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In Memory of 17-Year Old Brady Bullock: Honored to be in “Brady’s Bunch”

Brady didn’t have a pride problem. When he started feeling anxiety last spring (towards the end of his sophomore year of high school), he immediately asked his parents if he could work with a counselor to learn how to manage his anxious thoughts. We met right away, and Brady applied every solution I suggested for him.

He didn’t need to continue seeing me into the first semester of his junior year because he was thriving. But our bond had already formed, we stayed in touch, and I enjoyed seeing him perform in his school play in late October of ’16. In early December, I received a text from his dad. Brady was in the hospital and diagnosed with a brain tumor. Last week – only six months later – I received another text from his dad. Brady had gone to meet the Lord.

When Brady first received his scary diagnosis, it was no surprise to me that he wanted to fight this disease with the help of counseling, and he readily committed to meeting weekly. It was the best and worst six months of my counseling practice to date. His parents and I believe that the Lord introduced Brady and me in advance of his brief illness so that we’d already have our relationship in place when he received the news.

Brady’s six months of cancer were very difficult, but he committed to having a daily purpose of joy. Whenever his circumstances would threaten his ability to feel and express joy, Brady would reach out to me for help. In revealing his greatest weaknesses, he demonstrated his amazing strength.

The final week of his life, I was privileged to meet with Brady in his home three sacred times. Brady was struggling to speak during that first visit, but he was able to respond to Scriptures I read and explained to him. And he indicated which ones he wanted his family to be declaring over him daily. At this point, his anxiety was based on worry for his parents having to endure the loss of their son. But I literally saw the power of God’s Word comfort and encourage Brady before my eyes. I even saw him grow significantly closer to the Lord in one hour’s time. That day, as I folded myself over into his wheelchair to hug him good bye, I told him I loved him. I’ll never forget hearing his impaired voice respond with “I love you too.” Every night that week, countless times I woke from sleep, praying for him, his parents, and sister, while holding tightly to my “Brady’s Bunch” prayer-band that Brady had given to me.

Three days later I received word that Brady was asking to see me. When I arrived this time, the weakness kept his eyes shut, but he willed his voice to tell me his anxiety was gone, the Lord had given him peace, and he was ready to go to heaven. I witnessed the most beautiful sanctification on Brady’s deathbed in that moment. After celebrating with him and reading his favorite Bible passages over him again, it was time to leave. I leaned over into that hospital bed and told him again that I loved him. In his muffled voice, he responded “I love you so much.” I stepped out the front door and let my tears carry me home. Brady was so filled with the Lord’s presence, and I ached to be with him.

By my final visit two days later, Brady could not talk at all, but he could nod and make a few sounds. As I approached his side, he indicated that he knew I was there and was excited by my arrival. One last time, I read his favorite verses over him and he nodded at a few that were most special to him. I promised him I’d take care of his family (to which he nodded) and draped myself over his chest to hug and love him one last time.

Everyone in “Brady’s Bunch” shares the sorrow and grief of a future life here without Brady in it. But we also have in common knowing a teenage boy who used his last days to seek the Lord and His Word, and to care for and connect with his loved ones. I have no doubt that Brady’s life of humility, and death in the Lord, will bring people to salvation in Christ in the coming days! His dying was cradled in an eternal perspective; thus, he displayed the truth that “though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”

 

Should Everyone Go to College after High School?

The decade you’re in your 20’s has more available to you than media and college admissions departments would have you believe. In fact, “success” doesn’t have to be defined so narrowly at all. For example,

The Foto Sisters – Addie, Katie, and Gaylyn are classically trained musicians using their talents in strings, piano, and vocals to instruct young pupils, perform for various audiences, and bring God glory in all they do. They didn’t have to commit to four years of living at a university in order to work with various professors, and they already have their own teaching studios. The three of them share a Facebook page in order to remain balanced with social media, while also staying connected online. But their favorite and best communication shines forth when they are fellowshipping face-to-face with their brothers and sisters in Christ. They submit to the wise counsel of their parents as they continue to grow and develop into adulthood, and are open to any changes in direction the Lord may ask them to make. The Foto sisters are so mature, educated, accomplished, and full of character, that you’d never meet them and think they would be better off being college students.

Grace Mally – The youngest child of the Mally family, Grace grew up embedded in her family’s ministry. At a very young age, she co-authored a book with her brother and sister about forging close sibling relationships, and she spent much of her youth playing an active role hosting purity conferences under the leadership of her older sister. But Grace clearly owns her faith. She’s been blogging for 9 years already, recently published her own book, and spends her days interacting with strangers for the grand purpose of connecting them deeply to Christ. Grace Mally is so poised, well-spoken, confident, and assured of her purpose, that you’d never meet her and think she is missing a degree.

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

*You may already have such a strong sense of life-calling and be so mature, that college may not be required for you to reach your dreams (even if higher education is necessary for most 18-year old’s to accomplish their goals).

*Some fields simply don’t have the need for a college degree. Therefore, if you went to college, you’d be spending money on information not needed for your job.

*Some high schools today are as academically rigorous and demanding as college was in the previous generation. Some of you need a break and to experience the working world for a while. There are other situations where some students find the idea of going off to college to be overwhelming and need a little more time at home to grow and prepare for that next stage.

*Many colleges and universities have an overinflated price tag making them not a good return on investment. The decision for college should be made according to whether the money spent is going to pay off with the job you obtain upon graduation. Further, more and more schools are pushing an agenda that some students simply don’t want to pay money to hear. In both cases, a second look may be warranted.

*You can always go back to school later in life when you may know better what field of study you want to put your money towards. Or you may just take some classes now and look at a 4-year degree later. Also, there are some things you can do at this age that you will not be able to do when you’re older; and you may want to take advantage of them now while you have the chance, and delay full-time college until after this opportunity has passed.

*Just because college is right for the majority, doesn’t mean it’s best for everyone. If the Holy Spirit leads you, and your parents agree, you can follow a lesser traveled road like the young ladies mentioned above.

*And even if you decide to attend university right after 12th grade, it doesn’t mean you have to follow the world’s definition of a typical college student’s lifestyle. The Foto Sisters and Grace Mally are beautiful examples of young women who are experiencing life to the fullest, making impact, using their God-given gifts, and are satisfied by Christ as very young adults. There’s no reason being enrolled in college has to make you any different. Don’t let technology and culture force you into a small mold when the Lord gives you an entire universe.

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Tim. 4:12)

Guys who wait. What about them?

After publishing “Purity in Real Time” last week (click here to read), several readers asked for a related article pertaining to guys.

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

What to call it?

  • Some guys are fine with the word “pure” especially since there aren’t many good synonyms, but others want something that sounds more masculine.
  • Some possible manly words are “honorable” “valiant” “moral” “heroic” “chivalrous” “valorous” and “knightly.”
  • You could even go “vintage” with some timeless, strapping words like “seraphic” or “stalwart.”

Are any guys waiting?

  • Brad says: “I need one good woman and don’t want to settle before I find her.”
  • Jacob says: “I’m committed to waiting because God forgave me for some bad stuff in my past, and that forgiveness changed me.”
  • Jon says: “I saw what my grandparents had, and that had a huge impact on my view of sex and marriage. I’m sold on the covenant concept.”
  • Brock says: “I made a promise to God that I’d wait, so I’m gonna keep it.”
  • Austin says: “I don’t want to tell my future wife I’ve had sex with 1, 2, 3 or however many women before her. My wedding day will be one of the best days of my life because I waited, listened to God’s commands in the Bible, and know this is one woman I will give my heart to and have sex with the rest of my life. Many times obeying Him can be very hard, but when we do it He blesses us.”
  • Pure guys are out there, but the majority gives them no respect. And when guys don’t get respect, they can feel like giving up.

How can these heroes be supported?

  • Give them a vision for their future as husband and father. Nothing shows children a strong, stable relationship between their mom and dad like a father who waited to have sex just with their mother.
  • Encourage them to look within. What is the Spirit of God asking of them? What is He cleaning up? What charge has He given them?
  • Remind them that each person is more than a sexual being – and that purity is more than just about not having sex.
  • Praise them for their strength of resisting instant gratification.
  • Protect their eyes from needless views of sensuality through media.
  • Celebrate the benefits of waiting – not just in their future marriages, but in their spiritual walk along the way.
  • Help them with boundaries. Ask questions such as “How much sense does it make to be alone with a girl you find attractive?”
  • Welcome girls in their lives who can be trusted to not tempt them – girls who won’t be needlessly touching and enticing. Guys need girls committed to purity to help them remain honorable. It’s part of God’s whole design in the female role of “help mate.”
  • Keep them busy with other worthwhile activities – but not so busy that they have no active time with Jesus.
  • Teach them the ways culture is trying to mishape their brains. Introduce them to the men and women in Proverbs 7 and 31, and the men in Daniel 1 and 3.
  • Pray for them without ceasing. Interceding for them will be one of the most enjoyable, fulfilling experiences you share with God, and the guys in your life will thank you for helping them do what they could never do alone.

Flee from sexual immorality. (1 Cor. 6:18; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22)

Purity in Real Time

“I want to be pure, but I don’t know how.”

“My feelings are so strong – and everyone is telling me this is normal and purity is not.”

“I don’t understand what it means to guard my heart.”

“Some of the stuff I hear about purity sounds so extreme and impossible.”

The quotes above are true concerns Christian teens are facing today. Before addressing each one, it’s refreshing to read stories of how girls are proving that purity is possible in the 21st century.

Emma’s story:

“I make sure that the number of conversations I have with my guy friends is less frequent than with my friends who are girls. I enjoy having friends who are guys, but I make sure that they are always second in closeness to the girls in my life.”

Rachel’s story:

“Early in our friendship, I referred to my best guy friend as my big brother. And then I reminded both of us constantly that I was his little sister. By establishing this kind of relationship, we felt permission to be close without having the risks of romantic involvement.”

Stephanie’s story:

“I created a personal boundary of no kissing with my boyfriend (now fiancé) because I didn’t want to be the one to cause him to have a difficult struggle with temptation. I figured that if you give someone a cookie, next he will want a glass of milk. So, I decided the most loving thing I could do for this great guy that I love – is to hold off on kissing until our wedding day – when we will be married and he won’t have to resist the desires for more.”

Katie’s story:

“I meet with Jesus every day before I encounter anyone else so that He can mold my heart, make me more like Him, enable me to glorify Him, and give me purity from within. That is how any purity is possible and desirable for me. That is how His purity protects and leads me.”

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

When you don’t know how:

  • Develop an intimate relationship with the most pure Man to ever live. Pursue Him with the same level of interest you’d have for a really great guy. This One will meet all your needs so that you don’t put unfair expectations on a guy to meet them.
  • Delve into His Word specifically looking for passages about His love, His presence, His promises, and His purity. This will fill you up with His strength.
  • Think before you take your questions about purity to just anyone. Ask God to lead you to a mentor who will give you powerful, helpful, godly answers.

When your feelings are so strong:

  • One of the best life lessons you can ever learn is to not make emotions-based decisions. Practice this in everything you do, and purity will be just one of the many benefits.
  • Tell yourself that your feelings do not rule you and do not have to be obeyed.
  • Follow truth, and over time your feelings will catch up. This is how strong habits, good self-discipline, and mental toughness are achieved.

When you don’t know how to guard your heart:

  • This may be a sign that your identity is not firm enough in who Christ says you are. Focus your Bible reading on what He says about your worth. Then you will have a new motivation for protecting yourself.
  • Be encouraged by a recent five-minute video made by Sadie Robertson. To watch, click here.

When you need to know purity is possible:

  • Actively look for more stories of girls who are living a pure life.
  • Remind yourself of the God you follow. The One who says to you:
    • “For nothing will be impossible with Me.”
    • “Blessed are those who wait for Me.”
    • “I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
    • “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
    • “You are precious in My eyes, and honored, and I love you.”
    • “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace.”
    • “I will guide you continually and satisfy your desires.”
    • “You can do all things through My Son who strengthens you.”

What if Stephen had been Your Boyfriend?

When Christians talk about Stephen’s story of martyrdom, understandably a lot of focus is on Stephen’s final hours, when he saw Jesus in heaven. But there is a larger picture (Acts 6-7) of this man who was chosen by the disciples to help carry out their work.

His qualities were as follows:

  • Cared about widows
  • Had a good reputation
  • Full of faith and the Holy Spirit
  • Full of grace and power
  • Accomplished the work of God in the lives of others
  • So wise that others became jealous and resentful
  • Displayed the face of an angel when he was being attacked
  • Had a detailed comprehension of everything God had done through history
  • Boldly rebuked his abusers and declared them to be the enemy of God
  • Fixed his eyes on the majesty of Jesus (even when his stoning was imminent)
  • Asked the Lord to forgive his vanquishers (even while he was dying)

So, do you think he would have made good “boyfriend material?” If you had been standing next to him during the hostile rally, would you have been appalled that not only was he not defending himself, but was even provoking his adversaries by accusing them of being “stiff-necked” and “resisting the Holy Spirit?” Or would you have been proud of him?

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

Examine your values and desires when it comes to the purpose of a relationship. As hard as it would be to see your boyfriend Stephen give his life for Jesus like that, how willing are you to make that sacrifice? You can do this by looking to see how much your focus is on you and your felt needs versus being in a relationship that will most glorify God.

Review the list of qualities you have been looking for in a guy. It would be hard to find a better “catch” than Stephen, yet defending Jesus at all costs might not have been a feature on your ideal boyfriend list. What could motivate you to modify your list?

Look back at your support for Biblical masculinity. How have you encouraged the men in your life to be more like Stephen? Or how have you discouraged males in your life from being more like him?

Acknowledge His example.“The blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” (1 Jn. 1:7b)

 

The Hunger Cries of Today’s Christian Teens

Think parents don’t have much influence? Think again. In a recent poll of active Christian teens, the majority of them communicated the following:

  • When they see their parents reading their Bibles, they are more apt to read theirs
  • They ask their parents questions about the Bible far more than they ask friends or teachers

In addition…

  • They want politicians and leaders to read the Bible
  • They believe reading the Bible makes them feel closer to God and gives them hope
  • When they see people out in public with their Bibles, they feel happy to know a believer was around them; it strengthens them; and they like that the sacred still matters to some people

Finally…

  • Christian teens struggle to find time to read God’s Word because they’re so busy; but they wish there was time to read it more
  • As you might expect, the next generation often uses technology to look up and read Scripture

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

  1. Encourage youth to listen to an audio Bible when they don’t have time to sit and read. Model this for them as well. Some good times for this may be while applying makeup, putting away dishes, riding in the car, etc. Ask your weary students if you may quietly read Scripture over them until they fall asleep. Or read passages out loud when they are upset or confused. (Nehemiah 8:8)
  2. Don’t totally replace your print Bibles with digital copies because kids who follow Jesus need to see adults pouring over a Bible. (2 Tim. 3:14-15)
  3. Pray for and help busy young people find creative ways to prioritize spending time hearing from God through His Word. Encourage them to schedule this important activity into their agendas or phone calendars until it becomes second nature to them. (Romans 10:17)
  4. You know teens are always looking at those devices, so why not share with them via text, email, or social media what you are reading in your Bible right now? And even though they are a product of the technological age, who doesn’t love to receive something special in the mail? Why don’t you write a verse on a card and put it in the mail to a special teen right now?  (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)