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Archive for September, 2011

You know I speak, preach, blog and have even written a book about the family and the importance of training up Christ-centered children. Yet, I was reminded again how far short I feel at living up to this goal. On Tuesday night we were having devotions and we were talking about Romans 12:1-2 where the Bible talks about being a living sacrifice and how we are not to conform to the patterns of this world and that we are to renew or minds, then we can know the will of God. The question was asked, “How do you renew your mind.” Great question. The simple answer is rather simple as well…STUDY the Bible. Want to renew your mind…STUDY the Bible. (I’ll tell you in a moment why the word “study” is being highlighted.)

We finished up the devotion time…prayed…put Andrew and Clara into bed and continued on with the evening. Later on about 10 pm, I went up to Kandace’s room (my 13-year-old daughter) to say goodnight. Here are my three beautiful daughters with Kandace on the left…

As we were exchanging “good night” pleasantries, she said, “Dad, can I be honest with you?” I said, “Sure!” She said, “Dad, I struggle getting anything out of the Bible when I read it.” She said, “I’ve been stuck in Psalms forever and I’m just struggling Dad.” I said, “Ok, well…let’s talk about it.”

I sat down on the edge of her bed and she joined me. I said, “Talk to me, honey.” She said, (and I have permission to share this), “Well, I sometimes feel like the Bible is boring and hard to understand, but I know I’m supposed to read it, but I’m not getting a lot out of it.” I said, “I appreciate your honesty, Kan.”

At that point it hit me. “Goofy…you’ve not even showed her how to STUDY the Bible. What’s wrong with you?”

Ever had one of those moments of realization that hits you on the head like the Golden Corral skillet from the old commercial.

BOING!!

I said, “Kandace, I’ve failed you my dear.” I’ve never really sat down and showed you how to study the Bible. I’ve missed that somehow! Please forgive me!” She said, “No problem, Dad. You have talked about it before, I guess…but, maybe I wasn’t listening.”

“Dad,” she said, “I just want the Lord to speak to me.”

“Great…He will…grab your Bible and let me show you how…”

She grabbed her Study Bible. Now you know what a Study Bible is.

It’s a Bible that has a ton of notes, pictures and maps and a cross-reference index running down the middle of each page that allows you cross reference Scriptures in different places of the Bible. I call them “rabbit track” references. I love a good rabbit track…

don’t you? I opened it up and reminded Kan about how to use it. She said, “Dad, I know all that…but, how do you get anything out of it.” I said, “Ok, I’ll show you.”

At that moment I prayed hard…”Lord, what do you want me to share her.” And in a nanosecond He said, “Ask her.”

“Kan…what are you struggling with?”

“Well…nothing really big…I just…well…I guess I just battle in trying to do the right thing all the time…”

“Ok…”

Then it hit me. The temptation of Jesus. That’s a supreme battle.

Bang…Matthew 4…

I flipped over there and I said, “Ok…let’s read together and I’ll show you how to study this thing. This is gonna be good!” I said, “I’ll read out loud.” I started reading…

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” …

Kandace then almost bolted off the bed, “Dad…Jesus was hungry because He’d been fasting and the Devil came out Him where He was the weakest.” I said, “That’s right darling.” She said, “Dad, I felt the Lord speak that to me! That’s how the devil works…he comes at us at our weak points.”

“Yes ma’am, he sure does.”

There was a revelation at that moment in her mind. The Lord had spoken into her thoughts and this is something I believe she will carry with her for a long, long time. As we continued to read about the first two temptations we got to the second one where Satan took Jesus to the “holy city.”

Kandace said, “What’s the holy city?” I said, “Let’s take a look.” There was a small letter beside of the words “holy city” that cross-referenced Luke. We flipped over to Luke’s account of the temptation and bingo…there it said, “Jerusalem.”  I said, “See, sometimes one Gospel writer will fill in something that another one might not have said.”

The look on Kandace’s face was priceless. She was seeing how STUDYING the Bible works. She was getting it! What a revelation for my girl!

I believe Kandace is beginning to see the value of STUDYING the Bible versus just reading it. I have learned from experience that reading for distance (several chapters) a day might not be as valuable (and I really don’t think it is), than just reading for depth (or studying) the Bible.

The Bible says we are to “study to show ourselves approved.” And so, what an experience I had with my daughter.

Kandace hugged me with a big ole hug and said, “Thanks so much Dad!” I said, “I’m sorry that I didn’t do this a long time ago.”

Maybe those of you who are reading this can learn from my mistake. I’m grateful for the Lord’s patience with me…

…and my daughter’s.

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A Great Time Was Had By All

Boy, it was nice to spend some time with the family last week resting and playing and just plain ole “chilling out.” It’s good to get away from time to time to recharge and refuel the engine. Did we have a good time? Oh, yes…A great time was had by all! Take a look:

Clara really enjoyed riding the waves this year! She was brave in some of the bigger ones on the boogie board too!

 

Andrew had a blast running and jumping the waves while catching a Frisbee. I had this same Frisbee since I was a boy (got it in 1975) and after many, many throws…we lost it in the waves…lesson learned! 🙂 Man…that was a good Frisbee!

 

 

Pam said she’d kill me if I posted any pictures of her looking “sloppy,” but, Hey…we’re on vacation, right? We’re supposed to look sloppy on the beach! 🙂

We look a little more “cleaned up” here don’t we? Pretty nice looking family, huh? Here’s one of the entire brood…

I really enjoyed having some time to read. I love reading and I get little time to just read for pleasure. I’m usually reading and studying for one of the three messages I share each week, plus other speaking engagements. But, I had the opportunity to read a book about the life of Hudson Taylor. Taylor was a missionary to China in the late 1800’s. He literally took the Gospel to inland China where no one had gone before. He was some kind of man. He lived on apples and bread for a year before he went to China just so he could prepare himself for the living conditions. He would get up and pray every morning from 2 am to 4 am so he could be alone with the Lord uninterrupted. Amazing man! I enjoyed reading about his life…

One of the things I read this past week was a study done by Barna Research Group. I love statistics and studies. I want to share with you a brief excerpt of some of his findings that are very revealing to me about Christians. The research details the Obstacles to Genuine Commitment to Christ:

Obstacle 1: Commitment

On the one hand, four out of five self-identified Christian adults (81%) say
they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in
their life today. More than three out of four self-identified Christians (78%)
strongly agreed that spirituality is very important to them. Yet, less than one
out of every five self-identified Christians (18%) claims to be totally
committed to investing in their own spiritual development. About the same
proportion of self-identified Christians (22%) claims to be “completely dependent
upon God.” Those figures help explain why a majority of self-identified
Christian adults (52%) believe that there is much more to the Christian life
than what they have experienced. Without a full determination to live like
Christ and for Him, the path to complete transformation is blocked.

Obstacle 2: Repentance

Most of the self-identified Christians in the U.S. (64%) state that they have
confessed their sins to God and asked for His forgiveness. But the evidence is
quite clear that relatively few self-identified Christians are serious about
abandoning the lure of sin and handing total control of their life to God. In
fact, the research found that only one out of every eight
self-identified Christians (12%) admitted that recognizing and grasping the
significance of their sins had been so personally devastating that it caused
them to crash emotionally. In fact, only about 3% of all self-identified
Christians in America have come to the final stops on the transformational
journey – the places where they have surrendered control of their life to God,
submitted to His will for their life, and devoted themselves to loving and
serving God and other people.

Obstacle 3: Activity

Mired in a culture that rewards hard work and busyness, it’s not surprising
that tens of millions of self-identified Christians have confused religious
activity with spiritual significance and depth. For instance, four out of ten
self-identified Christian adults (39%) have participated in a combination of
three “normal” religious activities in the past week (i.e., attending church
services, praying, reading the Bible). But far fewer have engaged in another
trio of deeper faith expressions: less than one out of ten have talked about
their faith with a non-Christian, fasted for religious purposes, and had an
extended time of spiritual reflection during the past week. Various spiritual
disciplines – including solitude, sacrifice, acts of service, silence, and
scriptural meditation – are also infrequently practiced.

Obstacle 4: Spiritual
Community

Most self-identified Christians note that they feel comfortable and connected
within their church. However, various measures show that there is not much
vulnerability and accountability occurring within the context of those
faith-based connections. Many self-identified Christians do not take their
faith community seriously, whatever type it may be, as a place to which they
should be open and held to biblical principles. Only one out of every five
self-identified Christians (21%) believes that spiritual maturity requires a
vital connection to a community of faith. Further, only one-third (35%) claims
to have confessed their sins verbally to another believer at some point during
the past quarter.

Pretty telling statistics. Many Christians seem to have stuck God over in a corner of their lives and call on Him only when they’re in trouble or see a storm coming…

No wonder so many “self-identified” Christians are so empty and hungry for purpose and meaning.

I tell you…there is something beautiful and peaceful about sunsets at the coast. Check this one out…

Wow!

That pretty much summed up our week! Tranquil and beautiful! But, I’m glad to be back in the world of ministry. Many are dying and going to a Christ-less eternity forever and so there is much to be done. It’s a joy to serve our Lord!

 

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Look It Up!

Thought I’d get you thinking about the Word for a moment… Something to get you thinking. Something to get you to see how well you know the Bible. Want to take a shot at a question that I bet you might not know the answer?

Here goes:

Who helped fund Jesus’ ministry? Remember that He was not working a job as He went from town to town to preach. Think you know? You might be surprised…

Take a look at Luke 8:1-3. (No, I’m not going to tell you the answer! 🙂 Look it up! That’s the point of this post.) 🙂

Did you know there was a time that Jesus was with wild animals? There was indeed. See: Mark 1:12-13 (Still not going to do the work for ya! :))

You know reading the Bible is an amazing thing. It’s wonderful how much we can learn if we’d just read it. But, most won’t. They just listen to people talk about the Bible (i.e., preachers, teachers, Bible study leaders) or read books by people about the Bible. That’s why so many “Christians” know so little about the Word of God.

Wouldn’t it just be cool if we read the Bible? We’re supposed to aren’t we?

15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

When’s the last time that you sat down and read the Word of God for pleasure, like you’d read a magazine article or watch a TV program? Give it a shot. I’ve started reading in the Gospel of Mark and I’m amazed at how much I’ve missed through the years. Care to join me? It’s interesting.

In fact I recently learned that Jesus walked away from people who were looking for Him so he could move on to another town. Think I’m making it up? Take a look at Mark 1:29-39. Just goes to show that even Jesus knew that He couldn’t take care of every single need.

Thought I’d let you know that I’m going to follow the words of the Lord and take a break from the computer for a few days. I’ll be back…don’t you worry about that…but, for now…it’s time to:

“Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” Mark 6:31

See you soon!

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Take a look at these pictures…it’s what it’s all about to me…

This is Carson Parrish’s baptism. I had the privilege of baptizing Carson about 3 weeks ago. What a joy!
What’s so joyful about it? I’ll tell you… Carson’s family led him to Christ. Carson’s mom, Melanie, led him to Jesus. She prayed with Carson, but the truth is that the entire family was involved in the process and that’s how it should be. With Dan (the father) and Melanie, they see it as their responsibility to lead their family to Christ. Dan, particularly as the father sees this as his primary responsibility. I appreciate families like the Parrishes. They “get it.”
Get what? They get it that they must orchestrate their home life to present Jesus as Lord. Now I’m not trying to put this family on a pedestal. I’m simply saying that they are attempting to train and teach their children about Christ. I call it “Rite of Passage” living. It’s why I wrote my book on the subject (Rite of Passage).  We must structure and organize our homes so that we can pass our children through to adulthood as Christ-centered young adults. It’s wonderful to see families making this happen in their homes.
Speaking of children, do you wonder if today’s cartons might not be good for them? Check out this Focus on the Family article for more… I’ll just say this…the cartoons of today aren’t the cartoons we grew up with as kids.
As I think about our children, I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem is that as modern American parents we have come to
believe the idea that children will eventually reach maturity by themselves, and little input from us as parents is needed. Rather than making maturity our primary goal for them, we substitute as a goal — a happy and fulfilling childhood. We don’t mean to, but we do. Therefore, from the time our children are born, we feed their desire for self-indulgence (this is called existentialism) and accidentally keep them from maturing.
Unfortunately,  by the time they reach their teen years they are just like the other “normal” self-involved teenagers whose parents also made a fun childhood the chief goal. After all…we just want them to have it better than we did, right? What’s wrong with that? So what do we have in America? We have gratification-oriented people. And it’s not just the teenagers. It’s all of us! Just look at Washington!
We have grown to think that this immature, self-absorption (having to be entertained mentality) is just a fad or stage of growing up. We don’t realize this phenomena is unique to this century, and is unique to only a few affluent nations of the world. So, parents expect it and accept it. Therefore, most children don’t grow to be mature. Although most of us as parents love our children, our commitment to their happiness unintentionally harms them. Indulged children are unprepared for adulthood.
They have been sent the message that their personal happiness is of supreme importance, so they grow up thinking it is owed them. They ultimately lack the self-discipline necessary for successful employment, and their self-centeredness will cause strife in their marriages. And when their marriages fail, they will not consider it their fault — they will see themselves as innocent “victims” of their spouse’s shortcomings or may even blame us (their parents).
From the time they are young, our children must learn that life is not about fun and entertainment, nor is it about personal
happiness and self-gratification. It is about responsibility and serving others (as Christians that’s the goal, right…serving others).
It’s about finding joy in honoring God and loving our neighbors and serving.
Those of us who have lived at least 25 years have learned that life is hard, things don’t always go our way, we don’t always get what we want in life. Our children must be prepared for the challenges they will face in life. They must learn that they can’t have
everything they want, and that they can endure quite well with less than they hoped for. To mature properly, children must learn while they are still toddlers to obey their parents quickly and without resistance, and to endure hard situations humbly without
temper tantrums and complaining. Those should NOT be allowed.With our help, we are teach what Christ teaches all…”to die to ourselves.” Otherwise, as adults, they will remain self-consumed, rebellious, and far from God. May we as parents be faithful to do what is right. It takes a ton of work and time…but, it can be done!

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EE TAOW-“It is true…”

I’ve been working on a teaching for tomorrow’s Iron Men meeting and 1 Peter 1:10-12. I was thinking about salvation. May I be honest with you? I’m afraid I don’t really appreciate my salvation like I should. To think that Jesus saved my soul from a Devil’s Hell and has given me life in Heaven is beyond my comprehension. Are you a follower of Christ?

If you are and you ponder it for a few a minutes, then you’ll be enthralled by the mercy and grace of God. In fact, it reminded me of something I saw years ago. It was a New Tribes Missions video about a missionary, Mark Zook and his wife. It’s entitled “EE TAOW,” which means, “It Is True.” The missionary couple went to Papua New Guinea to share the Gospel with a group of people called the Mauk tribe. Papua New Guinea is northeast of Australia and is beside of New Zealand.

File:Papua New Guinea (orthographic projection).svg

The video shows the process of leading a group of people to Christ. The man and his wife worked for months learning the language, people, food, customs, culture, etc. After doing so, they began to teach the Gospel beginning in Genesis with creation, Adam and Eve and sin. Eventually after many weeks of teaching, the missionary gets to Christ and salvation. He has several men act out the story of Christ up to the betrayal by Judas. The video below is about 18 minutes long, but if you will move it up to the 13-minute mark and watch the last 5 1/2 minutes it will show you better than I can explain the joy of salvation. Watch and be amazed and then thank the Lord for your salvation!

EE TAOW video…

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Reaching Out

It’s Sunday evening and it’s been a wonderful Lord’s day. This evening I was amazed at the response of our church to reach out to our community. We are going to be hosting another Community Impact Festival this Saturday at an apartment complex near the Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro. We had a great crowd to show up to pass out flyers.

We had 41 people to show up to pass out the information flyers about this Saturday’s festival.

In our county 64% of people do not attend church on a given Sunday. We have about 70,000 people in our county. That’s around 43,000 people! People simply won’t come to church in our day and age like they used to 30-40 years ago. I’ve learned we must go to them. We know this is the way. Jesus said to “go” to the highways and hedges and compel them to come in.

So, Dale Jennings got us organized…

Thanks for all the work and legwork in having everything mapped out dear Brother! Gena Hodges made the flyers and we were ready to roll. We covered 150+ apartment in about 45 minutes. I went with Coleman Parrish. Coleman is a 16-year old young man whom I appreciate immensely. We went door to door passing out the flyers and he encouraged my heart. He knocked on doors (we took turns) and handed the folks the flyers and told them we’d be back on Saturday with food, inflatables, games, music and preaching. People were genuinely appreciative.

This community of apartments is in an area beside of our Community College and there are a ton of kids in these apartments. One of our men, Sam Dotson, met a lady having a very difficult day. He told me about her and we went back to talk with her and pray. She has 7 classes, two children, no job, her mother is sick and her uncle died yesterday. She was overwhelmed. The Lord brought us to her. We talked with her about 20 minutes and then prayed. I told her, “Ma’am, it’s no accident the Lord sent us to you today. Can you tell how much He loves you.” You should have seen the smile on her face. In 20 minutes her demeanor had totally changed. She went from anguish to a smile that creased her face from ear to ear.

Has her problem gone away. No. Has her circumstances changed? No. What has happened? She has a new outlook on her problems and her circumstances. She knows that someone cares. I gave her my phone number and information and I asked her to call me this week and let me know how she’s doing. I believe she will. Pray for her. Her name is Renee.

We’ve been going through the book of Acts on Sunday mornings and it’s wonderful to see how the principles in Scripture can play out in our day…2000 years later. Now don’t get me wrong. We’re not perfect as a church…but we desire to reach out as best we can. Jesus said we are to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and literally the world. So, we keep reaching out. Young and old alike.

Today I noticed families were coming together. The Ellis family brought all their children. Fathers and daughters like the Wentz family and Dotson family, Joines family and me and my oldest girls. One of our young adults brought herself she’s a Mexico Mission trip vet who has a heart for missions)…way to go Allison! Dan Parrish and his son and 13-year old daughter. The Nichols’ family, the Horton men…Mark and his 9-year old son. The Anderson men…Dad and sons…. Couples: The Phipps, Churches and folks with a heart from reaching people for Jesus…Mahlon, Susan, Faith, Clete, and even a lady, Nikki, and her daughter who aren’t even members! Wow! I was so humbled to see the desire and heart of these dear people! Thank you Lord for such a good church!

Speaking of which…Pam and I like to try to show a little Christian hospitality (the Scriptures teach that elders should be hospitable) each year to our staff and deacons, wives and families. We had a big time last night at our house…take a look…

We had a wonderful time of fellowship and it was truly a joy! I enjoyed it immensely! I hope everyone else had as good a time as my family and I did hosting. What a wonderful group of leaders and families! I’m truly blessed!

One last thing…

Here’s another wonderful group of folks who mean a lot to our family…

The Hall family are from Garner, NC and we met them at the Annie Moses Band Fine Arts Summer Academy in Nashville, NC. What a super family! We have enjoyed getting to know you folks immensely! We’ve got to figure out a way to get you guys to Wilkes County!!

God is good!

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Stop It!

Last night at church I taught from Hebrews chapter 9. As I was teaching, something came to mind that I didn’t have in my notes. The words, “stop it.” Stop it? Yes. You may ask, “Stop what?” Sinning.

Seem to simple? Is it? Let me ask you something. Do you like sinning? Well, the quick answer would be: “Of course not.” But, let’s probe deeper. Don’t we excuse our sin and say, “Well, nobody’s perfect.” Isn’t that our mantra in our culture and even in the Church? I believe it is. We say, “Well, I know that what I’m doing is probably not right (in a particular area of our lives), but I just can’t stop it…after all…nobody’s perfect.”

Let’s say you struggle with weight or smoking or chewing tobacco or over spending or using foul language or anger or pornography or neglect of your family or being hateful or mean in our attitude. We think that we can’t overcome these things because we don’t think we can. We’ve believed Satan’s lies. He whispers…”After all, nobody is perfect.” So, we excuse our sin and just sort of live with it. We get comfortable with the fact somehow we can live beneath this level of sin. But we can’t. Sin entangles. Sin corrupts and it eats away at our relationship with God.

I think about my own life. I want to be clean before the Lord. But, how clean? Mostly clean, 98% clean? 90% clean? When I think about it I really wrestle with this. Do I really want to be pure and righteous. If I do, then I must simply obey God’s commands. And here it comes… Are you ready? When it comes to sin…I must…drum roll please…

STOP IT!

That’s right! I must simply stop it. If it’s getting angry or frustrated…I must stop it. If it’s over-eating, or over-spending…I must stop it. If it’s neglect of my family from over work, I must…you guessed it…

STOP IT!

How? In the power of the Holy Spirit.

We say we are more than conquerors in Christ. We say that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We say, “Greater is He within me than he that’s in the world.” But, do we really believe it? If we did, then we would appropriate the power within us at our disposal via the Holy Spirit of God and STOP IT! Wouldn’t we? Shouldn’t we? Yes!

So what is it that needs to stop? Holding a grudge? Frustrated. Mad at your spouse. Estranged with someone at work? Struggling with an addiction? Read carefully so you don’t misunderstand.

YOU HAVE THE SAME POWER WITHIN YOU THAT RAISED JESUS CHRIST FROM THE DEAD.

Do you get that? The same Holy Spirit that brought Jesus Christ back to life lives within you if you are a follower of Christ. So, ask Him to help you and mean really dig deep into your soul and say, “Lord, I’m tired of making the excuses…I’m tired of failing…give me the desire to STOP IT!” He will. I promise you! He will if you sincerely ask Him. Will it be easy? Are you kidding? No way. But, that’s the point, it’s not you who will be doing the work. It’s Christ. And since He’ll be doing the work through you, when it’s all said and done, He’ll get the credit.

So, are you ready? Ok, I’m with you. So, all together now…

STOP IT!

By the way, if you want a good laugh and you’ve got about six minutes…take a look at what a church member sent me last night after I got home. They said, they thought I would like the title of it since it went along with what I was teaching last night. Appropriately enough…it’s called…

Yep…

Click here for: Stop it!

🙂

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