Fathers, We Desperately Need Them

16 06 2019

I always loved being a father.  While not the easiest job in the world, it was my favorite and most rewarding. Having children to hold, train, read to, discipline, play with and love is a God-given honor.  And quite honestly, I made lots of mistakes as a father because there is no perfect earthly father.

 

On one occasion, I was agonizing over some wrong decisions made by one of my children and I asked God what I did wrong as a father.  I’ll never forget what I sensed from my heavenly Father as He then asked me, “And what did I do wrong as a Father?”  Wondering what this meant, I then heard, “My first two children rebelled (in a perfect world, I might add) and by the second generation committed murder.”  Oh, wow, I honestly had never thought of God’s Fathering in that way… a perfect Father who experienced some very imperfect and disobedient children.

 

If you’re a father, happy Father’s Day.  But if you’re a father who blames himself for your children’s wrong decisions, take responsibility if you must, ask forgiveness and move on. If your children made wrong decisions in spite of your wise counsel and love, then realize so did God’s first children.

 

Fathering is a call from God and it’s a higher priority than your job, your hobbies, your buddies, your house and mostly…yourself!  If you still have children in your home or grandchildren, you have a direct link to build the life of Christ in them (Colossians 1:28).  Be the type of father that represents Jesus well and determine to leave a legacy of love, acceptance and approval.

Advertisements




One of Our Greatest Returns from Marriage

3 06 2019

The Bible reveals, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.” (Eccl. 4:9) My marriage has had multiple “good returns” and I am so thankful for them.  We’ve had the return of answered prayer together, the return of investment into the lives of others, the return of years of mission work, the return of children and grandchildren, etc.  God’s returns just keep on coming.

 

One of the greatest returns, however, is that since being married in 1975, we have never had to face the world we live in alone.  Since saying “I do” we’ve had one another by our side. It is an amazing and comforting feeling to know you have one another’s back and to know you will not give up on your mate.  It’s a bit inexplicable I suppose.

 

We all know there will come a day when one of you leaves this earth. Do not wait until then to appreciate, complement and work toward that better return.  Be the one who serves fully and completely by laying down your life for your spouse.  Be the one who does not give up, who continues to grow and change and be the one who allows the difficulties in life and marriage to become better versions of who each of you are becoming.





Help! I’ve Lost My Son!!

27 05 2019

“Ian, Ian, I’ve lost my son…his name is Ian!  Ian, Ian, where are you? Help me,”screamed the frantic mom pushing the empty stroller down the aisle of terminal A.  I had just arrived at my gate, returning home from being out of the country. This mom was hysterical and desperate.  She had one single focus…finding her lost son.  Everyone began standing, looking all around and wondering what they could do for this fear-filled young mother.  Those persons who are parents immediately felt her pain because most could empathize with exactly what she felt having more than likely a similar situation happen at one time or another.

 

Soon an announcement came across the P.A. system saying, “A little boy was found at gate 2C.  If you’re his parent, please return to gate 2C.” Everyone, and I do mean everyone, was relieved as she turned to head back to the gate.  We all felt her relief and our hearts returned to our chests.

 

I sat down and almost immediately received a very special picture in my spirit.  I saw our heavenly Father running frantically down the aisle, through the hall, in our schools, at our work places, down our street and in our homes calling our names, knowing we were lost.  Most of us didn’t realize our lost condition, but He did and He pursued us with everything He had.  In fact, He gave His Son, Jesus, to pursue us, to seek and search for each one of us. His love as a parent was and is reaching out to us, beckoning us to come follow Him and never be lost again.  Have you answered His call?

 

I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again.(Ezekiel 34:16 NLT)





Visiting Santago de Cuba

20 05 2019

After a 3:00 AM start, long lines at Jet Blue Cuba in Ft Lauderdale, Florida and some very different immigration questioning entering the nation, a friend and I finally had feet on the ground in Cuba at 8:00 AM May 1st, 2019.  About forty minutes later, our Cuban pastor contact came to pick us up in our rental car for the week.

 

Having just been in Haiti days earlier, I found Cuba to be very green, covered with trees and flowers all along the highways and very well maintained.  There is a noticeable absence of traffic as the Cubans do not own cars.  The highways have mostly trucks, taxi’s, touring buses, a few cars and a large number of motorcycles, the most interesting had added side cars.  My personal favorite to capture on the roads and the small towns along the way were the 1940’s – 1950’s cars and trucks.

 

Santiago de Cuba is a city of half a million people.  It is the second largest in the country, where the Castro revolution started, where the capital was at one time and where Fidel Castro is now buried.  It is perceived to be the “warmest” city in Cuba because it’s in a valley.  Luis, our Cuban pastor friend, is not from this city, but felt called to plant a church here after he had one convert from a personal visit many years earlier.  The Lord had him move to the city which was not possible at the time because Castro would not allow the sale of your personal home in order to move to another location.  But, as Luis repeated a lot, God provides.

 

It is very different being in a nation in which the government owns most everything: the water, most buildings which include the stores and hotels, the hospitals, the trucks on the highway, the electrical power generating plants, the farms and fields, etc.  Almost every job is directed by or run by the government and the average worker makes $20.00 – $25.00 per month.  A doctor could make as much as $60.00 per month.  Luis shared with us that the Cuban government provides five pounds of rice, five pounds of sugar and oil to each family, nothing more in the way of food. He said for the average Cuban family this amount lasts for about two weeks.

 

Friday evening, we had a worship service at Luis’ building.  (Luis’ home and church building are physically connected as are all of the “underground” churches.)  The building would hold 125-150 somewhat comfortably, but we must have had well over 175 persons. The buildings in the city do not allow for air to flow through them and with the humidity and the number of bodies present, I’m guessing it was in the high 90’s.  Our pants and our shirts were soaked through with sweat.  But the worship was awesome and Luis allowed me to share the word that night.

 

Luis asked me to give an alter call and I am guessing around dozen plus people came forward to give their lives to Jesus.  And then it was like someone threw a match on a pile of gasoline-soaked rags.  The place exploded with dancing, prayer, deliverance and fiery worship.  We came back to our room around midnight exhausted, but a bit dumbfounded at the revival and presence of God in this place.

 

The same thing happened the next night and the next.  Cuba is experiencing revival like nothing I have ever experienced in my 48 years of being a Christian.  Young and the old are coming to Jesus and it was thrilling to experience.  Every church we visited has a building plan or a church planting plan because of the exponential growth taking place.  I felt privileged to not only see it, but experience it first-hand.

 

Have you been on a mission trip lately?  It will totally and radically change your life!





9 Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage and Grow Older Together

13 05 2019

Over 44 years ago, Mary and I promised to never, ever use the “D” word when it came to our relationship – divorce.  We have kept that promise.  Along the way we have discovered there are a lot of things we can do as a couple to provide strength to the marriage relationship.

After eliminating the divorce word, decide to maintain honor in your relationship.  Honor is a hard word because none of us act honorably every day, at every moment.  Honor means to hold in high respect and worth and high public esteem.  To honor the marriage relationship is to place it before the children, your job and your ministry, but not before your God.  Love God first and then your closest neighbor, your spouse.

 

Keep giving each other space.  That means when she needs some alone time, do your best to help her make it happen.  If he needs a guy’s night out, help him plan it.  That “space” can help to recharge your batteries and who doesn’t want their life mate to return refreshed?

 

Share your financial expectations and maintain your budget.  Money can cause the biggest disagreements.  At least it did in our marriage.  All too often couples have differing money values, but a money date where we openly discuss our goals and look over our finances can really help the two of us to be on the same page.  Money dates could happen as often as weekly, but need to happen at least monthly.

 

Speaking of communication…never stop.  In fact, over communicate as often as you can.  You just can’t beat talking!  Taking a daily time, at least 20-30 minutes of time that is not interrupted by the children, the phone or the TV, is invaluable to your relationship.  It will keep you on the same page.  Whether it’s the kids schedules or your weekend plans communicate, communicate, communicate.

 

Be good to yourself and to one another.  Take care of yourself and your health.  Try to look good for one another.  I know, you have baby food on your sweatshirt and dog hair on your pants, but for heaven’s sake take the time to clean up a bit, have dinner together once in a while and share words of appreciation and encouragement. It will go miles in your relationship. This also means prioritizing dating your spouse.  Dress up, get a babysitter and spend time together laughing and having fun.  The investment is worth any cost because the return is incalculable.

 

Give each other room for failure.  Failing is a part of life and through it we often learn what doesn’t work.  I fail, you fail, we all fail.  Stop being so hard on the other person, acting as though you don’t fail.  When we give room for failure, we are showing good will and giving one another the benefit of the doubt.  Walk and talk through it and then forgive. Forgive quickly. Forgiveness is medicinal and we are both desperately in need of it.  Forgive as you have been forgiven.

 

Refuse to allow sexual intimacy to be stolen from you.  It’s yours and yours only. While frequency may decrease and children make it challenging, do not lose it.  Create a schedule if you have to and maintain it.  Nothing removes the “little foxes,” those growing annoyances, like love-making and nothing keeps passion alive like sexual intimacy.  Make a promise to yourself, to one another and to the God who gave this gift to you to never let it go.  You are one and sexual intimacy reinforces your oneness.

 

The glue that holds all this together?  Prayer.  Learn to pray together.  There is no better way to communicate, resolve issues, gain wisdom or “cast your care” than to pray together.  You will find the intimacy you have only dreamed of if you’ll pray together.  You will discover answers to lifelong problems, to long-term financial disagreements, to present frustrations and to future visions and goals.  Prayer is intimacy of the highest degree in marriage as together we reveal our hearts’ desires to God and to one another.

 

Lastly, seek the wisdom of others as needed.  None of us can go it alone.  We need mentors: older, wiser married couples in our lives.  We need a local church that provides teaching for our family and causes us to look beyond ourselves and to the mission of helping others.  We need those who will challenge us to be better parents, lovers, friends, employees, business owners and servants.

Read through this blog together, discuss it and then ask your life mate how the two of you are doing in the above areas.





The Guarantee of Resurrection Life

21 04 2019

Many years ago, after a particularly difficult trial I was put through at the hands of another leader who was lying and misrepresenting his position for personal gain, I left that particular meeting pretty downcast and confused.  I knew he was not telling the truth, as did my wife, but there was really no defense to be made.  It was one of those times in your life that you know you were just going to have to deal with the personal pain and loss.  As well, we worked closely with this person and that fact did not help the matter.

 

Trials are like that sometimes.  You simply have no defense.  You take the hit, knowing you stand with truth and integrity.  You, as well, console yourself with the understanding that God knows, cares and will walk you through it.

 

But the best advice from this situation came to me just following the meeting when one of the persons in charge pulled his car alongside of me and said, “Remember, Steve, after every death you die there is a promised resurrection.”  I listened graciously, but with some questioning in my heart wondering just where he was during that awful meeting we endured.

 

Years later I still carry that statement with me because of its powerful truth, its lifelong encouragement and its depth of meaning.  There is a New Testament truth we hold onto as Christians.  That truth is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth and then gave up His life to die on a cross.  On Sunday, Easter we call it, He was no longer dead but alive forevermore. Following His resurrection, there was a continual stream of persons who witnessed that resurrection and literally saw Jesus after His grave experience.

 

Are you walking through a trial right now?  Are you facing a hardship or a broken relationship?  Have you been hurt or suffered loss in some way not provoked by your own behavior?  It is this time of the year that we remember the New Testament guarantee of resurrection life.  For after every death you die, there is a promised resurrection!

 

Have a glorious, life-giving Easter.  Our Savior is ALIVE!





Nehemiah Did So Much More Than Build a Wall

15 04 2019

The Old Testament man of God called Nehemiah was a king’s cupbearer turned leader of Israel.

 

He is well-known and honored for his obedience to leave a very comfortable position serving king Artaxerxes to return to his people, the Israelites, to rebuild the walls and gates around Jerusalem. It was a daunting task, but Nehemiah continually spoke faith-filled words like, “The God of heaven will give us success.”  The assignments were handed out and the walls were being rebuilt even through opposition.

 

But were the walls his most meaningful feat?  I actually think there were others that were just as important – perhaps more important.

 

First, Nehemiah saw something amazing happen in Israel as they went to work on the walls together. In chapter nine we are told the Israelites, under Nehemiah’s lead, gathered together to fast and pray.  The result?  Repentance.  They confessed their sin and the wickedness of their forefathers.  Then in chapter ten, we are told what followed confession was a new-found desire to once again obey God’s commands.  They took an oath to follow the Law of God, given to them by Moses.

 

Following this, the Israelites started tithing again, including a tithe of their crops and a tithe of the tithe to the treasury.  They would stop neglecting the house of their God!

 

Finally, Nehemiah reestablished the Sabbath.  With repentance, with obeying God’s commands through His Law and with tithing, Israel would also find rest in God’s Sabbath principles.

 

Nehemiah’s Initial response challenges me, “When I heard these things, I sat down and I wept.  For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”  (Nehemiah 1:4).  Am I hearing God’s commands for me in the midst of my day?  Am I willing to step out and obey?  Am I willing to do something that others see as radical?

 

But perhaps most important for each of us, this story causes me to think that Nehemiah’s obedience and passion require a profound question: what breaks my heart; what am I weeping over?








%d bloggers like this: