Who Gets To Crush The Serpent?

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Here’s a question you’ve probably never considered before.

Who gets to crush Satan?

If you’ve grown up in the church or if you’re familiar with the Bible, your immediate response is Jesus. And that’s an accurate response.

After the Serpent deceived Adam and Eve, God handed down his punishment and it was more than simply having to slither on the ground from there on out.

“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15 (ESV)

One day, Genesis tells us, Satan’s head will be crushed by the heel of a man. We know that man to be Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, Paul says of Jesus that God, “Put all things under his feet” (Ephesians 1:22). That would include Satan’s head. Paul gets more specific in 1 Corinthians.

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 1 Corinthians 15:24-25 (ESV)

The Bible is clear. Satan will be crushed under the heel of Jesus. But then there’s this verse.

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Romans 16:20 (ESV)

Paul is writing to Christians when he says, “your feet.” So which is it? Who gets to finally crush the head of Satan, Jesus or us?

When we put these passages together, they tell us that if we stand in Christ, we will stand over Satan.

We will crush the great accuser.

We will crush the thief.

We will crush the murderer and deceiver.

But before we get too excited about our supposed power, we must remember something. In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God. The of God part is very important. He didn’t tell us to put on the full armor of self-determination, self-righteousness or religious effort. If that’s the only armor we have, Satan will surely stand over and crush us.

When we submit and obey Jesus Christ, living out his attributes while relying on his grace, we are living in his armor. Only by sharing in the identity of Christ can we share in the victory of Christ.

Satan is powerful.

He’s destructive.

But his days are numbered. The head of the old serpent already rests under the nail-scarred foot of our Savior. And soon, those of us who are in Christ will know the joy of crushing the serpent’s head finally and forever.

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A Reminder For Pastors

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You may know a lot of things. Maybe you can diagram Greek sentences with your eyes closed. Perhaps you’ve even memorized entire books of the Bible. I’m sure that all of that knowledge helps you when you stand before your congregation to preach. But here’s something that you don’t know.

You don’t know what’s going on in the pew.

You don’t know that they guy who slipped in at the last minute was himself a minister before he picked up an addiction to alcohol.

You don’t know that the couple that started going to your church 30 years before you came to town will go home and work out the final details of their divorce.

You’re very familiar with the husband and wife who are coming to grips with losing both a son and a grandson in the span of three years. But what you don’t know is that they have very serious questions about the goodness of God in the face of their suffering.

There is a broken heart on every pew in your church. Regardless of how they may look or how fine they tell you they are doing, there are people who are being crushed under the weight of cancer, divorce and doubt. They need hope.

And if all you give them on Sunday morning is part six in a sermon series called 50 Shades of Grace, they’re not going to get it. Not at your church at least.

The Church is powerful. It is the living body of Christ. At it’s best, it is a vehicle of hope to the hurting and a deliverer of good news to the lost. It really is that simple. But at it’s worst, the local church is a factory full of gimmicks where leaders who are too smart and culturally savvy for their own good obscure the gospel with yesterday’s trends and hot topics.

The last thing that a man who is being tempted to abandon his wife and kids for the woman at work needs to hear on a Sunday morning is a message on how to kick your sex life up a notch with a couple of Bible verses sprinkled in.

The last thing a woman who just lost her granddaughter needs to be reminded of is how relevant her pastor is.

The last thing a kid who’s contemplating suicide needs to hear is a sermon about how Easter reminds us that we can rise up to the next level of financial blessings.

But, for some reason, that’s what many churches keep offering.

For far too long, far too many churches have built their foundations on the sinking sand of gimmicks rather than the solid rock of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So they manipulate messages and numbers and people to reach ridiculous man-made baptism goals for Easter weekend. Out of fear of sounding too much like some old school preacher, their pastor abandons sermons dealing with sin, death and punishment for generic conversations about living life at the next level.

I’ve spent almost two decades in ministry. In that time I’ve seen too many young kids who have grown up in the church eventually walk away from whatever faith they had. Much of that is due to the fact that their church was nothing more than a giant entertainment center and their faith was an invisible rabbit’s foot that was given to them by a pastor who cared much more about being hip than being a disciple maker. We are feeding our kids a diet of Nickelodeon and we wonder why they have no answers for the CSPAN questions that come their way in adulthood.

Ultimately, we know that the Church wins. But the same can’t be said of every local church. Some of them will lose because they’re too busy fighting with one another to fight against the devil. Others will fail because they’ve worked so hard at being like the culture that, whether they know it or not, they have replaced their salt and light with Kool-Aid and cookies. And not even the good cookies. Sugar cookies.

Pastors do themselves and their churches a favor when they remember that it’s not their style or cutting edge approach to ministry that changes lives. Only God can do that. And his primary instrument of doing it in the church is a man with the boldness to preach what God says rather than speculate about what he thinks the culture would like for him to say.

I’ve preached a lot of sermons. A lot of them have been bad. Real bad. I hardly ever preach a sermon without walking away thinking what I could have done better. It’s different after a really bad sermon. I usually walk away from those thinking about how I should have just stayed in bed. Inevitably, someone will come to me and say how much my bad sermon helped them to understand the gospel better as they go through some difficulty. I think to myself, “That! How?” And then God reminds me. He doesn’t need pastors to be his marketers, public relations gurus or style coaches. Rather, he chooses to use us simply as his instruments. Broken, imperfect instruments carrying a powerful message and serving a perfect God.

 

When a pastor sets his sights on the gospel, God works in the lives and through the pain that no one knows anything about. When a pastor sets its sights on relevance, it’s just him that’s working. And, for the church at least, nothing could be more irrelevant.

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Ten Things You Need To Know About Georgia

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Every single body of water in the state, including swimming pools, is where the movie Deliverance was filmed. Of course, no one knows for sure where in Georgia it was filmed but if it’s ever discovered that they made it in North Carolina, the entire state of Georgia will cease to exist.

If a man uses his hand to swat away a gnat, he’s from the northern part of the state. If a man can carry on a perfectly good conversation with ten thousand gnats swarming around his face, he’s from the southern part of the state. If a man doesn’t know what a gnat is, he’s from Atlanta and should not be trusted.

For people who live in Atlanta, there are four parts of the state – Inside the Perimeter, Outside the Perimeter, the lake and South Georgia. So by their geography, Turner Field is in south Georgia. That’s why the Braves are moving. To get away from all of the gnats.

Bo Duke gets thirteen percent of the popular vote whenever there’s an election for governor.

The top three college football programs in the state are as follows.

1.) The University of Georgia

2.) Georgia Southern

3.) Valdosta High School

Duck Dynasty is fake. The moon landing is questionable. Professional wrestling is 100% real.

If you live in a small town and you can’t find your teenage son, he’s hanging out in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot.

Tomatoes are not bought. They’re grown in the backyard or in a bucket on the front porch. You don’t buy peaches at the store. Your cousin brings you over a few when he gets off of work at Lane’s. The best watermelons are bought off of a trailer on the side of the road.

Everyone goes to church. It’s not that they’re religious or anything. It’s just that they can’t play on the church softball team if they don’t show up every Sunday.

Most famous country music singers from Georgia have no idea what a gnat is.

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Every Child Has Two Options

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Your kids will be known for something. Basically, they have two options. They can either be known for who they once were or who they are becoming.

If you put all of your parental efforts into making sure that you kid becomes a great student or athlete or musician, there is a chance that you’ll get what you worked for. But there will come a time when your kid will be known simply for who he used to be. The fourth grader who could hit a baseball harder than most high schoolers. The really good math student. The great piano player. While these accomplishments are certainly noteworthy, they aren’t enough.

Take Jake Lloyd for example.

You probably don’t recognize that name. A while back, Jake was arrested after leading police on a high speed chase. Earlier this week he was moved from prison to a psychiatric facility. He’s mother says that things are finally looking up.

Things weren’t always this way for Jake. In 1999 he played a young and innocent Darth Vader in the first of three new Star Wars movies. The movie made $2 billion. Some of that money went to Jake Lloyd. He had every young boys dream. A lot of money and a major role in a Star Wars movie.

But when we talk about Jake Lloyd today, we don’t say much about who he is becoming. We talk about who he used to be.

There is no accomplishment in this world that is worth the pain of simply being known for who you used to be.

In speaking to a group of suffering believers in the context of church leadership, the Apostle Peter helps to shift our attention away from the used to be and toward the becoming. The challenge he gives us in 1 Peter 5 is exactly the opposite of what many kids are told today, whether directly or indirectly, by parents, teachers and peers. If you want your kid to be known only for who she used to be, listen to the world’s advice. If you care more about the person she is becoming, follow the words of Peter.

The world tells your son to follow his heart. The Bible tells him to humble himself and follow God.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you. 1 Peter 5:6 (ESV)

Teach your kid to follow his heart and he’ll grow up to be arrogant, in debt, sick, imprisoned, addicted and miserable. The heart is evil. It’s the last thing any of us should follow. If you care more about who your child is becoming, teach him to humble himself and submit to God in all things.

The world provides quick fixes for anxiety. The Bible invites us into a process of continually casting our concerns on the One who made us. 

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (ESV)

They make a pill that can help you daughter quit feeling so anxious. But that pill only addresses the feeling. It does nothing to address the source. When we cast our anxieties on Christ, we are giving him everything that we have. We are trusting that, even if our anxieties keep popping up, there is a Savior there to walk with us through them. And he doesn’t walk with us coldly or mechanically. He walks with us because he cares for us. If all you’re after is immediate success for your kids, teach them to mask their anxieties. But if it’s long term faithfulness that you’re after, teach them to make anxiety the check engine light of their soul that reminds them that they are cared for by a sovereign God who is big enough to handle what makes them worry.

The world teaches your kids to keep an open mind. The Bible tells them that there are some things worth closing their minds on. 

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 1 Peter 5:8-9 (ESV)

G.K. Chesterton said it best. “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” If your son walked around school all day with his mouth wide open, not wanting to miss whatever flavors were around him, you would seek medical help for him. But for some reason, it’s okay for him to do the same thing with his mind.

One of the primary ways that Satan will attack your children is through their belief system. Just as he did in the Garden of Eden, he’ll come at them with his usual tactic of, “Did God really say that?” And if all you’ve given your kids is an open mind, they’ll take the bait every time. It doesn’t have to be that way. They can resist. But their resistance doesn’t come through a crucifix or holy water. It comes through a faith that is firm and a mind that is fixed. If you have any concern at all about the faith your child will have when she becomes an adult, do everything you can to train her in what the Bible says and help her to make her faith her own. If all she has to stand against the devil’s schemes is the faith of her parents and grandparents, she will be devoured. Her faith must be her faith.

Finally, the world encourages kids to avoid hardship at all costs. The Bible teaches us that we’d all be dead without hardship. 

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)

The road of discipleship is a difficult one. There are sacrifices to be made and friends and loved ones who will abandon you. Discipleship can be painful. Success, while often requiring hard work, doesn’t work that way. Like water, it seeks the easiest way in or out, regardless of what damage may be done.

If you take the time to teach your kids what it means to follow Jesus and they follow your guidance, they will get hurt. There will be times of suffering. There will be pain. But this is momentary. The eternal glory of Christ awaits and it is much better than the fading glory of who they once were.

There are two options for your children.

They can either be known for who they once were or who they are becoming.

Which will it be?

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Hillary Clinton And Colored People Time

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Everything is offensive.

Everything is racist.

Well, not quite everything. The only time when something isn’t offensive or racist is when a progressive politician says something that actually is offensive and racist.

Case in point, Hillary Clinton and the socialist mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio.

It was one part skit and one part political endorsement when the two met together last week before a group called the Inner Circle. After announcing his endorsement of Hillary Clinton, the former first lady said to de Blasio, “Well, it took you long enough.” The mayor responded by saying, “Sorry, Hillary. I was running on CP time.”

CP time stands for Colored People Time and plays into the stereotype of black people being late for things. When questioned on the comment, a spokesman for de Blasio said, “No one intended to offend anyone.”

Quick question.

Can you imagine how big of a cow the media and the social justice warriors on Twitter would have if a more conservative politician had said something like this? Especially if he responded to the outrage by saying, “Look, it wasn’t meant to be offensive.” Or imagine what would happen if some kid with chalk in his hand got caught sprawling CP Time all over the sidewalks at Emory University.

But never mind the double standard. What we should learn from the Clinton and de Blasio incident is that just because a politician promises to fight for you and give you a bunch of stuff doesn’t mean that they actually care about improving your situation. In fact, economic freedom and criminal justice reform are the last things that progressive politicians like Hillary and de Blasio want for black Americans, or any other Americans for that matter. It’s sort of like the charity that makes a $3 billion dollar profit every year trying to cure some disease. Do you think the folks on that charity’s payroll really want to find a cure?

The sooner that American citizens of all colors realize that most of the politicians in D.C. are fighting for themselves rather than the freedoms of the people, the better off we’ll all be.

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Just Stand

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Stand.

That’s all it says. I’d like for it to say something more. Something more powerful. Something cooler. But it doesn’t. It just says stand.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Ephesians 6:11 (ESV)

In the Robert Duval’s movie The Apostle, a character preaches a sermon about Jesus doing a backflip on the devil. Wouldn’t it sound better if Paul promised Christians that they would be able to do that or some other crazy move on the devil.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to do jiu-jitsu on the devil and fire off a few rounds from your rifle into his schemes. 

But the Bible doesn’t say that.

It just says stand.

Since when does standing give us that feeling of victory that all believers want in matters of spiritual warfare?

A closer look shows us that there is more than meets the eye to the type of standing Paul is referring to. We aren’t told to simply hang out against the devil like a bunch of kids standing outside of the laundromat. This type of standing has more to do with resistance than loitering.

As I write this I am looking at that iconic picture of a Chinese man standing alone in front of a column of tanks. He’s known as Tank Man or Unknown Rebel. Later on that day, if someone were to ask him what he did, he could have simply said, “Just stood around.” And he wouldn’t be lying. But he wouldn’t be telling the whole story. Standing doesn’t get enough credit.

Here’s what Paul is saying to us when he says that we can, “stand against the schemes of the devil.” Because of who we are in Christ, when Satan comes at us with every tactic, scheme, temptation and lie, we can remain standing. When all of his guns finally stop firing and he is left with no other fiery darts to throw our way, we will still be standing.

But it won’t be because of our strength or might. Only Christ’s strength gives us what we need in order to remain standing. Remember, we are told to put on the armor of God, not the armor of self-confidence.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Ephesians 6:10 (ESV)

If you devote your life to living in obedience to Jesus Christ you can be certain that Satan will send a column of tanks your way. For the most part, he’ll leave the porn addict, the gossiper and the self-righteous pew dweller alone. Most of his work on them has been done. It’s all just maintenance at this point. He’s saving the heavy duty weapons for the man who takes seriously his job of leading his family and serving his church. He’s coming with full force for the woman who spends more time serving than gossiping and complaining. Count on it.

But here’s something else that you can count on.

In Christ, you will not fall. In Christ, you will stand against your enemy the devil.

So leave the backflips and spiritual jiu-jitsu to Jesus. That was done at the cross and empty tomb. And because of that, your job is simple.

All you have to do is stand.

When you are tempted to look where you shouldn’t look, stand.

When you are tempted to say what you shouldn’t say, stand.

When you are tempted to believe what isn’t true, stand.

Just stand.

But remember this.

You do not stand alone. Your conquering Savior is holding you up the entire time.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:8-10 (ESV)

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Georgia Is Being Governed By Demetrius The Silversmith

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You’ve probably never heard of Demetrius the Silversmith. No, he’s not a rapper. He was a businessman who lived a long time ago. But, in some ways, it’s like he’s still with us today, using his influence to get things done in the state of Georgia.

Demetrius lived in a place called Ephesus. Ephesus was a large, wealthy city that was home to some 250,000 people. It was what we might today call a progressive city because of all of it’s art, industry and educational opportunities. Above all of that, Ephesus was known for it’s gigantic temple which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. This temple was devoted to the worship of a goddess named Artemis.

In Ephesus, worshiping Artemis was big business. It’s the reason why over 20,000 people kept coming back to fill that giant temple. And the reason why people like Demetrius made a good living. He sold little silver gods for people to keep in their homes.

But then some guy named Paul came to town and messed everything up.

And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. Acts 19:17-20 (ESV)

A lot of people in Ephesus who used to partake in the national pastime of worshiping Artemis heard the gospel that Paul preached and responded by repenting of their sins. They became new people. The old was gone. Included in that old was all of their Artemis worshiping products. But they didn’t just quit using them. They burned them. The value of what was destroyed was somewhere around $6 million dollars.

That was bad news for our friend Demetrius the Silversmith. He was losing his customers. His reaction shows us that the god he really worshiped was not Artemis. It was money.

About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” Acts 19:23-27 (ESV)

Allow me to translate Demetrius for you.

“Hey, these Christians are coming in here and preaching this gospel and it’s cutting into our profits. We can’t just sit back and let them stop our cash flow. And what about our giant temple? If this keeps up, it’ll just sit empty. On top of all of that, this Paul had the nerve to say that our god wasn’t really a god since it was made with hands. What’s with the hate speech? Someone has to put a stop to this.”

All of this kind of sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We still pretty much have the same players – the Christians, the agitated business leader and the angry mob.

When Governor Nathan Deal vetoed the religious liberty bill earlier this week, he didn’t do it because he cares about diversity or the LGBT community. He did it because he didn’t want his state’s brand new temple to be sitting empty on Super Bowl Sunday.

And when Coke and Disney and Hollywood threatened to leave the state if the governor didn’t veto the bill, it’s not because they care so much about LGBT rights. They care about profit. And in this case, just like in Ephesus 2,000 years ago, profit and the Christian message simply could not coexist, if I may borrow a term from the progressive crowd.

The true gospel can never fully coexist with the culture. At some point the two come to odds with one another. When that happens, there are only three options. Either the culture can repent, the gospel crowd can abandon their message or the culture can start a riot and throw the gospel crowd out of town. Or veto them. Whichever is more politically appropriate at the moment.

This week, we found out that the people of the state of Georgia do not have the voice that they thought they had. Even our elected officials don’t have quite as much power as we would like to believe.

The functional leaders of our state, we learned on Monday, are the NFL, Hollywood and Disney. To put it another way, in Georgia, we are being governed by Demetrius the Silversmith.

Earlier in Acts 19 we read an interesting account of seven men who were absolutely humiliated by a demon (19:16). We have no record of a riot breaking out because the people were mad at the demons filling their city. There is no record of mass protests due to the fact that Artemis could do nothing to stop the evil that lingered over the city. The only riot is the one we read about that broke out when all of the gospel conversions started to cut into the false god industry. It was Paul, not the demon, that got under the skin of the Ephesian Chamber of Commerce.

 

One way of knowing that you belong to a corrupt society is when blatant evil is accepted simply because it’s good for a few politicians and the businessmen behind them.

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Green Mamba Parenting

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I have a fear about parenting. It doesn’t have so much to do with my specific context of parenting. It has more to do with what parenting will look like in the future.

The pendulum likes to swing. Sometimes, in response to a particular error or evil, we like to carry things to the complete other end of the spectrum, thus creating an entirely new error or evil.

The error and evil that many kids have been growing up under over the best several years is what has come to be known as Helicopter Parenting. And make no mistake, this approach is erroneous at best and sometimes even evil. It has left many kids with no idea how to navigate through the complexities of adulthood once mom and dad and their money aren’t around anymore. To put it another way, it has left us with thousands upon thousands of people in their late 20s and early 30s who are still kids. But, on the bright side, those kids do have a ton of trophies for their efforts or lack thereof.

Here’s where my fear comes in. I’m afraid that in response to this terribly flawed parenting technique, many moms and dads will go to the other extreme. So rather than Helicopter Parents, we’ll see a rise in Green Mamba parents.

The Green Mamba is a deadly African snake. Now I don’t know this from personal experience and I don’t care to but I’m told that the Green Mamba has nothing to do with the tiny green killers inside her eggs once they have hatched. Nice knowing you, kids. Watch out for farmers with shovels. See you in another life. Good luck!

Our kids do not need us to hover over every aspect of their lives. But they do need us. They do not need a trophy just for participating in a sport. But they do need to be praised when they do something right. Our kids do not need us showing up with them on job interviews but they do need us preparing them for when that day comes. And such preparation requires our presence.

There is a difference between neglect and training our kids to learn responsibility and how to take calculated risks on their own. I’m afraid that many parents aren’t seeing the difference. For them, neglect is rationalized as preparing their kids for the real world. This does great harm to kids. Sure, maybe they’ll learn how to fend for themselves but without parental encouragement, approval and grace at the appropriate times they’ll go looking for those things elsewhere. This never ends well.

By all means, let your kids play in the backyard while you take a nap. Let them take the 50 yard walk from your car to their school on their own. Tell them the score when they lose and let them know why not everyone gets a trophy.

But don’t be afraid to hug them. Ask God to give you wisdom so that you’ll know when it actually is a good time for you to step in for their protection. Reward them for a job well done.

The results of Helicopter Parenting are 30 year old kids who are lost when it comes to making decisions and takings risks.

The results of Green Mamba Parenting are young men and women who go through life angrily looking for the approval and affection that they never got at home.

So don’t be a Helicopter Parent.

And don’t be a Green Mamba Parent.

Just be a parent.

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