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The Importance of Fathers

I’ve been thinking a lot about Fathers lately. I’d like to write them all a letter, especially those dads who come to church on a somewhat regular basis, or even those dads who show up a couple times a year.  I guess I’d kind of like moms to read what I have to say too, because I’ve seen so many women who undermine every move their husband makes.

The thing is most parents, and adults in general, have no idea the tremendous impact they have on a child’s life. And this reality is even more significant in the world of a Christian.

I’ve lived enough years now to say with confidence I know the answer to raising kids who grow up to know Christ. I guess I can’t make any guarantees, but as I look over the vast number of families I use as my “test subjects.” I can’t find one single deviation from my findings.

Those children who had two parents (or grandparents, if the grandparents were instrumental in raising the children) who both were committed to serving Jesus Christ with no compromising, now have a real relationship with Jesus Christ. I’ve also seen the same results with kids who some sold out Christian chose to mentor.

But let me describe these families a bit for you . . .

These families whose children have grown up to love Jesus seldom missed Sunday worship, and the adults truly wanted to be there. I would venture to say these families would not have missed more than three Sundays a year. There were never any excuses allowed for missing church, sports never took precedence.  The adults were actively involved in the life of the church, they attended special events and fellowship dinners. They helped with clean up days and showed joy in serving. They never acted like it was a chore. Serving Christ and Worshipping Him was never a duty, but it also was required for anyone who stayed under the roof of the house.

These families lived Christianity at home. There were no dual lives. Now, this can become tricky because I know some families who LOOKED like they were living the Christian life, but later it came out that one parent was secretly living a lie. And, you know what? In those instances, it had a profound impact on the children in those homes. When even one parent acted like they were living the Christian life, but in their heart wasn’t, the enemy had a foothold and it effected the children.

On the other hand, the families I know with a 100% success rate with their kids growing up with a living faith, both parents (or other very influential adults) had a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus. By that I mean it wasn’t just  Sunday Morning religion. These folks read the Bible for themselves and pray continually. They invited the Holy Spirit to live in their home and most gave their kids to Christ when they were young.

And gentlemen. . . one for you . . . each of these families had a male modeling the life of Christ. Sometimes it was a strong grandfather. I’ve even seen individual children who’ve been influenced by a male mentor in the congregation, but in most of the cases I’ve experienced, the instrumental and deciding factor was a dad of faith, especially in the case of sons becoming sold out people of Christ.

Guys, you have an awesome responsibility. You are more influential than you think. And ladies, when you undermine your child’s father’s influence, you damage your child (unless of course your child’s father is a drug addict or criminal of sorts).

Men were designed to be the spiritual head of the household, you set the standard of faith for your family. If you allow the enemy into your life, you allow the enemy into the lives of each member of your family. If you cheat, that spirit of deception will be in your household and your children will be susceptible to it. You set the bar.

So many men set the bar so low. As the leader of your home, you are the one who gives authorization for which Spirit is allowed in. And sometimes you can give permission by your actions. Your prayer life and the life you live outside of church determine the spirituality of your home. If your wife is living a holy life, but you are not, you are still bringing in spirits that will influence your children, and while your wife has the power to do the same, it seems from all I’ve watched through the years, that in a traditional marriage, the man has more clout in the Spirit world. I know some women who won’t like that, but it’s just what I’ve observed.

It’s not terrible to let your wife do most of the spiritual, biblical training in the home, but your kids should know you support it. They should see you read your Bible, or at least see you carry it and know you value the words in it, even if you read before they wake or after they go to bed. Your family should hear you pray and know you pray for them. And most of all, the Holy Spirit should be the only Spirit you allow into your home.

None of this is to say kids can’t find Christ in a single parent family or with only one Christian parent. It happens! Plus, when single parents immerse their children into a good loving congregation, one which places an emphasis on a relationship with Christ, the odds of their children finding Christ in a real way increase significantly. Which means even you men who have no kids still have a responsibility!

As I write, Father’s Day is only two days away.  The main reason we should honor fathers is because of the power they have in the lives of children.  I pray for dads everywhere that they may recognize the awesome God-given responsibility they have so kids can begin to have a fighting chance in this world.

 

 

 

Book Review – Pirate Bride

This is the second book in the “Daughters of the Mayflower” series by Barbour Books.  It was written by Kathleen Y’Barbo.

I truly loved it. Immediately after reading it, I put the first book on hold at my local library! If you enjoy a bit of romance with a lot of adventure this book is for you. Most romances are so predictable, but this one had several twists I wasn’t expecting.  I enjoyed the characters as well as the story line, and since I was unfamiliar with Miss Y’Barbo’s work, I was a bit hesitant when it was offered as a book to review. But I’m glad I did!!!

#ThePirateBride #NetGalley

Relationships – Part Two

If you stumbled upon this post and haven’t read part one, you can read it HERE.

Another thing I’ve discovered about relationships is that they require us to understand we are in community with other human beings. There are going to be problems. I am not going to like every thing every single person in my circle does every single day.  Even the most well meaning human being will let us down from time to time. We’ll get our feelings hurt or be offended. It’s gonna happen! The thing that makes for a successful or unsuccessful relationship is how it’s handled. Once a person comes to that realization, they’ll have a much better time making relationships work.

The last time I talked about each person taking responsibility for his or her part in the schism. But what’s next? And by next, I mean first . . .

Even before the other person takes responsibility for his or her actions, I have to forgive, just let it go, don’t take offense. It’s easier when I remember I’ve probably offended someone else in a similar way, and I hope they’ve forgiven me. And it’s one hundred times easier since I’ve come to the realization that all my faults caused Christ to be crucified, and He forgave me, loves me and wants a fully restored relationship with me.

But forgiveness is hard. I know.

One of the main things people need to understand is that forgiveness does not excuse the offense, it merely removes it’s hold on YOU. You forgiving is NOT the same as saying, “It’s OK, do it again.” It’s simply saying, “I don’t want this to cause me anymore pain, so I’m releasing it. I’m no longer going to hold it against you.” I think that makes some forgiveness a little easier. So many people believe that forgiveness excuses a person or gives them permission to cause the offense again. It doesn’t. Even Jesus told the woman, “Go and sin no more.” She was forgiven, but He didn’t want her to returning to the life that caused her need for forgiveness.

Holding on to unforgiveness is like grasping the end of chains that are anchored to a wall and refusing to let go. Those chains hold you, but by your choice. You are bound, just like a prisoner, except you could let go. Sin is much the same, except sin puts us in shackles, and Jesus’ death on the cross holds the key to loose them. But either way, you’re stuck. You may as well be the one who committed the offense because whether you are the offender or the one offended, without forgiveness, both are bound by chains that keep them from the true peace and freedom Christ came to bring.

This article is continued HERE

 

Open Letter to Professional Athletes Attempting to Make a Statement Against Racial Oppresion

Dear Athletes,
Today as I see photos of many of you on your knees on September 11, 2016 instead of on your feet, I am praising God that we live in a country where you are free to do just that. I am tremendously grateful to my Father in heaven for the freedom to make a statement without fear of repercussion from the government. However, I am also saddened by method you’ve chosen.

You see, like you, I often want to make a statement. I want to stand up for my Savior. I want to stand up for injustice and inequality. I want to stand up for scriptural values. But unlike you, I don’t have the platform or the fame for my statements to carry as far as you do.

You’ve made a statement, but unfortunately, it’s hollow. You are disrespecting an entire nation! Your statement tells me you don’t respect my uncles who died to help free your ancestors. Your statement tells me that my uncle who traveled underground for fear of his life when he stood up against slavery doesn’t matter. Your statement may be about black oppression, but to most of us it says “I don’t respect the majority of Americans who are trying to do the right thing.”

Yes, there is still racial oppression. No, our country is not perfect. However, the stand you are taking (or not taking) appears to be against the majority instead of the minority. The majority of police officers are not racially biased. They may be culturally biased in order to protect themselves, but for most it has nothing to do with race. The majority of employers do not look at race when they are hiring, most don’t care about color or ethnicity, most want anyone with integrity and a good work ethic.

If you want to take a real stand, use your platform to teach young people how to be more respectful. Help them see that we have to stand together and forget about race. Help them see there are good people who don’t care about race, help them search out those folks. Help them see that employers can’t afford to hire people who are going to cry “racism” every time someone of another race legitimately gets ahead. Go into the areas of oppression. Help train young people to be people of integrity, people of respect. Turn the tide, create a new culture the police don’t have to be afraid of. Be there with them when the police come out and show them how to treat good and bad officers with respect. Help them see that the best way to expose bad cops is to be respectful in large groups. Someone will be videoing . . . there always is. If the whole group is respectful and the cop is still a bad cop, they can take them down . . . one by one. If you want to take a real stand, take it against those of your race who are making all the rest who live in that same culture look bad. Let’s face it, every race, every profession, every ethnicity has that minority who make the rest of us look bad.

I want to expose people who I am linked to racially and culturally who have no integrity. I want people to know that even though I am an evangelical Christian, I do not support people who bully or belittle those who do not share my faith or values. I don’t do this by disrespecting those who are trying to do what is right!

If all of us who are like minded about people being treated with respect all just did that and showed the next generation to do that, we could make a huge difference. We need to stand together and teach the young people of this nation how to respect others . . . and most especially themselves. This business of showing disrespect because ONE other person showed disrespect has got to stop! You have the power and the platform to do it! And standing out of respect for those who’ve lost their lives defending your freedom and for a nation that, even with all its faults, is still the best place to live is a good start.

Your “stand” is dividing. Your “stand” is teaching young people to show disrespect. Your “stand” is your right! But it is not against those whom you are against. Those people don’t care! The people who are oppressing your race will oppress mine too if it serves their purpose. The people who are oppressing your race don’t care about the flag, the National Anthem or America. You are not hurting them. Those people are small minded, hateful individuals with no loyalty and no heart. The best thing we can do is to truly STAND and stand together.

Punishment or Pronouncement

I was thinking about Genesis 3 today. Most of the time people think of Genesis 3:14-19 as a word of punishment from God. But I wondered today if it was more of just a pronouncement of what was going to happen in the future.

In the NIV and the KJV, only God’s word to the serpent, “I will put enmity . . .” and his first words to Eve, “I will increase you pain . . .” include words that indicate God might be punishing. The rest of the passage makes it sound as if the sin released into the world caused the problem. “Cursed is the ground because of you . . .” Are those words of punishment, or a pronouncement of the consequences of sin?

“Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Punishment or pronouncement? When I read the first two chapters of Genesis, I get the feeling that God meant for husband and wife to be equal partners, to make one another better. But what if sin unleashed caused men through the ages to use the physical strength God gifted them with at creation to “rule over” the women, created with less physical strength, but different strengths to compliment the men’s strengths.

Much of the evil and bad things that happen today are primarily consequences of sin. Some, consequences for the person who created the evil. For others, their pain is the consequence of another’s sin. God doesn’t need to “punish” per se . . . we bring on trouble ourselves simply by stepping out of God’s will.

Hebrews 12 talks about God disciplining those He loves. Some would argue this means that God punishes, but discipline does not always mean punishment. Discipline more often means learning a lesson or doing a task to improve a skill. Discipline makes us a better person.

So . . . the whole thought process makes me wonder . . . did God tell Adam and Eve they were being punished or did He merely pronounce what He knew would happen because sin had been unleashed on the world?

What is a Christian?

I’m not going to call myself a Christian anymore. Instead I’d rather be known as a “close friend of Jesus Christ.” Everyone who has ever stepped foot in a church calls themselves a Christian, yet I wonder if many of them really know Jesus at all. You see, Jesus called those who do God’s will His brothers and sisters.

It made me think of the show “Blue Bloods.” The show is based around an Italian family whose “family business” is law enforcement. Even though the matriarchs of the family are both gone (mom and grandma have died), the entire extended family, sons, daughters, in-laws and grandchildren, gathers at least once a week for a family meal. They don’t miss unless they are working or on vacation. Nothing takes precedence over the family meal.

My family had a similar gathering pattern. As a child, I spent time with my maternal grandparents and great-grandparents at least weekly before they died. And my siblings and I were well aware we would be going to my paternal grandparents at least two Sundays a month. Grandma Meyer always had at least half a dozen pies waiting because all of the local aunts, uncles and cousins would be there by late afternoon.

The body of Christ is called to be a family. We are to be more than what the modern day church calls “Christian.” Hebrews 10 tells us to make sure we keep meeting together. I don’t want anyone to ever think that “marking attendance” is more important than a relationship with Jesus Christ, but the honest truth is part of the way we can measure how close we are to Christ is the priority we give to meeting with the “family.” If the following list was the criteria for for measuring your relationship, what would your category be?

Close Family or best friend – attends every Sunday plus Bible Study – corresponds to the Bible Apostles
Second cousin or casual friend – attends 75% of the time – corresponds to the Bible disciples
Close enough I should go to the funeral – attends 50% of the time – corresponds to the Bible followers
Comes to the annual family reunion – has a church to call home and goes when it’s convenient – corresponds to the Bible crowd

As you can tell by the third column, a lack of commitment by people who call themselves Christian has been going on since Jesus started His ministry. I’m sure the folks in the “crowd” thought they knew Jesus. They’d heard Him preach and eaten with Him on more than one occasion. These are the ones who lined the streets when they heard He was coming to town, but because they didn’t know Him like they thought they did, they are the same ones who stood in front of Pilate yelling, “Crucify Him!”

In case you’re wondering about the difference in disciples and followers, Mark 10 says that when they headed toward Jerusalem, the disciples were astonished, but the followers were afraid. Both groups knew that Jerusalem was a dangerous place for Jesus to be. Everyone was aware that the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus dead. So the disciples were surprised that Jesus was walking right into their headquarters, but they weren’t afraid. The disciples knew that Jesus had it under control. They’d not only seen Him work miracles, they believed that He could do things they couldn’t imagine. They weren’t afraid because they knew they were friends with the Son of God.

The followers on the other hand were frightened. What was going to happen to them if someone in Jerusalem found out they were following Christ? Should they keep it under wraps? Would they be better off distancing themselves from this man who calls Himself the Messiah? Following was a fun thing to do sometimes, the company of Jesus was an exciting place to be, but it wasn’t a priority. It is easy for a follower to fall away because the commitment level just isn’t there.

But if you read Mark 10:32 closely you see that the highest level of commitment is where we all should want to be. Jesus “took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen.” They had the inside scoop. The apostles were Christ’s closest friends, His confidants! That is the circle I want to be in. It’s the circle Joshua chose thousands of years before (Joshua 24:15). It’s the circle Moses and Abraham walked in. This is the circle founded by those folks from Hebrews 11.

This is why the leadership of our church (and probably yours) emphasizes church attendance. We don’t care about the numbers. It’s not a notch on our belt or bragging rights. We don’t want you to come because we want your money. We want you to be in worship and Bible Study because we know that’s where the Apostles are. We want you to be in the inner circle, the core, the ones closest to Christ. We want you to be the first ones to get a Word from Him, we want you to be His confidants.
All four of those categories (and even a few who think they are “good people” but don’t even have a church home) call themselves Christian. Yes, I am a Christian, but I prefer that you think of me as Jesus’ closest friend, His confidant, His family.

Teen to Parent and Back at ya’

One of my young Facebook friends posted the following list:

WHAT I WITH MY PARENTS COULD UNDERSTAND
– When I hang out with a boy/girl it doesn’t mean he/she is my boyfriend/girlfriend

– School is hard and I’m trying my best

– I’m a teenager, I don’t always have the best attitude

– I try to make the best decisions for myself

– I’m young and want to have fun

– If I’m out all night it doesn’t mean I’m drinking or doing drugs.

– Not all my friends can be a bad influence.

– I feel useless whenever they compare me to other people

I posted a reply:
WHAT PARENTS WISH TEENS COULD UNDERSTAND

– If the boy/girl you’re hanging out with doesn’t make you a better person, we don’t care if it’s your official “squeeze”or not – we’re trying to help you become the person Christ created you to be

– Sometimes when you think it’s your best, we see more potential in you than you see in yourself. We don’t mean to push you too hard, but if you could see what we see . . .

– You haven’t lived long enough to make the best decision. That’s why God gave us parents. And believe me, I remember thinking I was making a good decision . . . time and experience will reveal what the “best” really is

– I want you to have fun while you’re young too! I just don’t want that fun to ruin the rest of your life.

– Most really bad things happen after dark. Most of them were never planned. Most of them are complete accidents. I believe that you don’t plan to do anything stupid. Almost no one ever does. But again . . . I have more experience . . . I’ve done my share of stupid. . . you will too. Being in early just keeps you from doing someone else’s share too!

– Of course not all of your friends are bad influences! But most of the good influences have parents who have a tight rein and they have a curfew. (hence the last explanation)

– Please forgive me when I compare you to another person. I don’t mean to. I hate it when people do it to me. Please know that it’s just frustration because I don’t know how else to help you see how wonderful and precious you are! I don’t want to see you be hurt, and I only want the best for you. Please act in such a way that I can loosen the reins and trust you more. It’s what I want to do, but until you realize my experience with life gives me an edge, it’s going to seem like I’m against you. I’m not!!! I love you!!! I only want the most wonderful, blessed life for you!!!!

Religion or Relationship

A Facebook friend asked about our opinions on the difference between religion and relationship. I have to admit, that’s one of my favorite Christian discussions. You see for a long time I lived under the umbrella of religion. I knew all the rules and I was pretty good at following them. I think if you asked my parents, I may have been called a model child. Not that I never did anything wrong, but in the grand scheme of problem children, I was low on the list. And as far as following the rules of religion, I had it down. I didn’t drink or smoke. I’ve never touched drugs. I was in church every Sunday. I won every Bible challenge. I memorized the books of the Bible, the 23rd Psalm and the ten commandments at a very young age. I didn’t even fuss about having to go to church. My road to being the best at religion was going so well until I was about 17.

Yep, I was pretty young when I began to understand the problem the Israelites had. I didn’t know it at the time, but as I’ve grown in Christ, I see that my life was exactly the life of Israel. Israel was good at following the rules for a long time, too. But rules are tough, and it’s easy to make excuses for sin that doesn’t seem to hurt anyone else. So just before my eighteenth birthday I got married because just after my eighteenth birthday I had a baby. And while I am thankful for my husband of 35 years, and I would have married him anyway, the reason for our marriage at that moment was so I could get back on track to following the rules.

It’s not that I’d never been introduced to relationship. Looking back I saw my grandmother live out relationship. Plus, I had a tremendous pastor for a very short time in my teens, Rev. Rod Buchanan, whom lived out relationship. Both planted seeds and gave me good examples of what the Christian life could look like. But because I’d broken one of the big rules, and neither of these tremendous mentors were around when I broke it, I left the church for a few years. Because of religion, I was confident that I didn’t deserve to be in church. Church was a place for the people who followed the rules . . . that’s what religion taught me. And I had messed up. In my mind, I’d messed up so bad it couldn’t be fixed. The worst part about that whole time is that no one came to tell me any different. I had been active in church for 18 years and not one person came to tell me that my religion was useless, no one told me to abandon my religious rules for relationship.

Until I met a group of ladies in Rome, New York. This group began to show me what Rod and my grandmother knew. They began to help me on my journey toward relationship.

My new “catch-phrase” since I began to have a relationship is this “No Rules, Just Jesus.” You see. When I have a relationship, I don’t need rules because my life choices are dictated by wanting to maintain my relationship. I don’t want to do something that will make God sad. I don’t want to disappoint Him. Part of really coming to relationship was me understanding that getting pregnant outside of marriage wasn’t my biggest sin. My biggest sin was dismissing things that separate me from God and ignoring the fact that the only thing that can bring me back into relationship is the blood of Jesus Christ.

I am now in awe of what Christ has done for me. I now appreciate everything that my dearest friend has done to show his love. Now I am aware that He is always with me. The verse, “I will never leave you or forsake you” is personal.

Living according to the rules is hard. Israel couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it, and many more folks that I’ve met can’t be “good.” But a relationship with the only perfect person is much easier. He always has my best interest in mind, and every faux pas is from my side, yet He understands, loves me and forgives me as long as I have a heart willing to maintain the relationship. It’s beautiful. It’s simple, yet it’s so far beyond human understanding that many times we miss it. I’m so glad my Creator called me to it and sent people into my life to help bring me to Him.

One more way for the enemy to defile God’s picture of Himself and the church

I’ve thought for a long time that marriage is tough because the enemy hates it. He hates this institution that God has set up as a picture of Himself and His people. He called Israel His adulterous wife. He calls the church the Bride of Christ. I believe that the enemy attacks marriage so that he can give people a distorted picture of what Christ wants the church to be.

And now, with the most recent court ruling, the enemy is doing it again. He is distorting the picture of the family. We are children of the King with the church as our mother. This new “family” that’s trying to make it’s way into the acceptance of society can’t produce children, it can’t do anything “naturally” (the words of the Bible, not mine). Yet the enemy would like us to embrace this perversion of what God intends for His beloved.

More Thoughts on Current Events

Again, I need to preface everything I write reminding folks that my stance if from a Christian perspective for Christians. God says that I am not to judge (even the actions) of those outside the church.

But here’s a question for those who support the Supreme Court ruling about same sex marriage:
If you have been living in a homosexual relationship and could not marry, how have you kept the marriage bed pure?

I never thought about that until today. I should have. I’ve always compared homosexuality to pre-marital sex and adultery. I believe they are all the same thing. They all fall in the category of “sexual immorality,” all defile the “marriage bed.” I know that there are those who consider themselves followers of Christ who also practice homosexuality. So, how have you kept the statutes of Hebrews 13:4?

I’ve never had to deal with a mature Christian who wanted to keep living together. As people in our congregations have matured in Christ, we’ve never even had to make their living together an issue, it’s always been something that God has convicted them of. So . . . it’s just something I started wondering about today . . .