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Archive for July, 2011

As I pastor I’m often asked by parents and even grandparents, “What if my children or grandchildren walk away from the faith? What do we do?” I wrote extensively about this in my book. Have you gotten your copy yet? Hint, hint… 🙂 If you are local you can do so at “For Heaven’s Sake” bookstore in Melody Square in North Wilkesboro, or pick up one at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church or if you are out of town, you can order online at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. (And some of you have gotten it, but not cracked it open yet or you think, “I’ve heard all this before.” No you haven’t. Trust me! :))

Here’s my thoughts for those who interested and this comes from the last chapter in my book:

For those who have walked away, the most important thing you can do for them is pray. There are some things that only the Holy Spirit can accomplish. I encourage you to fast and pray for their salvation. Do not try to convince yourself that they know Christ if you aren’t 100% convinced. Perhaps they do, but if they have walked away and give no evidence of Christian fruit in their lives, then it is better to pray as if they do not. Satan has deceived many parents into thinking their children know the Lord because they prayed a prayer or were baptized as a child. That is a dangerous assumption.

Some of you, however, know your child has rejected taking the baton of faith and are sinning against God. You may even feel that your own reputation has been damaged. You might angrily say, “Can’t they see what this is doing to me?” In your mind you think, “I raised my child better than this! What happened?” But, as parents, we must see our investment into the lives of our children in the light of eternity. If we focus on the short term, we will likely have our own pity-party and make their lack of salvation all about us. However, those who make the greatest difference are those who continue to invest without the expectation of immediate return. Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” We all know stories of those who left the faith and went through a prolonged season of darkness, yet eventually emerged in the light. Maybe this is your personal story. Have faith that this will be your son’s or daughter’s story as well.

In his book Handoff, Jeff Myers shares (Jeff Myers, Handoff, pp. 143-44):

I’ve often wondered where Jesus got the patience and perspective to put up with all of the guff his followers gave him. The answer that appears in Scripture is so simple that I rejected it out of hand the first time I heard it. Jesus surrendered the outcome to God. To surrender the outcome to God means acting faithfully through the process, but relinquishing control of the results. My goal in passing the baton is to make sure the pass takes place…then I can release any worry about whether the person I hand off to wins the race. As long as I feel responsible for the outcome of the lives of others, I live in worry. I fret about whether my kids will turn out all right. But when I surrender the outcome to God, fear melts away. (Emphasis his)

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Myers. There is a wonderful passage of Scripture found in 2 Peter 1:3-9 which provides immense comfort to me as a parent.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain
to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own
glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great
promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature,
having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful
desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with
virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and
self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and
godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if
these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being
ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For
whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having
forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

In his book Age of Opportunity, Paul David Tripp gives keen insight and encouragement to parents in this passage. Tripp writes (Paul David Tripp, Age of Opportunity, pp. 104-05):

Peter says, “Don’t forget who you are. You are the children of God who have inherited riches beyond your ability to conceive. You have been given everything you need to do what God has called you to do. Don’t give in to discouragement. Don’t quit. Don’t run away from your calling.” We need to walk into the rooms of our children saying to ourselves, “I have everything I need to do what God has called me to do.” This is our identity as the children of God. These are the truths that can lift us out of our weariness and discouragement to parent with faith, courage,
and hope. They call us to hold onto God’s high goals and to fight the hopelessness that the enemy wants to rule our hearts.

We are not alone! God has equipped us to do the job. The Bible says we can parent with hope! When those times come where we feel like throwing in the towel, when we are at the end of our rope, we must hold on to what the Bible teaches us. We have all we need in Christ and we are more than conquerors in him. We must keep on moving forward to the high calling of Christ and we will persevere!

What kind of stewards are we being of our children? We must be faithfully training and teaching them and not pursuing other things that won’t matter in eternity. Children are eternal. I know this is a simple statement, but we must grasp the enormity of it. Read it again in isolation.

Children are eternal.

Our children are going to live forever. They will live forever in either heaven or hell. Jesus said that we should store up our treasures in heaven. Other than Christ, what greater treasure could there be in heaven than our children? Yet, it is so easy to lose eternal focus for temporal things. We know we should set our minds on things above, but we get distracted by the stuff of this earth. True living is really kingdom living. Therefore, if the truth be known, we are not trying to pass our children into adulthood alone, but ultimately right into the kingdom of heaven.

If we choose to embrace the principles outlined in Scripture, we have a great opportunity for success. What is success? To raise genuine, Christ-centered, soldiers who are willing to contend for the faith. May that endeavor be our passion and our greatest joy. And may we one day say with immense satisfaction: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4).

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One of the things that I continue to learn and I see in my life is the need to take a spiritual inventory of my life and that of my family and ask some hard questions. Here are three important ones:

What do I desire?

What does my spouse desire?

What do my children desire?

What we desire and what we crave indicates what motivates us, our children, and our families in general. I worry desperately for so many of our young people and children and the excuses we make for their behaviors and actions. I ask myself, “Why do we make excuses for our children and their behavior when they are supposedly Christians?” Could it be that they are not Christians? Could it be that they are not truly a believer in Jesus Christ?

How can we tell? Well, we should examine the Fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 records for us the fruit we see in the life of a believer:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Think about your children. Do they exhibit this fruit? If they claim to be a Christian they should. You see, I believe we have a problem in many of our homes. I wrote about this in my book, “Rite of Passage for the Home and Church-Raising Christ-Centered Young Adults.” In the first chapter, titled, “Houston, We Have a Problem,” I describe this issue (p 6) in relation to the Apollo 13 mission that made that famous call back to Mission Control in Houston when there was an explosion onboard their spacecraft…Apollo 13 Damaged Service Module Photo

Consider what is happening in many “Christian” homes today. A child or young person is disrespectful and dishonoring in their actions and their speech. They have little or no desire for the things of God and they have to be coaxed, begged or bribed to attend church. They struggle mightily in how they speak to you as their parent and their siblings. Their speech is often rude, unkind or mean. Yet, they claim to be a Christian. If this is the case, can you see there has been an “explosion” onboard? Should we be entrusting their eternity in their profession of faith in Christ if this is the behavior we are witnessing? Could it be that what we are seeing evidenced in their lives is the absence of the Holy Spirit of God? Some would say, “No, it’s just immaturity.” I understand that conclusion. But the Bible says, “Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright” (Proverbs 20:11). Could it be that their behavior is revealing the truth of who they really are? Would we want to swallow hard and admit that their selfishness, irresponsibility and lack of godliness are quite simply indications that they are a sinner? After all, isn’t this how a “sinner” behaves?

I know these are tough questions and it’s why I wrote my book. If you are a parent or grandparent, you need to ask these tough questions if you really care about your child or grandchild. What do they desire? What is it that they crave? What is it that they can’t get enough of? Do they ever talk about God? Do they have a desire for the things of God? Do you have to beg them to go to church? Do they have a desire to be with other believers? How do they speak, act and treat others (and you as a parent).

One last excerpt from my book (pps 7-9):

We must return to the ancient paths as detailed in the Word of God. In so doing, we will find answers, instructions and many admonitions on how to successfully complete our mission. We will come to understand it is not the job of the Church to spiritually raise children for parents. It is not my job, as a church leader, nor the job of the Church to do for the family what God has designed as the work of the family.

After the crippled Odyssey sent the radio message back to earth, “Houston, we have a problem,” Mission Control worked tirelessly to get the little command module back home. The engineers and scientists studied and diligently dissected the manuals of each piece of equipment that was onboard that spaceship.

Apollo 13 Mission Control Photo

They found within the pages of those manuals a way to keep the three men alive until they could figure out how to get them back home. We too, have a manual, the Bible. We, as parents are the engineers at mission control in our homes. We have the responsibility of getting our children and young adults safely home. We must look to that great manual of life to find the answers. To the degree we read Scripture, study it, heed it, and follow it will determine the degree of success we will have in making prudent and wise decisions in any area of life.
ROP will help us to identify these Scriptural reference points, by which we must navigate our children, if we want to get them safely home. That’s our mission and in the words of Gene Kranz, the Flight Director for Mission Control in 1970, “Failure is not an option!”

What do you desire? What do your children desire? Are we going to get them safely home? We will if we prioritize our lives where the Bible is the most important thing/activity in our lives. It takes precedence over TV, Facebook, video games, ball games, you name it. If we really want to get our children home safely to heaven (the ultimate destination), then we must study the manual.

Apollo 13 made it home safely…

Apollo 13 Crew Recovery Photo

Apollo 13 U.S.S. Iwo Jima Photo

Will our children? Check their desires? Look for fruit. Have the tough conversations before time slips away. Make sure their eternal destiny is secure in Jesus Christ.

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Boy do my fingers hurt…

I’m taking the afternoon off to help with picking beans, stringing, breaking and ultimately for Pam to can them. She’s canned 28 quarts so far and she’s got another batch on now with another batch waiting in the batter’s box. Come January they will be “yummy!” While picking beans with Andrew and Clara I noticed that the latest “tilling job” I did with my Dad’s garden tiller didn’t quite get the job done. Let’s see if you can tell?

The GardenYou may say, “Looks pretty good to me. What are you talking about?” Well, that’s just it. From a distance everything looks ok. But, it’s “up close and personal” that the weeds become noticeable. As I watched Andrew and Clara picking those beans with me the thought came to mind that I’ve got to inspect my children in the same way. Am I spending enough time with them to really see and understand what is going on in their minds and hearts? As I went along the bean rows, I picked beans (the ultimate goal of the moment), but I “weeded” at the same time. But, boy…those weeds have deep roots…and I found I had to carefully maneuver my fingers to pull those little “devils” up. (Thanks a bunch Adam and Eve!)
 

The root is as long as the weed itself!

What a pain! But, it has to be done as I go along. If I wait, those pesky weeds will “take over” and choke out my garden. The same is true for caring for my children. Boy, do my fingers hurt though.

Aching and dirty fingers...but the job is done!

What a nasty job! My fingers hurt typing! 🙂 But, it had to be done. I had to get those weeds and I had to get ’em by the roots. If I snapped off the weed at the surface of the ground the weed would be back in days. I had to get it by the root and rip it out!!
 
I love my four children dearly. Here’s the entire clan…
 
Yet as much as I may look at my children’s lives from a distance and say, “They’re doing ok.” The truth is I must be diligent about inspection of their lives and help identify those pesky “weeds” of sin and encourage them along the way. If I don’t, then I’ll potentially have a huge mess on my hands.
 
Let me give you an example… Clara…

Isn't she a "cutie?"

Just so you’ll know…I can wear one of those little funny hats too…

 
Ok…stop laughing…it’s not that funny! 🙂
 
Back to Clara… You see…she is a sweet-heart…but, she’s also a sinful human being just like you and me. It’s my job as her father to make sure that I’m discipling her. And guess what word is a derivative of the word “disciple?” Does the word “discipline” look similar? Sure it does. If I’m truly going to disciple my children, then I must discipline.
 
In my estimation this is a “big-time” problem in our culture today. The temper-tantrums we’ve all witnessed at the Wal-Mart check-out line when a child is told “no” are stuff of legends. But, let’s look closer. Why do we choose not to discipline our children and inspect what they are doing? They look ok don’t they? They’re cute aren’t they? Even if they are teenagers, perhaps! 🙂 But, I think I know why we hesitate to make our kids “toe the line.” Because it’s hard. Let me see… Here’s another shot of those nasty fingers…

YUCK!

I’m sorry to do that to you again! But, I hope it drives home the point for all of us. If we are going to do a good job of raising children (no matter what their ages), then we’ve got to get down to the nitty-gritty and make it happen.
 
So, where’s the weeds in your children’s lives. Now I know what you’re thinking: “They’re doing ok.” I know, I know. Look hard. Find those weeds (bad attitudes, smart mouths, disobedience, “white” lies, ungrateful spirit) and rip it out by the root. How? Well, if you know me, then you’ll know what I’m going to say next… How do we do it…
 
Use the Word of God! The Bible. The Word will weed those gardens of all of our lives.
 
Romans 12:1-2 does if for me…
12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 
 
What’s the patterns of the world? I’ll tell you. It’s a “soft pedal” way of looking at discipline. We’re soft by and large. I’m not talking about being mean, hateful, or even raising our voices. I’m not talking about using a 3″ thick paddle or even a belt for that matter. Even though I do believe in what the Scripture teaches about “spare not the rod.” The rod is “shebet” in the Hebrew, which means a twig, switch or small branch. You can’t hurt a child with any of those things. But, the discipline should “sting.” If there is no pain, then it’s not discipline.
 
Boy are my fingers killing me…
 
Hebrews 12 reminds us of this:

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Did you catch verse 11? You may want to read it again.
 
Boy, my fingers are killing me…
 
Get the point?
 
 

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