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Archive for August, 2011

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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