month before their 77th wedding anniversary. Their commitment to lifelong marriage continues to be a source of inspiration to multiple generations. What a blessing!

Changing Times. Married couples like my grandparents create a place of safety for their children by simply staying together whether rich or poor… in sickness and in health… for better or for worse. This kind of marital commitment has become as rare as VHS video tapes. 

Today, more than forty percent of children are born to unwed mothers. In 1970, that figure was ten percent. Robert Rector, a Senior Research Fellow for The Heritage Foundation, offered this surprising fact in an article on poverty and unwed births: “Most out-of-wedlock births occur to men and women in their early twenties. Half of the women who have children are cohabiting with the father at the time of the birth; 75 percent are in a romantic relationship with the father.”

The Safest Place for Children. Millions of children in America not only witness the destruction of their families, but they also live with the aftermath. They are the unintended sufferers. Children do not have the luxury of choosing their parents. Growing into healthy adulthood can be a high-stakes proposition for many of them. Children need physical, spiritual, and emotional protection. The safest place on earth for a child is a home in which mom and dad are married, love each other, and model commitment. 

Live Christianly in your Marriage. Research shows children who grow up in intact families are healthier, less likely to commit crimes, and more likely to get married. In other words, one day they may also create safe places for their families.

Is your marriage safe for your children? Do your children see you interact with kindness or harshness? Let them see you apologize when you are impatient or make a mistake. Do they see you praying or reading the Bible together? These are a few ways to establish a safe haven for them. “The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him” (Proverbs 20:7).

-Alonza Jones

 President & Co-founder of Biblical Marriage Institute in Birmingham

www.BiblicalMarriageInstitute.org

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Parenting Points

Our current world is on edge. Division, finger pointing, and demonizing fill our news feeds. The only thing that we can agree on is our propensity to see our view as 100% correct and our opponent’s view as utterly flawed. We choose teams, draw lines, and feel justified in defending our opinion because we are clearly right. As Christians, many of us have jumped headfirst into the pool of division without even considering what being a witness of God’s kingdom could look like.

In the middle of conflict, the Apostle Paul’s frequent words to his readers, “grace and peace,” ring out as a Gospel witness in the middle of a broken world. In this simple greeting used throughout Paul’s New Testament letters, he gives the churches he shepherds a picture of kingdom realities we as Christians should be seeking to embody. We may have become so lost in the moment’s drama that we forgot the kingdom we are called to represent as Jesus’ followers. Here are two things to remember.

1. As people of grace, we begin by remembering where we would be without grace. We are not better than others because we have received grace, but we have been invited to be givers of grace to others. As we extend grace, we realize that seats of judgment are not ours to take. We seek to lead with love. We assume people’s best intentions and seek to meet them where they are. As we model grace, we point to Jesus, who embodied grace to the point of giving His life.

2. As people of peace, we seek to bring people together at a common table. If you peer beyond the headlines, we are all humans seeking to make it through life the best we can. Peacemakers seek to be leaders in conversations that bring about a better world through collaboration. As we seek peace, we can truly see the beauty in diversity that God has made in people made in His image.

What could it look like for your family to be a beacon of light shining grace and peace into our divided world? Your family could be willing to become a place where people are welcomed with love and grace, where best intentions are assumed, and where honest conversations can happen as people made in the image of God can bring about a better world that may look a little more like God’s kingdom.

Ben Birdsong-Dr. Ben Birdsong 

Missions Minister at Christ Church Birmingham

Writer and Speaker

www.benbirdsong.com 

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Parenting Points

For many parents, trying to disciple their kids is a daunting task. As followers of Jesus, parents are always on a journey to grow in their faith, so it can be challenging to teach your kids something you have not personally “mastered.” The church then compounds family discipleship with models, materials, and expectations that result in more guilt over failing to be a “good Christian parent” than helping to encourage you to disciple your kids.

On Facebook the other day, someone shared a statement that points to the truth of the simplicity of conversations of faith in the discipleship of the next generation. “If your kids can support your chosen sports team, you can disciple your kids.” It is that simple. If we are passionate about Jesus and our faith, discipleship through faith conversations will naturally occur in our homes. Discipleship may be as simple as teaching our kids to yell “Roll Tide” or “War Eagle.”

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses describes the character of God and goes on to explain how the truths about God would be passed to the next generation: And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise,” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 ESV).

For Moses and the Jewish people, discipleship in the character and ways of God came through everyday conversations. The Word of God was at work in the parent’s hearts, bringing spiritual transformation to them. This transformation overflowed in natural conversations during daily life with the family about God as the family sat down together, when they went from one place to the next, at bedtime, and in the morning. Faith conversations became the discipleship of everyday life. 

If discipleship comes through intentionally walking with Jesus and inviting our kids to walk alongside us, every Christian parent can be a disciple. The excuses of “mastery” and not being “good enough” fade away when we realize the same God in His grace at work in our lives is the One at work in our kids’ lives.

Ben Birdsong-Dr. Ben Birdsong 

Missions Minister at Christ Church Birmingham

Writer and Speaker

www.benbirdsong.com 

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Parenting Points

The countdown is on, and summer is just around the corner. Students anticipate the break from school. Parents long for a change of pace. And everyone just needs some sun, warm weather, and a change of scenery.

The author of Ecclesiastes writes, “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV). The author then goes on to list seven more verses of different moments and experiences that each happen in their own time. As you prepare and plan times for the summer season, here are three things to consider making moments of time to experience.

1. People. Relationships with other people matter and your family’s life will be strengthened by connections to others. Do you know the other families on your street? Who are people with which your family has lost connection? Do you have an old neighbor that moved or a relative that lives out of town? Who are some people in need around you who your family can serve? Could you be intentional to meet and build a friendship with someone from a different culture or race? 

2. Places. Alabama is blessed with many small towns which each have their own different charm and experience. What if your family took a day trip to a small town? What if you went on a family hike to a new place? What if your family went out to eat at a local restaurant in a different part of town? Trips to places do not have to be expensive or far away.

3. Lessons and Stories. With school on break for summer, you have a great opportunity to teach your kids something new. What is a story from the Bible that you can share with your kids that they may not have heard before? Have you shared your own testimony with your kids about God’s faithfulness in your life? Have your children heard stories from their grandparent’s childhood and life experiences? What is a new hobby that your family can learn together?

As we anticipate a change in pace and seasons, let’s be intentional to maximize our summertime by looking for people, places, lessons, and stories that can help our family make the most of the time.

Ben Birdsong-Dr. Ben Birdsong 

Missions Minister at Christ Church Birmingham

Writer and Speaker

www.benbirdsong.com 

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