That’s You; That’s Me in His Sight

13 11 2017

I was recently able to spend the greater part of a week with my newest grandson, Phoenix. Yep, my baby girl had a baby boy and she is a GREAT mother to him.

Young Phoenix is helpless and that’s how God gives new life to us as parents. God places these precious ones into our hands and we have to teach them in every conceivable way, helping them to thrive. The only thing Phoenix really knows to do and do well is to cry. He has discovered that crying gets attention and attention is what a newborn desperately needs.

I couldn’t help but watch my daughter’s love and joy around this little guy, mothering him, happily doing everything for him even when it’s 4:00 AM. She told me in conversation, “All he does is sleep and eat, poop and cry and we LOVE him.”

I remember those days…perhaps you do as well. To love someone so much and yet the only return you get, you desire, is that they breathe the breath of life. Your acceptance of them is based not on their performance, but on their mere existence.

That’s you; that’s me in the Father’s sight, before we accomplish anything He loves us, approves of us and treasures us. We are His “treasured possession.” (See Deuteronomy 7:6)

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10 Reasons Why We Need a Local Church in Our Lives

16 10 2017

I recently returned from serving a local church in Chicago, IL and was reminded in so many different ways of why we each need a local church in our lives and the lives of our family. To me it is imperative to be in close relationship with those persons who care about you and your family. It is essential to have that connection for not just receiving, but giving as well.

So, here are 10 reasons for being intentionally connected to a local church.

 

  1. Support – A local church connection provides support to family and/or us as individuals. It is a vehicle that God has chosen to provide spiritual and emotional support for personal growth. It is a spiritual family with fathers and mothers who will care about you and your future. (I Cor. 4:5; Heb. 12:9; I John 2:13, 14)
  2. Fellowship (koinonia) – The local church is a place of relational connection and belonging. It is a place of family with common life values. We are not alone in this world when we have a local church connection. We have people around us who personally care about our welfare. Wholesome and positive friendships can develop with our younger children, our teenagers and ourselves. An active, involved, dedicated and serious youth group can save a teen’s life. (Acts 2:42; I John 1:7)
  3. Service – The local church is a place where we can work toward and support a vision outside of ourselves. We all need something bigger than ourselves and a local church with vision can provide that. We can connect with the vision and find valuable ways to serve others. (Acts 12:24, 25)
  4. Gifts – It is a place for us to learn, practice and use our spiritual gifts. The body of Christ needs one another and the gifts that we each bring. Those gifts given us by God are not to be hidden, but made use of to serve others. The local church is the perfect place to use your teaching, serving, hospitality, prayer or mission gifts. (I Cor. 12: 12-27; I Peter 4:10)
  5. Resources – A local church is extremely important to a family. There are resources available at every age level to participate in. There are ongoing trainings and seminars for raising children, budgeting, marriage and the like. Often there are even counseling, coaching and mentoring resources. Families who attend church together have a clear advantage over those who do not – they have resources above and beyond themselves. There is far less isolation and far more family interaction with spiritual connections and challenges. (II Timothy 2:2)
  6. Outreach – A local church is often the vehicle for local community outreach. Local churches are involved with the homeless in their community, the after school tutoring and the missionaries serving overseas. Your family can have a direct effect and impact in the world by participating with these worthy causes. (II Timothy 4:5)
  7. Education – The local church is a place of education in the Bible and in practical Christian living. It is a place where our whole family can grow through sermons, Sunday school classes, seminars, video classes and so much more. (II Timothy 3:16, 17)
  8. Groups – Small groups provide accountability and discipleship for each of our lives. The small group setting is a place of greater relational intimacy while it provides room for open discussion and opportunities for praying together. (Acts 5:42; 16:34; 20:20; Romans 16:5; I Cor. 16:19)
  9. Giving – The local church is the place to give our tithe and sow financial seed into something that we know and trust. We can give elsewhere to a lot of really good causes, but it’s difficult to know where our money is going. Not so with the local church and the built-in responsibility that is offered. (Malachi 3:10; Matthew 6: 3,4; Romans 12:8)
  10. Accountability – When we are part of a local church, there is a provision aspect of someone watching over our soul, someone(s) caring about our daily life and our future. There is the possibility of others who we can look up to that are inspiring models in integrity, marriage, spiritual gifts, etc. There are positive peer relationships that help us to keep moving forward in our faith, growing, being challenged and calling us to a higher level of faith. There are businesspersons and homemakers that can help us walk out our daily lives. (Psalm 119:26; Hebrews 13: 17)

I have experienced all of these and more in many local churches and I appreciate the body of Christ so much. God is not angry at His church as so many speak today, but rather, He loves His church, He died for His church and longs for His church to be with Him one day. Until then, be a vital part of a growing, Bible believing and faith-filled local church body. You and your family will grow and help to grow others.





Ten Ideas to Help Your Son or Daughter Pay for College

10 07 2017

My wife and I helped three children through college and we learned a lot from that experience. There are some things we would do over if given the opportunity, but more so we wanted to pass on to you some ideas about paying for college. It can seem impossible, but we do not believe that your son or daughter has to leave college with huge debt that inhibits them for their future. So here are our recommendations for those children who may be college bound.

  1. Take as many college courses as possible while still in high school. This can start while your student is still a junior in high school and it’s cheap. These courses are typically affiliated with a local college campus and they love starting students in their educational programs early.  Also, high school AP courses are often accepted for college credit.
  2. Start looking for scholarships while still in high school. Have them talk to their high school counselors about local scholarships. Money is out there; you have to make it your job (and your student’s job) to find the resources. We even found interest free loans from agencies in our local area that helped our children. Some schools, in conjunction with local rotary clubs and the like, have loan funds available to students.
  3. Attend a school in your state. Often there are heavy discounts for attending a school in your home state. (Obviously these are state schools only and not private schools.) Sometimes scholarships are available just for staying in state.
  4. Take your general education courses (normally the first two years) at a local community college. Community colleges are so much less expensive than universities offering the same courses. Live at home and go to community college and then attend your last two years on the campus of your choice to complete your education. It doesn’t sound as exotic, but it dramatically lowers the debt load.  As well, take advantage of on-line courses. Nine out of ten colleges now offer on-line courses at a far less expense.
  5. Take a year off to work after high school – a “gap” year. There definitely is a gap year advantage as most students do not know what they desire to study. Enter the work force and learn about labor, serving, hourly wages, taxes and saving for college. Perhaps you can locate a job that will continue even as you enter college. Two of our children were waiters at local restaurants and made good incomes in the field.
  6. Do you have a grandparent that would like to sow into their grandchildren’s education? Ask…perhaps they are waiting to help in any way possible. Start 529 Education Savings accounts into which parents and grandparents can contribute and those contributions may be state income tax-deductible.
  7. Be very aware of which loans you sign up for. When parents co-sign for loans they become responsible for those loans. You cannot predict what might happen in the future. Know that federally “subsidized” loans have deferred interest until six months after graduation. Complete your FAFSA forms as early as possible for possible state grant money.
  8. Keep working to lower your borrowed dollars. Your student should work full-time during the summer and at least part-time during the school year. There are jobs on campus and off. It all adds up and helps tremendously.
  9. Keep a close eye on all your loans, the accrual and the interest rates. A good rule of thumb is that your child would graduate from a four-year college program with no more than one year of tuition debt.  (For example: if tuition is $28K per year, your student would graduate with no more than $28K in debt.)
  10. Finally, consider a career assessment test for your son or daughter that helps them to narrow down and/or identify possible majors to study. When your child knows what they desire to study according to their gifts, wasting money on subjects that will not relate to his or her field of study will decrease.

Bonus: Teach your son or daughter to utilize a budgeting tool so they learn how to budget their money and help control their spending and saving while on campus. It might help them to not visit Starbucks daily, purchasing five-dollar drinks. Train them to use cash or debit cards and not credit cards for common purchases. Finally, check out this blog on 7 Ways To Go To College For Free.





Five Reasons To Read And Study The Bible

11 06 2017

Do you love God’s word enough to read it regularly? Francis Chan in his book, Multiply, wrote, “When we talk about the Bible, we’re actually talking about something that the all-powerful, all-knowing, transcendent God decided to write to us!”

Here are just five reasons for reading this awesome, mind-blowing, truth-filled book:

1.To know the Author of the Bible. God wrote a book to you and me about Himself. In reading it, we will know more about the character of the One we love and serve, growing in relationship with Him.

2. To know the Author’s Son, Jesus. The Old Testament shares of the coming Messiah and the New Testament is about His life here on earth. When we read His words and learn to do what Jesus did in order to live the way Jesus lived, we will be walking examples of His kingdom coming to earth.

3. To learn more about me, who I am as a creation of my Father. The Bible will expose, “…The thoughts and the intentions of the [my] heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) Reading God’s word will help me to see the real me and become more like Him in the process.

4. To receive direction in my life. God’s word is full of practical life applications. Reading His word will give us daily wisdom for our relationships on earth. As we discover what God values, we will receive insight into everyday problems. When we handle those problems in a biblical way, it will provoke change in others and in us.

5. To have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16). To read the parables, to enter into the written teachings of Christ and to hear our Lord’s response to His Father recorded in the Bible, is like being given a map for communication with God. As we read, our spirits receive truth and our thinking changes according to His thoughts. Through His life transforming word our actions can become His actions.

 





Recognizing THE Voice

17 04 2017

From time to time the Wall Street Journal has some fascinating stories to tell. I recently caught one that was titled: U.S. To Rebels: Listen To Mom. The article was a worthy read which  shares the story of rebels who steal children from their parents as young as age 5. Such was the case with Obira Julious from Uganda, forced to grow up in the Central African Republic. He was compulsorily inducted into the Lord’s Resistance Army thirteen years ago and is now age 18. Hiding in the brush while a U.S. military helicopter flew over him, he thought he recognized a voice.

US Army psyop specialists have begun to record the voices of mothers and fathers and are creating personalized leaflets dropping them from the helicopters. Played over the loud speakers of the flying birds are messages from mothers like, “I am asking you to be strong and not to worry about anything; please come home.” And, “The soldiers will not harm you; they will bring you home safely.”

Obira had not heard his mother’s voice for over 13 years, could he be sure it was her? After decades of violence, the U.S. military is offering hope to these child soldiers to return home without firing a shot. Obira did just that and is now back home in Uganda with his family who longed for his return.

It’s a sad story with a great ending as a life was saved through one mother’s voice and the U.S. Army. Thank you to those men and women who through their military service not only protect our nation, but who are saving lives like Obira. This story is a great reminder to us concerning the voices we are listening to and the voices we need to listen to.

Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart… (Ps. 95: 7, 8; Heb. 3: 7,8)

The sheep listen to his voice. (Jn. 10: 3)

If anyone hears my voice and opens the door…” (Rev. 3: 20)

“Help me, Father, to hear and listen to Your voice above all the others I hear on a daily basis.”





Is Your Identity For Sale?

13 03 2017

imagesMy wife and I were speaking to 30 plus senior high youth recently. They were passionate, hungry, open, teachable, vulnerable and beautifully smiling back at us as we taught. We spoke about life mission, boundaries, identity, pornography, priorities and praying for a life mate. We were straightforward and honest. They listened intently. As I observed these kids and the pressure they’re under, I thought about their personal introductions to porn, sex, drugs, broken families, raunchy TV and movies and peer pressure. “How do they cope in a world so different from the world I lived in when I was their age?” And then this question came to me, “Will they sell their identity?”images-6

It was a church youth group. They will soon head to college, technical school or enter the work force. How often will they be tempted to throw in the towel and give up on their faith? What college professors will tell them Christianity is for the weak, the brainless and/or the non-thinker? What young girl might attempt to seduce one of these young boys or vice versa? Which ones will sell their identity and which ones will hold onto their Christ-centered identity?

images-8Quickly the answer to the question of how will they cope came: you and I. The adults in their lives will touch them, love them, pray for and with them and visit them when they are off to college. We will text them, email them and even snail mail them to encourage their faith. We will send them books and articles that will help to protect their identity and we will speak life to them. We will tell them they are accepted, of value to us and to God and we will tell them how beautiful they are. We will challenge them to live righteously and hold them accountable to the truths taught to them.

Who are the young people in your life? They need you in their life today so they do not sell their identity tomorrow.





Teaching Your Children to Steal

20 02 2017

imagesSome years ago I was meeting with a young married man for various counseling issues. I really cannot remember what they were, but I do remember one thing from that time. He inadvertently mentioned that he enjoyed “breaking and entering.” I said, “You what?” He shared that for years he and his friends would break into garages and sheds and steal small items simply for, “The thrill of it.”   I shared, “You do know that stealing is against the law, not to mention one of the Ten Commandments, right?”   He assured me that he did, but added that no one has been hurt by his actions and that he enjoyed the dare and the challenge. “Further,” he said, “I find nothing wrong with it.” I added, “But I thought you told me you were a Christian.” He assured me he was.images-4

images-3A counseling plan: During his history statement he shared that he and his wife had a young son who was five years old. I had a plan. I looked straight at him and with boldness said, “I recommend you take your five year-old son along with you and the gang the next time you decide to break into a place.” He said, “What?” “Yea,” I continued, “Take your son, he’s small and you can put him through a window and then he can unlock the door for you to enter.” With a wrinkled face he replied, “I thought you said you were a Christian counselor.” “I am,” I told him. “But here’s the thing…start your son out young and train him thoroughly in thievery so he can be just like his dad.” I went on to say, “In commonality the two of you can have some real father/son bonding time breaking into sheds and garages.” I went on to say, “You’ll be so proud when he becomes just like you!”

He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God…   (I Kings 15:3)








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