Who's Raising Your Children?

I like to share from time to time about events from my past, especially my childhood.  As a matter of fact, many of my blog posts are in some way inspired by the events of my younger days!  And having lived now for over half a century (not specifying how much over) it is very easy to look back and compare the way things were...with the way things are.  It's very easy to say "back in the day" or even "back in the good ole days".  Over the past few decades things have changed drastically in our great nation.  It seems that the changes are coming even more rapidly now.

I remember a time when families were families.  Instead of zooing in front of the TV we actually played outside and had to be ordered into the house for meals.  After my chores (assigned duties to prepare a child for the reality of life and to live a productive life) I couldn't wait to get outside with my friends and play...especially in the summer!  After dinner (supper where I'm from) we would play outside way past dark!  I do remember those nights of the week when our family would gather in front of the TV for an episode of Lost In Space or The Beverly Hillbillies.  It was a special time.  It was family time.

I remember when my dad who was busy running his own pharmacy would take the time to throw the football with we kids.  The only thing that would frustrate me is my big sister Kathie could throw the football further than me and my big brother!  But it was family time!  I remember on a cold night my Dad took his little propane blow torch and a clear, plastic clothes bag and filled it up with hot air.  Over and over and over I watched in amazement as that bag floated up into the dark sky.  My dad could do anything!  It was family time!  Unfortunately we've raised up several  generations who are addicted to TV and video games.  They can multi-task but they can't socialize.  They are successful in a fantasy world, but not in the real world.  The are chronically bored and real life itself is not flashy enough to hold their interest.  It's not their fault.  It's their parent's fault.  It's the previous generation's fault.

Parents, who is raising your children?  How are you preparing them for life?  How are you preparing them for the next life?  The truth is it takes input from you!  Connie and I were not perfect in raising our children by a long shot.  But when we committed to follow Christ early on, we committed to raise our children (the best we knew how) according to His Word.  We committed to preparing them for life's journey.  And we committed to preparing them to follow Christ!  Today they simply love and follow Jesus.  That's the greatest reward any parent could receive!  I encourage young parents today, turn off the TV and spend some quality time (regularly) with your children.  Know what they are watching when they do watch TV and filter it according to the heart of God.  If you allow them on the computer...monitor it at all times.  Know what music they listen to.  If it doesn't please God filter it!  These things are so simple.  Young children are very impressionable and will learn whatever you teach them.  This makes being a parent about the most important responsibility a person can have.

The truth is...the only way we can change the world is to deliberately train our children to be world-changers!  If we don't the world alone will continue to change them.

Waitin' On The Bus

I remember as a child going to New Albany to stay with my grandparents for a few weeks.  On some of those occasions my older brother and sister and I would take the 5-hour bus ride...all by ourselves.  Obviously things have changed today so don't try that with your kids.  I remember getting ready for the trip.  Mom would have everything packed in our suitcases and we would be taken to Tatum's Grocery Store.  Tatum's was kind of your jack-of-all-trades store.  I mean they had some of everything, which included being our town's bus station.  There was an old wooden bench out front on which we would sit waiting for the Gulf Transport bus.  In anticipation we waited for the big bus to arrive.  We were packed, ready, and waiting!  When that bus could first be seen coming down the highway it was incredible!  We were about to leave!

Years later as an adult I still get that way when preparing for a trip.  I have traveled to the great nation of India many times.  I usually get out my suitcase about a month before leaving just to feel like I'm getting ready.  I will actually buy supplies for the trip and have them packed a few weeks before I leave.  Then as I can, I begin folding and packing clothes I won't need to wear here and pack them for there.  The truth is...I could wait until a day or two before departure to pack but I don't.  Why?  Because the excitement of the travel and ministry in India is so exciting to me, and I just want to be ready when the time comes!  I do many things to prepare for the trip.  Of course I pray and study up on God's Word.  But weeks before, I begin preparing any way I can.  Listen to this.  The preparation part actually becomes part of the journey!  That stretches it out for me!  That's just me!  Perhaps you are the same way.

Sometimes I have to take a step back and look at my life as a follower of Christ.  Sometimes I notice that my life is not being lived in full preparation for His return, and for the quick journey that takes me fully into His presence forever.  Sometimes I discover that my life is being lived as if I plan to live here forever.  Does that ever happen to you?  I thank God that He has a way of bringing my focus back to the right stuff!  The book of the Revelation tells us that He will return soon for His bride (the church) who has made herself ready.  Jesus tells us over and over to "Be on the alert."  He said many times "Be ready".  The signs of the time (as I see it) are like seeing that big Gulf Transport bus coming down the highway.  The signs are telling us that His coming is very, very near.  I want to live my life not just focused on living for Him...but living with Him forever after we make that journey to His eternal realm.  What about you?


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Relevance - A Very Big Word

There's a lot of talk today among Christians about relevance.  Relevance in this sense is the degree at which the church relates (or is relative) to our current culture.  To be relevant means the ability to "connect" with people where they are.  Relevance is very important to any type of ministry.  Relevance is important in business as well.  If you have a product to sell it first must be something people need.  Then you must market it in such a way that people see their need for it.  If you market multi-vitamins as "Dr. Stanford's Miracle Elixir" from a horse-drawn carriage (in the streets of New York City), you may not be successful.  That particular method of marketing and sales went out about 100 years ago.

Relevance is a very big word.  It's by far not the longest word in the English vocabulary.  But it is big in the sense that everyone is talking about it today.  At least a large portion of the church is.  Answer this question:  Who can relate better than anyone on the planet?  The answer is Jesus.  By His Holy Spirit He can "connect" with any person right where they are and in whatever condition they are in.  He is the ultimate marketing agent!   Think about this.  The Holy Spirit lives outside the confines of time.  As the agent of Jesus the Creator, He owns time!  No matter what the culture, the decade, century our millennium...He is relevant. 

The Key To Relevance

The key to the relevance of the church is the Holy Spirit.  There are a couple of keys to the key:
  • The Holy Spirit must be heard.
  • The Holy Spirit must be obeyed.
The only way the Holy Spirit can be heard is...we must be listening.  This means we must be pursuing Jesus through Him.  Genuine corporate prayer is a major key to a church hearing the Holy Spirit.  The next step is that the church must do whatever the Holy Spirit speaks.  The church must obey Him! 

Relevance is a very big word.  Relevance is very important.  However we need the kind of relevance that only the Holy Spirit can produce.  His methods are relevant for any time.  We need to love Jesus enough to hear the Spirit's voice.  We need to love Jesus enough to obey His voice.  I firmly believe what the world will notice is a church that connects.  That's what got me!  I had major problems.  I didn't know I had them until my world fell apart.  Some church folks had already started connecting with me before it all happened.  I kind of took it with a grain of salt while at the same time I knew they had something I needed.  When all collapsed they were the first one's I went looking for!  That's when I learned the meaning of relevance - a very, very big word.

Two Women - Two Scenarios

There's a story in the Bible about two interesting women representing two very interesting scenarios.  It's the one about Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus.  If you remember, Lazarus is the one Jesus raised from the dead...right out of the tomb!  Jesus pays a visit to Lazarus, Mary, and Martha.  Along with Jesus come His followers.  It's a very special event for the trio I'm sure.

Jesus arrived, along with His entourage and began to teach the folks in the living room.  Mary sat at His feet listening and gleaning along with His followers, while Martha labored rigorously in the kitchen to make the event perfect.  After awhile Martha interrupts Jesus and says, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.!"  Jesus responds by saying, "Martha, Martha!  You are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her."  (Luke 10)  

This incident shows us two different scenarios.  Most of us are involved in one or the other.  Here is scenario number one:  Martha.  I think it is interesting the Jesus identifies something about Martha you may have to look a little closer to see.  He said to Martha, "You are worried and bothered about so many things..."  It wasn't just the meal Martha was bothered over.  (That was perhaps the last straw  that caused her to interrupt the Creator while He was teaching.)  But Martha was worried and bothered about so many things.  Jesus identified a way of life for Martha.  It wasn't just the meal...it was her lifestyle.  Perhaps it took this mild rebuke from Jesus that caused her to see the truth!  Then there is scenario number two:  Mary.  Mary was seated at the feet of Jesus...taking it all in.  As a matter of fact, the meal was not even important to Mary as she gleaned from Jesus' life-changing teaching.  Mary wasn't worried at all because she had a peace that was grounded in the Words of the Teacher.  Mary was so enthralled she didn't even care that it was improper for her (a woman) to be in the room with men...being taught by a man who was not her husband.  She sat there taking it all in...having her life blessed and changed.

Let me ask you.  Which scenario are you; number one or number two?  Just asking.  Are you worried and bothered by so many things like Martha?  Are you trying to handle life the best way YOU know how to...on your own?  Or are you scenario number two like Mary?  Do you make the time to sit at His feet in regular worship, prayer, and feeding on His Word?  Many can testify of the life-changes that occur when they sit at the feet of Jesus!  And just like being worried and bothered over so many things can be a lifestyle...sitting at Jesus' feet must become and stay a lifestyle.  The result will be scenario number two for you: a life of peace along with the ability to focus on what really matters, that which is good and necessary.  What do you think?

The First Day of a Week of Opportunity

It's Monday morning.  A very busy week lies ahead and what are you thinking?  It's quite common for working people to be thinking "On no!  It's Monday.  Not again!"  Some are thinking "Where oh where did the weekend go?"  The answer to the last question?  It went away!  However another weekend is on its final approach to your life and it will be here soon enough.  And between last weekend and this weekend is another work week.  It's kind of difficult to change that.  So let's look at this brand new work week as a week filled with opportunities that begin today...Monday.

I know, you still have to face the routine stuff in your work week that you face every week.  But do something different this week (starting today).  Look for opportunities.  Look for opportunities on your job.  What kind of opportunities?  Opportunities to bless someone in some way.  Opportunities to excel in what you do.  Opportunities to do your job better than you have been doing it.  Opportunities to be an example of a good work ethic.  (There's one that's needed almost everywhere.)  Opportunities to help someone in some way.  

Next, listen for opportunities.  People talk all the time (most of the time too much).  But just listen.  You will hear of opportunities.  Some are hurting.  You can add them to your prayer list and pray specifically for them.  Some people are discouraged.  Your positive attitude can encourage them.  In many cases the key to being a godly example is to just listen.  Listening can help you respond better and much more accurately.  If everyone is negative be positive.  You may feel all alone but you will be the one God uses to influence others for Him!  Remember, being a godly influence means at times you stand alone!

Take opportunities when they are presented to you.  Better yourself at what you do.  Being the best at what you do is a godly virtue.  The Bible says that Daniel had a "spirit of excellence".  Joseph wasn't perfect and he saw every set-back he experienced as doors of opportunity.  When you see and hear opportunities...take a stab at them.  Don't just let them pass you by.  It makes for a very interesting life.  It makes for a very interesting week.  So today is Monday.  It's not just Monday.  It's the first day a week filled with opportunities.  Go get them!

Real Motivation to Share the Gospel

Jim Elliot, christian missionary, explaining his motivation to go to a headhunter tribe to share the Gospel. They killed him, but the tribe later heard the Gospel, received Christ, and was totally transformed.

"People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; Forgive them anyway.  If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway.  If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway.  If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway.  What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway.  If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway.  The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway.  Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you've got anyway."

How encouraging is this?

Can a person get closer to God and not be blessed?

  I'm reminded of a story in the Bible about the Ark of the Covenant which was God's presence.  King David had planned to move the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.  Jerusalem would have been its rightful place.  In the attempt to move it David didn't follow God's directions in the Law for transporting the Ark. So a man died when he touched the Ark to steady it.  David was extremely discouraged over the incident and left the Ark of the Covenant with the family of Obed-edom for three months.  David eventually properly transported the Ark into Jerusalem amidst much celebration.

But while the Ark of the Covenant was at the home of Obed-edom...stuff happened.  I Chronicles 13: 14 says "...the Lord blessed the family of Obed-edom with all that he had". Can you imagine?  God blessed this household because His presence came!  Now the Bible doesn't tell us how God blessed Obed-edom's household, but it is clear He did.  Perhaps his crops produced more than ever.  Perhaps the general attitude within the family changed for the better.  I'm not sure but perhaps Obed-edom's marriage took a major turn for the better!  It is possible that the family began to walk in totally good health.  Again, the Bible is clear that God blessed the home of Obed-edom with all that he had because the Ark of the Covenant (God's presence was left there).  God came and things improved!

What a deal!  If you have followed Christ for any length of time, it didn't take you long to learn that just because you follow Christ...it doesn't mean life will be all peaches and cream.  But you do know that the quality of your life took a 180 degree turn for the better!  So much changed in your life...for the better!

With this documented in the Bible doesn't it stand to reason that when we as Christians make an effort to come into His presence things change for the better?  When we welcome His presence into our lives and into our day nothing can remain the same.  Nothing can remain status quo.  I really believe that because I have experienced it over and over.  Too many times we serve Him without having been with Him.  In Acts the apostles were identified as those who had been with Jesus.  Yes, some spent 3 years with Him.  But only a few that the apostles ministered to actually ever saw them with Jesus.  It was the way that talked, their attitudes, their love, and their actions that gave them away.  Because they spent much time in the presence of God, they talked and acted like Him.  No one could deny they were His apostles because they were recognized as having been with Jesus!  What an incredible testimony...to be recognized as one who hangs out with Jesus!  And it can only happen when we make the effort to experience His presence!

So the truth is you cannot make the effort to draw closer to God and not be blessed.  So make the time to spend a good bit of "hang time" with Him.  The fact that He came into your life blessed you, but He doesn't stop there.  Let Him bless you today.  Take the time to welcome His life-changing presence.

How Well Do You Know Him?

  As I have probably said before I am a ponderer.  I like to ponder stuff in my heart and in my mind.  This morning I woke up pondering a question:  "How well do you know Him?"  I had to ponder that one further to understand more clearly what I woke up pondering!  The question still prevails in my heart..."How well do you know Him?"

I have been a serious follower of Christ for many years.  And while "length of service" doesn't necessarily substantiate the depth of one's walk, it can be an indicator. Many folks have followed Him for a season or two and then dropped out of the journey.  Others say that follow after Him but you cannot see the proof in their lives.   Yet others are still following hard after Him...after many years you clearly see the evidence of a genuine relationship.

I think I ponder stuff because I notice stuff.  The truth is I am not a "detail" person.  But I do notice things about certain things.  As a matter of fact I think I amuse Connie by some of the things I do notice...especially about people.  Even though I am not a detail person, I am pretty detailed about what I notice about people!

When Connie and I began this journey with Jesus Christ years ago we took it serious.  I discovered Jesus' love and forgiveness in the midst of a terrible marital crisis.  When I allowed Him, He stepped in and took control.  It was at a point when I was willing to lay it all down for His intervention in my marriage.  I can honestly say I didn't hunger directly for Him, but for what He could do with my life, marriage, and family.  However when I allowed Him to intervene, I quickly discovered the greatness of who He really is!  It was an introduction that changed my life and my eternity!  Fourteen months later Connie joined me in the walk and as I said, we took it seriously.   We began a wonderful walk with Him together as a married couple.  We didn't know any better than to simply live for Him.  It wasn't hard to do!  Life itself got hard and challenging at times, but living for Him never did!  In our culture marriage is ingrained in the mindsets of people as a temporary institution instead of a permanent one.  When things get tough the mindset is to separate or divorce.  Perhaps that mentality spills over into many relationships with Jesus.  I'm just saying.  Things get tough so believers look elsewhere for help.

As I said I notice things.  I notice how believers talk.  I notice what they get involved in.  I notice their actions.  I don't try to...I just notice things!  How we talk, what we get involved in, how we act or respond are just a few of the indicators of how well we know Him or how well we don't really know Him.  A true knowledge of Jesus produces a deep relationship with Him.  And a deep relationship motivates one to live for Him.  The old song way back when said "What the world needs now is love sweet love".  But what the world really needs now is people that know Him well.  Because out of that deep relationship the love of Jesus genuinely changes the lives of people.  Let me ask you...how well do you know Him?