Category Archives: Family

Stop the Conscience Triangle from Turning

Some Native American groups had a very interesting way of instilling their young people with the idea of what we call the conscience. They stated that there was a triangle within one’s chest. When he/she did something that was wrong, the triangle would turn once, cutting the heart. When that person did something else wrong, it would turn again, and the point of the triangle would cut the heart again.

However, they also taught that, over time, one could do so many things that were wrong that the triangle could turn and turn, but it would no longer hurt the heart, because it was now calloused.

What a wonderful way to picture the conscience!

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Our conscience is a God-given part of our existence, but the difficulty comes because we control it. We choose what will influence our conscience to remain a defense against evil or what will sear our conscience so that we do not feel pain when doing certain things.

Further, we can struggle to control our conscience because we have “pet” sins. We look at someone who is having an affair, or who has gone on a murderous rampage and we play the comparison game. I know I’m doing this (telling a little lie, looking at porn late at night, etc.), but I’m not doing something as bad as that! So our thinking goes.

Paul didn’t write about a triangle in the chest, but by inspiration he said that we can have our conscience seared as with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2). Over time, we just do not feel the same pain in our gut when we do “that” sin again…or even different sins.

How do we stop that triangle from turning? How do we stop that iron from searing our conscience? There are several answers, but they are really wrapped up in one thing.

Feed your conscience the Word of God.

A conscience must be directed, and if we are listening with openness and humility to the holy Scriptures, we are giving our conscience just what it needs to “pain” us when we sin, or even when we are tempted to go beyond what God has directed.

Let’s put the iron back on the shelf.

Let’s keep the triangle from turning.

Let’s keep a pure, God-directed conscience at all times.

QUESTION: What are some other, more specific, ways we can keep our conscience aware of sin?

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Planned Parenthood and Our Tax Request

In 2012, the organization Planned Parenthood received a record-high amount of federal money, provided from tax payers. The amount, which was over $500,000,000, was the most the organization had ever received from the federal government, and was an 11% increase over 2011.

6984657584_561f45afca_zOf course, this group is most well-known for being quite ironically named. In reality, the group should be called “Planned Unparenthood,” since they provide more abortions than any other organization in our nation. Our family vehemently disagrees with the money we are managing for God being used to fund such actions.

So, on our 2012 tax return, we are going to say something. Now, we fully intend to pay the taxes we owe, and we also fully recognize that the government has every right to use the monies they take in through taxes as they choose. We are not going to shirk our responsibility as citizens to pay taxes, nor to submit to the authority of the governing powers.

However, we also have the right, both from God and our Bill of Rights, to peacefully protest against this use of the money.

So, along with our tax return this year, there will be a short note to the IRS. Here is what it says:

Per our First Amendment right to peaceful protest, we humbly request that no part of our tax income be used to fund Planned Parenthood. We make this request based upon both religious and conscience issues concerning the organization’s promotion of, and performing of, abortions. This protest is in no way a threat to the government, nor to Planned Parenthood. We thank you for considering this request.

As you can see, we think this befits the attitude and actions of a Christian, while making a simple request from our government.

Here is my question: could this become something many of us do? In the comments, let us know if you will join us in this peaceful protest.

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Christmas 2012: Video

Today’s post is our annual Christmas video. Hope you enjoy these pictures from a memorable and fun holiday season.

 

In the Wake of Newtown

I recorded these few words just to express some of what I have been thinking over the past few hours.

Becoming Spiritually Ambidextrous

Becoming Spiritually Ambidextrous

One of the so-called “church fathers,” often grouped together with some known as the “desert fathers,” was a man named Abba Theodore. I know nothing about him except for one phrase he is said to have coined that still needs to be heard today.

He challenged people to be “spritually ambidextrous.”

What did Theodore mean by that? He meant just what Paul wrote about in Philippians 4, as the apostle wrote about having a lot or having a little.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (ESV, Philippians 4:11-13)

Abba Theodore challenged the people of his day to realize that God is always present, God is always good, and God is always needed no matter what we might  have…or what we might be doing without.

For many in the Western world, we need to develop this ambidextrous ability again. Many of us equate having a lot with true spirituality. It is true that God promises to bless us for our faithfulness, but that does not always mean financial blessings. Sometimes we must go through the proving grounds of having less.

At other times, the great test is just the opposite: the test of having much. And let’s be honest, many of us fail miserably when that test comes. When we gain and get, we can cut God out of the picture. We have not learned to be content in Him when we become content with stuff.

Today, take stock of your life. Look at what you have and realize that, no matter the amount, you still have, and you still need, God.

Abba Theodore may have come up with a memorable phrase, but our Abba Father is the only One we truly need in this life.

QUESTION: Why can it be so easy to forget God when we have either a lot or a little?

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Selah

Selah

Over 70 times we read the word “Selah” in our Old Testament, the vast majority of those times being in the book of Psalms. Admittedly, it is a difficult word to translate, but most scholars suggest that it had to do with the cadence of reading through the particular psalm. The leading idea is that the word meant for the reader (or the listener) to pause and reflect on what had just been written or said aloud.

Here is my question for us all to consider today: Do you have any Selah in your life?

In other words, is there any time to pause and reflect, or have we so filled our day and our life with busy-ness that we just run and run with no time to reflect? I think, if we are honest, we could all say that we lack Selah in our lives.

But, in our modern world, how do we get it back? The answer is actually quite simple to say, but for most of us, feels impossible to do.

Say “no.”

That’s it. Learn to say “no” to some things in our lives.

  • Limit your children to only a couple of extracurricular activities. They won’t die from lack of football or drama.
  • Say no when the gals call and ask to meet for coffee….again.
  • Skip that weekly night out with the guys.
  • How amazing would it be if a congregation just took a quarter (or even a year) off of “extra” stuff. Worship, Bible classes, and only absolutely necessary activities were done, and families were encouraged to spend that extra time together.

Sound drastic? Maybe that’s because we are so caught up in the rush, rush, rush of society that the idea of saying “no” and slowing down seems totally strange.

But then, ask yourself this question: how much better would my relationship with God and with my family be if there were Selah in my life? If I had time to pause and reflect. If I had time to invest deeply into the lives of my children, instead of just running them through Burger King on the way to the next swim meet. If I had time to drink deeply from the pages of God’s Word.

Maybe we all need some Selah.

QUESTION: What tips can you give to learn to say “no” and have some Selah in our lives?

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“That’s Still Sin” Week #5: ALL Lies

“That’s Still Sin” Week #5: ALL Lies

Welcome to “That’s Still Sin” Week on the blog. This week’s posts are meant to take five issues that are called sinful in the Bible, but that rarely get discussed as such anymore.

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Revelation 21:8 has been, through a silly song, reduced to teach that “liars go to hell.” Of course, that little song leaves of a myriad of other sins that will cause one to suffer eternal punishment.

But the reason I am including lying as the final post in “That’s Still Sin” week is the little word “all” in Revelation 21:8. Here is the verse in its entirety:

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. (ESV)

That little word “all” makes a big difference, doesn’t it? It should cause each of us to be very careful about the way we view lying.

You see, a lie is defined as an untruth told with the intent to deceive. The definition has nothing to do with the size of the deception.

…and that’s where we often get in trouble.

  • “I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.”
  • “It wasn’t as big of a lie as that one that she told!”
  • “I didn’t think that part was really important.”
  • “It was just one answer on the test. It’s not like I claimed every answer as my own.”
  • “I’m fine.”

Ouch.

We live in a world of comparative sin. If it’s not as big as another lie, then we are told it doesn’t really count as a lie. The old phrase, “little white lie” has gone out of style, but many of us still think that we can tell those little “fib-lets” and be okay.

Remember that God sees sin as sin, and lying is wrong…

…ALL lies are wrong.

QUESTION: Why do we often think that some lies aren’t that big of a deal?

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A Prayer for Someone I’ve Probably Never Met…Yet

A Prayer for Someone I’ve Probably Never Met…Yet

Dear Lord,

Five and a half years ago, you blessed us with our surprise. When the doctor looked at us, held up the sonogram, and said, “You are going to have a baby,” we were beyond shocked. These years have been a blessing to our lives. While Turner is a bit harder to “convince,” he is still my buddy, and I pray for us as parents as we guide Him.

But Father, I have a different request today. It is one I have made before your throne before, but has been on my heart a lot lately. Somewhere out in this big, broad world, there is a family raising a little girl, and I want to pray for them. One of these days, if it is your will for Turner’s life, she will be his wife, and I want him to be blessed with a wife as wonderful as he sees in his own mother.

So, Lord, would you help that family raise a true Christian lady? I pray that they will instill in her a love for you that exceeds her love of anything else. I pray that Bible study, worship attendance, and prayer will not be questions in her life, but will be pillars that support the rest of her life. I pray that that young family is holding regular family devotionals and building that sacred time into her life. I pray that, though she is too young to be a Christian yet, you still hear her prayers already. I pray that her parents never let anything supersede worshiping you.

Father, help her to be a lady. As she grows and temptations begin to be more common from this world, help her to see her worth to you. Help to her to know that her body is sacred, and that her sexual gift is being saved for my son and my son alone. Help her to avoid those in our world who would take that innocence from her, and from her marriage. Help her to realize that her inward beauty is reflected in her outward appearance, so help  her to be modest and proper in her dress and mannerisms.

Selfishly, I pray that she loves people of all ages, because I want grandchildren–should you bless them with children–who are truly loved by her and Turner, and I pray they will love Leah and me in our old age. Cultivate in her a servant’s heart, one that sees the role of being a wife and mother as exalted, and nothing to be ashamed of. Help her to see that, should she choose to remain a keeper of the home, that she is not a second-class citizen.

And Father, help me as Turner’s dad, to continue this prayer often. Help me teach Turner to pray this way. Thank you for my buddy.

In Christ,

Amen

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Handling Frustration

Handling Frustration

Asking people, “Do you ever get frustrated?” is a bit like asking, “Do you enjoy breathing?”

Usually, frustrations come from little things. Irritable things. Small things. Get-under-your-skin things.

If it’s something bigger, it usually moves from frustration to those parts of life that are truly worrisome, and that are areas of life in which we should be legitimately concerned.

However, how do we handle those frustrating parts of our lives? Here are 5 quick suggestions.

1. Keep calm.  Far too often, we let little irritants cause us to blow our top or lose our cool or fly off the handle (how’s that for a list of metaphors?). We never need to let frustrations cause us to lose control of our temper or faculties.

2. Speak up, calmly. Sometimes, it is the actions of another that frustrate us, but we never say anything. We need to speak up, but (again) we do not need to lose control of our actions. Say in a clear but kind way that this is bothersome to you.

3. It is usually helpful to explain why, too. For example, it is frustrating to me when people are habitually late, so I try to tell them that I hold to the belief that being in time is a sign of politeness.

4. Don’t let it build up. If you know something is frustrating to you, say something right from the start. Or, get out of the situation right away.

5. Pray for more patience. Let’s be honest: sometimes we are frustrated because we lack the proper level of patience. Jesus had to be frustrated with His apostles (several times, in fact), but He continually taught them and loved them.

What would you add to the list? What helps you handle frustrations in life?

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Year 35: I Wouldn’t Trade It for Anything

In late December, people take a look back and remember. They see highs and lows from the year gone by and often utilize those to help make plans and goals for the next year. I’m not waiting until late December.

Today is my 35th birthday, and as I have been thinking over the past few days about the last year, I can’t believe what all has happened. It has probably been the most challenging year of my life. A lot of this post has to do with Lebanon Road “family” stuff, but I hope anyone reading can gain from this. I also know that I will leave out some things that have happened in the past 12 months, but just take this list as a sampling of some of what has occurred since I turned 34.

  • One of our young couples lost a baby at the point of birth. Late that night (around 10:30, I guess) I was leading prayer for them in their hospital room. At the end of that week, around 20 from Lebanon Road had made a 5-hour round trip drive for a 20-minute graveside service.
  • A young husband decided he no longer wanted to be a husband and walked out on a sweet Christian young lady. The months from then until now have been spent trying to share a kind word with her, and making (futile) attempts to speak to him.
  • A 5-year-old boy was diagnosed with brain cancer and has spent the last 9+ months going through treatments, and all the difficulties that come with them. Watching his parents struggle, but shine in faith, has been both agonizing and strengthening. At his initial surgery, well north of 30 from Lebanon Road were present, including all seven elders.
  • Lebanon Road has lost several “family members,” including one original member of the congregation, and several other influential folks. One was diagnosed with brain cancer, and I found out about it on the eve of the 5-year-old boy’s surgery. Another stopped working (after a lifetime of strong labor) and checked into the hospital. She never got better. A third was a charter member at Lebanon Road and the peace she showed in her final months and weeks was amazing.
  • My dad has been dealing with extreme problems with his health. In late February, he wasn’t feeling well and the doctors thought a blood transfusion would help. He’s still waiting for it, because they discovered a very rare disorder in his blood. I have spent several evenings crying to God to have my daddy back. (Thankfully, dad is back to himself, thanks to God and some great medical attention.) He doesn’t know this–until now–but on at least 3 occasions, I scribbled some thoughts down on paper in case “the worst” came and I had to preach his funeral. Thankfully, all those scribbles are in the trash, because dad is back.
  • Mom gave us a scare by having to get her heart and arteries checked out. She is fine, but that was not a good couple of days, either.
  • And just this past Sunday, my brother-in-law lost his dad suddenly. Jim Tatum was a man I respected and always enjoyed being around. I am spending most of my birthday traveling to, attending, and traveling back from his funeral.

In addition, there were the usual things in life: the kids got sick at times, we enjoyed some wonderful time with family and friends, and Turner started Kindergarten.

Overall, the level of “stuff” on us this year has been tremendous. It has been a year that I will never forget.

But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Why?

I was reminded of…

1. God’s presence. Through every step and struggle, He was there. I knew that before, but now I have truly seen it.

2. Leah’s strength. Preachers’ wives (and elders’ wives) have a struggle that no one else can understand. She has seen me cry. She has seen me angry. She has seen me doubt. … and she has seen me put on a smiley face for Sunday morning and act as if nothing was ever wrong. She is truly amazing.

3. My family’s strength. When you have four preachers in the family, weekends are not available! Communication was still constant, though, through phone calls, emails, texts, and Facebook. My family is a blessing that I don’t deserve, but could not be more thankful for.

4. The power of shepherding elders. The elders at Lebanon Road have been truly remarkable. They have prayed, cried, visited, and just “been there” for people through struggles that I know they felt in their hearts and souls, too. I have watched them go from “great” to “amazing” over these past few months, and my admiration of them could not be higher.

5. A Christian family. Emphasis on “Family.” Lebanon Road…you are one of the greatest joys of my life. I can’t begin to feel adequate to serve you as the minister, and you have been as Christ-like as any group of people could ever be over the past 12 months.

6. What really makes a Church strong. We have not had a lot of baptisms in the past 12 months. Very few, in fact. But I would be so bold as to say that the congregation is as strong as ever. We have truly come together through storms, and I think we are ready to face anything. (Remember, Lebanon Road, “Satan isn’t going to win!”)

7. Life’s brevity. So much of this year has dealt with loss. Life is short, and I want to do so much.

8. Heaven. A lot. I mean, a  LOT. I can barely type the word “heaven” without crying anymore (there are tears in my eyes now). Seeing so much suffering and pain makes me want so very much to go to a place where none of that is there.

This has been a year that many people would like to forget, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have no clue what God has in store for the next year, but I am thankful for year #35. Though difficult, it was just the type of year I needed to travel through. May God be praised for any good that was accomplished during it.

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