Sunday, November 3, 2013

Blood Is Thicker Than Water?

I have heard it said that blood is thicker than water. I am not sure I agree with the intended meaning. While biological family is great, it is not a requirement to a rich family life. Our family is proof. We're basically a big group of strays who need each other. We all benefit from the support and love of each other and would struggle on our own.

Our world has lost sight on the importance of the family. God intends closeness in our homes. We are to build each other up. Our homes should be a safe-haven from the trials of this wicked world. It should be a place to learn and develop spiritually. The hedge of protection should be evident. Unfortunately this is not most homes today.  How will people ever think outside of their own blood-line if they have little concern for what God has already blessed them with?  In my opinion, it can generally be traced back to an absent or troubled father.

I believe God wants us to think outside of our biological family. What did Jesus typically do when entering a community? He sought out the least. He was not concerned with religious leaders, he was concerned with serving those with a need. Well, our communities are full of children who need us. Children of drug addicts, alcoholics, and neglectful parents whose pride comes first. These children have needs, both human and spiritual.

I don't think everyone should necessarily be foster/adoptive parents, although many are more than capable. There are many ways God's people can serve these kids. It just take an attitude of willingness. You could bring them to church and spend time with them. It just takes less focus on ourselves and more for others.

I wish to teach my kids to care for others. I want to teach by example. Our family is not perfect. We fail God daily, but I want my children to learn these principles. Life is not about who shares your DNA. It is about who needs you and how you can serve them. All Christians have been adopted in the family of God. The only blood that concerns our family is the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Looking Back

My oldest child recently turned twelve. Where does the time go? Our life is truly a vapor. It is hard to believe just over a decade ago we were struggling to manage with one baby and today life seems perfectly normal with seven kids.  We have been so blessed. I look back at all the times I failed God during this season. His patience, mercy, and grace are all evident. While our family has endured tough times, there has always been a lesson to learn.

Some people seem to live in the past. I can remember how my father would always tell stories about his time in the military. Now days my kids find it funny that most of my stories start out, "Once upon a time when I was a soldier..."  It can be hard not to dwell on our past for good or bad.  Reflection is important. It is how we learn from past mistakes. It just can't be the whole of us. Many stay defeated over their history. You cannot unscramble eggs. Some things are easier said than done of course.

So where should this sit with Christians? If anyone has a reason to look forward it is us. Our eyes should be focused on eternity. We should be burdened for the eternity facing nonbelievers. I heard Dr. Don Sisk preach about the incalculable value of one soul. We should think on these things. It should impact our actions and how we spend our time. I look forward to whatever God has for my family. I pray we please Him in the choices we make.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith... Hebrews 12:2


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pastor Appreciation

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. I am very thankful for a few pastors who really impacted my life. Those who preached straight from the Bible and guided me and my family. The ones who nudged me toward my next step of Christian growth and obedience. I sometimes think of how that influence could affect future generations in my family.

First I think of Pastor Conway from the church where I grew up. What I learned most from him was a burden for lost souls. I can remember him taking me door knocking to tell others about Jesus. He never apologized for preaching truth. Even though I spent many years out of church, I would often feel convicted to get my life back together due to his teaching.

Next I think of Pastor Bartlett at Maranatha Baptist Church. When our young family finally returned to a good Bible preaching church it was here. Dr. Bill Bartlett was pastor when we arrived and we truly benefited from his wisdom. Soon after this time period Pastor Kevan Bartlett took over leadership at this awesome church. A piece of our hearts will always be at Maranatha. This gentle leader was exactly what our family needed at this stage.  What I learned most from Pastor Kevan Bartlett was how to serve. It meant the world to me to be led by someone with great vision. One of the most dynamic men I have met was this preacher.

If Maranatha is where my family learned to serve, then our new church will likely be where we get to use what we learned. As we planned to move to our new home due to my job location, I really felt we were going go through some type of church depression. We were leaving our church family who was just like real family to us. So many wonderful people who watched our kids grow and encouraged us would no longer be around. We had a big plan to visit multiple churches and see where we ended up. Of course God knows best and it didn't take long to find The Independent Baptist Church of Vienna. It was actually our first stop. We were instantly accepted and felt at home. This is where we met our new preacher. Pastor Elder has already influenced us greatly. He loves God, cares deeply for people, and leads from the front. Our family has grown spiritually in the short time we have been here. I see us growing closer to The Lord as we increase our time in the Bible and prayer. We can't wait until the next time the church doors are open.

My heart breaks as I think about struggles preachers deal with often. I want my kids to learn to either lead a church or help someone else who is called to lead. Pastors need our support and need our prayers. They certainly deserve our appreciation year round and not just in October.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fix The Fathers

I have been blessed to spend time with many children. We have a large family, but I have also worked with kids in a variety of settings such as Sunday School and youth groups. I consider each opportunity to teach or just provide supervision a real honor. We have definitely met some wonderful young people. Some come from good Christian homes. Many are the only light in their family. My heart breaks for these kids. What has happened to families over the last couple of generations? Why are there so many single moms or grandparents raising these kids?

I attended a conference  last year for homeschool families in Pittsburgh and set in some excellent sessions for fathers and husbands. The speaker made an argument that church youth groups have largely been unsuccessful. While I didn't fully agree with all that was said, one statement has been glued to my brain ever since that day. When talking about how to reach our young people he simply said, "We have to fix the fathers". There is no deep meaning to search for in this statement. It is just pure truth. The Christian life is difficult enough in the most Christ-like homes. When Mom is doing her job plus the fathers it is even more challenging. You just can't improve on God's design for the family. The man is to lead and nurture. I certainly feel God is capable of performing any miracle with  any young person. I just find it to be a shame so many men put a low priority on what God has trusted them with.

As with most sin I think it all boils down to pride. Pride is a family destroyer. When hobbies and career come first we are just asking to fail. We dads need to wake up. Our time is fading and many families are failing. I have always heard everything rises and falls on leadership. I think youth groups and bus ministries are awesome and needed, but this only scratches the surface. As uncomfortable as it may seem, there is a great need to reach the dads. I think we need to fix the fathers.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Church Family

I am not completely sure where to begin on this subject. I could go on and on about the impact  of my church family in my life. I could write about the investments made in my children by so many. There has been men who influenced me with teaching, preaching, and in their actions of how they care for others. My wife and I learned about serving and what is God's design for a Christian marriage and family.

We recently moved to a new town. This has meant saying goodbye to some and the excitement of getting to know others. It was certainly difficult to leave people we love dearly. I was certain we would suffer from some type of "church depression". We felt nothing could fill the void of the place we grew to love so much. However, as usual, God knew what we needed and took care of us. We had this plan where we would visit a church for a few services and then visit somewhere else. Repeat the process until something stuck. The funny thing is, the first place we went was clearly where God intended us to be. Everyone loved us as if we had been there for years. Many have made a point to learn our kids names. God's infinite wisdom is so amazing. While we miss our former church family very much, we suffered no "church depression". We will gain a new family when we become members tomorrow.

Through these events God has emphasized something we already knew. His people are meant to be together. It is important we are in His house when the doors are open. Fellowship is by design and very vital for Christians. The Bible says "iron sharpeneth iron". I pray our family can be a blessing and encouragement in our new church. We are full of excitement and looking forward to the future.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Perfect and Upright

God described Job as perfect and upright. Job was not sinless. Perfect in this form means complete.  He was a complete Christian who made a series of upright decisions. These decisions were not affected by circumstance. Job was faithful no matter how hard life became. He clearly wanted to please God.

As Christians, we have the same ability to please God. In Sunday School we learned about character traits such as courage, trust, kindness, and submission. We have learned that we need to have all of these and more as part of our character. An attribute like courage can be dangerous if you are not also humble. It is more evidence of God's perfect design for our lives.

It is also about effectiveness. When I think about being a complete Christian I think about a car "hitting on all cylinders". When a motor is working properly in all areas it simply performs better. The same is true with believers. When our character is complete our effectiveness for the cause of Christ is enhanced. We are of more value.  We are also more likely to have the ear of lost people. When unsaved people see Christ-likeness not only in our words, but also in our actions and attitude, that is powerful. Just think of the influence of people in your life who have shown kindness and expected nothing in return. We just naturally respect people like this.

We have recently moved to a new area. I often think about the opportunities we may encounter. I think of all the new people we are likely to meet and possibly have a chance to influence and encourage. I can look back on so many positive examples in my past. People whose testimony made me want to live right. I hope to have the same impact on others. I think if we do not choose full character we limit our effectiveness. Life is about relationships. Relationships with family, friends, lost people, fellow believers, and God. Life is also about the decisions we make. May we live as Job and not let difficulties change our focus.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Consumers

In America we definitely know how to consume. Just look at the current obesity rate and rise in health related problems. The demand is evident by the supply. I heard there is over 200 McDonalds in Manhattan alone. The fast food industry is held accountable for our health issues just like big tobacco causes cancer. In reality, our problems can be traced to a series of poor decisions. We generally want to find someone or something to blame for our problem instead of holding ourselves accountable. As if someone owes us something.  I hope to teach my children a different mindset. Our kids will not learn from the world's example. You reap what you sow is as true today as ever.

Nutrition has become important recently in our home. We realized we want to be healthy and be here for our grand kids. Therefore, we have taken steps to change our lifestyle when it comes to food. Quick fix diets have never panned out. We realized we need to add the good and we have eventually had less desire for the bad.  As our church studies stewardship this month, I realize, that how we take care of our body should be part of that thought. After all we are His. We manage the body he has given us. If we don't take care of ourselves it is no different than mismanagement of our money. Christians often want to look past this.

So what about consumption of spiritual things? We are to feed on the word of God and focus on what has eternal value. The reading, teaching, and preaching of the Bible. To include a proper prayer life among other ways of taking in what God has for us. The next question is, what does a Christian do with this consumption? I had a conversation the other day about many church members being consumers only. We discussed how 20% of the body of Christ does 80%  of the work. Many look at "the church" as just a building where you go to get fed spiritually. The church is the people and should extend outside of the walls. While we all need fed, that should only be the beginning. There is so much work to be done for Christ. Imagine the impact if our churches had an abundance of servants. What if all the hearers became doers?