Category Archives: Family

The Hypocritical Blanket

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Almost every night, I say a prayer with my son and tell him goodnight. Though sometimes, admittedly, I rush through these last few moments before he goes to sleep, they are some of my favorite minutes of the day.

Some nights we read a story, every night we pray. He says a prayer, then I say one. I tell him “good night” and “I love you,” then his lights go out. It’s a routine I hope does not end anytime soon.

The other night, though, another step had to be taken. I was pulling up his blanket over him when I noticed I didn’t have hold of the sheet underneath. So, I reached way down to nearly the foot of his bed and grabbed the sheet, which was all wadded up down there.

As I pulled it up, I just looked at my 8-year-old son with a face that basically said, “Please explain this.” After his usual “What?” he said, “It looks made up that way.”

He was right. The blanket is thick enough that it covered up the sheet that had never been properly made up. It looked fine, but the sheet was now all wrinkled and creased.

As I heard him say that (with a sly little grin on his face that had me just a tad worried), my mind went to my own life. Are there times when I cover up a thought or an action with enough Christian stuff that I sure look like I’m all made up for the Lord?

You see, too often, we put on a good front, but our insides are all wrinkled and creased by sin. Anyone can put on a nice dress or a shirt and tie and smile for an hour at church. Anyone can shake hands and say the ever-popular “fine” when asked how they are doing.

We all look made up.

Inside, though, are we a wrinkled mess of secret sin?

That’s my lesson from a blanket (that was made up properly last night. I checked!).

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

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Healthy Boundaries

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The last few weeks have been exhausting to say the least. Events and decisions in America have been so polarizing lately. Sometimes it is hard to even want to hear another word about all of the controversy. But we must remember that important subjects are going to cause opinionated discussions. We are not just talking about freedoms and rights in America. We are dealing with issues that are going to determine where people are going to spend eternity.

I don’t know about you, but lately I have been considering the level of my association with some people who in the past I have considered friends. Many people I am acquainted with have been very vocal in their support of things that the Bible clearly condemns. What am I supposed to do about that?

The biggest problem is that I cannot have an open and intelligent discussion with some of them about what God’s word says because they will not accept it as authority. They would rather cower to social pressure and the political agenda, and they refuse to call what is right, right and what is wrong, wrong. It makes it very hard to move forward in any kind of relationship with anyone who has their mind made up and refuses to be shaped by the holy word of God.

Jesus told his disciples, “Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!” (Matthew 10:11-15).

It is purely ironic that as per the present hour in our world certain cities are mentioned here. But what is Jesus saying? He is reminding His followers that there are going to be times when we cannot get through to people with the truth. If we have made an honest effort and the truth is not received, we need to move on. I must first love people enough to have tough discussions which may bring about some soul searching and needed changes. Once that talk has taken place, if people fail to respect the authority of the written word of God, I need to travel along and let them go.

Christians are to be separate from the world. They have, by the grace of God, been set upon a rock. Christ did not die on a cross so that our faith would waver every time a political or spiritual controversy comes along. When struggles do arise we need to be engaged in profitable conversations. And if need be, we must choose to walk away from any relationship that would weaken our faith or cause us to be entangled in the cares of this life.

Setting proper boundaries in our relationships with others will promote health for us spiritually and keep us on the narrow path that leads to heaven. We need help and guidance from our God to make those necessary and wise decisions. It is my prayer that He will help us to know when to stay in the house one more night, and when to shake the dust off our feet and move on.

“And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?” 2 Cor. 6:15

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4 Ways to Make Every Weekend Memorable for Your Family

[NOTE: This week’s guest post comes to us from David Dixon. To learn more about David, check out his bio after today’s post.]

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In 1981, the band Loverboy released a song entitled “Working for the Weekend.” It’s a catchy little ditty, but the sentiment of the song is a worldly concept that should not apply to Christians. In reference to early Christians who had given certain days of the year greater significance of holiness than other days, Paul gave the instruction that every individual should be “fully persuaded in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5 KJV). That is, we are permitted to assign a holiness value to individual days, but we had better be completely confident in the righteousness of our evaluations because “he who doubts is condemned” (Rom. 14:23 NKJV).

In our world today, it seems that most people have given the period from Friday afternoon at 5 pm to Sunday night around midnight a different value in their lives than the rest of the week. Many people today truly are working for the weekend. One of Paul’s points in Romans 14 is that every Christian has opportunities to live and share the Gospel every day of the week. Our behavior as Christians should not change from day to day, even Sundays! And yet, the way our economy is structured, weekends are generally our “free time.” We spend more quality time with our families on the weekends than we are able to spend during the “work week.” So here are four suggestions for maximizing those precious moments when the whole family unit is together.

1. Plan everything around Sundays.

Our children need to see that in our lives nothing is more important than serving God. No matter if we are going out of town for a couple of days, or if we plan to spend a quiet weekend at home, our activities must be scheduled around worship. Not because we act, think, or speak differently on Sunday than any other day, but because we live and work Monday through Saturday looking forward to with great anticipation the day that we get to assemble with other saints for the purpose of praising God. Teach your children to enjoy worship!

2. Keep it clean.

We live in Florida, and Florida residents get a discount to some of the vacation destinations in Orlando. We were given season passes to Sea World as a gift, and we can make the trip and return home in a single day. Our kids love the whales and dolphins and penguins. Obviously, not everyone who visits Sea World professes to be a Christian. The majority of the people there do not wear enough clothes. As a preacher, I consider myself somewhat of an amateur sociologist; I observe people any time we are in a public place. At Sea World, it is instantly recognizable when someone is trying to be modest. Knee length shorts, full-length pants or skirts, and shirts that cover the shoulder are the exception at Sea World, and when a family is wearing that type of clothing, their behavior is notable. Sure, they are hot and sweaty, but they are modest! Whether we are working in the yard as a family or headed to the lake for some fishing, we can be modest and still have fun! I remember my parents emphasizing modesty any time we went for a family outing to a public place, and I sincerely appreciate it now. I don’t think those trips would have been any more fun or memorable if we had been dressed like everyone else.

3. Memorable does not have to mean expensive.

Week long vacations are expensive. That is why people usually only take one or two a year. I recently heard of a financial institution offering “vacation loans.” Folks, if we have to take out a loan to pay for a vacation, maybe we need to reconsider the intensity of our desire to be entertained. My family has not taken a full week-long vacation since before our children were born (unless you include “church camp,” which is the best use of vacation time, in my opinion), but we have had some very memorable weekend trips. Last year, we bought a four-man tent, and we scheduled one trip a month to different state parks around the state of Georgia. We experienced cold, heat, rain, shine, bugs, coyotes, and crickets. My kids weren’t always comfortable, but the experience was always memorable. And it was relatively inexpensive. Since moving to Florida and having a pregnant wife in the summer, we have not picked this tradition back up, but we will. Planning a trip or big event every weekend is taxing and draining, both physically and financially. One outing a month creates a repeatability your children can look forward to and prepare for, and it also allows for some downtime in which your kids can develop their own interests. Local community events, hiking or biking trails, or amateur sporting events can be wonderful inexpensive opportunities to make lifelong memories.

4. Insist on participation.

My son does not love camping, but my three-year-old daughter does. My daughter cannot operate a video game controller yet, but we spend family time playing Rock Band on occasion because her brother loves video games. As children become teens, they may have a tendency to try to distance themselves from the family unit. Parents are no longer cool. Regardless of how much they may resist, insist on the whole family participating in events that may not interest every member. As they reach adulthood the lesson will sink in: serving others can bring the greatest satisfaction that life can offer.

Our time with our children races away from us. Weekends are the times when we can embrace one another with all our quirks, and embrace God with all His qualities. Whatever you do, and wherever you go, let God be the Pilot and Navigator. When faithfulness and righteousness are our desires, every weekend can be memorable!

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David Dixon is the preacher for the Wesconnett Church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. He is married to Rachel and they have two children, Micah and Sarah, with Asher expected to arrive by September.

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A Biblical Legacy of Faith

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Since yesterday was Fathers Day, I decided to preach on what I consider to be a biblical legacy of faith.  I thought I’d share some (but not all) of the things I talked about here.

I chose Abraham as my example of such a legacy. I thought that was a good choice since Abraham is included in “Faith’s Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11. 

Specifically, I chose the events recorded in Genesis 22 as an example of his “legacy of faith.” In the interest of full disclosure, I need to point out that some of the thoughts that served as the basis for this lesson came from brother Neal Pollard and a lesson I heard him present at Polishing the Pulpit last year. What follows is not necessarily his lesson, but what follows would not be written had I not heard him.

As you probably know, Genesis 22 contains information about Abraham being called by God to do something that most of us could never imagine. He was ordered by God to sacrifice his son. As we know, the sacrifice was not carried out; at least with his son. There was a ram that was sacrificed instead. I also recognize that, because of Abraham’s willingness to carry out the will of God that Isaac was “…as good as dead…” (Heb. 11:12). 

I recognize that there are some major theological implications in this passage. I also believe that there are some real practical points to be made for those of us who are fathers and/or those who, in any way, desire to leave a legacy of faith.

I will present the points I discussed as “bullet points” and some information. I am hoping that they may be building blocks for your own consideration.

It is my observation that a legacy of faith involves:

Love. I was not aware of this fact until brother Pollard pointed it out in his lesson, but the first time that the word “love” is used in at least most translations of the Bible is in Gen. 22:2, where God is speaking to Abraham and refers to Isaac as “…your only son Isaac, whom you love” (emphasis added). 

It seems to me that Abraham’s love for his son was seen in the simple word “we.”

This indicates to me time spent together. If is wonderful for dads and others to spend time with children in recreational and other quality time activities. It is even better when “we” can be used to refer to times of worship. 

Parents, especially dads, need to ask ourselves, “when was the last time I told my family that I love them?”

A very good friend of mine and wonderful Christian man passed from this life recently after a long bout with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). His widow told me that a day never passed as her husband was lying in a hospital bed without their college-age son kissing his father on the forehead and saying, “I’m so glad you’re my daddy.” Those were the last words my friend heard from his son before leaving this life. The last words the son heard head from the father were, “I’m so proud you’re my son.”

Submission. Isaac was able to watch his father follow without hesitation God’s commands to “take,” “go, and “offer” (v. 2). Maybe that’s why he was willing to lie down on the altar without any struggle. It needs to be remembered that Isaac was probably far from being a toddler when the command was given to his father. 

It could be easily assumed that, when he figured out what was going on, he could have easily overpowered his elderly father, but he did not. He submitted to his father’s instruction, just as his father had submitted to God’s instruction.

Hope. We read this in Romans 4:17 about Abraham:  “…in hope he believed against hope…” Do those around us, including our children and grandchildren, hear and see demonstrated before them pessimism, negativity, “gloom and doom,” or do they see and/or hear the firm conviction that “…the Lord will provide…” (Gen. 22:14)?

Growth. We will not take a great deal of space to develop this point. We will merely make one suggestion. We will suggest that the Abraham who questioned how he and Sarah could have children was not the same Abraham about which we read in Genesis 22. To be sure, he was the same man, but he did not have the same faith. I wonder if those close to me see a faith that continues to grow as I go through the various stages of my life; including old age.

I promise that I do not borrow all of my ideas from my brethren, but I am indebted to something I read in brother Steve Higginbotham’s MercEmail a few days ago. He told how one of William Shakespeare’s daughters had to make her mark when she got married. The reason for that was that she was illiterate. 

I did a little research of my own and discovered that the man whom many consider to be a writer who has no peers had more than one child who was illiterate. I cannot comprehend how a man of Shakespeare’s ability would not do all that he could to educate his own children.

It is also difficult for me to comprehend how anybody who wears the name of Christ would fail to do everything possible to leave a legacy of faith.

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For Generations to Come

[NOTE: This week’s guest post is from Suzy Dodd. To learn more about Suzy, check out her bio after today’s article.]

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We have all heard the phrase “for generations to come” as it relates to the length something lasts. Think of things like a car, grandmother’s roasting pan, a recipe, or a story passed down from one generation to the next. However, do we really think of the actual meaning of the words “for generations to come?”  

This we know: there will, in all likelihood, be generations coming after us. Depending on one’s age we may think about having children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and possibly great-great-grandchildren. We daydream and ponder about what they will be like. That said, others ponder and daydream, too. That’s where the fear should hit us like a brick.

It doesn’t take a historian to know the changes that have taken place in American society over the past 50 years or so.

A while ago, I came into the den where a TV had been left on from the night before. It was on Nickelodeon, which was still airing programming on “Nick at Nite.” Here’s the catch: it wasn’t night. It was a weekend morning, meaning that the viewer demographics had changed from the late night teens to elementary (and younger) children.  

Enter the commercials, not appropriate for anyone, especially young children. For example, Wells Fargo Bank has a slogan of “See How Far We’ll Go.”  To say the least, they have gone too far. What begins as a harmless and even uplifting commercial of a lady learning sign language and then another lady learning sign language, turns into my fear “for generations to come.”

As the commercial continues, a little girl is shown playing in a room. A lady enters the room and kneels down. In sign language she says, “hello beautiful,” and the girl smiles. The scene cuts back to the lady who is now joined by her female friend. The lady, again in sign language, states, “we’re going to be your new mommies.” The little girl immediately hugs the lady.  

A person’s choice of acceptability is exactly that: their choice. That said, forced acceptability is not acceptable. Like any other program that is offensive, just turn it off. This is not the point at all. I hardly watch television since having gone several weeks without it. Gladly, I broke a very bad habit. So, this is not an article about turning on or off the TV.

Instead, my point is this: the more that younger children are targeted for this forced acceptability, the more the generations to come will not give this a second thought.  Kids will be asking each other what kind of parents they have, a mom and dad, mom and mom, or dad and dad (or who knows what other combination?).     

Parents, the work begins with us. Right now we may feel secure in our children being strong in the faith and feel certain their children (our grandchildren) will be strong also. Going back to the commercial, we may try to rationalize the good versus evil. The child being adopted was older than a toddler but not a teen. So our hearts are glad she is being adopted, especially since she appears to be hearing challenged. However, we need to realize something: For the little girl to go into a home with two “mommies” is the beginning of a life that will be far more difficult than being hearing challenged.    

We must ask ourselves a question: what are we doing to combat the mass of what many refer to as “acceptable” evil placed in front of us?

We must no longer say that there is nothing we can do about it. If we do take this attitude, then it may very well be “our” next generation who lives the life of sin with the thought that there is no threat to their eternal life.   

Christians need to put away self and take a huge leap into fighting against the current battle of the acceptability of sin.  The problem is now, the problem is real, and the problem will take all of us to fight this battle.  

How do we start? Can so few of us make a difference? We start by checking to see who and what we are supporting. Yes, a few can make a difference by taking a stand with our dollars, with our children, and with our lives. In fact, for “generations to come,” we must take a stand. Will you?

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Suzy Dodd is a member of the 9th Avenue Church of Christ in Haleyville. She works in the banking industry. Suzy is married and has three young adult sons.

Photo background credit: “Boy” by leeroy on Life of Pix

Praying for Zach

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School was almost out for the summer. Just those last few days remained and eleven-year-old boys wanted to play in the yard when they got home from school. 

The day had begun just like any other day. The bus picked Zach up for school, he spent the day there, and the bus delivered him back in front of his house that afternoon. He started for his house, but as is often the case, some friends were playing across the road from his house, so he did a u-turn and started running across the road, as he had done many times before. A car topped the hill and Zach was in the road. 

Many lives were changed in that instant of time. Zach was hit and sustained critical injuries.  As I’m writing this he is in Kosair Children’s Hospital fighting for his life – a life which will never be the same. The life of the young 18-year-old woman who was driving the car was changed forever. The lives of the family members of both of these young people were changed forever. Our church family was changed forever. 

Hundreds (possibly thousands) of prayers have been sent before the throne of God on behalf of both of these young people. Our prayer has been for Zach to be healed and be able to return to his normal life. Our prayer for the young woman who was driving the car has been for her to realize that it was an accident. She was not doing anything wrong at that particular moment, and yet lives were changed. 

Our loving and faithful God will answer our prayers in the best way, because He always knows what is best. Even when I can’t understand the answer I receive, God knows what is best, and I trust Him to always do what is best.

Life is precious. A split second can change a life forever. Trust God and continue to pray earnestly. I’m praying for Zach, and trusting God to handle whatever comes.

“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will do this or that.”  James 4:14-15

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Being Imperfect in a Pinterest World

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The picture above is the garden I had in my mind all winter. I thought about it, marked it out, planned what we would plant, and dreamed about harvesting loads of perfect veggies all summer long from a garden plot that would make HGTV want to have a special program dedicated to how perfect my garden was.

That’s what I just knew was going to happen.

Then, I took this picture early last Saturday morning.

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Yep, that was the way my garden looked. Admittedly, I worked in it quite a lot on Saturday and it looks some better, but it is still pretty embarrassing. It just is not what I wanted it to be. With all the irons in the fire that I’ve got, I just have not had/made the time to take care of it the way it needs to be.

And then, I jump online and see perfect garden after perfect garden. It’s enough to make me want to just not do it next year.

But this isn’t a post about gardening.

It’s a post about the all-too-easy comparison game that we can fall prey to in the Internet age. From that perfect Pinterest pin to how happy all your friends on Facebook seem to be, it is easy to wonder what is wrong with your life. You aren’t that happy 24/7. Not everything you try to grow/cook/sew/bake/make looks that perfect.

What’s wrong with me? you wonder.

For the Christian, it can get even more difficult. We want to do everything just right. After all, aren’t we to do everything to glorify God? Then how can imperfections and even failures bring Him glory?

If you are ever tempted to think less of yourself because of these comparisons, let me share some advice.

1. Stop Comparing. What you do is great. It does not have to be Pinterest perfect. It does not have to look like it is going on the front of a magazine. Quit comparing!

2. Start Cherishing. In other words, cherish the time you spend doing what you enjoy. Even if the results are not as perfect as what other people get, enjoy the journey. Are you growing closer to God? Are you spending the journey with your family? Then who cares if the final result isn’t worthy of a Facebook album!?!

3. Give Yourself Permission to be Imperfect. It’s okay!!!!!!!!! (Is that enough exclamation points?) Even in our Christian walk, God only expects us to walk in the light (1 John 1:7). While our goal is perfection, the journey and the maturity we gain from the journey is what helps us move ever closer to that goal. You don’t have to be the best mom or dad or employee or elder or whatever. Just be the best you can be, and with God’s grace that will be enough.

4. Remember, No One is Perfect. Not even those people who seem to be able to do everything and do it all so that Pinterest takes notice. No one is perfect. Remember, they “set up” their pictures. They have failed at recipies. They aren’t always smiling. While we do not revel in the mistakes or down moments in the lives of others, it is worth remembering that everyone has seasons of life that do not go well.

So, enjoy the journey and do what’s most important. Me? I need to weed my garden, but I’m going to make sure I’m walking with God and that my family is taken care of first. If weeds keep coming, it’s okay. There’s always next year.

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Author: Adam Faughn

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How Stateside Families Can Support Missionary Families

[Editors Note: This week’s guest post is from Daniel Gaines. Find out more about Daniel, his family, and their work in Tanzania at the end of today’s article.]

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When a family packs up their household, says goodbye to their friends and family, and moves to serve the Lord in another part of the world they go through tons of adjustments. You might think that the biggest challenge is adapting to their new culture. While that can be a huge challenge, it is likely one that your missionary anticipated. 

A challenge that he may not have expected is the feeling of isolation that often comes from life in a foreign mission field. The missionary family is now separated from everything familiar by thousands of miles. While friends back home are gathering for the lectureships, camps, conventions, gospel meetings and other events that once were a big part of life, the missionaries are watching from afar. There are no more youth sports, school activities, or family get-togethers. The things that once connected them to church and community are gone, leaving a void of disconnectedness in their place. 

That is where stateside families come in. You are a sort of lifeline or anchor in the missionary family’s home culture. As you support them, you remind them that they are not alone and forgotten. You remind them that you are on the team with them and that they are appreciated and loved. 

Here are five ways that you can support and connect with a missionary family: 

1. Prayer

Pray for them. Regularly. By name. Most missionaries strongly believe in the power of prayer. When they ask for your prayers, it is not just vain lip service. They really want the prayers. Even the apostle Paul sought out intercessory prayer in his behalf in Colossians 4:3-4: “Praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word… that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.” If Paul needed prayers, then the rest of us certainly do!

Pray for missionaries at church. This also reminds other Christians about this need. Pray for missionaries at home. It reminds your family of the importance of missions. Be like Epaphras, and labor earnestly for us in your prayers (Colossians 4:12)

TIP: Read their mission reports so that you can pray about specific things that are going on.  Then send a quick message saying, “We prayed for you tonight!”

2. Communicate

This is one area that is so much easier today than it used to be. When I was a child living in Cameroon we didn’t have a phone, but we knew a guy who did. We could make a long drive to his house and use it, then reimburse him for the expense – which was about $8-10 per minute. A 10-minute call to the US would cost $100 in 1980’s money!  Needless to say, we did not make many phone calls.

Now, living in Tanzania I can call the US for free thanks to internet services like MagicJack. I can even have face-to-face conversations through Skype and Facetime. Also, email, Facebook, and blogs make it possible for missionaries to communicate reports of their work essentially in real time. There is no more waiting for quarterly newsletters. If churches haven’t heard from their missionaries in a few weeks, then they wonder what’s wrong. 

The marvels of communication technology do work both ways, however. It means that it is easier than ever to send out an encouraging message to your missionaries. A quick note acknowledging a recent report and offering a few words of encouragement or thanks can mean a lot to your missionaries. “Like” and “Share” their reports with others. It reassures them that they are not working in a vacuum, and that their efforts matter to the folks back home.  

TIP: Be patient in your correspondence. Things like time differences and power outages mean that your missionary may not respond as instantly as your office coworker. Give him a couple of days. 

3. Financial Support

It has been said, “An underfunded missionary is a distracted missionary.” How can a missionary be properly focused on his work if he has to spend large amounts of time trying to raise money to make up for funding shortages? Many missionaries end up leaving the field over funding frustrations.

I once assumed that almost all mission funding came from congregations. However, the reality is that a large portion of our funds come directly from individuals. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a great number of Christians contribute directly to missions from their household budgets in addition to their church contributions. 

TIP: Obviously this helps the missionaries, but it is also good for the stateside family. Even if you can only do $25 per month, then that makes you regular partners in the work that is taking place. You are putting your money where your mouth is, as it were, and demonstrating to your family that mission work is important. Become a “sender” (Romans 10:14-15). 

4. Care packages

The air fills with electric excitement when my children see me walk into the house carrying a package. An onlooker would think it was Christmas morning as the kids tear into the package filled with treats and trinkets from America. Even the small children receive the message that there are people back home that care about them enough to send this reminder of their love. What a great way to show you care!

TIP: Try to be thoughtful of the ages and genders of any children in the family, and send things that you think they would enjoy. If possible, contact the missionaries beforehand to get ideas of things that they would like, but can’t find in their area. Then put the package together with a Bible class, care group, or just as a family. You’ll put big smiles on the faces of a missionary family.

5. Visit

Go visit the mission field in person. It might be the trip of a lifetime for you, and you’ll get to see what happens in a mission field first-hand. Pictures and reports really just can’t do it justice, and your faith is going to grow through the experience. 

Take your teenage children with you. They need to see how real people live in other parts of the world.  My father took me with him on a campaign to Suriname when I was in 9th grade. Honestly, I wasn’t a huge amount of help on the trip aside from passing out some flyers. However, the trip was a huge help to me. This was a turning point in my life that really began my desire to become a minister. If I hadn’t taken that trip, then I probably wouldn’t be a missionary or even a minister today. 

TIP: Airlines on international flights usually allow you two suitcases per person. Plan to only use one for yourself. Then contact the missionaries and offer to let them use your extra bag. Through sites like Amazon, we can shop online but shipping is prohibitive. Tell the missionary, “Hey, I’ve got 50 pounds worth of space, and it’s yours. Just send to my house anything you want me to bring.” This consideration doesn’t cost you anything, but would be very, very helpful to a missionary family.

Doing any combination of these five things will help hold up the hands of your missionaries, and make you fellow workers sharing in their efforts.  World evangelism is a team effort.  It takes good people working together on the home front and in the field to make it happen. 

To God be the glory!

———-africa family

Daniel and Tiffany Gaines, along with their children (Abby, Josiah, and Levi), are serving the Lord and His church in Tanzania, Africa where Daniel is the director of the Andrew Connally School of Preaching.  You can follow their work by liking their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/TanzanianMissions and by reading their blog at:  http://tanzanianmissions.blogspot.com/ 

You can contact Daniel at Daniel-gaines@hotmail.com

FURTHER, please keep this family in your prayers. Since writing this article, Tiffany and the children have had to come back to the United States to take care of a medical need with one of the children. Daniel is currently alone in Tanzania. Pray for them as they are separated for a fairly extended time.

Photo background credit: Kenneth Lu on Creative Commons

Checkout Lines and Teaching Values

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I stood in the checkout line at Walmart while the clerk finished scanning all of my items. All of the sudden I had a tremendous sinking feeling down in my stomach. For once, it wasn’t caused by watching the grocery bill get larger and larger.

The feeling was caused by watching the people behind me in the line. I watched as an old woman rolled up to the line in an electronic riding carts. With her, there were two young women who appeared to be in their twenties, or possibly younger. There were one or two kids with them.

Just as they walked up to the counter, a worker brought up a stack of phone cards and some other electronic thing – I didn’t get a good look at that. They placed some clothing and two or three pairs of shoes for the kids on the counter. I didn’t know for sure what was about to happen, but my intuition told me that it wasn’t going to be good. I was afraid an old woman was about to pay for some pretty expensive items for these young people. The sinking feeling was in my stomach because I wasn’t sure the woman even knew what she was about to pay for.

To be fair, I told myself that maybe the young women were going to pay for all of those phone cards and the kids’ shoes and clothes. I told myself that maybe the old woman offered to pay for all of those items, because, after all, I did overhear one of the young women offer to take the older woman by to visit someone. Maybe this was her way of saying “thanks for bring me to the grocery store.”

In these short moments, my mind raced about what I should do. I thought maybe I should just come out and ask, “Wow! Are you buying all of these expensive things for them? How nice!” I thought about being snarky and asking the checkout clerk in an intentional loud voice, “Just wondering. Do you ever have lazy young people come in and buy a lot of items at the expense of some elderly person?” I even thought about just coming out and asking, “If you are about to let her pay for those, please just let me pay for those things. Then at least you would be taking advantage of me, a woman married to a hard working husband, and not an old woman who can’t afford it.” 

I didn’t say anything, though. After all, I really didn’t know for sure what was going on.  In other words, I was trying not to judge this situation, but my intuition just made me feel as if something was not right about it.

Still, even if I had judged this particular situation completely wrong, I have been in enough checkout lines to know that what I feared was going on does happen often. With that in my mind, I left the store nearly in tears. I was sad because it is a terrible thing to take advantage of someone. I was also frustrated because I felt like I should do something, or at least try to.

The sadness and frustration slowly went away. As it did, a feeling of determination took its place.

I was determined to teach my children better. With the help of God and because of my extreme influence in the lives of an 8-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl, I would teach my kids to be better. To do that, I resolved more than ever to teach three things:

  1. I will teach them to honor the elderly. I will not allow disrespectful talk about elderly people in our home. I will make sure they get a steady dose of visiting elderly people in their homes, in our home, and at church. I will make sure they spend their own money to buy something for an elderly person on a regular basis.
  2. I will teach them how to work hard; I will not allow laziness. They will be responsible for regular chores. I will not allow video games, television, and play to dominate their time.
  3. I will teach them that they weren’t put on this earth to be served, but to serve. Using the example of our Lord (cf. Mark 10:45), I will constantly put them in situations and places where they serve other people.

I know I am not the only young mother who is deceived by society and the Devil himself about her value. It is so easy to want to give up or focus on something different from your family. Our society tells young women that if they want to be valuable to world, they need to do something in addition to raising a family. Too many women leave the rearing of children to someone else, because they feel like they need to do something more “important” with their lives. 

This really isn’t an article on women working outside the home. This is an article written by a young woman who sometimes wonders if she is doing enough for the church, for her country, for society, for God. Today, I felt the weight of my responsibility as a mother on my shoulders. I felt like I can make a difference. That difference begins in the lives of that 9-year-old girl and that 8-year-old boy.

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AUTHOR: Leah Faughn

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5 Things Every Congregation CAN Do to Encourage Families

[Editor’s note: Today’s post comes to us from Dan Jenkins. Dan is a great gospel preacher, and we appreciate him taking the time to write for us. To find out more about Dan, read his information following today’s article.]

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It is obvious that the strength of the church is found in the homes of those who make up the local congregation. However, we tend to often limit our consideration to those homes and families where there are Christian parents and young children. The reality is this: because of our changing world this is only one kind of family. Remember that there are families in the church where there are single parents. Then there are families in the church where there is only one parent who is a Christian. There are also families with empty nests where the children who were once part of that family no longer are there. The church must not overlook these kinds of families and their needs. Finally there are single people, widows, widowers and others people in the congregation. This final group is not overlooked in the Bible for the psalmist said, “God sets the solitary in families” (Psa. 68:6). The church must realize that congregations are used by God to help these individuals be part of a family. However, our emphasis in this study will focus on “regular” families.

Congregations CAN Remind Parents of Their Role in the Spirituality of the Family

As the church has focused on children there has developed a tendency for our homes to rely on the church for the spiritual welfare of the home. Years ago, homes were places which reflected the instruction of Moses, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise it” (Deut. 6:7). Congregations need to remind parents that it is impossible for the local congregation to develop deeply spiritual young people without the assistance of the home. There is perhaps no greater help congregations can give to families than to regularly emphasize this truth.

Think about this. Sometimes we tend to say that the church is losing its young people, but such is not the case. The church was never given young people, they were given to parents. The primary blame for the lack of spiritual development of the family lies with the family. It is vital that families be reminded of this truth.

Congregations CAN Provide Tracts, Books, Blogs, Classes and Seminars About the Family

This point might seem unnecessary, but the average Christian family likely does not have a reliable source to find materials that would enhance the spirituality of the family. Church leaders would be wise in using the assembly to provide information and help create homes that are closer to God. There are devotional tracts and booklets, and entire books which could help in this area. In this technological age there are blogs written by godly men and women which most homes are not aware even exist. In view of the demise of spirituality in the home, congregations should regularly have sermons, Bible classes and special workshops to make our homes different from those in the world. In the absence of these truths based on His word, our homes are being shaped by the ungodly and often seem no different from those homes where God is not honored.

Congregations CAN Help Families Become Part of the Church and its Worship

The presence of children in worship and their behavior have created a situation in the church where some families may feel they are not welcomed in the assembly. Those of us who grew up in the church, sitting beside our both of our parents in the pews, forget that the world has changed and so has the membership of those in the church. Many young parents were raised by parents who rarely took them to worship and what we have known by our own experiences are unknown to them. One congregation surveyed its membership to discover how many young parents actually grew up sitting in the assembly every week and 60% of young parents never had this blessing.

Because of this, congregations would be wise to provide instructions and encouragement to those who are struggling with their children. We should praise those parents when they are doing things right (such praise simply reinforces the right way to train children), instead of staring down parents when their children create awkward situations which disturb the worship. Older Christian women can become “grandmothers” to such children in worship to show by example how it should be done.

Some Christians also contribute to the negative behavior of children by playing with children who sit around them or in front of them. Such not only disturbs the attention of others in the assembly, but also makes children view worship as a “fun” time and not a worship time.

Congregations CAN Help New Families Feel a Part of the Local Congregation

The church is an ever-changing and growing congregation of God’s people. New families are moving into the area. There are also newlyweds who have created a new family and often struggle to find their place. There are families with new children and the presence of these children changes their place in the makeup of the congregation. There are newly baptized husbands/wives whose mates were already part of the church, but now there is a family united in Christ. Each of these new situations should be addressed by older Christians.

Congregations CAN Be Part of God’s Plan to Put the Solitary into Families

It is in this area where the church is often the weakest. In far too many places activities primarily involve couples; thus, single, divorced, widows, and other lonely people need to know what family is all about. The Lord describes the church as a family (1Tim. 3:15), and God expects His people to be the family for solitary people. God knew there would be widows and described pure and undefiled religion as being shown by how we help widows and orphans.

So look around the congregation where you worship. Then as part of that congregation do all you can to help the families in that congregation. It can make an eternal difference in the lives of those around you.

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Dan Jenkins has preached for over fifty years around the world and for the past thirty-five years has preached in West Palm Beach, Florida. He and his wife have four children, thirteen grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. There is an abundance of material found on the website of the Palm Beach Lakes congregation:  www.pblcoc.org

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