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Archive for August, 2011

We all know raising children is hard! It is a difficult, time-consuming, often thankless job. Yet, the Bible teaches that children are a heritage from the Lord. They are indeed a reward
from him. Our life is a race and we must realize the investment that must be made if we are going to pass to our children the baton of faith in Jesus Christ. Remember the words of Deuteronomy 6:5-7.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

We are commanded to teach our children how to love the Lord with all of their heart, soul and might. The words of the Lord are to be on our hearts. We are to diligently teach them to
our children. Think about the word “diligently.” What do we do “diligently” in our lives? What motivates us to work hard? As parents, with the father leading, we are to teach our children the commands of God when we sit, walk, lie down and rise up. The Lord, through Moses, tells us we must take time to diligently teach our children.

Billy Graham says:

“The family should be a closely knit group. The home should be a self-contained
shelter of security; a kind of school where life’s basic lessons are taught;
and a kind of church where God is honored; a place where wholesome recreation
and simple pleasures are enjoyed.”

The Scripture tells us we must be talking about the Lord consistently and constantly to our children. We do this when we are sitting together and talking about the Lord and his commands. Watching TV or a movie together doesn’t qualify. That’s not teaching time. That’s
entertainment time. There must be times where the Scriptures are read and discussed in our homes and we can slow down and focus. For so many, if we do any sort of family devotions, we do so with great haste. This process of teaching is more than just sitting through a devotion or Bible lesson time. The Scripture teaches we are to talk about the commands of the Lord all the time.

We do so when we are making dinner together…

…and thanking the Lord for the food. When we are folding clothes, we should be praising the Lord for clothing and for shelter. We do this at bedtime when we talk and share with the children. Many say that the 15-20 minutes before your children go to sleep is when they are most open and willing to talk. Don’t rush by those bedtime conversations. Much listening, learning and teaching can take place right before all is quiet in the house. Even at breakfast, when we rise up, we should be teaching. We should be teaching all the time.

Many families struggle with finding time to study the Bible together. I often tell people they must schedule time with the Lord. We write on our calendars what is important such as doctor appointments, dentist appointments, our kids’ games, recitals, etc. If necessary,
do the same with devotion times. Schedule it!

You may begin with only one or two nights per week. Just start. Make it happen.

We all know it takes a great deal of this precious commodity called time to train and teach our children. It certainly takes more than a few minutes here and a couple of minutes there each
day. We must give our children large doses of biblical teaching and give it very often. If we don’t teach them in this manner, watch what happens when young adults go off to college their freshman year and return home at Thanksgiving.
You will hear them espouse, “I don’t believe that way anymore, Dad.” Often, when a young adult gets to college their faith is challenged. In fact, everything they believe about Christianity is challenged, including the authority of the Bible as God’s Word. Often their faith crumbles and they begin to view Christianity as only one of many choices on the buffet line of religions the world and Satan offers. Therefore, it is true, in just weeks the children
we raised and knew so well come home to us and seem like strangers.

I hear many stories like this. People tell me they can’t understand how their child could have changed so much in just 2 ½ months in college. They say, “We taught them for 18 years about the Lord and in just a few weeks all of that has unraveled.” At this point parents must spend a lot of time on their knees asking God to intervene in their young adult’s life. It is sobering to think about, but maybe their independence and higher education just helped along the process that had been occurring, almost imperceptibly under our noses, for several years. What we see didn’t just happen. It had already occurred years ago and was simply buried. Perhaps college or independence just brought to the surface the fact that he or she wasn’t truly a believer.

What many parents miss is that their children may have already checked out spiritually.

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They may continue to sit in our pews or padded chairs each week, but somewhere along the way they decided to just go through the motions. It reminds me of the words of Jesus when he said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” ( Mark 7:6). So they come to church with us and they are good kids, participating in church functions and activities; however if someone were to probe deeper, they would find little spiritual depth beyond a salvation experience and baptism.

What I’m sharing with you should cause us to go beyond the surface of a young person’s spirituality. We should go deeper and see what is at the root of a young person’s Christian life and experience. We must measure if there has been a genuine conversion and if so, whether or not enough time is being invested in that young person’s life to actually grow them in Christ. What does this require? A huge investment of time. Will me make that investment?

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Getting Prepared…

Everyone on the east coast is getting ready. Getting ready for “Irene” of course.

It looks like she might make landfall near the Outer Banks. Scary to say the least. People on the coast are boarding up…

Preparations are being made from the Carolinas to Maine. Amazing! The nation is on high alert. Guess who’s the originator of the winds? Guess who is in control of all things and sovereign? Let me give you a reminder of the One who spoke and the winds were stilled…

He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” Luke 8:25

Take a look at this passage from Isaiah 40…

12 Who else has held the oceans in his hand?
Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers?
Who else knows the weight of the earth
or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale?
15 No, for all the nations of the world
are but a drop in the bucket.
They are nothing more
than dust on the scales.
He picks up the whole earth
      as though it were a grain of sand.
21 Haven’t you heard? Don’t you understand?
Are you deaf to the words of God—
the words he gave before the world began?
Are you so ignorant?
22 God sits above the circle of the earth.
The people below seem like grasshoppers to him!
He spreads out the heavens like a curtain
and makes his tent from them.
23 He judges the great people of the world
and brings them all to nothing.
24 They hardly get started, barely taking root,
when he blows on them and they wither.
      The wind carries them off like chaff.

25 “To whom will you compare me?
Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One.

Dear friend, there is no equal to God. He is almighty and all-powerful. He is not an old grandpa sitting on a cloud with a white beard who just turns the other way while we walk in sin. Ultimately, He will bring judgment on this earth. Read the book of the Revelation if you don’t believe that.

When will we wake up and learn that God is God and we are not?

On another note that is similar, take a look at this chart…

The Federal Budget broken down…

Category Dollar
Amount
U.S.
Tax revenue:
$2,170,000,000,000
Fed
budget:
$3,820,000,000,000
New
debt:   
$1,650,000,000,000
National
debt:
$14,271,000,000,000
Recent
budget cut:
$
38,500,000,000

Now, remove 8 zeros and
pretend it’s a household budget.

Category Dollar
Amount
Annual family income: $ 21,700
Money the family spent: $ 38,200
New debt on the credit card: $ 16,500
Outstanding balance on credit
card:
$142,710
Total budget cuts: $
385

Can you say, “Wow?” I’m blown away! Pardon the hurricane pun. I think about where we are as a nation today and I see a country who has lost her way. We are bankrupt in dollars and spirit. I’m convinced we are seeing the power of God this week. Earthquakes, hurricanes…

I wonder if we are prepared for the return of Jesus Christ? You know, He’s going to come back as a thief in the night. There will be no time to prepare…much like the earthquake on Tuesday. So, are you ready? Are you saved? Is Jesus the Lord of your life? How about your family. Parents, are your children saved? Really? Are you certain. We had better be prepared and get ready…not for a hurricane…but, for the coming of the Lord.

When will we realize…

22 God sits above the circle of the earth…
23 He judges the great people of the world
and brings them all to nothing.
24 They hardly get started, barely taking root,
when he blows on them and they wither.
      The wind carries them off like chaff.

25 “To whom will you compare me?
Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One. Isaiah 40

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Getting Our Attention

Do you think the Lord God is trying to get our attention? Earthquakes on the east coast near Washington, DC.,

a hurricane bearing down on us named “Irene,”

hurricane irene

an economy in turmoil, global political upheaval in Libya, etc, etc.

Libyans celebrate Qaddafi raid

If you are a student of prophecy, then you can certainly read the sign of the times. We are living in the last days.

We continue to live our lives as if everything is going to be here tomorrow. It might not! Those that felt the earth shaking yesterday afternoon around 2 pm know what I’m talking about. Mankind is in control of nothing. God is Sovereign of all things. We can’t control anything, really. As the earth shook yesterday, the thought came to mind, “Will anyone see the power of God in this.”

East Coast quake

I felt very SMALL yesterday as I listened to my children and wife describe how our house shook as if it were a play toy. Yet, as a child of God, I don’t have to worry, because He holds me in His hands. My life is not my own, it’s His. He bought me and so, I am not my own.

This world is in turmoil, but Romans 8:18-25 comforts me:

 18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

Is the Lord trying to get our attention? He does every day. He speaks through creation. He speaks through the great and the small. What’s the “small?” The cool night air and the sound of birds calling in the distance as the evening comes to a close. The pink and magenta sunset that rests itself on the horizon. The quiet breathing of a child as he sleeps in peace on a mother’s lap. The comfort of a warm meal or cozy bed on a cold, winter’s day.

Oh yes, He seeks to get our attention every day…if we’d just listen. Do you hear that? It’s not the earth rumbling…it’s Jehovah God speaking…

Thank you Lord!

 

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The Lighter Side

I’ve been posting some pretty heavy stuff lately and I know you may be ready for something “lighter.” I honestly don’t mean to offend anyone with what I post. I know what I share is like drinking water from a fire hydrant at times. It’s difficult for me to find a balance at times. I desperately feel the time is short before the return of our Savior and I want to make sure we seize the day.

But, this afternoon…I thought I’d give you some random thoughts that aren’t quite as weighty as my last few posts. I’ll use some pictures as a springboard…

What a couple!

I love this couple…today is Mom and Dad’s 44th wedding anniversary! What a pair! If you have ever wondered what a godly set of grandparents and parents look like…you are looking at ’em. They are two of the most giving and gracious people I’ve ever seen. They do so much for me and my family and my sister’s as well. We are extremely blessed! Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!

On top of that…Pam’s Dad has big birthday coming up tomorrow. He’ll be 70 and we are grateful for him. He’s a walking miracle. He had major health issues a few years ago and has overcome them and is as strong as ever!

George is in the back, right...

Pam and I are blessed to live near our parents and have such wonderful grandparents for the kids.

Speaking of Pam…

Pam Brown

I continue to be reminded of how blessed I am to have her as my wife. Being a pastor’s wife is a difficult job. Truthfully, it’s more difficult than my job. She endures a lot and I praise God for her patience and wise counsel. Most people don’t realize that Pam does as much counseling as I do with many, many ladies in the church. She is going to be leading another ladies’ Bible Study in a couple of weeks. But, most of all…she has put her family first. She is a lady with her Master’s Degree who is pouring her life into her children each and ever day, as well as giving to her time to be a Titus 2 (older teaching younger) pastor’s wife. Thanks honey!

Beside the house Clara and Andrew planted a sunflower seed. One little seed and amazingly…this massive plant comes up…

Sunflower in full bloom

The bumble bees attacked this thing and helped open it up. Now tell me…do you really think evolution came up with this plan? Do you think this just “happened?” No way! Designed by God, indeed!

Now take a look at it.

Bowing down?

Does it look like it’s bowing down? It sure does. Initially the sunflower searches for the sun and opens up and ultimately bows down. Isn’t that a microcosm of the Christian life. Searching for the Son, after we open up to Him and ultimately surrender our lives…dying to ourselves and being willing to give of ourselves (seeds) for the King.

Perhaps some of you wonder where I do most of my writing? Sermons, blogs, book, etc. Well here it is…

My basement office. It’s kind of a “hole in the wall.” It’s about a 12′ x 12′ room. That’s my old desk that William Church (a former boss) allowed me to keep when he sold the company. It’s a wormy maple desk and table (behind the desk) for all of you wood connoisseurs. I love that little office! It’s where I spend concerted time seeking the Lord each week. I also hate that office. Why? Because it’s gut-wrenching at times in that office. It’s hard to explain. Some of you know what I mean. 🙂

I performed a wedding yesterday, outdoors. It was fantastic even though it rained!!

Tyler McCall, the groom is in the foreground

The rain was “Showers of Blessings” from the Lord. Just like the old song. I love doing weddings. It’s a picture of God’s love for us. He gave Jesus, His Son as the groom, to come redeem and save the Bride (the Church), that’s us! Here’s Tyler and Myleah under the tent as the rain starts to pour (after the wedding). Thank you Lord!

We ended up in a covered shelter and had a wonderful time!

The happy couple is off to Charleston for their honeymoon!! They love the Lord and have chosen to build their marriage on Jesus Christ! How do I know? I won’t marry a couple unless they agree to meet me for a minimum of five sessions or about 8 hours of marriage counseling. I really get to know a couple during that time and I seek to make as sure as I can that they know the Lord and desire to follow Him in their marriage. I tell the couples, “I’d rather counsel you on this side of the wedding, versus the other side of the wedding.” 🙂

One last random thought. I read an article earlier this afternoon talking about men’s ministry. The title was: “Where Are the Men in Our Churches?” Here’s the upshot of the article (and is the reason that I put so much emphasis on Men’s Ministry over any other ministry other than preaching):

“When a child is the first person in a family to attend church, there is a 3.5% likelihood that the family will follow. When the mother is the first person to attend church, it’s a 17% likelihood. But if th father is the first church attender in a family, there is a 93% chance the family will become a part of church life.”

It doesn’t take long to see how significant the father’s influence is. So, why does the church spend so much time on children and youth ministry? If we get the dad’s we get the rest! 🙂 Should we never do anything with the young adults or children? Of course not. We had a blast last week as “families” at a couple’s home in our church playing games and yesterday we had an outing as families to a local amusement park (Tweetsie) that was super fun and fellowship with 50 folks…all families…all fellowshipping together. The goal must be to reach the Dads. The statistics prove why… 93% success rate!

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I will probably make some people mad with this post. I probably would have been one about 10 years ago, but this is a blog, right? So, I get to share my opinions, thoughts and what I’ve learned through the years, right? 🙂 Well here goes.

I believe we have made two really pretty “golden calf” idols of two fairly innocent things: sports and academics.

Many families in America are very active in sports. Obviously sports are very important to us in our nation, because we value our top athletes so much that we pay them exorbitant and excessively high salaries as professionals. I was very involved in sports as a child and I really enjoyed basketball in particular. I am 6’6” tall so basketball was a sensible choice. But, I really regret the amount of time I wasted just playing basketball. I was out of balance. I was spending inordinate amounts of time playing basketball in comparison to other endeavors in my life.

I often see the same thing happening in many homes. The schedule for the home is dictated by the season of
year. I am not talking about winter, spring, summer or fall; I’m talking about the sports season. We have to look on the refrigerator at the schedule to see if we can do anything. Many families are involved in weekend sports with teams that travel many weekends throughout the year. Many dads have come to me and said, “Pastor Kevin, you won’t be seeing us much for the next several months because my son or daughter has travel ball, you know. But we’ll see you soon.” It is interesting to notice how many of these dads take such an interest in their children’s success on a ball field or court.

I’ve heard the stories, and you have too, where the wife goes to the back door of the home and yells out to her
husband and son to come in for dinner. For example, they have been practicing pitching a baseball. The dad yells back, “Be there in a minute! He’s almost got his curve ball breaking over the plate perfectly!” Is there anything wrong with this scenario? Absolutely not. It’s wonderful to have a father who is engaged in his son’s or daughter’s life. But, what if this scene takes place most nights of the week? This backyard practice doesn’t include the practicing after school or the games. It is in addition to the team practices and games. Once we
add up all the time and energy, there is a huge investment here. Have you heard of this scenario happening before? A wife yells up the stairs to her husband and son to come to dinner and the husband yells back, “Be down in a minute! We are almost finished memorizing this passage of Scripture!” Ever heard of that
happening? Maybe it has, but probably not nearly as often as the first scenario.

We are sports obsessed in this nation. It is amazing how much we put a premium on those who are good at
sports. I’m not against sports. I love sports. I love playing sports of all kinds and attending games. I played in high school and in college. All of my coaches made high demands of me.

Any coach or instructor is going to push athletes to get the most out of them. This is expected. Parents often tell me about their children and their commitments to their coaches and teams. In the same breath they tell me because of the upcoming game they can’t keep their commitment to the church. Seems like a double standard.

Sports activities are not the only obsessions we have turned into gods in many of our homes. I truly believe many are worshipping the god called academic success. This god is on display in all circles of academia, including public, private, charter, Christian or schools within the home. Parents love speaking about how well their children are doing in school. There is certainly nothing wrong with academic success. I graduated at the top of my class in high school and in college. But, we must remember the words of the Apostle John when he
said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4). Can we say that? Does our desire for academic or athletic success for our children eclipse this standard written by John? God does not have a room in heaven for our children’s diplomas and trophies. I can hear the words of the 12-year-old Jesus. Can you hear them? He said, “Didn’t you know I had to be about…” What? What did He have to be about? His “Father’s business.” That’s the goal is it not? If we are raising Christian children…shouldn’t they seek to be about His business? What about our children? What or whose business are they about?

We push our children academically and athletically. We want them to be the best they can possibly be in these
areas. But what about spiritually—do we push them spiritually? Somehow, we have tied our children’s success, and in many cases, their identity, to how well they perform on the field, dance floor, court or classroom. We push them to get scholarships and get high grades in school. Then what? They graduate with a degree and get a job and start making money. Does that bring happiness and fulfillment? Jesus said we should seek the kingdom of God first and then everything else we need will be added to us (See Matthew 6:33). We might say we believe this for our children and we may even tell them that, but what do our actions show? Many seem to be seeking first the kingdom of education and sports. Some families make their kids do homework during church services of all things. Homework should be done, but there is a time for it. Shouldn’t God come first, even above homework? Some miss church because they have to study for the big test the next day or practice for the big game later in the week. Why should we be dismayed or astounded when they go to college and
have no desire to go to church? Our actions have spoken loudly to our children while growing up. Now they are placing other things before God, just like we did.

We must count the cost. We really cannot have it all. We may have to choose. Do we want our children to make
straight-A’s or take some time to learn the Word of God and make B’s? Would we be willing for our children not to be on the travel team, even though they may be good enough, so they can be in church and have time to be at home for more spiritual training?

There is a cost and a huge price to be paid if you desire to have a Godly home. It is so easy to get tangled up in living vicariously through the successes of our children, especially if they can do things we were unable to do as a child. It is not an all or nothing proposition. We must find a balance for sure. But, choose wisely and remember, whatever it is that we make our children crave is what they will desire for the rest of their lives. If we were to ask our children about their goals in life, what would be their response? What would their answers reveal? Whatever we do in moderation, they will take to excess.

What do they crave? What kind of legacy are we passing down to our children? Is it the American Dream, or a Christ-honoring life? Is a little Jesus here and a little Jesus there good enough? I don’t think so. I pray we will acknowledge Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords of our families. May God help us to do so.

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Public school starts back today in the county I live. It’s a hustle and bustle kind of day. I’m praying all goes well as new routines are established and a new year gets underway. But, it gets me thinking. What is the purpose of education. Is it just to get a bunch of it so we can eventually use it to make a lot of money so we can get a lot of stuff?

The truth is: most families in America, Christian or not, seek the American Dream. I’m not going to try to define this phenomenon, because it means different things to different people. However, most people see it as the pursuit of happiness and getting all the gusto out of life one can.

So, we pack our schedules with all the activities we can afford in pursuit of happiness and the American Dream. Many American families are seldom home at night during the week. They are constantly on the move. There are after-school activities, ball practices, extra-curricular classes, dance lessons, music lessons, tutoring, etc. The list can go on and on. Certainly we are going to see all of these things kick back in where I live this week.

If you ask one of these family members how they are doing they will say, “I’m tired.” Yep…it’s coming! Tiredness. Can you feel it? Why? Because we are running from pillar to post and will probably become utterly exhausted within a few weeks. Why? Because it is exhausting to pursue the American Dream. Is there anything inherently wrong with this pursuit and all of these activities? We all want our children to be well-rounded. But, we must ask ourselves this question. When are we supposed to disciple the children? When do we become
students of the Word of God?

When do we, ourselves, have time to become disciples so that we can in turn make disciples, if we are running around all over the place, all the time? That’s precisely the problem. If we are never together for more than a few minutes here and there, we can’t and we won’t make disciples.

What is your schedule like?

If you have a family with school age kids, is our American Dream that important? Do our children have to have it all? What are we saying to our children? How are they establishing their identity? Is it in what they do (their activities) or who they are? Often I hear parents describe children in this way. They will say, “I know her. She’s a cheerleader at the middle school.” Or perhaps this way: “He’s the running back on the football team at the high school.” They are known as the cheerleader, the football player, the dancer, the piano player, the smart kid, etc. We establish in the minds of our children, unknowingly, that they must be identified by whatever they participate in to be somebody. It is easy to see why we do so. It’s because of this pursuit of happiness and the fact that we equate happiness and our identity with going and doing and getting all we can out of life.

Many have become so enamored by the idea of the American Dream that they equate their success with it. These false, pagan ideals bombard us at every turn. They are in the grocery store check-out line. Those skinny beauties on magazine covers that say, “You can have it all if you look like me.” Commercials and billboards flash before our eyes flaunting the “good life.” They say things like: drink this, buy this, or have this and you’ll be happy. Americans today buy lottery tickets by the millions just hoping and praying they can hit the jackpot and get rich; then all their dreams will come true. One dream embodies all those dreams—the American Dream. But we Christians are wiser than those who pursue such frivolity, aren’t we? We can have our cake
and eat it too! We can have it all, (the big house, nice cars, vacations, new clothes, nice TVs, the latest gadgets), and still raise our children right, can’t we? As long as they are well-educated, accomplished and well-liked, then all is well or is it?

Think about what’s important in life. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then He deserves your obedience and He deserves time in your home and your schedule. If you say you love Him, then you will devout your life to the pursuit of His desires for your life, not the culture’s. Can you have it all? Nope! It’s impossible. You will sacrifice something or someone very dear to you if you pursue material possessions and the American Dream. The American Dream is a microcosm of what Jesus called “mammon” or money. He said, “You cannot love God and mammon. You will love one over the other.”

Moms and Dads, what is your home going to be like this school year? Will you have time to impart Jesus to those precious children with beaming faces? I pray that you will and I will. Do we want to give our kids a good life? Sure. Do we want to give them a good education? Yes. Do we want them to be well-rounded and well-adjusted? Absolutely. But, most of all…our desire should be to give them Jesus…every day.

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If you are like me you are strapped for time. It seems to almost fly away…

Time is a very precious commodity. To me it’s even more precious than money. We only get 24 hours a day. That’s it. Whether you are rich or poor that all you get. 24 hours. Bill Gates gets not a nanosecond more time each day than the poorest villager in Africa.

He can’t buy more time nor can he make more time. We all have to decide how we are going to use our time the most effectively.

One of the areas I like to spend some of my time is gardening. The garden is almost finished for the year. We are still getting some cantaloupes and tomatoes, but that’s about it. The corn and beans have long finished producing. I’ve been gardening for years and it is very therapeutic for me…

…not to mention that it saves a lot of money on the grocery bill. A few years ago, my daughter Clara and I were planting the garden. It’s a process that usually takes one day each spring. We lined off the garden by making rows in the soil and then we planted our crops. Usually, we plant mostly green beans, cucumbers, cantaloupes, tomatoes and corn. Clara worked so hard helping me. When we were finished that evening, she was so excited! My five-year-old daughter then exclaimed, “Daddy, I can’t wait till tomorrow morning to go pick all the beans and corn!” Clara didn’t understand. She thought the process of the seed turning to plant, turning to blooms, turning to fruit happened overnight. I wish it did, but as we all know, it doesn’t.

Gardening takes time and so does making disciples. It took Jesus three years to teach, train and equip his followers. Yet, they still struggled mightily. Peter comes to mind immediately. After three years of intense time with him, Peter denied even knowing Jesus three times. He even called down curses upon himself. Jesus never gave up on Peter. Peter was slow to learn, just like so many of us. If anyone could attest to the fact that making disciples is a long and hard process, it would be Jesus.

Raising a family is much the same way…very time consuming and truthfully can be much like riding a roller coaster. There will be many ups and downs. We get to choose our attitude and how we will respond to those ups and downs. Still, it is easy to get impatient and tired of the tedious work. Raising children is like
gardening. The process begins when the children are no more than a seed (infant) and takes much time to plant, weed, water, fertilize and pray through the droughts and storms of life.

It has been said that raising children is much like driving a car on a mountain road. If we take our hands off the steering wheel for long, there will must assuredly be a wreck!

Understanding that making disciples and raising children takes time, we need to take an inventory of how we spend our time and see what kind of time we have available to us in order to do so. Just as we know there are only 24 hours in a day, we also know there are just 168 hours in a week.

Through the years I’ve conducted an unscientific poll that I believe is fairly accurate in regards to how we spend our time. I’ve discovered the average person sleeps somewhere around 8 hours per night (again, these are averages). Therefore, the average person sleeps around 56 hours per week. We work around 60 hours per week. You may say, “I don’t work that much!” Actually, that 60-hour number includes the following: getting ready for work, (shower/make-up, etc), driving to work, actually working, and driving home from work. So, on average we spend around 116 of our 168 hours, almost 70% of our time, per week just sleeping and doing things related to work. That leaves 58 hours. Over the years I have found most of us spend about 4 hours per day, or about 28 hours per week, doing things like: preparing and eating meals, cleaning up from meals, paying bills, doing laundry, cleaning the house, doing yard work and the like. These are things that we must do in order to live. These are the things we have little choice in whether we do them or not. What does that leave us? It leaves about 24 hours per week or just a little over 3 hours per day of what could be considered disposable time.

Disposable time is just that. It is time that is disposable to us. Let’s assume we have a scenario where there are children still in the home and both parents work. So, we have three hours per day that we can use any way we wish. Now when do we normally get this time? Think it through. In a normal work week, the average person is up in the morning getting ready for work or school or the activities of that day. We head off to school and work and then get home or off work around 5 or 6 pm. Many families are dual-income families, where the mother and father both work. Most families have children in school. In most instances families are going to find their
disposable time after dinner is finished around 6:30 pm. If that is the case, (I know I’m making quite a few assumptions), we have approximately three hours at our disposal. This time will most likely be available between 6:30 pm and 9:30 pm, give or take a little. Most families with smaller children have them in the
bed by 9:30 pm at the latest. (Again, this is a generalization.) If the children are older, they are most likely in their rooms by then, most likely on the computer, doing homework or watching TV.

I’ve not even mentioned the weekend at this point. Saturdays mean different things to different people. Some work, while others play, do yard work, play golf, shop, etc. Needless to say, in most homes, little spiritual training takes place on Saturdays. We know there are always things to get done. Some obsess so much with keeping the house or car clean that they don’t spend time with their family. Some “play” all weekend.
Weekends are “fun time” for the family. There is a balance to be found here. Certainly, I’m assuming we are all in church on Sunday. But I’m principally focusing on the work week.

The elaborate scenario I’ve presented should poignantly emphasize that what you and I do at night is
crucial in the disciple-making venture that is ours. Remember that approximately 24 hours per week is disposable. What does this mean? It means we don’t have much time to get the job done of raising
a Christ-centered family. If we are going to deliver to our children a faith in Christ that is rock solid, we must guard our time like a precious treasure and use it wisely. But do we?

As school gets ready to crank back up, so will the hectic pace of life. Let’s not allow the time to slip away to teach and train and raise strong, rock-solid, Christian children.

They’re going to need much of our time in order to make it in this crazy world. So, let’s seize the day, while there’s still time!

Speaking of time…check out Katy’s blog post for today. It’s short and sweet and worthy of your time…

Katy’s post

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Before I continue sharing about how the Lord brought about changes in my life and changed my perspective, I want to give a little perspective to where we are as a nation right now.

Yesterday the stock market dropped over 600 points.

Dow Jones Industrial Average Closes Down More Than 630 Points, Sixth-Worst Point Loss Ever

Dow Jones Industrial AverageABC News

Why? Because investors and the world markets have little or no confidence that the United States can make the hard choices to fix our addiction to spending money. We have no fiscal, financial discipline as a nation. Our politicians, by and large, are unwilling to fix the problem.

So what do we do? Simple in my opinion. Do what Jesus said to do: store up your treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy. Some people have lost about 10% of their stock or 401-k  portfolios in the last week and a half. Easy come…easy go. Me…I have nothing in the stock market, so I personally don’t worry about it. I cashed out my stocks and 401-k years ago to adopt two children from China. Here’s my investment…

 

My investment is also in Alaba and Burji, Ethiopia and Progreso, Texas and Weslaco, Texas and Wilkes County, NC at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. My family also contributes to Craig Church Ministries and the Wilkes Pregnancy Care Center and into the musical abilities of our four children through music lessons and instruments. Moths and rust can’t touch any of these. Boy has my perspective changed from just a few years ago! 🙂

So, back to the story. What had happened to me a few years ago? Well, over time, I started becoming a disciple of Christ. Sincerely. I was becoming more than just a “believer” in Christ. I was, indeed becoming a follower or disciple of Christ. Again, not just a passive believer, but sincerely an active follower and eager student of Christ. I genuinely wanted to be like Christ, not just identify with him, but to be like him. As the transformation of my mind continued, I saw my children changing as well. They saw a different Daddy. My home was becoming a disciple-making center instead of a place where I ran to get away from the world. When I turned the knob on the door to my house at the end of the day, I had a new attitude. I no longer thought, “Great, I can have some me time, and rest up for another day.” No, as I turned the knob to the door of my home each evening, I thought, “Behind that door is where I must succeed first.”

I have learned that succeeding at home requires perseverance, not perfection. Dads, we will not be flawless. But we can learn how to reserve energy so that we don’t come home from work so emotionally exhausted that we have nothing left for our wives and children. We can choose not to bend to selfishness, but instead to make up our minds to invest in the next generation. I have finally learned that I need to save some energy for home. My motto is now: Save Some for Home.

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). He also said, “Be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). I discovered that my Jerusalem, which is my local community, must begin in my home. In Scripture this is a mandate for church leaders. Paul clearly told Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:4-5:

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?

This passage is not just for elders or pastors, it’s for all men. He must manage his own household well. He must do so with dignity and his children must be submissive. That means they are respectful among other things.

The Hebraic form of teaching was led by the fathers in the home. They had charge over the spiritual discipleship of the children. Today, many have left this to the women or to the church, because many men think this is “beneath them” or even silly. We would rather spend our time in other more manly pursuits. We just say that we don’t have time. Yet, if you believe in “Sola Scriptura” (that the Bible only should govern our lives), then you understand the Bible says it is the father’s responsibility to manage his own household. I certainly count on my wife, Pam, to help, but the weight and responsibility falls on my shoulders, not hers. Yet, for too many years she managed our household, because I wasn’t getting the job done. I’m grateful for a wife who stepped up when I had stepped out. I understand now and I hope you do as well, that in order to make disciples, one must be a disciple.

So, we must ask ourselves some very sobering questions. Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ or are you living on the outskirts of Christianity? Have you surrendered your all to Jesus, or just that which comes easy? Does he own all of you—your life, your dreams, your aspirations and your heart? Where is your treasure? You will find your treasure where you find your heart. What is it that you can’t get enough of? That is probably your god. How can we raise Christ-centered children if we aren’t Christ-centered, ourselves? Luke tells us, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” What are we teaching our children?

We must change the mindset that raising children is something we complete when they are 18 or 21. Raising children is a lifelong endeavor. Not only that, it should be a multi-generational endeavor. Look beyond your lifetime. Can you see in your mind’s eye into the future and visualize your great-grandchildren? What will they say about you? What do you want them to say about you? In the Old Testament the Lord allowed his name to be spoken of as the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” That’s multi-generational! I want my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to look back and say, “He was a man of God that passed his faith in Christ on to us.” Are you passing the baton of our faith in Jesus Christ to the next generation, so they will pass it to the next generation. In my book I speak at great length about this. This kind of living is putting our priorities in proper order. We want to make sure (as parents, particularly) that we see our homes as conduits through which our children are reared and trained and ultimately pass through going from their childhood to adulthood with an ownership of faith in God. I have finally learned that making disciples must begin at home, our “Jerusalem,” as we go from there to the uttermost parts of the earth. If I get it right everywhere else, but get it wrong at home, I have failed. It’s one of my greatest lessons learned in my journey.

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In my last post I described my struggle in becoming a man who was a Christian, but was struggling to get his spiritual house in order.

As I continue to share with you, I pray that my struggles will help and encourage. Again I must say that I knew that I was a Christian; however, there was a depth of commitment to Jesus Christ that I knew I was missing. Are you there? What is your spiritual life like? Growing? Stagnant? Honestly, I was living on the periphery of deep commitment. Yes, I was a believer and follower of Christ, but I thought, let’s not get crazy. I thought, “I don’t want to go too deep with all of this.” Yet, as I learned (from digging in Scripture) Jesus calls us to a radical lifestyle. He calls us to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

He calls us to holiness and purity. That means I’m not to watch anything questionable on TV and not listen to ungodly music on the radio. Do you know what’s funny? I didn’t use to think I did either of those things, but I did. I was watching TV shows filled with sexual innuendo and bathroom humor…

 …and I never thought anything about it. As I continued to study the Bible, God revealed these things to me very clearly. I was listening to the same music everyone else was, even though it was filled with impure lyrics. Finally, my mind was opened to the truth of Scripture, such as Ephesians 5:3-4 (NIV):

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.

Not even a hint of sexual immorality. No obscenity. Do you know what that means? This Scripture teaches as a follower of Christ, I am not to watch, listen or read anything that has any sexual immorality or obscenity. No foolish talk or coarse joking. No off-color emails or jokes (spread through social websites or otherwise) are acceptable. As I continued to read and study Scripture, as I never had before, I was challenged by passages I had heard all of my life, but now saw differently. For instance, Romans 12:1-2:

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. 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.

I discovered I was to be a “walking dead man.” That’s what it means to be a living sacrifice. I learned I am to be holy. Yes, as believers we are called to be holy. But, I had excused away this whole idea by saying, “No one is perfect.” So, I didn’t even attempt to live a holy and righteous life. Don’t get me wrong. I was good, as compared to the worst “Christians” I knew; but being holy and righteous, I thought only Jesus could embody those qualities. I had been deceived.

Yet, slowly things started to change in my home. This is not to say we had a home filled with overtly sinful things. We didn’t. As a family, we decided to do our very best to live a sacrificial life before the Lord. Therefore, TV shows, music and movie preferences changed. I remember distinctly getting emails that would have been considered coarse joking, that I deleted and didn’t forward. Coincidentally, I no longer get those kinds of emails. I suppose those who were sending them saw something different in me, or so I hope.

I slowly began to untangle myself from the world and secular worldviews that had been filling my brain since childhood. I truly became a student of the Bible.

I sincerely grew in my desire to study the Scriptures. I remember asking the Lord to give me a desire to read the Bible. (Maybe that’s what you need to do if you don’t have the desire. Pray for the Lord to give you the desire. He will.) I replaced so much wasted time watching TV and surfing the internet

with Scripture reading and Scripture memory. It is true that you will never be any better in public than what you are in private. I had to sacrifice sleep in order to get up early, (and still do) to get into the Word and meet with Jesus. I realized that for years I desired sleep more than I desired being with the Lord. Over time, my walk with the Lord became so much sweeter and more relaxed. It’s difficult to describe in words, but I hope what I have shared helps you to understand what God was doing in my life.

So, look at your life and take a spiritual inventory. How are things in your life? How are things in your home? Men, if you are reading this…how are you leading? Are you leading by example? Have I got all of this figured out? No way! But, I desire to grow and I desire to be the best Husband and Dad I can be. If I succeed in everything else I do in life and fail here…then, I’ve blown it.

Boy, have my perspectives changed!

 

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In my small office at home recently I sat there I looked around at it and its contents. It has a small desk, a chair, a bookcase and a filing cabinet. It has some Christmas wrapping paper, a few boxes and my golf clubs that haven’t been used but once in almost four years. My little office has a small table with an old fax machine on it and about a dozen, small, framed pictures of various members of my family. There is a picture of all the children when they were small. There’s a picture of my grandmother, who has gone to be with the Lord and another one of me and Pam when we were first married twenty years ago. There is also a picture of me singing with a quartet that I sang with for about ten years. As I think about those pictures and think about those days that are in my past and I think about where I am today, I’m struck with a sobering thought: I can’t go back.

Have you ever had that thought? I guess we all have at one time or another. We know we can’t go back and relive another day. When the day is gone, it is gone. Knowing that is good and bad. There are so many things I wish I could go back and do over. We’ve all said it: “If I only knew back then what I know now.” What is it that I know now that I wish I had known back then?

For years as a husband, father, businessman, deacon, choir member, quartet singer, and member of several community groups, I found I was running wide open. I never seemed to have enough time to do anything well. I was trying to do it all. Here’s the problem with the way I was living: I was missing it! What have I learned and what was I missing? I have learned and I realized I was neglecting the principles of Scripture to lead my home and follow the tenets of passages like Genesis 18:19, Deuteronomy 6:1-7, Psalm 78 and Ephesians 6:4. Those passages and many others make a point that is crystal clear: fathers are to be leading the way in discipling in their homes.

The truth is that I wasn’t leading in my home even 10 years ago. I hate to admit it, but it is the truth. I was succeeding in everything except in being the spiritual leader in my home. What became painfully evident to me through several incidents and God-ordained experiences was the fact I needed to change or I could lose my family. Am I saying my wife was going to walk out on me and take the kids? Not necessarily, but I am saying I was in danger of raising children that would potentially never truly see a genuine, sincere faith in Jesus Christ. I was leaving this teaching to others because I was too busy to oversee it. I had been climbing the proverbial ladder of success and when I reached the top, I found that the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall.

Why am I taking the time to tell you all of this? Because I want you to know and understand that I am where I am today, in pursuit of building a Christ-directed life, by the grace and mercy of God. This whole idea and even the concept of my recent book, Rite of Passage is something that God has revealed to me gradually over the years and it has been a process for me. I didn’t just get here overnight. What I am saying here and in future posts on the subject of my “revelation” is the a culmination of the last ten years of my life. And I’m not there yet!! Indeed, I have learned the hard way what the Bible teaches about leading in my home, and I’m still learning.

As I think back, I realize I wasn’t making disciples of my children because I didn’t understand what was involved. I thought if I got my family to church each Sunday and I served on a few committees and gave a little money, I had my bases covered. Yet, I knew there was more. But, what was it? Did I need to serve more or be more involved at the church or give more money? What was this nagging in my soul? Finally, I attended a conference where I was challenged as a man. I had never been challenged like this before in the spiritual realm. I had been challenged as an athlete, at the office and even in the studio recording a CD with the quartet (I mentioned earlier), but never like this. The Scriptures opened my eyes to what I knew intuitively, but couldn’t quite grasp: I must truly become a disciple of Christ to make disciples. I must lead my home by dying to myself. I realized for the first time in my life that it was my job to disciple my children, not that of my wife, not the church, or anyone else. This was a life-changing experience for me that sent me on a journey that has since led me to some amazing places.

I can often be an open book about my life. Some may say that I’m too open. 🙂 I guess that’s probably true, but I sincerely believe it’s important that you know where I’m coming from, particularly if you are a dad reading this book. Please hear my heart! I was a successful business man, had a good marriage and wonderful children. I had also been to the top of what most laymen would consider the pinnacle of Christian service. Yet, I wouldn’t trade anything for the way my wife and children look at me now. Something amazing happened in my life over a period of about nine months of soul-searching, fasting and prayer. The Lord transformed my thoughts, simplified my focus and challenged me to do what he created me to do. He had given me a passion for truly becoming a committed, dedicated disciple of Christ. My desires changed dramatically. God turned my heart toward my home and discipling my children.

What I hope to share over the next few days is my journey down this road. I hope you’ll check back in and follow along as I reveal my struggle…

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