A Thirty Six Year Old Prophetic Word

26 06 2015

images-3It was May 6, 1979 and I was 25 years old. A young man (who did not know me) left his drum set from the front of the auditorium – mid worship set – and headed to the back of the room where I was standing. He wiggled his way through the pew and came nose to nose to me, a visitor. He then began to speak in King James language, …”For yea I shall stir thee and move thee out. Yea a gift shall come upon thee. Thou shalt exhort with the word and bring forth a rich blessing to my people that thou knew not of. Yea I shall return unto thee a hundred fold, saith the Lord.” There were words before and more after these few statements, but in re-reading them the other day, while on a two-day prayer retreat, I was struck by the boldness and obedience of this young man and by the ways in which this “word” has come to pass.images-5

I loved God with all of my heart, but those words were a huge stretch for me at the time they were spoken. Only God could speak something so truth-filled and yet so far from the days of fulfillment. How could I possibly comprehend that one day I would have the opportunity to travel around the world depositing the “gift” of God’s word through teaching. And, amazingly, some of those words would turn into books.

imagesGive your life fully to God today so that He can grow you and use you to create a different world tomorrow. No one person can affect everyone, but each of us can do our part and reach the world with the truth of the gospel one by one.

 





A Five-Step Action Plan for When You Disagree

22 06 2015

images-4Any and every two persons can disagree at times – it’s natural. It would be unnatural to not have disagreements. When we deeply love someone or care about someone, our disagreements can be even more intense due to the fact that we have so much invested in the relationship. We each have our perspective, our filters and our view through the lens of our histories, experiences, life training, families of origin, and fears. Disagreement in a relationship is not the problem, however; staying in the mode of disagreement or fighting is a problem. We must stop long enough to discern what it is we need and then find the solution(s) to reach agreement toward those needs. I want to share with you a process that can help to find agreement so that most disagreements can be resolved.

images-2Having been involved in marriage and family counseling for many years, I discovered that I could sit with couples week after week listening to the laundry list of issues/problems. That process is rarely helpful or productive. But when I was able to help one partner listen to the other partner, share feelings, share needs and then look for solutions, we often made headway. If you can set aside the intensity of the disagreement and then focus on the following five questions, you just might discover an answer to your disagreement.

1. What are you feeling? Describe your feelings on the matter, not your thoughts.

2. What do you need? You describe your desired need or desired outcome.

3. What do you understand? Here is where you share with your mate what you are hearing from them about their feelings and their needs.

4. What have you tried? This step helps you to figure out what did not or does not work.

5. What are the solutions? Move all of the above toward a solution, a plan to resolve the difference. Look for a healthy solution and action plan.





On Being a Father

20 06 2015

IMG_1128Now that I am a grandfather (Papaw is the name my grandson has bestowed upon me), it is easier to recall the decades of raising two sons and a daughter. I loved fathering, almost everything about it. I say ‘almost’ because there were those times of confusion, disorientation and exhaustion. But I would not trade one single day because I chose to love every age period my children went through, even the ‘terrific two’s’ and the teen years of learning through natural resistance.

Everyday was a gift from God to hold them, tuck them in at night, pray over their “bad” dreams, kiss them and listen to their pure hearts. Even during pregnancy, I would talk to my children almost every night. Mary and I would lie in bed and I would read them stories from the story books we were collecting. We sang songs to them and we prayed over them. We prayed perfect health and development, joy and acceptance into our family. With our second and third child, we introduced them to their siblings and together we would speak words of anticipation, waiting upon their birth (Psalm 139:13-16).

From conception we wanted our children to know they were accepted, approved of and loved unconditionally. We wanted them to know this was their time to be fashioned and formed to reflect the image of their heavenly Father who was the One bringing them into existence (Acts 17: 24-26). It was He who chose to place them into our lives to be their parents. We knew they were created before the foundation of the earth and we knew our time with them was only for a season (Jeremiah 1:5; Ephesians 1: 4-5). They were never a mistake or an afterthought. They were always wanted, never rejected. Did we have perfect children? No. Were we perfect parents? No, never.

As a father of adult children now, may I pass some advice on to you?images-6

 

  • Enjoy and embrace everyday; you’ll never get it back.
  • Value your children in every way you can. Show them honor and respect.
  • Do not speak down to them.
  • Do not make fun of them or compare them to others; always be the encourager, all the while, speaking truth.
  • Teach them; impart to them everything you can. Remember that every moment is a teachable moment. Mentor them in how to work, how to care for possessions, how to handle finances and, mostly, how to give.
  • Read to them. Play with them. Date them.
  • Never speak words of power over them, but rather empower them to make right decisions.
  • Don’t try to be their friend; be their parent and discipline them.
  • Create healthy boundaries for them and enforce those boundaries.
  • Turn the TV and the computer games off and have family time regularly.
  • They do not need a lot of stuff, things or possessions, but, rather, teach them to explore and discover, to use their imagination and creativity. (The #1 favorite toy of children around the world is a stick and #2, a box.)
  • Share in a family devotional time that relates to them, not you.
  • Discover their natural gifts and celebrate their personality traits and then provide the necessary reinforcement.
  • Teach them to love and obey God, to pray and place Him first in their lives.images-5
  • Pray for and with them daily. Take the lead in apologizing when necessary.

And lastly, always reinforce to them there is nothing that will ever change the fact that they are your son or daughter and that no matter what they do or say, you are committed to them and will forever love them.





Sacrificial Love in Marriage

15 06 2015

images-21I was in graduate school full-time and I worked 40 plus hours a week in the field of social work. We had just given birth to our third child. I was missing in action from home. When I wasn’t in class or at my job I found myself in a library studying and writing papers. This life process went on for two and one half years. For two and one half years I watched my wife run the household, give birth to our third child, balance the budget while living on a “poverty” level income and edit, as well as, type (manually) all of my weekly papers. It was servanthood at its best, a genuine sacrificial love. I never once heard her complain about her life at the time. She believed in the goal and she sacrificed to help get me there. When graduation day finally arrived I confessed to her that the degree earned was as much hers as it was mine, we earned it. images-22

Sacrificial love is unselfish love. Unselfish love is mature love. To have a partner in the marriage sacrifice almost three years of “normal” family life for the goal of their mate…well, that is borderline supernatural. Love will do that you know. Love will give everything and at the same time sacrifice personal pleasure. Love will be patient and kind. Love will not be jealous of a life mate’s goals, nor will it be proud or rude when a life mate fails in their goal. Love will not demand its own way and through the process will not be irritable, give up or lose faith. Sacrificial love is always hopeful and never looks back in regret. Thank you, Mary, for your sacrificial love and exhibiting to me First Corinthians chapter thirteen. I am a blessed man!blind healed 012





What Does it Take to Reach Forty Years and Beyond III

8 06 2015

I lied.  Not exactly, but here are five more ways we realized that we missed in the first ten. Adding one more blog on the same subject is risky, but it all keeps adding up. It seems marriage is threatened in so many ways today, that to read anything which offers help and hope is encouraging. So, we submit to you our final five marriage priorities that Mary and I realize were so important to us plus a bonus.1C6A0375

 

  1. What we experience today is a direct result of how well we walked out our marriage in earlier years. We are now in our 60’s and realize that how we prioritized our relationship in our 20’s, our 30’s and our 40’s directly reflects upon where we are today. What seeds we sowed then are being reaped in our relationship today. Sow good seeds.
  2. Procrastination will kill a relationship. Taking care of issues as soon as is possible is best. Don’t wait until they become worse or compound through procrastination. At the same time, I had to honor Mary as she processed the issues before she could confront them. Meanwhile, I needed to deal with myself.
  3. Make your marriage a higher priority than the issue. Issues will come and go in a marriage, sometimes daily. Make sure you keep your relationship ahead of the problems. In other words, do not make the problems more important than the fact that you are married for a lifetime. Even in disagreement, Mary and I would strive for alignment.
  4. Never stop investing in your marriage. We went to seminars, read books, listened to teaching series and sought out help from those we respected to speak into our marriage. We were open with others about our mistakes.
  5. There are seasons that are dull, boring and gasping for air. Persevere through those; accept them as a bit normal, but work toward providing freshness in as many ways as you can. Admitting that we are in one of those seasons is the best place to start.

Bonus: Find a challenging mission outside yourselves and your family. We lead a small group, do premarital counseling, share in seminars together, have served on mission teams and did outreach to the homeless in Philadelphia. Marriages need a mission focus outside themselves; it keeps our passion and our compassion alive.





A New Generation: Drinking and the Questions We Need to Ask

5 06 2015

images-5Let’s face it—alcohol is back. No longer is alcohol demonized in Christian circles. We even find churches using beer as a gathering agent during Bible studies in local bars. Is that practice sacrilegious, going too far or taking hold of my liberty and tramping all over yours?

How much alcohol is too much and do we know our personal limits? Just where do we cross the line? Is getting a little drunk a little wrong or simply not a sin? The Bible, our source as believers, gives some very clear guidelines. I’d like to offer you a few more—if you’ll indulge me.

First, in taking a close look at God’s Word, it is absolutely wrong and sinful to be inebriated. Jesus Himself said, “Watch out! Don’t let me find you living in careless ease and drunkenness” (Luke 21:34).*

Apostle Paul warned believers not to participate in wild parties and get drunk (Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:21). Paul said drunkards would not share in the kingdom of God (I Corinthians 6:10). He told the Ephesian church—and therefore that includes you and me—not to be drunk with wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit of God (Ephesians 5:18). Peter stated in 1 Peter 4:3, “those who drink to drunkenness share in evil desires;” and such behavior is to be treated as a sin that we completely eliminate from our lives. He actually called those who participate in drunkenness “godless people.”

I don’t know about you, but I certainly do not want to find myself in eternity and discover that I have been involved in “godless” activity of any kind. I desire to live my life in a way that leads others to my Savior, an attractant, not a distraction from Christ. At this point, you might think that I am against any alcohol consumption by a believer. I am not. That is between you and our heavenly Father. So, the first question is to ask Him: “Father, is it okay with You that I consume alcoholic beverages?” It is important to know God’s will for you. Just because you are of legal age to drink does not mean that you have the liberty to partake. Has your heavenly Father given you permission or do you have some form of conviction in your heart that you are dismissing?

While I was in the military some decades ago, I observed a lot of alcoholism and other addictions. The military taught that alcohol is a drug—the most frequently abused drug in the world. In graduate school, I heard many drug and alcohol counselors say that alcoholism started with one drink, just like drug addiction starts with one joint or pill. Does everyone become addicted? No. Does everyone have the potential of addiction? Yes.

The second question to ask yourself might be, “Does alcoholism exist in my family history?” If it does, the potential of addiction is even greater. Why? That spirit of addiction is already introduced to your family line and may have been part of it for generations. Carefully look at your family history. If you haven’t already, now is a good time to break off any generational spirit of addiction in the name of Jesus.

images-4Third, who are you hanging out with? Are they encouraging you to drink and/or to drink too much? Did you know that Proverbs 23:19-21 admonishes, “My child, listen and be wise. Keep your heart on the right course. Do not carouse with drunkards and gluttons, for they are on their way to poverty.”

Speaking of poverty, how much money does it take to drink alcohol and can you actually afford it? Does the expense of alcohol limit your ability to purchase necessary items? Listen to Proverbs 21:17, “Those who love pleasure become poor; wine and luxury are not the way to riches.” Drinking too much can be a road to poverty, loss and brokenness.

Fourth, are you hurting a weaker brother or sister in the faith? If someone has recently become a Christian and their background was drinking to the point of drunkenness, then part of their freedom might require them to never drink again. Your freedom to drink might offend them; or worse, encourage them to drink again and bring destructive forces back into their lives. Apostle Paul said he would abstain from eating meat and drinking wine if eating or drinking would offend a weaker brother. “Don’t eat meat or drink wine or do anything if it makes another person stumble” (Romans 14:21).images-6

On occasion I have heard Christians boasting about their liberty to drink, freely admit that they drink too much at times but feel no conviction about it. For those who feel this way, please consider the wisdom of Isaiah 5:22, “Destruction is certain for those who are heroes when it comes to drinking, who boast about all the liquor they can hold.” Do not be led astray by these persons because, “Wine produces mockers, liquor leads to brawls. Whoever is led astray by drink cannot be wise” (Proverbs 20:1).

Someone told me that drinking alcohol or offering it to minors is no different than introducing them to coffee or being addicted to caffeine. I have never observed inebriation among coffee drinkers. Can we be addicted to caffeine? Yes. Is it comparable to alcohol addiction and what the Bible forbids in drunkenness? That, to me, is quite a stretch.

On almost every occasion that the subject of alcohol comes up for discussion, someone quickly retorts, “But didn’t Jesus Himself turn water into wine? Wasn’t He by His action an advocate of drinking?”

It’s true, Jesus turned water into wine. Focusing on the subject of the miracle rather than the miracle itself is less about why the story is in the Bible. However, take it a step further will you? Do you believe that Jesus turned the water into wine so that the attendees of the wedding could become drunk and unable to find their way home, commit adultery with another man’s wife, speak crudely or end up regurgitating all over the wedding feast?

We also know Paul told Timothy to have some wine for his stomach’s sake. Are you sick every Saturday night and does your stomach need a little wine? To be fair there is, however, a Proverb that actually encourages a drink for those who are “dying” and those who are in “deep depression” or anguish (Proverbs 31:6).

Here are a few more questions to ask yourself as you personally think about alcohol consumption:

 

  • Has alcohol ever caused you any problems in life such as a DUI, being late for work, a broken relationship, an unclear mind, slower reaction time or influenced you in some way to make a wrong decision?
  • Do you feel the need to defend your actions concerning alcohol?
  • Do you know how much drinking is too much?
  • Have you set a consumption limit for yourself? Have you ever gone over the limit? If so, what have you now changed as a result?
  • Can you afford alcohol?
  • Do you turn to alcohol when you are stressed, worried or can’t sleep rather than turning to God?
  • Is alcohol an answer for anything in your life?
  • Does drinking alcohol (in your mind) help you to fit in, be more social, make you feel older, help you to be less inhibited or more popular?
  • Do you feel that you need to drink alcohol to relax?
  • Is alcohol an excuse in your life for anything?
  • Are you developing a tolerance to alcohol?
  • Does alcohol need to be a part of all of your social occasions? Can you say “no” to a drink when you are with friends and not sense any judgment from them about your choice?
  • How do you relate to/judge peers who have chosen not to drink alcohol?

What if your friend is at your home, your birthday party or your wedding reception and in celebration they drink too much, as you know they have a tendency to do at times. Your friend then hops into their vehicle to drive home. Due to too much alcohol, they have an accident and are killed or kill someone else. Can you control other people’s actions or decisions? Not really, but how responsible might you feel? We can supply an environment to either help or hinder them.

Consider the following if you choose to drink alcohol:

 

  • Set a limit on the number of drinks for yourself. Know your personal tolerance.
  • Set a limit on the frequency of times for partaking.
  • If you are driving and attending an event where alcohol is being served, consider not drinking.
  • If you have friends who drink too much and then get behind the wheel, never ride with them.
  • If you know that you have had too much alcohol and have become giddy or drunk, ask yourself if this is the person of Christ who you desire to represent.

Romans 12:1 clearly discusses how we are to use the body God has given us. We are told to offer our bodies as a “living sacrifice” that is “holy” and “pleasing to the Lord, as an act of worship.” It is amazing to realize that how we treat our bodies, abuse our bodies or care for our bodies can either bring glory to God or be harmful to ourselves and to the cause of Christ. To offer ourselves as a living sacrifice is to worship God. In all environments and in all of our actions, we should desire to bring glory to our Savior.

Finally, consider Paul the Apostle’s advice that he gave to us as a very clear outline for our life and how to live it, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

*All scriptures taken from the New Living Translation, 1996, Tyndale Charitable Trust





What Does it Take to Reach Forty Years of Marriage and Beyond? II

1 06 2015

In the last blog entry, we shared the first five of ten priorities in our marriage developed over the last forty years. Here are the remaining five for your consideration.

1. Love trumps all. We discovered that when there is any level of fear in the marriage relationship love has decreased in some way. Where there is love, fear will not be present.  We learned to keep loving even when we were scared of something negative going on in our relationship. Love grows security while fear breeds insecurity.

2. We chose each other. We didn’t wake up one day and find ourselves married. We made a choice to get married; we were not forced into the decision. We spoke vows of promise by our own free will. Through the worst of times, no matter how angry or disappointed we may become with our mate, we must remember that this is the person I chose to become one with and becoming one is a life long journey.

3. We will not be victims and blame each other. We must take responsibility for our own actions toward change. Victims look for someone to blame rather than take the more difficult road of life change. I cannot change my spouse; I can only change me. We chose to never be victims by blaming the other for our personal issues.

4. Sex is loving; lust is taking. We call it “love making,” not “love taking.” Lust is insatiable while love satisfies. Being sexual as a married couple not only provided intimacy, it also provided physical, emotional and spiritual bonding for us. Sex within the boundaries of marriage is a bonding agent as we serve our mate in meeting their sexual desires.

5. It’s all His. We are stewards of everything we own including our savings account, our 401k’s, our car and our home. Being a steward means we hold it lightly, it’s not ours. All we have belongs to God; therefore, we can also give freely. We are givers because we have received so much. We are blessed because we have never been able to out give our God. We have continually maintained a budget and moved in agreement to eliminate debt from our union.1C6A0369

Bonus: Tell her/him that you love them in every email, every text message, every phone conversation, every morning and every night. Keep buying greeting cards, sending love notes and finding small gifts to share. Keep holding hands, hugging and kissing. Forgive quickly.

Steve and Mary








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