A few clips of us. A few clips of people we like. A few clips that make us smile.


Some of these are of us. Some of them are of people we like. Some of them make us smile.


Some are of us. Some are of people we respect. Some are just plain funny,


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PhotoBomb Your Kids' Lives

PHOTOBOMB. Foe-tow-bom (verb) - to drop in a photo hop in a picture right before it is taken. (Definition from the Urban Dictionary) Sticking your face into a photo where it does not belong has long been a practice of your prank-minded friends. Now we finally have a name for it...

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The Power of Giving Your Kids a "Do-Over"

Jenifer is a far better parent than I am. She is consistent, intentional, and present. She strikes a terrific balance of grace and truth that ​faithfully emulates our God. And she has this one thing that she does that I think is absolutely brilliant.

She occasionally offers our kids a "do-over."​

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Audio: Coaching Your Kids with Biblical Wisdom on Relationships, Dating, and Sex

God has given Jenifer and me a strong conviction to speak to parents about becoming more deliberate in helping their kids to navigate their sexuality. We put together a four-hour teaching plan a few years ago and had the chance to teach it to several hundred parents at Johnson Ferry. We recently streamlined it down to a little more than an hour. You can listen to it here...

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Are We Hurting Our Kids By Giving Too Many Choices?

I hate getting drive thru food with my entire family. Hate. It. With a newly married daughter and our other teenage kids going in different directions, it is truly a rare occurrence that there are six or seven of us in the drive thru at the same time. But it still happens on occasion, particularly on road trips. And there I find myself, talking to the guy on the other side of the speaker at Taco Bell or Sonic, trying to get everyone's order right. And it's always miserable.

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When You Think of James Bond...Think of Me

Jenifer and I were thrilled to learn a few weeks ago that our oldest daughterLindsey is pregnant. She and her husband are excitedly getting ready for all that God has in store for them as He builds their little family. My friend Drew asked me: “If children are a blessing from the Lord, what are grandchildren?” My best answer was “they are a blessing…without the hassle.” (If my kids are reading this, know that you are not a hassle...most of the time.)

We continue to get the occasional “did they plan this?” question from people. And I continue to love how Jenifer addressed that on a Facebook post a few days ago. Here’s what she said:

“The answer is found in Proverbs 19:21, ‘Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.’ So no...while they didn't intentionally plan on getting pregnant immediately after their wedding, they know that God did. And they are thrilled to see what He is doing in their lives.”

Our experience was that it was awesome getting married young and starting our family early. We look forward to Lindsey and Christian experiencing the same. But the reality is that when you have kids young and your kids have kids young, it makes for some extremely young grandparents (that's us). And we think that’s pretty cool.

Grandparents can play a significant role in the health of a family and in the spiritual growth of children. We look forward to being able to make a significant investment there. And that’s where being young grandparents pays off. If we would have waited until we were 35 to have kids and our kids did the same, our influence on our grandchildren would be decreased simply because of health and old age issues. Many of you know exactly what I am talking about. You wish your parents were more involved with your children, but they have entered a stage where they have "run out of steam."

God willing, not in our case. As I posted on Facebook a few days ago, the world is about to witness a whole new standard of young, hip, and cool grand parenting. But I have to admit that it is still pretty wild.

As I have become more used to the reality that I will be a grandfather at 44, I felt that it might be good to put that into perspective. Specifically, I checked the internet to see who else has entered this stage at this age. Here’s what I found out…

Sarah Palin’s move into grandparenthood was perhaps the most famous. Her daughter Bristol’s son Tripp made Sarah a grandma at 44...even as she raised her own preschooler. (Yay! There’s someone who has been there and done that.)

Jim Bob Duggar also became a grandparent at 44 when his son welcomed his first daughter. (With his 19 kids, I can’t claim to be as prolific of a parent as he is, but I think my hair is better...with much less hairspray involved.)

Former James Bond PiercBarrett Bonde Brosnan had the honor of becoming a grandfather at 44, just six years after being named People’s “Sexiest Man Alive.” (Now we’re talking! There’s a role model I can relate to.) I have attached an actual, undoctored picture of me to help you to note the similarities between Bond and myself.

So others have been there before me. And, unlike the unemployed man who became a grandfather at 29, I feel like there is a reasonable level of maturity that Jenifer and I bring to the table. We plan to do all we can to allow God to use us for His purposes as we help our children raise their children.

All of us have a role to play in the spiritual growth of those that come behind us. No matter how young or old we are, there are always opportunities for influence. We can teach, provide care, pray, and simply live our Christian lives transparently before our children and grandchildren. Perhaps what is most important is a commitment to never give up…to know that God desires to leave a Godly legacy through us to those in our family.

That legacy is what we started praying for when we had our first child more than twenty years ago. It is what we have now started praying for as that little girl (who is now an extraordinary young woman) prepares to have her own child.

Let’s do this…

Nine Things You Shouldn't Say to Your Child

081E275C939B8C2ED2783AA968I was scanning this list of nine things you shouldn't say to your child and realized that I have probably said most of them to my 4 year old in the past few days. I can chock that up to being the "Imperfect and Normal" parent that I am, but I can also make an effort to remove them from my vocabulary.

Read the article by Paula Spencer and evaluate the words coming out of your mouth to your kids. We may never be able to fully eradicate them, but we can at least become more aware of some of the things that aren't particularly helpful.

9 Things You Shouldn't Say to Your Child

What You Need to Know to Help Your Kid Have a Successful Marriage (part 3 of 3)

If you just tuned in, this is part three of a three part series on the biological/chemical components that God creatively hard-wired into the foundation of emotional and sexual relationships. But what he designed to powerfully knit a husband and wife together forever can be significantly undermined long before the couple ever gets married.

Sound confusing? Well it's not. It's just that you probably didn't read Part One or Part Two yet. Go back and get caught up.

Now for the good news...the stuff that makes me stand amazed at how our God designed His world to work in such an incredible and beautiful way. 


BIOLOGY: The Addictive Power of Romantic Relationships (part 3)


The Good News – God’s Plan for Oxytocin

We live in a culture in which it is quite normal to have multiple sexual partners before one gets married. One study says that the average number of prior sexual partners for males in America is seven and the average for females is four. I gave an anonymous online survey to couples who have attended our pre-marital workshops over the past few years. For these couples, most of whom are church-going young adults, the average was about 4.5 previous sexual partners before meeting their spouse-to-be. When I speak to these young engaged couples about God’s design for virginity and monogamous sex, they rarely make eye contact with me. I assume they are either zoning out because they think I’m so old-fashioned or they are saddened that they are bringing so much sexual baggage into their marriage.

But let’s put God’s design for oxytocin under serious scrutiny and see if it doesn't give us a renewed appreciation for God’s design for sex in marriage. To do that, I will paraphrase something powerful that Mark Gungor describes in his teaching on “The Number One Key to Incredible Sex”:

In his early, pre-marital sexual encounters, the typical teenage boy is likely to have an amazing orgasmic experience; one that he takes immediate mental note of. But because he is young and immature, he is not able to love in a selfless way. While he may not admit it (or even be aware of it), the bulk of his motivation is focused on self-gratification. He likes the experience and wants more of it. Thus, he begins to imprint on the sex act. He begins to learn that “sex means everything.”

It’s like a baby goose that sees a dog instead of its mother in its earliest days of life. The little goose imprints on the wrong “mamma” and begins to follow the dog around. Instead of learning how to fly and migrate, it learns to run in the yard.  Oxytocin causes this same power of imprinting to happen to guys in our early sexual experiences.  But in the absence of any real substance in the relationship (no real commitment), we imprint on an experience, not on a person.

For the typical teenage girl having early sexual experiences, there is often little meaning in the act. Because she ultimately desires more of an emotional connection than a sexual one, the girl hopes that physical intimacy will draw her closer to her guy. Sex is a means to an end. But it rarely happens. Apart from a committed long-term relationship, she is unable to significantly imprint on anything, neither the guy nor the sex. This is especially true if she begins to feel that the only interest the guy has in her is physical. She learns that “sex means nothing.”

Il_fullxfull.206292880Now contrast that with God’s plan.

Take two virgins with limited sexual experience. Let them develop a slow-simmering emotional connection based upon self-sacrificing love as modeled by Christ. Eventually, get them to an altar where, in front of their family, all their best friends, and a holy God, they pledge their life and their all to one another in a covenant “til death do us part” relationship. Then, safely in their marriage bed and with God’s blessing, they have their first sexual experiences with one another. In this scenario, they are powerfully imprinting exclusively on each other, not just on the sexual act. The oxytocin that God created to connect two people (and that has been safely guarded by the couple) overwhelms them for one another.

Considered in this light, God’s command to “abstain from fornication” is less of a downer and more of a blessing. He is purposely encouraging his children to have the best sex possible – sex that perfectly ties emotional, spiritual, and physical intimacy together.  Our heavenly Father truly knows what He is talking about.

But beyond just the Biblical imperative, current social research affirms that this dynamic of marriage cannot be ignored. Professor Jay Teachman, of Western Washington University, conducted a study to examine the correlation between premarital sex and the divorce rate in women. Published in the May 2003 edition of the Journal of Marriage and Family, his findings included that having at least one other intimate relationship prior to marriage is linked to an increased risk of divorce. In contrast, women whose intimate premarital relationships were limited to their husbands do not experience this increased risk. Sexual exclusivity between marriage partners (even before the marriage starts) creates a strength within marriage that cannot be downplayed.

When studying the data from 2008 National Survey of Family Growth, one finds a clear connection between virginity and marital success. The divorce rate for women who had just one sexual partner before marrying was 49.6%. The divorce rate over the same time period for those who married as virgins was 14.9%. (For more information, go to this site.) To me, these findings are absolutely staggering.

This research affirms what God has been trying to tell us all along. Sexual intimacy is reserved for the marriage bed. The biological factors at play should give us as parents all the more reason to encourage our kids to wait – to save their sexuality for their marriage partner.

For Every Parent Who Wants Their Kid to Have a Successful Marriage Someday...

Here is an important biology lesson that every parent needs to know; especially those who want their kids to be successful in marriage one day. For all those readers out there who are fine with divorce and are open to letting their kids move in and out of a number of marriages, then feel free to move along. This isn't for you.

For the rest of us, however, here is an excerpt from the book project I am continuing to develop. Remember, it's all about what parents need to do NOW to give our kids the best chance of marital (and sexual) success later. This particular section deals with the biological components that God has hard-wired into emotional and sexual relationships.


BIOLOGY: The Addictive Power of Romantic Relationships (Part 1)


Do you know about oxytocin? You need to.

Do a search on Google for “oxytocin” and you are likely to get millions of results. Even better, try something a little more specific to the issues we are considering here. Try a Google search for “oxytocin teenagers sex connection.” When I last tried it there were almost three million results. Something is going on here and parents need to know about it.

Doctors, therapists and researchers are talking more and more about the powerful biological connections that are formed when two people are physically intimate. Any parent who is striving to help their kid to be successful in her teen relationships and in her eventual marriage needs to be well-informed of what oxytocin is and how it works.  

4088888Oxytocin is known in scientific circles as “the bonding chemical.” It is secreted in both men and women, helping to create meaningful bonds and attachments to others. It also gives one a sense of euphoria in the deepest places of our mind and body.  Oxytocin can be stimulated by something as simple as a really good hug with someone you love. It is also quite active in nursing women, forming a special bond between mother and child that most men can’t even begin to understand.

But oxytocin is most powerfully generated in times of sexual intimacy.  It’s certainly more complex that this, but one of the reasons an orgasm is so satisfying is because of the presence of oxytocin. It is what enables a husband and wife to feel so intimately connected after sex.

But oxytocin has a dark side. As a simple chemical, it doesn’t have any awareness of if it is working to bond a husband and a wife together or if it is bonding two people experiencing a one-night stand. But in both cases, it’s potential power is still the same.

God, who created everything, knew what He was doing when He created oxytocin. He created a powerful chemical bond that the human heart translates into an emotional connection with another person. It is why I have heard sex referred to as the “super glue of marriage.“ It bonds a husband and wife together in a way that is unique to all other human relationships.  Oxytocin plays a big part in this connection.

But it’s also the reason that God tells us to wait until marriage to experience sexual intimacy. In the context of pre-marital sexual activity, oxytocin has the power to undermine the very thing that it was designed to do, as this magical stuff isn’t smart enough to know if the people who are secreting it are in a marriage relationship or not. It bonds any couple of any age experiencing sexual intimacy. This has tremendous implications to our kids and their dating relationships.

Most sexually active teenagers and young adults have heard plenty of lectures and public service announcements about safe sex and STDs. They are told that there are biological factors they need to consider if they don’t want to get pregnant or to catch a disease. But few are aware that there are also biological factors at work that impact them emotionally and psychologically, as well.

In their excellent book Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children, physicians Joe McIlhaney, Jr. and Freda McKissic Bush provide thorough and detailed documentation of this reality. (I highly recommend their book for further reading.) They conclude that when teen couples become sexual intimate, these brain chemicals create powerful emotional bonds whose significance cannot be ignored.

For parents who want to guide their kids towards healthy long-term relationships, I can identify three implications of the findings of these really smart guys. When it comes to what oxytocin does and how it works, there is some bad news (two bad implications) and there is some good news (one awesome implication).


*Tune in on Thursday for the bad news and the good news of oxytocin as it relates to our kids and their future marriages.

Terrifying Bedtime Stories for Children

I run the risk of offending the people of France with this post, but I'm going to take the chance. I don't think I have any readers in France, so maybe I can sneak underneath their radar. In all honesty, the French are not known for their strong military, so maybe they don't even have radar. (Wow, I already offended them even before I got to the offensive part.)

La-grande-dame-et-le-peti-009Here goes: "The people of France do not like children." I will stop short of using the word "hate," but there is good evidence to suggest that they just plain don't like them. Perhaps they feel that children get in the way of their 4 hour dinners or their 6 week vacations. I'm not sure.

In the past, the strongest evidence to back up this theory was France's low birth rate. However, there is a baby boom underway in France, so that doesn't hold up any more. What is sad is the fact that the government has had to offer some generous incentives to encourage people to have children. Specifically, they offer:

  • Three-year paid parental leave with guaranteed job protection upon returning to the workforce;
  • Universal, full-time preschool starting at age three;
  • Subsidized daycare before age three;
  • Stipends for in-home nannies; and
  • Monthly childcare allowances that increase with the number of children per family.

A few years ago, the government realized that the French culture would be gone in 50 years if their citizens didn't start having more babies. These incentives make it more possible.

La-visite-de-petite-mort-004But even though the government is encouraging fertility, I still think that that the French, in general, do not like their kids. Why? Because of the terrifying nature of their children's books. They are just plain scary. It's as if they think it's a hilarious joke to scare the pants of their kids before tucking them into bed.

Take a few minutes to look at some of the titles and book covers that blogger Jenny Colgan starting collecting when she moved to France a few years ago. These things are downright terrifying. You cannot love your kids and read them this stuff. The books that children read early on can give them powerful impressions of their world. Given what I saw featured in the above article, I have little hope for the next generation of French.

But this made me think about my own kids.

Scanning these freaky book titles made me evaluate what I'm reading to my own preschooler. In her formative years, am I letting her read anything that I'm going to have to "undo" with her later?

Maddie has a Teletubbies Christmas book that somebody gave us years ago. She likes reading it. Sadly, there's something about the Teletubbies that small kids are drawn to, while simultaneously creeping out Ou-est-maman-001the rest of humanity. Needless to say, the Teletubbies Christmas book has nothing to do with Jesus. And I find myself regularly reading it to Maddie. She often picks it up for me to read to her.

While I'm not scaring her to death with French bedtime stories, I realized that I am putting pictures and values into her mind that run contrary to what I cherish as true. So why am I reading it to her? That's careless parenting, Mr. Johnson! Our Teletubbies book has since found it's way into the trash can.

I may be an IMPERFECT and NORMAL FAMILY guy, but I don't have to be careless with what I read to my kids. I should always take advantage of those very teachable moments at bedtime to remind my child of the security of my love and the character and nature of God and His story. You should do the same.

So don't be like the French and freak your kids out at bedtime. But likewise, don't be passive and miss out on a great opportunity to establish and grow their understanding of God and His world. Bedtime is ALWAYS a good time to do that.


Four Things Every Kid Needs to Know About the Bible

ImagesHopefully, it's in the heart of every Christian parent to teach their kids the Bible.

For the record, that's something that should be done primarily BY PARENTS, not by the church they take their kids to. While there is nothing wrong with attending a great church with creative communication of Truth, nothing can take the place of a mother or father reading a Bible story at bedtime or sharing something God has taught them. These are the lessons that our kids will remember.

But if you are like most imperfect and normal families, sometimes we miss the forest for the trees. We get so caught up in teaching our kids parts of the Bible that we forget to drive home some foundational, "big picture" things.

Trevin Wax posted last week about "Four Things Every Kid Needs to Know About the Bible." It serves as a great reminder of some fundamental things we need to make sure we are getting across to our kids.

Don't Give Plutonium to a Preschooler - Conclusion

This is the fourth and final part of a chapter from the book I'm working on called "Sooner." At it's core, the book is a call for parents to talk about sex and relationships with their kids earlier, more often, and in more detail than they ever imagined.

In this chapter, I suggest that many of the opposite sex relationships we allow our kids to enter into put them into emotional situations where they are in way over their heads. And it is emotional intimacy that leads to sexual intimacy. All of it has the potential to mess up their ability to connect with their marriage partner.

If this is your first encounter with this post, I encourage you to scroll down and read the four parts in order. They will certainly make more sense to you.


Don't Give Plutonium to a Preschooler - Conclusion 

Because these heart issues are so clearly in front of us, and their long term-impact is so obvious, parents must embrace their responsibility in helping to guide and protect their kids from the “serial dating” so prevalent in our culture. While I am not advocating an extreme, legalistic position as some do, I want to challenge parents to consider what their role is in guiding their kids to not carelessly give their heart away before they are mature enough to handle the emotional and physical dimensions of a relationship. This is a critical role of parents that many have ignored.

We can see an illustration of the way God gives His people this same type of covering and protection in the writings of the prophet Ezekiel. In chapter 16, God gives Ezekiel a story to tell about how He has cared for his people. It goes something like this:

In Ezekiel 16, the prophet describes how God has cared for his people in this way.  He tells of a baby that was born in secret and then abandoned in a field. The baby girl was left alone to die; unfed and uncared for, writhing around in pool of blood. God saw that the baby was unloved and alone and had intense pity for her. From that moment, God took responsibility for her life and her well-being, speaking life and blessings on her, just as a good parent naturally does. The story goes on that the girl eventually matured sexually. The Bible says that her breasts were formed and her hair grew long and beautiful, yet she was still naked. Then I love what it describes in verse 8: “Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your naked body.”

God models for parents the kind of care and protection that our kids need. When their bodies begin to mature and their hearts begin to awaken to love, our children need safeguarding, not unbridled freedom to explore their new reality. As these new emotions begin to stir within our kids, there are a few practical ways that we can provide a covering of protection for them.

First of all, this is one issue that parents would be wise to begin talking about sooner than they think they need to. If our kids know what to look for and expect in their hearts before it hits them, they will be more prepared to deal with it. A great book to read with the youngest of girls is Jennie Bishop’s “The Princess and the Kiss.” This was regular required reading at the Johnson house.

Secondly, be prepared to turn feelings of attraction that your kids might have into teachable moments.  Never label God-given recognition of the opposite sex as “bad.” Instead, turn the affections that are stirring in your kids into conversations. Ask: "What do you like about him or her? What types of qualities does that person have that you might look for in a spouse one day?"

Third, be mindful of your kids’ friends and their perspectives and values regarding the opposite sex. If your daughter’s friends are all of a “boy crazy” mindset, you shouldn’t be surprised if your daughter gets caught up in it as well. I’m not suggesting that you need to end those friendships, but you will probably need to prepare her for the reality that your family is going to operate by a different set of values than most everybody else.

Finally, as the growing, maturing heart of a teenager has a greater and greater desire to connect emotionally, strive to push them into a deeper emotional relationship with Christ. God has placed in each of His followers a longing to know Himself. Sadly, many of us fail to look to Christ to fill our deepest needs. Instead, we look to others to meet our needs for love, security, and self-worth. This is particularly true for teenagers. Wise parents will be diligent to encourage their kids to find their identity in Christ during those early years where they are becoming more able to know and be known by Him.

While emotional purity is harder to define than physical purity, it is just as critical in helping our kids to be prepared for marriage one day. Parents must believe that and begin to act on it. Again, you wouldn’t give plutonium to a preschooler. He simply does not have the maturity and understanding to know what he is dealing with. In the same way, you shouldn’t encourage young people who are just awakening to brand new feelings to explore them without close parental guidance. Even though they may not know it, our kids desperately need us in this way.

As a parent, what are you doing to protect your kids from the emotional and sexual situations that they are not yet ready for?

Don't Give Plutonium to a Preschooler - Part 3

In Part 1 of this four part excerpt from the book I'm working on, I started by suggesting that allowing our teenagers to get fully involved in emotional relationships was sort of like giving plutonium to a preschooler and letting them play in the backyard.

In Part 2, I suggested that emotional purity is just as important as sexual purity. The key to protecting our kids' sexual purity is to train them to "guard their hearts." Most parents have ignored this reality.

Here it the further development of that idea, including a reference to my favorite music video. I've also included the clip. Watch gets bloody (literally).


Don't Give Plutonium to a Preschooler - Part 3

Albert Mohler points out that many parents do well to tell their kids to “just say no” to sexual activity. But he goes on to say that this will be near impossible if we encourage our kids to participate in a dating system by the same rules as the world. He specifically says “we can’t expect them to not get physically connected if they are already emotionally connected.”

Many ultra-conservative authors and teachers have championed the need for emotional purity.  For many, it is synonymous with the “courtship” movement that has gained momentum in the past twenty years. But even those in the mainstream can see the powerful implications of “giving your heart away” too many times and the long-term affect it will have on future relationships (particularly marriage.)

My favorite music video of all time is by Gnarls Barkley. A filmmaker took their song “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” and made a powerful little short film out of it. The first few minutes show a couple sitting in a café. It is obvious from the first few seconds that she is breaking up with him. She is explaining all the “it’s not you, it’s me” garbage that break-up conversations are traditionally known for.

As the girl is talking, the guy is not fully engaged in what she is saying. He is too busy getting an extra plate and taking a butter knife and stabbing himself in the heart (if you watch it, be warned: it’s pretty gory). He then reaches into his chest “Temple of Doom” style, pulls out his heart, and puts it on the plate in front of him. He slides it over to her and says: “For you.”

She responds by saying: “You do realize I’m breaking up with you, right?”

And then he gives the most prophetic and true monologue: “Well, that’s the strange thing…it’s actually yours now (his heart). I don’t know why it works this way, but I’m never going to be able to get over you, so from now on, every other girl that I meet will be meticulously compared to you and, unfortunately, none of them will be able to measure up to the false memory of what you and I once had.”

She responds: “Maybe I can just keep it for a little while….and then eventually I’ll give it back to you when we both find somebody new.”

He continues: “Unfortunately, it won’t work that way. Now that you have my heart, I’m pretty much an empty cavity inside. For lack of a better term: I’m heartless. I will now treat each woman I meet with a passive/aggressive contentiousness that will ruin relationship after relationship for many years to come.”

Their expressions at the end of the conversation suggest that they both know it’s true. It’s pretty powerful stuff for a music video.


Read the conclusion of "Plutonium" tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy the video...


Don't Give Plutonium to a Preschooler - Part 2

Here's part 2 of the post I started yesterday (Part 1 here). It continues the argument that our kids are not ready for the relational and sexual situations that we allow them to face during their young teen years.


Don't Give Plutonium to a Preschooler - Part 2

Undeniable is the reality that God does begin to stir in our children an awareness of the opposite sex. There is a shift that begins to take place in girls and then a bit later in boys. In different ways I have witnessed it in each of my children. As parents, our role is not to ignore or suppress this God-given awakening, but to help our children to interpret it and to negotiate the potential minefield that goes along with it.

I can remember a time when my oldest daughter Lindsey was in the 5th grade. She started acting a bit strange sometimes when we were at church.  I couldn’t figure it out, but Jenifer began noticing a pattern to her quirky behavior. I was a youth minister so we were always around teenagers. Whenever Lindsey was around a 9th grader named Matt, her weirdness would surface. Sometimes she would giggle. Sometimes she would be shy. Jenifer finally theorized that Lindsey had something of a crush on Matt. When she asked Lindsey about it, she turned red, so we knew we were on to something.

Now Matt was a great guy. He was friendly, handsome, and Christlike: exactly the kind of guy that we would love for our daughters to marry one day. But it was critical for Jenifer and me to coach a 5th grade Lindsey about what was stirring within her and to help her to realize that she was in no way ready to fan the flames of affection towards Matt. We were able to affirm the good things she saw in him and to encourage her to keep looking for the right traits in boys so she would be prepared to give her heart to the right guy down the road sometime. 

This goes back to the basic reality that the message the world is giving our kids is radically different than God’s Truth. Everything our kids get from the world says to “follow your heart.” They hear that message in their movies, in their music, and in the very ethos of their generation. They have been fed a steady diet of that type of drivel from the Disney princess movies they watched when they were preschoolers to the top-40 music they listen to today. It is what they know by default.

In contrast, Jeremiah 17:9 tells us about the questionable reliability of the heart: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” According to scripture, following one’s heart can be synonymous with following a lie. It cannot be trusted and it is not always reasonable. But because of their lack of experience and their exposure to the “trust your heart” message, our kids don’t know any other way.

Instead of “follow your hearts,” we must deliberately train our kids to “guard their hearts.” Proverbs 4:23 gives Christ-followers that very command: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

All of this brings us to a concept that needs to be introduced to parents, taught to kids, and embraced by the entire family. The concept is “emotional purity.”

In 2001, author Heather Paulson literally wrote the book on it. In her book, “Emotional Purity,” she defines emotional intimacy as “a close, private relationship that would invoke strong feelings, passions, and the senses.” In contrast, emotional purity would be the ongoing discipline of not allowing your heart to go places it is not ready to go. It is following Solomon’s advice to “not awaken love until it so desires.”

“I see emotional purity as the root of physical purity. The more emotionally connected you are with someone, the more you (desire) physical connection. Once a couple begins to attach emotionally, physical affection is naturally going to follow.”

Any commitment to sexual purity (think True Love Waits) is useless if there is not first and foremost a commitment to emotional purity.

My own life is a testimony to the connection between emotional and sexual purity. I can remember being taught by good parents and in a good youth ministry that sexual activity was reserved for marriage. I can remember clearly while still in middle school my youth pastor teaching that the greatest gift you can give your future spouse is your purity. I heard it, believed it, and was fully committed to that end. We didn’t have purity rings back in that day, but I would have proudly wore one.

If 8th grade…I was fully committed to purity. In 9th grade…I was still in. By 10th grade, I was even to the point of looking down with “holier than thou” condemnation on those I knew who were being promiscuous in their relationships. By 11th grade, I had a serious girlfriend. And something changed. Suddenly, my purity commitment was entirely forgotten. The faithful desire to honor God with my body was fully and completely trumped by my emotional affections for the girl I was with.  While there were certain physical lines I was committed to not crossing, I know that the relationship was far from God-honoring.

Was there conflict within me? Of course. Those high school years were some of the most tumultuous in my Christian life. But my desire for holy living and Christian obedience didn’t stop me from becoming physical in ways that I know were sinful. Looking back, I am sure that my problem was at it’s root not a physical intimacy problem but an emotional intimacy one. Had I guarded my heart closer, my pre-marriage relationships would have never gotten physical.

This is how I coach my kids today.  Far more discussions happen at our house about emotional purity than about sexual purity. Ultimately, it dictates much on our family’s guidelines for dating and boy/girl relationships. (We will cover more on this later.) Obviously, what we have chosen to do looks far different from most families.

Come back for Part 3 tomorrow...