Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for October, 2009

I read an article recently that indicated churches that had been in existence longer than 10 years typically had 80% of their growth via transfer growth (people from other churches joining that church).  Interestingly, churches that had been in existence less than 10 years had 80% of their growth through “conversion” growth (people being saved and added to the church).  Why the difference?  It’s a great question.

May I offer my opinion?  I genuinely believe most “established” churches have turned inward.  It’s all about “taking care of the flock” and we’re not interested as believers in bringing anyone new (a true “unbeliever”) into the flock.  We spend literally millions of dollars as Southern Baptists entertaining ourselves.  Even in our own association I recently looked at the amount of “total receipts” versus baptisms (the association doesn’t keep up with the number of “salvations”) and do you know what I found?  As an association of 38 churches we had only baptized 200 people (I’m rounding here…so we can do some easy math) with total receipts of around $7 million.  This is pretty easy math and it equates to spending $35,000 per person baptized.  That’s astounding to me!  Is it to you?  It should be!  In Wilkes County, that $35,000 is above the average per capita wage earned by a fairly substantial margin.  Is this a good return on the dollars spent by our churches?  I think not.  In fact, I would go so far as to say it is horrible!

So why is this the case?  Simple.  We, (not just our little association), but the Church in general has become apathetic, complacent and we quite candidly are too busy entertaining ourselves to care.  How sad this makes our Lord.  What is He thinking when He sees us spending so much money on ourselves and so little on reaching people for Christ through missions?  He watches us go on all of our trips in our nice vans and buses.  He sees how we spend literally thousands and thousands of dollars on “treating” our people with “fun” things to do.  We spend exorbitant amounts particularly on Youth and Children’s programs that just “entertain” and may I go so far as to say…babysit.  We take ’em to concerts, ball games, skiing, paintballing, go-karting, putt putting, and you name it!  But, what is the rate of return?  Are we raising more Godly children for the amount of dollars we are pouring into programs, staff and facilities?  Well, look at the statistics.  We are losing 78-92%, (depending on the survey you read), of our so-called “Christian” teens by the time they turn 20 years of age.   They simply walk away from their faith and the church in droves. 

But, wait a minute.  We’re spending millions and millions of dollars nationwide on Youth programs, summer camps, concert series and the like and yet we’re losing them faster than we can woo them in with our pizza blasts and our game stations, couches, and wii’s.  Why?  Because we are just entertaining them.  You say, “Wait a minute!  Who do you think you are?  We do a devotion with them on the bus…(uh…it’s just 15 minutes out of the three-hour ski trip…and uh it’s barely heard…but, uh…we’re doing a devotion)”  Let me tell you…I’ve lived this life.  I’ve worked with youth for almost 20 years and I’ve done it all.  But, entertaining them and amusing and “funning” them to death is NOT the answer.  The answer is to reach them and their families at the same time.  Because what we do is send them to camp…they get on “fire,” (that’s a relative term and another blog post to come), and then they come back home and it’s like a 5-gallon bucket of water being poured on their enthusiasm…because they are walking into the same house they left before camp.  The parents are not leading and teaching them the ways of Christ and they are un-devoted in so many areas that the “mixed message” kills what they’ve seen at the camp or the concert or on the outing.  We’ve got to reach the parents…principally Dad’s.  Why the Dad?  Because as the Dads go…the families go.

I know I parked on the Youth stuff…but, this is the case in almost every area of most of our churches.  We simply are just “entertaining” ourselves.  We are so inwardly focused that we have become comfortable with our selfish, “religiousity.”  Strong words I know…but, it’s true of our “American” brand of Christianity.  Can I tell you what we need to be doing?  We need to be spending much, much less on ourselves and reaching out as we are told to by Christ in the GREAT COMMISSION and GO and make disciples of all nations.  That’s why I have a passion to see people come to Christ in Ethiopia, Mexico, The Philippines, Croatia, Serbia and Brazil, just to name some of the places we have missionaries that we’re supporting.  Our church has graciously decided to go beyond the walls of our church and reach people where they are “hungry” for the gospel.

Does this mean we don’t try to reach people in our own “Jerusalem and Judea?”  Absolutely not.  We have local ministries to our men, called “Iron Men.”  We meet weekly and currently have close to 30 men attending and growing in Christ at a noontime lunch on Wednesdays.  We work through our local Pregnancy Care Center and our local food and clothing bank, our local Christian Counseling group and much more.  But, this is not an advertisement for our church…it’s a blog post to get us to think about how we are spending God’s money.   But, I will say that we’ve experienced as much growth in our church than anyone in our area in baptisms and new members.  Why?  Because I believe we are balancing what we do in our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and beyond.  Quite simply…God blesses a church that has a heart for missions!

So let’s sum up why we aren’t reaching people for Christ?  I believe ultimately we don’t have a “missions” mindset.  We aren’t on mission in our job places, our schools, our ball teams, our extra curricular activities, etc., etc.  We are simply and selfishly living for ourselves.  We are “building bigger barns” while the rest of the world lives in painstaking poverty and hunger for a Savior that they’ve never heard about.  What will we do?  We should change the structure of our churches to make our “mission” as a church to spend (or may I say “invest” or “store up treasures”) much, much more on “missions” instead of ourselves.  It’s that simple.  If we are serious about living out the principles outlined in Scripture that were espoused by Jesus Christ, then we must…we MUST change our mode of operation.  If we don’t…we’ll continue to have the pathetic statistics that we have today.  We’ll spend lots of money with little results.  May God help us!

Read Full Post »

Strongholds…Satan builds them so innocently without us evening knowing it. 

Like the proverbial “frog in the boiling kettle.”  Once the stronghold is identified (and this only comes from honest inpsection of our lives through the light of the Holy Spirit), we must sincerely ask the Lord to show us the depth of the sin so that we may kill it.  Pulling up a weed without yanking out the roots with it is useless.  We know it will come back.  But, how do we deal with sin?  It’s as almost as if we treat God like a kid’s vending machine at Wal-Mart and we want to put in a quarter and get back what we want…an easy fix.  Somehow we have cheapened our walk and are serving God only for what He can do for us.  What did He do for us?  He has delivered mankind from sin.  He can deliver us from our sin…our strongholds.  But, are you willing to truly look into your soul and see the blackness of the sin and then expose it?   Ephesians 5 tells us that “everything exposed by the light becomes visible and by the light everything is made visible.  This is why it is said, ‘Wake up O sleeper and rise from the dead and let Christ shine on you.'” 

Here is the issue and the problem it that far too many Christians are concerned about being “happy.”  I hear so many say these words…”All I want is just to be happy.”  We become almost blind to the stronghold and we grow desirous of the world’s lie of “happiness.”  Do you know what, (this will be hard to hear), but the truth is that perhaps you have not died to yourself and perhaps you have never truly experienced the joy of God, the purpose and the meaning in your life that He longs for you to have.  As long as you and your “happiness” is on the throne of your life, you will never know complete freedom and joy in Christ and there will be a nagging emptiness in your life. 

Please understand…God made you for His glory…not yours.  He made you for His happiness and pleasure and you will only know true happiness (joy) and pleasure when you surrender to Christ and give Him your complete life…nothing held back.  Until you put Jesus Christ on the throne of your life…you will never have joy…you will never have meaning and you will float through life aimlessly like a ship without a rudder.

Jesus calls us to take up or cross…to deny ourselves…to turn the other cheek, walk the second mile…to store up treasures in heaven, to value our bodies as his temple, to love our enemies to separate ourselves from this world.  To be in it, but not of it.  To NOT be empty…Jesus has to be first.  If He isn’t…I promise you…He politely goes to the back of the line.

Read carefully these words of God through His servant Paul.  Remember them twice if you need to. (Ephesians 1:17-20):  17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.

We have the power of the resurrected Christ living in us…the Holy Spirit Himself…the third person of the Trinity.  We have an obligation to live for Jesus, if you name His name as Lord and Savior.  Paul tells us in Romans 8:12-14:

12Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 

Are you being led by the Spirit of God?  If so, you are to kill the evil in your life.  I am to ask God if there are any strongholds in my life.  I am deceitfully wicked and I look back over my life and see my own self deception through the years.  Do you?

We’ve got to get rid of the sin.  Kill it.  We must get serious about putting Jesus first.  James 1:21-25:  21Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

I will be brutally honest.  Most of us are just “listeners” to the Word and not “doers.”  We’ve deceived ourselves and I’m afraid we’re simply lying to ourselves.  Our human heart is so deceitful and corrupt that we don’t even know that we’re blind and deceitful?

Do you know what the real problem is?  JESUS IS NOT EVERYTHING TO US.  I love the song of the group Avalon entitled, “Everything to Me.”

Everything to me. 

He’s more than a story.

More than words on a page of history.

He’s the air that I breathe.

The Water I thirst for,

And the ground beneath my feet,

Oh, He’s everything…everything to me.

Jesus is pursuing a relationship with you.  He is determined to pursue you because He knows the greatest joy in your life will come from His plan for you.  Ephesians 2:8-10 tell us:

8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

God has built in you a desire for Himself…an intimacy with Him.  He fashioned and formed the earth to be inhabited by mankind so He could reveal His glory to man.

Dear friends, God has given you a gift…It’s called salvation and it was given to you and to me because God had mercy and grace on us.  He loved us so much that He butchered His own Son on a Roman cross to satisfy the penalty of our sins so we could have life.

Jesus died to give you life so that you could do good works which he prepared in advance for you to do.  That means your life has purpose.  When are you going to start living like a Christian?  When are you going to seek Jesus and get into Him (in His Word) and discover His plan for you?  When are you going to stop living by the patterns of this world and truly get broken over your sin?  When are you going to quit living a mediocre, aimless and empty Christian life and finally step out of the rut you’ve been living in?  Dear friend, when is Jesus going to become your everything?  When He does…your emptiness will be gone.  You will plug into and have the resurrection power of Jesus Christ operating in your life and you will have the power to overcome anything.  Don’t allow a stronghold to dominate your life.  Give Jesus Christ your life…100%.  Trust Him with your emptiness and you will be filled.  Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, “Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.”  The choice is yours…and mine…filled with Christ or emptiness…

Read Full Post »

 So, how can we tell if we have allowed Satan to have an influence on our thought processes and the way we live?  How can we tell if we are being tricked by the world in which we live to follow it instead of Christ?  Well, let’s first identify areas that this may be happening.

 As I Pastor this is what I see in so many peoples’ lives:

  • Drugs.  People are addicted to prescription drugs today in massive amounts and they excuse it because its prescription
  • Social drinking…we say, “It’s not hurting anyone.”  Yet, is your drinking causing you to be a stumbling block for other Christians and people in your family?  (Romans 14 is a great passage to ponder on this subject.)
  • Pornography.  So many men excuse porn because they feel they “owe” it to themselves.  They make excuses and say it is “soft” porn and not the hard stuff.  Some men are just looking at the Belk’s flyer at their “intimate sale”…but, they have rationalized this and they know, deep down, their mind is in the wrong place.
  • Ladies who want to be home with their children.  Many ladies would love to be home with their kids, but they are enslaved to paying the bills and they won’t reduce their “standard of living” to raise the children.  So, they keep driving the newer model car, spending money on childcare, clothes for the office, lunches and all that goes with “looking the part” (manicures, etc) and when you add it all up…they’d be better off financially being at home in the first place.  The children are only small for a brief period of time.  Why let those chapters of your children’s lives slip away while someone at daycare sees their first steps and hears their first words?
  • Lying.  This is huge!  Do you exaggerate?  Do you find yourself trying to you make yourself look good at every turn?  Are you ok with “white lies?”  Someone calls your home and you tell the children…”tell them I’m not here.”  That’s lying my friends.  “Thou shall not lie” made God’s top ten list…remember?
  • Shopping.  Oh boy…this is a major area Satan has us over a barrel today.  Perhaps you can’t help yourself and you use credit cards like a drug addict popping pills.  For some, if they don’t have the right kind of clothes or the right kind of purse they feel like they are behind the times.  Do you let what you “put on” give you self-worth?  Do you let clothing companies determine whether or not you are valuable.  Boy, this is big with our young people.  And you know what?  I don’t care what Hollister, American Eagle or North Face says is “popular.”  What we wear has nothing to do with who we are in Christ. 
  • Sports.  This is big for the men.  Guys, it’s your god and you know it.  Is it that you are vicariously living off of your kids’ successes on the ball field?  We’ve got sports that’s taking away people every Sunday from church.  Listen, the last time I checked, Sunday is called “the Lord’s Day.”  Today, we desecrate His day and excuse it away because we want our kids to have trophies that they will put in the attic at 25 years of age and end up in the landfill at 45.  So, why do we excuse it away?
  • Image.  This is another big one.  Think about it.  How much of what you do, buy, drive, wear and even where you go on vacation is because of the image you are trying to keep up?  We even do this with our kids.  This is why they’re in what they are (extra-curricular activities).  It’s as much about you as it is them isn’t it?
  • Materialism.  This concept of Satan is running so many homes.  You just have to have the nicer car or house…you just have to have that newest model of whatever…but it’s never enough.  When the newer style comes out, then you’ve just got to get your hands on it.  So many are going to weep when they leave this world because they are so wrapped up in it.  Would it be ok if Jesus came back today?  Or are you trying to make this place heaven?  Is it that you’ve “stored up so much treasure” down here that there is little for you to look forward to in eternity?  How sad that we don’t long for heaven, because we think we’ve got it here.
  • Friends.  Are you in bondage to what your friend’s think?  Do you let them tell you what to think?  Be honest…are your friends helping you to grow in Christ or are they in a subtle way corrupting you with wrong thought processes?  Friend, when you are making decisions…you should seek God first!  But, is it that you can’t make a decision until you get your friends input and yet, they’re not even walking with God?  Have you forgotten the Bible says, “Bad company corrupts good character.”  The Bible says, “Wise is the man who walks with the wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.”  Proverbs 13:20.  For your kids…the peer influence in their lives will be the single most potentially destructive force in their lives.  Think about that.  Who you “run with” will determine in a large degree what you become. 
  • Kids.  Are you in bondage to your kid’s desires and wants…you feel like you’ve got to buy them everything they want…you eat what they eat because you just want peace in the house and you allow them to run your life just to “keep peace.”  You tolerate bad manners…hateful language…bad attitudes…disobedience and negativity…because you are tired of fighting the battle.  It’s sad…we’ve got parents asking their kid’s permission to do everything.  It’s like the inmates are running the asylum.  This should never be.  It’s our job as parents to raise our children in the teaching and admonition of the Lord.  This is principally the fathers job.  (Ephesians 6:4, Deut. 6, Psalm 78).
  • Sex.  This is another huge area in which Satan is having a field day.  We have so many people “living together” in our culture.  They excuse it because they “love” each other.  We’ve got 6th graders who believe that if they don’t “go all the way” then it’s not really sex.  They have the Bill Clinton mindset on sex.  We’ve got people who have believed the lie of Satan that says you’ve got to live with somebody before you can really know if “they are good in bed.”  We’ve got Christians who say this.  Why?  Because they’ve seen in on “Friends” and “Seinfeld” and it’s been imbedded in their brains.
  • Cigarettes, “dip,” tobacco in general.  The doctors have told you to get off of it, but because it’s going to require “drying out” you’ve rationalized and become comfortable with it.  Who’s Lord of your body?
  • Overeating.  We are a nation of obese people.  Many have found comfort in food and it’s their “drug of choice” to compensate for the emptiness in their lives.
  • Anger and bouts of rage, unresolved past bitterness, unforgiveness.  Jesus teaches us to forgive.  If we don’t, He won’t forgive us.  If you have a problem with somebody, don’t let it fester.  Go make it right.  Matthew 5:23 says, “if someone has ought against you, then you should leave the altar and go make it right with them.”  You say, “You don’t know what they did to me?”  That’s right, I don’t.  But, God does and He says to go make things right with them if they have “ought” against you.  That’s walking the second mile, that’s turning the other cheek.  That’s carrying our cross.
  • Spouse bondage.  Do you or are you a spouse that has to have it your way in the house or you get mad?  You stay mad?  Is it about performance for you?  They must “perform” at your level or you are mad?  Are they not fulfilling your needs?  I would humbly say to you to stop acting like a 5-year old.  You are in bondage.  You married your spouse for better for worse, in sickness and health, till death do you part.  Quite trying to find all your fulfillment in your spouse.  They can’t meet all your needs.  Only Jesus can fulfill you.  Quite looking to your spouse to do only what God can do.
  • Selfishness.  I see so much selfishness in the church today.  We want what we want and if things don’t go our way, we get mad.  We are supposed to be “givers”…but we are “takers.”  (2 Cor. 5:15 And [Jesus] died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.)
  • Broken dreams.  Unfortunately, life has just not turned out like you want it and you have allowed yourself to feel cursed and you are mad, frustrated and disappointed.  Perhaps you blame God and you are even running from Him.  David had a tough life, so did Jacob and Joseph and even the Apostle Paul.  Life is not always easy.  Remember, this “ain’t heaven.” 

Ok.  Do you see how easily we can allow Satan’s “mindset” to control ours?  Do you see how we can have the life drained right out of us and we can be empty zombies because we have the wrong thought processes.  Satan easily builds strongholds in our lives and we don’t even realize it.  So what do we do?  Check back for part 3…coming soon.

Read Full Post »

Why are so many Christians empty?

That’s a bold question…but, one I’ve pondered for some time.  Why indeed are so many so-called Christians, seemingly so empty?  Well, I believe it’s because we have become ok with a part “Christian” and part “worldly” point of view and we’re comfortable “compartmentalizing” Jesus in our lives.

How do I know this?  Well, to be blunt, there are many things I’ve come to realize that indicates our true hearts and our spiritual condition.  So, here goes.  We unashamedly watch TV programs, go to movies, listen to music and talk to friends that push a worldly point of view in our faces the majority of the time.  And we don’t see the emptiness of this.  We must remember, everything we watch and everything we listen to is coming from either a Godly or worldly point of view.  So, what are you pumping into your mind?

It’s a shame that many know more about Hollywood movie characters than Bible characters.  We know more of and have memorized more of the names of our favorite ball team’s roster than we know of and have memorized the Word of God.  Yet, we say we love Jesus and we are His followers.  Are you?  Really?  Sincerely?  Genuinely?

So what are you pumping into your mind every day?  It’s either Godly or it’s not…cut and dried…black and white…that simple.  Let’s not rationalize.  So, what’s the worldview of your favorite movie or song or TV show?  Now don’t pass over this.  Really ask yourself if the radio station you listen to is Godly.  What’s the worldview that your children are getting from watching even seemingly “innocent” shows on “Nickelodeon” or PBS or the History Channel or the Discovery Channel?  Did you know that on these supposed “education” channels they are typically pushing evolutionary thinking?  Have you listened to what they are saying?  It’s subtle…but, I’m telling you it’s there.  How about the degrading of the family that occurs on most sitcoms…making the Dad look like a buffoon and an idiot?

Think about it.  Would you imagine a cartoon character that walks around in his underwear being marketed to people 50 years ago?  That’s happening today by way of “Sponge Bob” in case you didn’t know.  Would you imagine that Burger King would use this cartoon character to sell hamburgers to kids?   

You say…aw…that stuff’s not that bad.  Really? Did you know that even Hannah Montana and the writers of her shows and movies and songs have a worldview?  They do!  Now ask yourself.  Is it Christian?  You say, “aw…it’s cute..”  But, you must ask yourself…is it something that is going to bring my child closer to Christ or potentially (and I mean ever so subtlely) pull them into the world.  You know, I sometimes wonder if Hannah is going to be the next Britney Spears…who used to wear the Mickey Mouse ears or Lindsay Lohan, who was so cute in the Parent Trap movie?  Do you?

You see, I believe we’ve allowed ourselves to be taken hostage by the devil and the patterns of this world.  We are not staying grounded in Christ.  Many of you perhaps are spiritually starving to death and are empty.  Deep down there is something missing.

The Bible says in Colossians 2:8:  See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

Think about this:  Lot’s wife was “almost” saved…but her heart was still in Sodom.  That’s us folks!  Like Lot’s wife…we even go to church…we talk the Christian talk…but, our heart is still in Sodom.  Lot’s wife had slowly given her heart to Sodom…but, it didn’t happen overnight.

Are you slowly being sucked into the world’s way of thinking and don’t even know it?  1 John 2:15-17: 15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

 Romans 12:2 tells us not to conform to the patterns of this world any longer:  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I see many people come to church on Sundays and they think they are doing the “Christian thing,” because they do so and that they are “separated” from the world; yet, on Monday morning they go back to work and live the same old life they did the week before…immersed in the world.  They’re in bondage.  They’re still living like they are lost and perhaps have never truly surrendered their life to Christ.  Is that you? 

So many are living like dead people, just barely existing and they’re so empty…but, they’re trying to fill up their lives and live life with the wrong stuff.  Are you friends with the world? 

How are we duped by the world and Satan’s hollow and deceptive thoughts?  You don’t think it’s you?  Well, I’m the chief of sinners.  I’ll show you in the next blog.  To be continued in part 2.

Read Full Post »

Recently I had this question posed to me and boy, it’s really caused me to have to dig and pray to find discernment and wisdom from the Lord to give an answer that I feel comfortable with for the blog.  But, I want to give you the bottom line at the beginning of this post.  Here it is:  There is no “cookie cutter,” “one-size fits all” answer for this question.  Why?  Because everyone’s situation is different and different people handle things in different ways.  And, yes, even the same person can be handled in different ways at different times to remedy a situation or hopefully help a situation.

Most people have someone in their family that is facing an addiction or is someone who is exasperating at best.  I read recently that the economic cost of addictions to the American workforce is nearing $500 billion a year.  Throughout America, weekend partying fills emergency rooms and morgues with drunk drivers, overdose victims, rape victims and the like.  Close to 25 percent of all Medicare and Medicaid expenses stem from substance abuse. 

So, do you have the exasperating family member that is addicted to one thing or another?  You may have that family member that constantly is asking for money.  Or perhaps the one that goes from one addiction to another (alcohol, drugs, porn, gambling, overwork, emotional addictions, etc).  Or you may have the family member that can never seem to get their “act together.”  Or maybe they bounce from relationship to relationship and can’t ever seem to settle down.  Or even worse, they are in and out of jail or detention centers or detox centers and seem almost “hopeless.”  So, what do you do?  Do you give them the “tough love treatment” and not speak to them?  Do you cut them off with no contact?  Or do you continue to coax and implore them to get it all “turned around” by pleading and begging them to change?  What should you do? 

As I pondered these questions over the last several days, I thought about Jesus and his “interactions” with other people and even some parables He told.   I thought about the “Prodigal Son.”  The father in the story let the young son walk.  He didn’t go chase him.  Luke 15 describes how the boy finally, “came to his senses.”  The father didn’t bring him to his senses.  The boy’s circumstances did.  He finally hit rock bottom.  But, is this the model we should use for our family members?  Your family member?  Maybe, maybe not. 

I thought about how Jesus dealt with the “woman at the well.”  He was very plain and honest with her (as he was with everyone).  He told her the truth and confronted her with the fact that she was living with a man and being dishonest.  I think of the experience He had with Zacchaeus.  He went to his house.  He was so gracious to go with this “sinner” to his house and spend time with Him to help him see the error in his ways.  Zacchaeus repented and was resolute in his desire to repay those he had stolen from in his tax collection business.  I think of the time Jesus was confronted with the woman caught in adultery and he was so kind to her.  Here was a lady “caught in the act” (she was “framed” if the whole truth be known).  Nonetheless, Jesus could have thrown the “book” at her.  The Old Testament law said she should be stoned.  Yet, Jesus said those now famous lines, “He that is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”  Amazing!  Are you seeing something interesting here?  Are you seeing that there is a pattern of “NO” patterns?   Everyone was treated specifically and uniquely for their situation.  Jesus handled each circumstance exactly in the way that “fit” that person for that situation.

Think about Jesus’ encounter with the “Rich Young Ruler.”  He again confronted this person with the truth.  He saw deep inside the young man’s heart and revealed to him his real problem.  The young man wanted to know how to get to heaven.  Jesus did not give him a direct answer.  He told him to sell all He had and give it to the poor.  Jesus knew his “stuff” was his god.  Again, Jesus just told the truth…the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  So, I believe we must be honest with family members about their own condition.  Not hateful!  Not mean-spirited.  Jesus was never this way.  Yet, He was forthright, firm and honest.  

So you may say, “Been there done that.  It doesn’t work.  They won’t listen.”  This may be true.  Sometimes they don’t.  What did the Rich Young Ruler do?  He walked off with his face downcast.  Did Jesus chase him down?  Nope.  He let him walk.  So, I believe there are times that perhaps we must let them walk.  Suffer their own miserable consequences for their own pitiful actions.  Yet, there is something critical that you and I must understand and this is what I’ve grappled with for a week.  We must pray and listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit to make the right decision.  The cookie-cutter approach won’t work always work.   We can’t take one instance in Scripture and apply that to each and every situation.  Again, Jesus didn’t handle everyone the same way. 

Remember, He was so long suffering with the Apostles.  He continued to teach and train them even though they struggled mightily with stubborn unbelief.  Don’t we?  I do!  Remember on the cross He said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”   What compassion!  As Christians we must forgive and we must be willing to reach out and help as the Lord leads.  We must respond as Jesus did.  Faith isn’t about digging a moat around one’s own life. 

So, now you are thinking, “Wow!  Thanks for the double-talk Kevin!  You’ve sure been a lot of help!  UGH!!”  I don’t mean to give you the appearance that I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth.  Honest!!  I’m just trying to show you what the Lord has shown me.  We must seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit when dealing with people.  We must pray for discernment and ask for wisdom to know how to deal with that family member (or friend, or child or spouse or neighbor) that is an enigma to us.  You know the one that is absolutely the most frustrating person in the world and the one that makes us want to scream!  James tells us if we will simply ask for wisdom, God will freely give it to us.  We need wisdom!  If we have it…then, we’ll not what to do and make the right decision. 

Here’s what I believe…no…here is what I know that works.  If we would just read the Word of God and seek a “word” from the Word, then we would have much clearer direction in what to say or do, or what NOT to say or do in these difficult situations.  You see the Bible is a “lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”  (Psalm 119:105).  God WILL show the way if we will seek Him in what to do.  Often we ask everyone else’s opinion and leave out the Lord.  Oh, I know we pray.  But so often we pray only to check off the fact that we have done our “Christian duty” and then go ahead with what our “gut” tells us or what someone else says to do (like Oprah or Dr. Phil).  We ultimately make decisions like the world and we stumble and fall in the process…right along with that exasperating family member. 

Do you ever think that you and I are an exasperating “family member” to the Lord?  Boy, I know I am.  I’m an exasperating “child” myself.   And I’m sorry Lord!  Forgive me for my cynical nature and my judgmental attitude and my lack of patience to wait on you for the answer and for wisdom to make a good decision in communicating with that family member.  May I remember that Jesus showed the way.  He is THE WAY after all.  He knows what we should do.  He’s not playing “hide and seek” with His will.  He still says, “Come, follow me.”  When we do, we’ll have the right approach and the right way of dealing with that wayward family member.  Try it!!

Read Full Post »

I read an article this weekend in the Winston-Salem Journal entitled, “Columbine Killer’s Mom didn’t Realize Son’s Illness.”  The mother of the Columbine killer the article is talking about is Susan Klebold.

Klebold before his death in 1999

Klebold before his death in 1999

Dylan, her son, along with Eric Harris killed 12 students and a teacher in the 1999 shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Denver.  21 people were injured before Klebold and Harris killed themselves.  Mrs. Klebold in her essay that will be printed in “O” magazine this week, said, “I’d had no inkling of the battle Dylan was waging in his mind.”  When I read that sentence it struck me.  I read the words, “no inkling” over and over.  No inkling.  No inkling.  No inkling.  I looked up the word in the dictionary and here it is:  “in·kling” n. 1. A slight hint or indication. 2. A slight understanding or vague idea or notion.  So, Mrs. Klebold had not even a slight hint or indication or even a slight understanding or even a vague idea or notion what was going on with her son.  I don’t want to put words in her mouth and I suspect perhaps she may would choose another word if she really understood what she was saying and how it looks in print.  However, this is what struck me.  How is it in our culture today that we seem to know so little about our teenagers and/or children’s lives and what makes them tick? 

Why would this lady not have any understanding or idea or notion that her son was “sick.”  Aren’t there signs?  Sure there are.  Again, I don’t want to sound judgemental, because I obviously don’t know Mrs. Klebold, but I’ve learned something through the years, (and having a soon to be 16 year old has taught me this as well), we must keep our children talking.  We absolutely must communicate with them and talk, talk, talk and talk some more with them.  You say, “My teen just doesn’t talk.”  Oh, but they will talk…I promise you, if you will simply take the time to go to their room and sit down and talk with them.   This usually takes a “one on one” meeting, as it rarely happens in the “group” of the family. 

I have found late at night, right before bedtime is the best time to have these “talks.”  Just go sit on the corner of their bed and say, “Hey, how’s it goin’?”  They may not even look up from their homework (hopefully they do some of that!  Ha!), or their Ipod, cell phone or Facebook page.  But, keep pressing in a calm and respectful way.  Ask again, “How you doin?”  Don’t ask “How was school?”  or “How was practice?”  or something that requires a “one word” answer.  Asking “How are you doing?” is a much better way to have an open-ended conversation.  I’ve found even with my two four-year olds, this is a great lead-in question too. 

Do you know what I’ve found?  They will talk when they see we care.  We’ve got to take the time from our busy schedules just to talk.  We’ve got to get away from our own Facebook pages and “work” and the game on the TV, the newspaper, the emails, the hobbies, etc. and just sit down and take the time to talk to our children.  Sounds simple enough doesn’t it?

You know, this reminds me of the way our Heavenly Father wants to relate to us.  He just wants us to talk to Him.  He wants us to listen to what He has to say back to us as well.  How do we do that?  By reading the Bible, which is His Word for us.  That’s called “building a relationship.” 

Hey, can I ask you a question?  Do you pray for your children?  Sure you do!  I know you do!  But, I mean do you REALLY pray for them?  You may ask, “What do you mean?”  I mean do you ever get down on your knees in their presence and pray over them?  Do they hear you call their name to the Heavenly Father?  You talk about powerful!!  Try it!  Ask your son or daughter to kneel beside of you and then you place your arm around their shoulder and you pray out loud for them!  Wow!  Just thinking about it makes me “tear up.”  I can speak from experience…this works wonders. 

I have made it my custom as the spiritual leader in my home to pray over my children every morning before I leave the house.  This takes some time to do so with four children, believe me…but, it’s worth it.  (May I hasten to say, I also pray over my wife, Pam, as well…this is critical as her husband.)  Most of the time when I pray in the morning for my children, they are still in the bed because it’s still dark.  But, they hear me!  I’m telling you they hear me!  Maybe not everything…but, they know I’m there.  They’ve told me so.  I pray with the family as a whole at night, but this morning time of praying God’s blessings upon my children happens in the early morning hours individually with them. 

At night, we huddle up look a brood of chickens and I pray over the family.  We simply turn off the TV (of which we watch very little…on purpose)…and we just talk.  You ask, “Do you do this every single night?”  No.  But, please hear me…it’s at least a couple of night’s per week.  You see, I believe we can get “legalistic” sometimes and say we must have devotions every night or we’re not getting the job done.  Well, I’d love it if we did so each and every night.  My family seeks to make the nights that we don’t have a devotion, at least a short one (5-10 minutes), the anomaly rather than the norm.  I’m no fool.  I know in our culture today, it’s probably not feasible to say that everyone has nightly devotions.  We’re just simply not home enough.  However, I would say, if you don’t have time to have devotions and prayer and Bible reading at least 2-3 times per week, then you are probably too busy.  By the way, you know what “busy” stands for don’t you?  “Buried Under Satan’s Yoke.”  Ouch!!  That hits me hard?  How ’bout you?  We’ve got to get our priorities right with our children or we will lose them.  (See my blogs on “Adult-Centered Youth Ministry for me on this.)

Bottom line.  We must communicate within our families in order for us to know our families.  We must do so to have an “inkling” as to what is going on in their lives.  Unfortunately, even in Christian homes, what is happening is that the time slides by and we just don’t talk anymore and consequently, we don’t know one another anymore.  We unknowingly accept the lies of the culture that says, “Well, they are teens…so at that age they just don’t talk to their parents anymore.”  Folks, that’s a lie from Satan!  Don’t you believe it!  They DO want to talk to us.  They sometimes think we don’t care or don’t want to listen or are too busy…but, they DO want to talk.  They will talk to you over their friends.  You don’t believe that?  Just ask them.  Statistics show teens still will choose to talk to their parents and seek their advice OVER their friends.  So, we must slow down, sit down and take the time to talk.  If we do…then we’ll certainly have more than an “inkling” about what is going on in our children’s lives.

Read Full Post »

You know, I’m certain the congregation I help to shepherd may be tired of me saying this…but, not everyone that says they are “saved” or are a “Christian” truly are.  And not everyone that says they have a Christian home truly have a Christian home.  It’s so easy to say either (you are saved or have a Christian home), but it ‘s much more difficult to live it. 

I was reading the account in the Bible of Paul’s conversion on the “Road to Damascus” tonight to my four-year old Andrew.  My other four-year old had already fallen asleep (an active afternoon riding her bicycle with little brother and sliding on the slide had already “done her in”).  As I finished reading to Andrew, (actually, he had already zonked out too), it hit me that what I’m trying to do for my children is something quite different than what I was even doing five years ago.  Family devotions were pretty much non-existent then.  Or, if we had them…they were just kind of a “lick and a promise” and “going through the motions.”  So, what changed?

Well, I’m similar to Paul.  Paul was “religious,” but he had it all wrong.  He was just that…religious.  And so was I.  I could go into more detail…but, trust me…I was just “going through the motions” of being a “Christian Dad.”  You know, many Dads and many homes are probably similar to me.  What changed?  God spoke to my heart over a series of several months and showed me very plainly that I was not truly being the Christian man I “thought” I was.  I was doing all the “right religious” things.  I was a Deacon at church, I taught Sunday School, I was in the choir, I paid my taxes and I was a good citizen.  But, I was not leading my family spiritually…I was hoping the church would do it for me…yet, it’s not the job of the church…the Bible says it’s my job (Ephesians 6:1-4). 

The Bible also teaches in Psalm 78 that we are “tell the next generation” about the wonders of God, so that they will “tell the next generation.”  That wasn’t happening in my home.  I was bringing home “the bacon.”  Yet, I was doing little to raise my family in a godly way. 

So, how can you tell if you have a Christian home?  Well, I want you to consider the following.

What are your priorites?  In other words, where do you spend the majority of your time, money and resources?  Now don’t blow by this one off.  Please read carefully.  If you are a family that is trying to “have it all” in this culture today, I can guarantee you that you are mostly likely NOT a Christian home.  Yes, I know that is a bold statement, but I want you to understand why I’m saying it.  If you think you can be involved in everything coming and going and have your week “maxed” to the limit with no time at home except to sleep and still have a “Christian” home, then you are sadly mistaken.  You may be thinking…how do you know?  You don’t know my home.  Well, I don’t have to, because I’ve lived it. 

Here’s the truth in a nutshell.  As my 11-year old daughter said about two hours ago, “you will know them by the fruit they bear.”  (We have devotions with the little guys first-the two four-year olds, and then a devotion with the older two later).  You may say, “Are these long?”  No, not necessarily.  But, they always include Scripture, because that’s all that is going to change a child, or an adult for that matter.  

So, my 11-year old gets it.  Simply, you must have a home that gives evidence or shows fruit that you have a Christian home.  I asked my girls “What does that mean?”  My 15-year old said, “Well, Dad, you have to have your priorities right.  You have to really put Jesus first in all you do.”  Bingo, Katy!  You are on it girl!  That’s exactly right!

What evidence am I talking about?  Evidence that you truly love Christ.  Evidence that He is a priority.  So, how can you tell?  Look at your checkbook for one.  Look at your day planner or Blackberry calendar for two.  You say, “Well, I go to church and I give money to charity.”  That’s great!  But, a lot of people will do that in the morning when they go to church…but, it doesn’t mean you truly have a Christian home just because you go to church. 

I believe, if you have a Christian home, then you will not be watching trash on T.V.  You say, “Well, I don’t watch HBO or Showtime.”  Isn’t that what we always do?  We pick the “worst” and compare ourselves against it to make ourselves feel better.  Yet, the Bible says in Ephesians, 5, “…there must not be even a HINT of sexual immorality or of greed or of ANY kind of impurity for these are improper for God’s holy people.”  Not even a HINT!  Not ANY kind of impurity.

Now go back through what you allow in your home…  Think about the videos you have.   Think about the music you listen to.   You can’t sit around and watch “Desparate Housewives” and old “Friends” episodes and say you are “holy.”  You can’t listen to “beer drinking, adultery glorifying,” music and say you are being godly.  Think about the language you use with your children.  Is it HOLY?  You and I can’t be using slang words (because none of us cuss…right?) with our kids and think we are being Christ-like.  Hmm…this is tough stuff isn’t it?  Believe me, I know it is!  But, the point is we’re working on it in my home.  Hard, I might add!  We are now making the sacrifices to truly show evidence that we are a “Christian home.”   Are you?  If Christ were to come in and hang out for a week with you in bodily form in your home…what would He see?  Oh yeah…He’s already with us if we are saved isn’t He?  So, we have no excuses do we?

Do you know what scares me?  It’s that so many parents think that just taking their kids to church is enough.  It’s NOT!  Statistics show that children that grow up going to church all their lives (prior to high school graduation) and that are even involved in youth groups (which I believe is NOT the answer for discipleship…read my posts in the category of “Adult-Centered Youth Ministry.”  Discipleship MUST take place in the home as well as the church to be effective), will eventually leave the church at a clip of 92% by the time they are 20 according to several studies.  In fact, there is a new book out now called “Already Gone” that details many of our kids are already gone by the time they are in their early teens.  Startling!  Yet, true!  Our children are involved in so many different things that they get mixed messages.  We tell them that we love Jesus, yet sports and extra curricular activities take precedent over the things of God and church.  We say, “Well, they’ve made a commitment and they need to be there.”  And yes, we want our kids to be committed…but to “what” and at what price?  (By the way…where do all the trophies and medals end up?  I’ll let you answer that one.  Mine are in the landfill!)

You know what I’ve learned?  It’s quite simple.  We do what we want to do and we’re like water…we flow to the area of least resistance.  Do you want a Christian home?  You and I are going to have to “pay the price” to have it.  What does that mean?  It means that we are going to have to be at home some.  We can’t be gone every night of the week or close to it and think we are giving our kids Christ and truly teaching His principles.  We’re not being honest with ourselves if we think we can.  This may mean that the kids can’t be involved in everything coming and going.  But, you know what I’ve found?  Often it’s the parents trying to keep up with the Joneses through their kids that is the real problem.  “Vicarious living” I call it that pushes the kids to do what we didn’t or couldn’t do.  Again, at what price?  What is your motive Dad, Mom? 

So, we’ve got to decide what we REALLY want.  A star athelete that plays every sport during every season of the year, a daughter that’s involved in all the classes that showcase her skills even on numerous weekends each year, or a Christian young person?  You say, “Wait a minute…are you saying that my kids shouldn’t be involved in sports or extra curricular activities?”  No I’m not.  but, what I’m saying is that often we go overboard and don’t even realize it. 

So how can you tell if you have a Christian home?  I mean a REAL Christian home?  Well, I wouldn’t ask you or me.  I’d look at our children.  That’s how we can tell what we are REALLY passing along.  So, here goes.  What “drives” your child?  What motivates them?  What makes them tick?  What do they talk about all the time?  What do they do with their spare time (if they have any)?  Do they ever talk about the Lord?  Do you ever see them reading the Bible?  Do you catch them praying in their room?  Do you hear them talking about the things of God?  Listen, if you don’t see or hear some of these “evidences,” then you can be confident that you do NOT have a Christian home.  I don’t care what you or I may say or how we may want to rationalize it.  

You see…we are so easily deceived.  Just like Paul.  He thought he was doing the right thing by being religious and persecuting Christians…yet, he was absolutely 100% wrong.  So was I and I learned this lesson the hard way.  Thank the Lord, my kids were still young enough that I have time to change and I’m giving it all I’ve got to make sure we truly and REALLY do have a Christian home. 

What about you?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »