family

A Father Like None Other

As I was driving around the other day I began to think about fatherhood. My two oldest children will turn 12 in a couple of days and it has me in a reflective state of mind.

Here are these two pre-teens that I have nurtured and disciplined, loved and cherished for the last twelve years and I the question  that comes to my mind is “Am I doing a good enough job?”

Of course only time will answer that question but it is one worth thinking about (and one that more parents should consider) because if we don’t take pause to evaluate what we are doing we can never improve.

So I began considering our Heavenly Father.

And I came to a very quick conclusion

I do NOT want to raise my children the same as God raises His!

I know that is shocking but hear me out.

I have a few goals as a parent. These goals are modest and are by no means revolutionary and most parents would probably agree that they are sensible. In addition, there are traits I want my children to develop but these traits are not the goal they are a means to an end. A few of these traits are

1. I want my children to grow in their faith

2. I want my children to learn to think for themselves

3. I  want my children to become responsible

I nurture my children and discipline them in order to teach these traits. Eventually, the application of these traits will lead to the accomplishment of the goals I have.

1. My children will become self sufficient, independent adults

2. My children will establish their own lives

3. My children will have their own families

My goal is to raise my children and send them out.

Our Heavenly Father does not have the same goals

Yes He disciplines us

Yes He nurtures us

Yes He teaches us to be strong minded

Yes He teaches us to be responsible

But His GOALS? They are NOTHING like mine.

God does not raise His children to be independent nor does He raise them to establish themselves apart from Him. No, quite the opposite, everything our Father does is to make His children MORE dependent on HIM and to bring ALL of His children BACK to HIS home.

Earthly fathers raise their children to send out. Our Heavenly Father raises His children to be drawn back in

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HELP!! I WANT MY KIDS IN CHURCH!!

I get asked this a lot and was telling someone just today what my standard answer to that question would be. So I thought it would make a good blog post. So here it is

How does a parent get their child involved in church?

First and foremost the parent has to model the behavior that they want their child to adopt. If you want her in church consistently then you have to be in church consistently. This will show them that it is serious to the parent and that it is more than an extra activity but a part of the way of life.

 

Secondly, you must be find a church that is supportive of the values and goals that you want for your child to absorb and commit yourself to that church and that church alone for a substantial duration of time, in your specific case I would say the remainder of her High School career. Children of all ages need consistency and in this world it seems that everything in their life changes so fast they can’t count on anything. When the church becomes a constant they are more likely to latch to it.

 

Thirdly a teen is going to be drawn where their friends are. If the youth group does not have anyone in it that the teen can or will connect with then they will feel isolated and alone and not want to go.

 

Fourth, it is important for any parent to realize that the principle influence in a child’s life will always be the parent. In turn that means that the one who must be discipling the child in Christ is the parent as well and that the youth minister and youth group are only there to support and enhance what the parent is already doing, which is why number one is so important.

 

Finally there as to be some lines drawn. If the previous four statements are applied first then this is an easier task. Not to say that it is at all easy but if placed first in the list it is almost impossible. The parent is the parent and makes the decisions if the parent decides that the family is going to start attending and participating in church then that is the rule and is enforced. Many times parents will tell me they don’t want to force their kids to come to church because they are afraid it will turn them off to religion. But the fact is that we force our children to do many other things and yet never consider to apply that principle. They go to school, eat their supper, go to the doctor, go to bed, have a curfew, etc etc etc. Again when the previous four are applied this becomes easier.

 

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The Right Relationships at the Right Time

So apparently tomorrow for means days later…..

I talked in my last post about the right kinds of relationships that Jesus formed and how we can make the wrong relationships for the wrong reasons. While those relationships are not evil they are certainly more edifying to our self than to the Kingdom.

In my ministry obviously I want to build relationships with all students and all parents but that blanket approach yields minimal results and impact.  I want to be strategic and smart about the time I am pouring into a students life so as to multiply the kingdom. With that in mind let me address the types of students I have encounter and the types of relationships I build. I want to talk about the least critical and move into the most critical.

The strong Christian student with two godly parents– I have several of these in my group and they are all precious to me and my relationship focus with them is to empower them to continue on the path to godliness and to encourage them to stand out as leaders. I intentionally spend the least time with these students( least doesn’t mean none) because I have confidence in them.

The strong Christian student from a broken home but with at least one godly parent–  These require a little more time and energy than the previous because they are dealing with hard questions and deep hurt. However, they have a good background to hold them accountable and help them deal with issues. My time is spent as an outlet for these students to deal and vent their pain and anguish but at the same time I am pushing them to keep their pain from deterring them from their walk.  I find ways for them to further their walk by encouraging them to develop themselves as leaders and servants

The student with troubles at home- Sadly, this is a very common student. This student is one you will lose quickly if you do not invest. They are in church but they are being distracted by problems and because of their spiritual immaturity they are struggling handling those issues. It does not matter the number of parents at home or if the parents are involved in church this student has made a profession, is attending regularly and is involved with your programming but is teetering on the edge.

The student with post Christian parents– These Students have a good home and their parents have strong values and were raised in the church but to them the church is just an option and is blown off in favor of other activities. These students are the hardest to spend time with because they are never around but you know that without reaching them they will likely grow up to and never go to church because they see no need. Sometimes however you will have a student that breaks the mold within the family and desires to be at church and is being used by God. These kids need your time!! Do not waste any opportunity to share with them and develop your relationship with them.

The  student in a broken home with no parents involved in church– I will stop short of saying no “godly” parent but if parents are not in church it does not bode well for their spiritual growth. What you see from these students is sporadic attendance and lackadaisical commitment to the ministry because their is no reinforcement at home to attend church.

The male student with an absent/abusive father– These next two break my heart. A young man needs a positive role model in his life and he longs to receive love and acceptance from his father but when that father is not present or is abusive a whole host of issues presents themselves. Self esteem, rebellious behavior, anger, lashing out, lack of motivation etc. all rear their ugly heads in this situation I try my best to be there for these guys spend time with them encourage them do things with them that their dads should be doing with them. Ultimately becoming that role model that the student so desperately needs.

The female student with and absent/abusive father– This is the most dangerous and hardest relationship to cultivate and navigate. Girls need their daddies and with out them they become self destructive.  They long for the affection that their dads owe them and when it is not available their self esteem and self worth bottoms out.  After they lose their worth they become free game for any man who gives them faux affection. This leads to multiple sexual partners at an early age and further damage to their self worth. These girls are in our youth groups and many times very active and that is where the danger begins.  Many times that same need for affection leads to an infatuation with a youth leader or youth pastor and attempts at cultivating a relationship is misconstrued. This is trouble for all parties involved and can ruin a youth workers life and career. Be very careful with this relationship. The best approach is a team approach typically with the youth pastor AND his wife together investing in that student helping to build confidence and understanding and helping them find their worth in Christ.

This is a lot of information and I could probably write twice as much but this is my approach. Do you differ do you change it up? Do you reverse it? I am interested in hearing your thoughts.

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PATIENCE

In today’s “give it to me now” culture, Patience is a lost art form.  We want our food faster, our information faster our degrees faster and our success faster.  But not only do we want it faster we always want it our way. The motto for this generation could be “give it to me my way, right away”.  But the Bible tells us that patience is included in the fruit of the Spirit. That means in  the course of  our spiritual lives and in our journey to become closer and more like Christ that we must cultivate this virtue within ourselves. John F Newton said “Be patient enough to live one day at a  time as Jesus taught us letting yesterday go and leaving tomorrow till it arrives” . These are great words of wisdom that we should take note of. But let’s not ignore the most important authority, The Bible.

Here are a few verses on Patience

Romans 8:25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience….

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

2 Thessalonians 3:5  And may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.

I want to look at a few different aspects of patience. Adel Bestavros said “Patience with others is Love, patience with Self is hope and Patience with God is faith” I think this sets up a great framework on which to look at Patience.

Patience with OTHERS is LOVE- Let’s face it everyone screws up and dissapoints at some point. As we go through life those closest to us will make mistakes. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:4 that love is patient. When you love someone you are able to look past their faults and realize that they have possess qualities that make them worthy of your devotion.  Great friendships, marriages and families are built around this idea.

Patience with SELF is HOPE – This is an area I struggle in. We all have aspirations dreams and desires for ourselves and no one likes to fail. Yet time and time again as we try to achieve what we believe we want we fall short. Whether these shortcomings are in academics, athletics, romance or in our profession it matters not everyone of us will wind up falling flat on our face.  These failures take there  toll on us and we can beat ourselves up.  We can’t understand and begin to question our self worth.  Patience gives us hope. A hope that if not today then maybe tomorrow or maybe further down the road but it will happen and can happen. Our dreams may only come to fruition with much dedication and work but the hope of another day will push us on.

Patience with GOD is FAITH- Wow…. How many times have you demanded an answer from God. Or expected God to give you what you wanted when you wanted. Yeah…. me too. But god doesn’t work on our timeline He has much greater things in mind.  The hard thing for us is that He doesn’t send us a memo or share with us a PowerPoint demonstrating his 5 step plan to get us where we need to be. Rather, He asks us to trust in Him fully and wait and see. Patient faith can be one of the most excruciating things to master but it is one of the most valuable

The common thread in all of these is sacrifice. To truly practice patience you need to deny yourself.  We don’t like sacrifice that is why patience is out of style. Again we want to have everything our way right away, We are self absorbed and until we learn to let that go we are in for major issues.

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The Power Of Facebook

It is no secret I love facebook and twitter. I update my status more than anyone  know. FB stays open in some window at all times when i am on the computer. I play games and send messages. I use it for work and for school and for fellowship. I talk to other youth pastors across the country and ask advice and give encouragement as well.  It has been a great source of entertainment and relaxation. But what I never realized was the power facebook had to unite people or reunite people.

It has only been a short year and there have already been two miracles in our family through Facebook that I would like to share. The first happen in the closing days of 2009 and into the new year.  My wife had long known that she had a sister from her father’s previous marriage.  She knew her name and where she lived and where she went to school. What she did not know was how to contact her or how to make that initial contact. If you think about it, that is an incredibly awkward situation. Questions arise inside your mind and you stress on how you will be received. It must be an frightening experience. Well a few days before New Years my wife decided to do a search on FB for her sister and she found her.  Through a number of messages they arranged a time to meet and will do that very soon. It is an amazing time for my wife and saying that she is excited is not an adequate expression of her feelings.

The next miracle that FB as but an integral part of is in my family.  At the age of thirteen I lost my older brother to an untimely death. He was only 28 years old when he passed and left behind a beautiful family including a 2 year old son. That family lost contact with us over the years and we did not know where they were.  For several years now we had searched in vain trying to find them. We found my nephew’s mother’s obituary on the internet a couple of years ago but still could not locate the kids. This week my mother called and asked me to search him on facebook using his whole last name. I did and there was one person on all of facebook with that one name. It was him!!!  I add him as a friend worried that I might freak him out. Apparently as I did that my dad messaged him as well. I was worried that he might react negatively to us but he reached back and I got to chat on FB with him for almost two hours Tuesday night.

I have a whole new love for facebook now. Most importantly I have a greater appreciation for God’s grace to think that this was just a coincidence is foolish only God could orchestrate two such encounters in 3 short weeks. I look forward to the coming weeks and months as I get an opportunity to talk and get to know the family that God has given back to us after so long.

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00’s In Hindsight

It is amazing to me that the decade is coming to a close. I decided to look back at what all has transpired this decade

2000 I met and started dating my wife

2002 I accepted an internship at my home church and  I married my wife and left college

2003 I became a father to twins, I accepted my first church as a Part Time minister and was ordained

2006 I left my first church and returned to my home church to take a position, My wife graduated college, I became a father to a beautiful baby girl

2008 I took my first Full Time position and relocated my family to Greenville

2009 went back to school to finish my Religion degree.

By the numbers

10 jobs 7 residences 3 kids 1 graduation…..countless memories

I am very excited about the next decade and all the joys and challenges it will bring.

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The Future

What is the one thing essential to the survival of our civilization? What one thing if left uncared for and ignored will result in a complete and utter destruction of everything we have worked to accomplish? The answer is CHILDREN. If a society does not care for and raise up children with values and integrity then the future of the society itself is in danger. So is the case of the church. The church today in most places is exceedingly aging. And while our adults and senior adults are valuable and still have a lot to give we must look toward the future and remember that when we are gone someone has to continue the work. Accept this is no ordinary work this is the honoring of our God and the salvation of souls. If you look around the congregation at Reedy Fork on a Sunday morning you will notice that there is a terrible lack of children and young families in our ranks. And contrary to belief it is not because they are hidden away in children’s church or nursery or somewhere else. It is because they are not here at all. It is an epidemic that is slowly chiseling away at the fabric of our future.

So what is the solution? First, leadership must ask themselves “WHY”. Several weeks ago I sensed that things were declining in youth group on Wednesday nights and I had to take a tough look at what I was doing. I had to be critical of myself and it hurt. I had to make changes to things that I had all planned out and was quite satisfied with but I knew it had to change. We too need to take that same look churchwide whether it be in youth or children’s ministry or in our worship service or any other ministry we must ask the tough questions. Second we need to encourage our families to be here. Note the wording there is encourage and not scold. Fussing and fuming and condemnation will not bring people back into our fold only love, care and concern will. Thirdly if you are a young family reading this YOU need to be here. There is nothing more important than your commitment to God and His church and allowing yourself to drift into the apathy of casual church attendance will do nothing but harm to your relationship with God. I understand that the world is enticing you with all the wonders of what it has to offer but there comes a time when you have to make the decision that God is most important above all and that time is now.

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Shape

Ok I may catch some flack for this but I am going to put it out there anyway.

I am a scrawny guy. I am around 6’2″ and weigh around 175. But here over the last year I have started to develop a little protuding belly.   I figured it came with getting older and that I would level out after a while. Well the other night my youth group noticed and called me out on it.  I will admit it had been eating at me but I thought it was all in my head.  But with the affirmation I am taking it seriously.

My goal isn’t to loose weight just to change shape. To see the roundness of my stomach disappear. One thing I am doing is doing away with diet soda. I learned via the Google machine that aspartame is linked to belly fat now. So I ahve abandoned the Diet Mountain Dew for Propel water. 

new-propel

I am currently downing the strawberry-kiwi variety.  I also have eliminated snacking on cereal and crackers rather opting for apples and carrots (what we had in the fridge).  I just started this a few days ago and we’ll see how well it works. The lack of caffeine is bothersome but if I can get past the headaches I will be in good shape.

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Just when you thought it was safe…

I have held a good bit of security in the fact that my wife is a nurse and as such should be fairly secure in her employment status. Afterall we always hear about the healthcare shortage and how nurses are hard to find. I thought she had a secure place working in a trauma recovery unit.  A bad economy doesn’t keep people from doing stupid stuff. Well apparently I was a little off. My wife was called in last night to a meeting at work and her unit is merging with another underperforming unit and she is one of the 50% of the work staff to go. What stinks is that if the management had their way she would have been one of the first ones kept but since everything is based off how long you have been there and not how well you have performed she was the first to get cut. 

What is wrong in society when the hardest working or the best performing gets the short end. Where is the reward. My wife has been at the hospital 8 months and has already leapfrogged people who have been there for years in the eyes of her management. She has been given more responsibility and been given charge duty over people who have 3x the experience. She has received awards and recognition that previously was unheard of  on her floor and yet because she has been there the shortest amount of time she is not valued enough to keep.  It is no wonder many nurses are rude and uncooperative and even lazy. In a system where hard work is ignored why try?

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Do Not Disregard

Leviticus 10 sets up a sobering scene.  Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu were offering incense to God, problem was that they were doing it incorrectly.  God was extremely displeased and responded by immediately striking them dead without warning.  Furtehrmore he forbid Aaron and his other sons to participate in mourning for their fallen loved ones.  They had to show that they were in aggreement with what the Lord had done.

This is an incredible story. How many pastors today are doing things in their church out of selfishness and pride. How many have overlooked what is pleasing to God at the cost of His church. What about plain old Christians. I know so many people who have blamed God for their children’s death when in all actuality if their child had been living a life that was acceptable to God more than likely they would not have been in the situations that led to their death.  Could we show total acceptance of God’s will in those situations. It makes me wonder and pause to evaluate where I am at in my walk with our Lord. 

I like Moses’ summation of these events.  In short Moses reminded Aaron that God had said to never disregard His commands.  That was the command and the warning. God had a one and done policy. I am thankful that when I screw up I receive grace. How about you?

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