Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Quote of the Day

Can you imagine what a difference it would make if Christians ran for every office at all levels across our country – city council, school board, Mayor? We need to get involved and take a stand for biblical values and morals before it's too late.  - Franklin Graham

Discipleship Tuesday: Create Rest in Your Life

By now I’m sure you are well-versed in spiritual gift inventories. You’re probably also quite familiar with leadership assessments. It seems that the Church’s appetite for leadership tools marches on. Go to any of the large church ministries conferences and you will be thrown into a world of skinny jeans, expensive coffee, and a never-ending supply of ministry resources designed to help you increase your metrics. Growing your church, for many leaders, becomes a numbers game that aims ultimately at job security. The church has moved to a model that encourages working 24/7 and being available at everybody’s beck and call. That’s not to mention the need to add new service times to the schedule in order to accommodate more congregants, a strategy which has the inevitable side-effect of pulling pastors away from their families. This truly is the greatest problem facing church leadership culture today. But what would happen if the metrics changed? 

It was refreshing a few years ago when some of my favorite authors began to write books about the concept of rest. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that pastors were given “sabbaticals” as part of their standard employment packages. Sabbaticals were designed to keep pastors fresh while also rewarding them for their loyalty and commitment to their calling. In many ways, they became one of the margins that those in full time ministry could use to create balance in their lives. 

This concept of “Sabbath Rest” is not only biblical, but it really works. We can even take a look at the marketplace and see examples of the power of honoring the Sabbath. Take Chick-fil-A, whose management chooses to remain closed on Sundays. This has not only been a philosophical choice since day one, but now it’s become part of their brand. Check out their signs on the highway telling you that there is a Chick-fil-A off the next exit. Right underneath their logo you’ll see the words “closed on Sundays.” Do you realize that they make more money in six days than any other fast food restaurant does in seven? I’m not sure why, but it seems to me that “the ministry” thinks it has become an exception to this rule. If the lighted sign in front of our building doesn’t say “OPEN” at all times, we feel like we’re doing something wrong.

Read the entire article "Sabbath Rest: A New Metric for Church Growth" by Tim Popadic here.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Date Your Daughters, Dad

When my daughter Anna-Frances was four years old, I took her on our first date.  “I will take you anywhere you want to go, Anna.  Where do you choose?”

She wanted to go to the local pizza buffet restaurant and then go to the Ingles Deli for dessert.

We planned that I would come home at lunchtime.  When I arrived, she was all dressed up like a doll.  Her hair in pig tails, and a tiny bit of lipstick on, I had rarely seen her so excited.  We hugged and kissed and said goodbye to the rest of the family.  I buckler her into her car seat, got behind the driver’s seat.  But first, I turned around, took her hand, and prayed.  

“Lord, thank you for Anna-Frances.  I love her.  Help me to be a good daddy to her and love and lead her.  Help her one day to have a good, godly husband that loves and leads her.  Please bless our time together today on our date.  Amen.”

And she squeaked her affirmative, “Amen!”

At Dempsey’s Pizza in Clinton, South Carolina, she wanted to sit next to each other in a booth.  There we were, daddy and daughter with a whole big booth to ourselves, sitting leg to leg on one side.  We slowly enjoyed our pizza and talked about whatever four-year old girls want to talk about.  We held hands every time we went to get more at the bar and when we walked to the car.  Then, at her request, we headed to Ingles Supermarket.  I don’t remember what we ordered, but there was some sweet dessert there worth our time.  I do believe that is the only time in my life I have been on a date at Ingles.

Since that day years ago, we have been on many dates.  The places have varied as have the activities.  Sometimes we have dressed up in Sunday-best.  Other times we have been very casual.  Sometimes there is a lot of preparation.  Other times it is spur-of-the-moment.

I want my daughter to know that her daddy loves her, values her, and wants to spend time with her.  She needs to see a man honor her.  To honor means to treat very special.  She needs to hear a man act and talk respectfully.  She needs to hear a man pray to God and respect Him.  

I continue dating my daughter.  One day, Lord willing, God will bring a man in her life whom she will marry.  They will form a family.  They will give me and my wife grandchildren.  They will probably outlive me.  I have prayed for her husband as long as she has been alive.  I hope that he will be a responsible, good, and godly man.

Until then, it is my role to show her what a real man looks like.  To show her how a real man treats a woman.  To remind her that she is God’s child, and that she is my princess.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Five Facts about Pastors

Pastor Joe McKeever's writing has blessed me in the past.   Today, he posted another good one.  This time he explains five things about pastors that are unclear to many church members today. . . .

"In my experience, most pastors hesitate to teach the biblical understanding of the role of pastors because to do so might sound self-serving, as though they were trying to carve out a bigger role for themselves in leading the church.  This is a serious error for which we are now paying as many congregations are turning the minister into a hired hand, employing him as an errand boy, or treating him as an executive brought in to lead their 'country club.'

Pastor, preach the whole Word of God.  Be bold in declaring its truth.  Then, having done this, go forth and set new standards for humbly serving the congregation.  Let them see you leading by serving and no one will ever mind calling you their pastor and following you.  However, lord it over them and dominate the decisions and no one who knows his Bible will want to follow you.

What follows is the truth on the role of pastors as taught in Scripture. It’s not 'all' the truth, for this is but one simple article.  However, it cuts to the heart of the issues…."

Read the entire article by Pastor Joe here.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Fantastic Family Friday: Bracket Mania

The first year or our marriage, I introduced my wife to madness.  March Madness.

My father was an avid sports fan, and sounds of basketball games filled our house yearly over March weekends.  The first year I took an interest, my freshman year of high school, was 1988.  The Final Four took place in Kansas City, Missouri, with Kansas, Duke, Oklahoma, and Arizona competing.  I can still hear the commercials playing the song, “We’re going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come.”
My wife and I are not big sports fans.  We never watch the Super Bowl, football hardly interests us, and neither of us know the difference between an outside linebacker, a safety, and a halfback.  And we don’t care to.
However, when March rolls around every year we become basketball crazy.  We anticipate the madness, talk about it for several weeks, and then keep CBS on for hours and hours watching game after game.  Having lived in Kentucky for three years, we experienced first-hand what it means for a state to go crazy over basketball.  I remember the grief that part of the state experienced when Rick Pitino resigned as head coach of UK in 1997 – and the anger that surprised them when he became the head coach of the University of Louisville in 2001.
Through the years my wife and I have slowly and subtly passed on the fever to our children.  My daughter enjoys sitting down beside us on Saturday afternoons and watching a good Kentucky, Duke, or UNC game. 
Wednesday night I printed out our 2015 March Madness NCAA tournament brackets.  Everyone sat down at breakfast on Thursday and studiously entered their guesses for each game.  Then, we taped five sheets to the wall of the kitchen.  From there we can check off the winners and losers during the next three weeks.
Every family needs some rallying points.  We all desire points of commonality.  One of the attractions of gangs for so many tweenagers and teenagers is that it gives them a sense of belonging. 
Wise parents build what some parenting experts call “family identity” into their team.  Interests, passions, habits, and a culture make your family unique and create your own identity.  Reasons to celebrate together.  Experiences that will stand out twenty years from now as your children remember the pictures in their minds.
For years, I have told my children, “You are my favorite people in the whole world.  I would rather be with you and your mom than anybody else.  There is no one I have a better time with than you guys.”
Find specific things to celebrate as a family.  Create fun, meaningful habits.
The Wilson family reads biographies together.  We watch in-order series of good television shows like Andy Griffith, The Waltons, and The Road to Avonlea.  We go to hear the symphony and Broadway shows.  We collect magnets and post cards from places we travel.  On Tuesday nights we pray for “two friends each.”  On Thursdays we practice “Thankful Heart Thursday,” specifically thanking God for blessings.  We play tennis and take bike rides.  In the summer we explore waterfalls.  We eat pizza on Saturday.  We like to eat at California Dreaming on special occasions.  And we become serious basketball fans for one month every March. 

Our kids need a winning team.  Dads and moms, we are the coaches.  What are we doing to build family identity and make them want to be a part of the team?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Boys and Men

It shocked me when my son turned nine.  I realized that 1/2 of my time with him between birth and age eighteen was behind us. 

Read my article "A Shocking Realization" on Michelle Cox's Just 18 Summers blog here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Saint Patrick's Prayer

A portion of the prayer of St. Patrick (and it has nothing to do with drinking):

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,...

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

4 Ways God Responds to our Prayers

One of the lessons in the Christian journey involves accepting the way that God responds to our prayers.  The following show four ways that God responds, including a testimony with each one.

1.  Sometimes God says "no."

In 1997, Elmer Towns, began a 40-day fast.  His purpose was two-fold: draw near to God during that time, and ask God to remove Bill Clinton as the President of the United States.  Towns, the Dean of Liberty University, believed that Clinton's liberal policies and questionable integrity were a bad combination for our country.

Each day of the fast, Towns prayed earnestly about the two purposes of the fast.  Early on,  though, Towns sensed that the Lord was not pleased with his request about the President.  By day five, he wrote in his journal, "Lord, should I pray for Clinton's removal from office?" 

He shares that he received a direct feeling, "Do not pray against your president; rather, pray for your president."

Towns accepted that as a "no." 

2.  Sometimes God says "yes, but not yet."

From 1961-1965 Towns served as the President of Winnipeg Bible College in Canada.  During those years the college lived on a shoestring budget, barely able to pay the salaries of their faculty and staff.  Numerous times Towns prayed all night long, asking and believing that God would supply the college with a windfall of money. 

On more than one occasion, after praying through the night for money, he checked the school's mailbox only to be disappointed by receiving only a few donations.  He writes, "I didn't get my personal miracle.  I had to learn the lesson of delayed answers.  God was going to bless the college with a miraculous supply of money, but He would not do it for another 15 years."

During Towns' tenure, the college was accredited by the Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges.  Years later, due to their accreditation, the school received a stipend of $500 per student.  This supply allowed the school to expand across Canada, becoming the largest Christian college in the country.

The lesson here, Towns shares, is that "God heard my prayers for finances for the college, but He answered in a completely different time than I ever expected."

3.  Sometimes God has a better plan.

Henry and Marilynn Blackaby believed God wanted them to serve as missionaries in Africa.  After applying to their mission board, their oldest son Richard began experiencing fainting spells.  The mission agency denied their application due to Richard's health.  Confused, they kept asking the Lord what they were supposed to do.

Soon after a very small church in Saskatchewan, Canada, asked them to come and pastor their church of eight people.  Sensing God was in the call, the Blackabys left metropolitan Los Angelos to live in the cold wilderness of the Canadian prairie.  Marilynn cried halfway from one to the other.

In that field the next several years, with few people and limited financial resources, the Blackabys began to learn to walk with God and trust Him deeply.  When their church grew a little, they believed God wanted their church to begin starting other churches across Canada.  That little congregation learned to trust God.

Years later, Henry was asked to write down what God had taught them through their experiences in Canada.  That writing eventually became the workbook Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God.  Though initially there were few copies published and little marketing done, today the book has sold millions of copies and been translated into at least forty-five languages.

The President of the mission board of the Blackaby's denomination asked them to go to every region of the world where they have missionaries and teach them about walking with God.  Henry and Marilyn have traveled to eighty-three countries teaching about the Lord.  Henry has even spoken to the gathering of the United Nations.  The President of their mission board told Henry that if they had not spent those hard years in Canada, he probably would not have developed the insights he did about walking with God.

Blackaby shares, "By closing the door to missionary service in one country, God was not being . . . unkind to Marilynn and me.  Rather, he was planning to work through our lives in a way that was exceedingly, abundantly beyond anything we could have ever imagined!"

Avery Willis learned that sometimes God uses the hard times we go through to prepare us for future assignments.

As the president of the Baptist Indonesian seminary, he led the school through significant changes as they developed their extension program.  He faced extreme pressure from some of the Indonesian leadership who did not like the changes.  Feeling overwhelmed, he told the Lord one day that if one more thing went wrong, he was leaving.

Seeking the Lord's guidance in the Bible, he hoped for a comforting word.  Instead, he read Jeremiah 12:5, If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?

Complaining to the Lord, Willis moaned that he was afraid the stress was about to get worse.  He sensed from the Lord, "Yes, it is going to get worse.  Can't you see that I am preparing you for much more difficult tasks in the future?  Buck up; it is time for you to persevere through these hard times and finish the job I sent you here to do."

Many years later, Avery would serve as the vice-president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Helping to oversee firsthand nearly 5000 missionaries would be a daunting task that required much skill in administration, conflict resolution, and the ability to make and defend tough and sometimes unpopular decisions. 

God prepared Avery to "run with the horses" by putting him in the pressure cooker during his years in Indonesia.  Though painful at the time, God had a bigger and better plan than Avery's comfort and ease.

4.  Sometimes God says "yes."

At times, God responds to our prayers by a resounding "yes!"  The early church prayed earnestly for the Lord to release Peter from prison.  The Bible says that "Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to god for him" (Acts 12:5).  Gathering one day at Mary the mother of John's house, believers called out to God for a miracle.

Suddenly, an angel appears in Peter's cell, releasing him from his chains.  The angel leads the apostle out of prison.  Peter goes to Mary's house and knocks on the door.  When Rhoda the servant girl announces that Peter is at the door, the people evidently don't believe her.  Perhaps their praying was coupled with unbelief!  Nevertheless, God answered their prayers with a miraculous "yes."

May God grant us the grace to accept whatever answer He gives us.  In each area of our lives, He desires that we trust in the Lord with all our heart and do not lean on our own understanding.  In all our ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Testimonies in this article were gleaned from the following resources:  Fasting for a Miracle by Elmer Towns, Hearing God's Voice by Henry and Richard Blackaby, and Learning to Soar by Avery and Matt Willis.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Clinton Burned the Tapes

Charles Krauthammer is right on the money in his summary of Hillary Clinton's spin on deleting 30,000 emails.

"She burned the tapes.

Had Richard Nixon burned his tapes, he would have survived Watergate. Sure, there would have been a major firestorm, but no smoking gun. Hillary Rodham was a young staffer on the House Judiciary Committee investigating Nixon. She saw. She learned.

Today you don’t burn tapes. You delete emails. Hillary Clinton deleted 30,000, dismissing their destruction with the brilliantly casual: 'I didn’t see any reason to keep them.' After all, they were private and personal, she assured everyone."

Read the entire article "Early onset Clinton fatigue has set in" here.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Fantastic Family Friday: Observing the Obvious

Lying next to each other in his bed, my nine year old Dawson says, “Daddy! Do you know that you have hair growing in your ears? You need to find a really good barber and have him take care of that.”

Thank you, son.

I already knew the inevitable fact that I do have hair growing in my ears. Weekly, I get the small pair of scissors and trim back the ever-growing weed coming out of the dark recesses of my ear. Surely my wife and barber have noticed it too.

But my son is not quite old enough to adopt the cultural norms of not always stating the obvious. He often shares out of the mouth what he observes with his eyes.

Read the entire article here on the Just 18 Summers Blog.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Shocking Realization

When my oldest son Hendrix turned nine, a sad realization shocked me.   One-half of the time I had with him between birth and age eighteen was behind us.  We sat at the crest of the hill.  For every day ahead, we were moving downhill with more days behind us than before us.
A naturally nostalgic person, that hit me hard.  I didn’t like it.  My wife and I loved the preschool and early-elementary school years.  Jim Croce wrote, “If I could save time in a bottle . . . .”  Well, if I could have frozen our family in the preschool and early elementary years, it would have been worth a million dollars to me.
But, time waits for no person, and Hendrix was not going to stay young forever for me.  Shortly after his birthday, while just the two of us drove in my car, I said, “Son, do you know something?  You have just turned nine years old.  That means that between your birth and when you turn eighteen and finish high school, we are at the halfway point.  We have nine years behind us and nine ahead.”
He smiled.
“The first nine years my goal was to help you be a healthy and happy boy.  I tried to be a good dad to help you have a good, healthy childhood.  But, do you know what my goal has to be the next nine years?
He said no.
“The next nine years my goal is to help you become a man.  I have nine years left to help you become a godly, wise, and responsible young man. ”
He smiled again, excited with the challenge.
That means my goal is not that he just have fun, or get everything he wants, or have little responsibility, or receive endless cash and perks from Dad.  It may mean I say, “No, I can’t buy you that son.  But you can work for it, save your own money, and one day purchase it yourself.” 
It means that I am not primarily his buddy, but his father.  It means at times I say, “I know you don’t understand why I won’t let you do that even though some of your friends do.  But I don’t think it is best for you.”  It means the end result is worth the years of preparation, discipline, and duty.
Last year he turned fourteen.  Preschool toys have been traded for guitars, drums, and Itune gift cards.  Though I do miss the days of Smurfs, tea parties, and good-night kisses, I enjoy the slow transformation of the boy becoming a man.  What a privilege to walk with him, intentionally helping him make that transition. 
What a joy when another man comes to me and says, “I just had a wonderful conversation with your oldest son.  He was so polite, courteous, and is such a responsible young man.  I want my daughters to be around young men like him.”
Sadly, we live in a generation when many men in their 20’s and 30’s are still little boys in men’s bodies.  With the video-game generation has come a tendency toward immaturity and self-centered living. 
Fathers, we have a responsibility to be intentional in our parenting. 
Let’s see the goal, discern the importance of the task, and step up to the plate and engage our children.  Let's help them become the adults God intends them to be.


10 Ways to Increase Romance

The following is a great, practical article from Family Life Today.  These small changes can amplify your love for each other . . .

"Romance is an interesting word. It conjures up all kinds of thoughts for both men and women: candlelight, soft music, longing looks. Some might even think of a walk in the park or a bike ride together. But no matter how you see it, romance is really the act of wooing one another; it's a longing to be with someone and acting in such a way that makes that person desire to be with you.

For many couples, romance is easy before marriage—there were no kids to distract them, no pressures of finances to fight over, no annoying habits to live with. After marriage, these things start to eat away at your longing to be with your spouse. Desire is a key part of romance, so the act of wooing doesn't work very well if there is none. Perhaps you've grown distant in your relationship and you spend more time with friends and the children than you do with each other.

These 10 ideas will help bring back the desire you enjoyed as a couple early on in your relationship. But they have nothing to do with mood lighting or lingerie. These suggestions will give you back the romance you've lost by making your character more attracted (and attractive) to your spouse."

Read the entire article by Sabrina McDonald here.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Quote of the Day - grace needed

Everything gets harder. You thought you were fat when you got married. Take a glance in the mirror this evening. That's why I often tell brides and grooms, "Enjoy the wedding pictures; you'll never be thinner." That's tough to face, but it's the truth. So? We need grace as we gain weight! We need grace to go on! Grace and more grace--- God's grace. We need grace to relate to each other. We need grace to drive. We need grace to stay positive. We need grace to keep a church in unity. We need grace to be good neighbors. We really need grace as we get older.

- Charles Swindoll, Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance

Quote of the Day - grace and more grace

 Everything gets harder. You thought you were fat when you got married. Take a glance in the mirror this evening. That's why I often tell brides and grooms, "Enjoy the wedding pictures; you'll never be thinner." That's tough to face, but it's the truth. So? We need grace as we gain weight! We need grace to go on! Grace and more grace--- God's grace. We need grace to relate to each other. We need grace to drive. We need grace to stay positive. We need grace to keep a church in unity. We need grace to be good neighbors. We really need grace as we get older.

- Charles Swindoll, Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Quote of the Day

There are no small tasks with God.  None.  Your worth has nothing to do with the size of your ministry or the location of it.  It has to do with your relationship with the King of Kings who called you to represent Him. 

- Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God Audio Devotional CD

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Study Bibles: Loving God with our Minds

One of the essentials for any serious Christian is a good study Bible.  What I mean by a study Bible is one that is not just made to give you a quick devotional thought to make you feel good for the day.  Instead, a study Bible gives you tools, facts, and information about the history, theology, and overall scope of the Bible.
Howard Hendricks said in 1980 that the greatest sin of the church in America was her failure to "think."  We like to feel good, but we often shy away from the disciplines of the mind, including struggling to make ourselves think like biblical Christians.  Good study materials help us to learn to love God with our minds.
Today, there are tons of study Bibles and devotional Bibles from which to choose.  If you are ever looking for a good one, I highly recommend the following. 
For more than ten years I have primarily used two study Bibles: the MacArthur Study Bible and the Ryrie Study Bible
John MacArthur, of Grace to You  ministries, is well-known and respected for his serious approach to the Bible.  His ministry's byline is "Unleashing God's Truth, One Verse at a Time."  I appreciate MacArthur's integrity with God's Word.  He carefully attempts to teach you what the Bible is actually saying - not just what has come down through a particular tradition, theological bent, or bias.  That does not always make him popular, but it does keep him faithful.  I have used his study Bible since I was in seminary almost 20 years ago.
Charles Ryrie was a theology professor at Dallas Theological Seminary.  Known for their biblical integrity, DTS and their professors take seriously the teaching of the Scriptures.  Years ago, Charles Ryrie compiled an excellent study Bible with more than 10,000 notes.  Through the years it has sold more than 2 million copies. 

Last year both of my study Bibles wore out!  Oh grief!  They both split wide open, so I am in the process of replacing them with new models. 
Though I use a variety of other Bibles for reading and meditation (like the Life Application Bible), I heartily recommend both the MacArthur Study Bible and the Ryrie Study Bible for serious Bible study.
That is food for thought.