A Slow Death In The Church…

Some churches die suddenly because of disagreements, immoral behavior, and financial ruin. It is a tragedy when God’s bride falls victim to sin, arrogance and pride. What should have been a beacon of light to those still wandering in the darkness without hope has become a victim of the father of lies and to sin. It truly is a tragedy!

There is another kind of death in the church. It is a slow agonizing death, the kind that begins with seemingly harmless words, behind the back comments, and half truths that go unchecked or verified. The idle, never edifying chatter of assumptions and sometimes made up notions. It is a coward’s conversation because very rarely do those suggestions fall directly on the ears of its intended target.

On the topic of gossip and the tongue:
“…Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. 5So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.…” -James 3:4-6

Confession:
I have been both a victim and at times a proprietor of this deadly vice. When this harmful drug of choice enters the church it (sometimes it has already been in your church for years and years) can lay waste to integrity, honesty and even our moral compasses. How damaging and hurtful gossip, slander and biting words can be to fellow believers in Christ. Brothers and sisters, we ought to know better yet why do we allow this sort of thing to continue? Why allow it to remain? I have been deeply wounded at times because of the words of other Christians…and dare I confess, a time or two I wished I could have withdrawn the words that flew swiftly from my tongue and past my lips before I could catch them.

How devastating such a small thing can truly be.
Is there a cure? Some sort of remedy? Can we stave off this infection before it consumes and kills us? Gossip slander, and malice WILL kill the Church slowly, agonizingly yet just as deadly as the instant immoral failings. This cancer of the verbal kind can be treated…it can be stalled, maybe even cured.

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The Remedy:
Here are a few verses to remind us of this remedy –
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.” Proverbs 26:20-22

Don’t allow these embers to burn. Don’t linger in the company of those who wag their tongues and scorch the earth with their words. Such thinking and speaking are never edifying to the body of Christ and with it the church will die a slow death. Think on the edifying things. Remain true to our calling. Do not become bogged down by the negative thoughts and words in regards to others. Be a source of hope, light, goodness and grace to fellow believers as well as those who have yet to believe. We ARE the body of Christ…so start acting like it.

I have been equally guilty of this slow death…have you?

Prayer: Dear Lord, forgive us when we have failed you and fallen victim to the trappings of a loose and slanderous tongue. Forgive us when we have hurt You and those You have created in Your image through gossip and thoughtless words. Guide us on the pathway of right living and right thinking so that we can be a more effective source of Godly love to the world around us. Help us to serve You through our thoughts, words and deeds. Restore us, renew us and make us Holy. -Amen.

Something else for us to ponder today…

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There’s no question that General and Founder of The Salvation Army William Booth was a man on a mission.  He and His wife Catherine Booth were pivotal in starting something powerful within the World, yet I have to wonder if there was ever a trade-off with his passion.  We know some of the famous speeches like the “I’ll fight to the very end” speech and the phrase “do something” in speaking to Bramwell about a homeless situation.  There is no doubt both William and Catherine Booth were visionaries and innovators within a mission that ignited the foundation of this Army.  They are both revered and loved…

But…

There is a danger of being a visionary.
There can be a trade-off and sacrifices can be made along the way of blazing a trail. 
Without a doubt we know Booth to be a great General, albeit our first general, but was he a good father as well?   From most historical accounts one might draw a startling contrast from founder to father.   

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Truth: 
If Ballington Booth had not resigned within the Army the Volunteers of America would not have been founded, but why did Ballington leave the army?  He and his father did not see eye to eye.  Sure disagreements happen in families, but basically William Booth labeled his own family member a deserter to the cause.  In essence Booth excommunicated his own kin.  I certainly don’t think this is “father of the year” material.  However, in the heat of the moment, I can see regrettable comments being said and the damage being done.  

Still…
Family is our first ministry, our first priority.  I am not blaming our founder, but I do see warning signs of overworking oneself and sacrificing family for the sake of a cause.  Two things can take place when we overwork ourselves – 

1) Loss of perspective.

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Have you ever worked on a project so hard that you just had to step back from it to gain better perspective?  It seems to me that everyone of us can be guilty of tunnel vision from time to time because we are so success/vision focused.  If Jesus had to get away and be alone with the Father, so too must we.  We need to have a clear perspective, but if we overwork ourselves we will sacrifice something in the process.  It is like staring at the bark of a massive tree, but we wouldn’t know how great a tree it is until we took a few steps back so that our vision could refocus and we gain a broader outlook.  

2) Misalignment of Priorities

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Secondly, we can lose the true order of priorities when we overwork ourselves.  Suddenly the mission becomes the only thing that is important, and we begin to lose the support cast (and family) around us.  God first, family and then our mission…if we discombobulate these we run the risk of losing everything.  

These are just two lessons that I see when I consider The Salvation Army’s founder William Booth.  Yes he was a great man.  Yes his wife Catherine was the true driving force.  Yes an Army grew and lives were changed…but could family matters have been handled better in the process?   Is there something for us to learn from this as well?  Perhaps for starters stop placing Booth on some sort of deified platform.  He was, after all, still a man with imperfections like the rest of us.  I’m not saying don’t admire what he and Catherine accomplished, but be careful how much you revere the man.  Secondly, yes hard work does pay off, but be careful not to sacrifice your children and families in the process.  

Live a disciplined life but find rest and grace in the process.  

-Just some random ponderings of The Salvation Army today.  

 

Personalizing Homelessness

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Can we identify with those who live on the streets?  I don’t mean hopeless conversations and pre-judgement calls such as “Well, they’re drunks and if I give them money they will just spent it on more booze…” That isn’t identifying with homelessness, that’s passing judgement on them.  Yes, something needs to be done, but casting blame, brow beating and ugly talk will not restore lives.  

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Just this past week, London’s Mayor Boris Johnson called for the removal of the “ugly, stupid anti-homeless spikes” in a modern upscale neighborhood after many took to social media sites to decry this horrific practice and homeless deterrent.  (source: http://rt.com/news/164952-anti-homeless-spikes-remove/) 

Although we can see this as a success in “spreading the word”, we shouldn’t just stop here to rest on our laurels, much work still remains to be done.  

Personalizing Homelessness – breaking the prejudgements:

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Some have argued that these protests against anti-homeless constructions infringe on the rights of the landowners or landlords.  Understandably, this is a concern.  Certainly those who are good stewards of their property wish to maintain a safe and aesthetically pleasing environment for their tenants, but at what cost?  

How are we to care for others while taking care of the properties around us?  This is a troubling issue, and both sides of this argument require consideration.  Yet many times the campaign of driving homelessness from the streets of our cities is something done quietly. Why would it be done quietly? Some may wonder.  The reason is because of fear of public repercussions.  There are times when law enforcement officials are encouraged to drive homeless individuals to locations outside of town and drop them off.  When this type of practice happens we begin to dehumanize people. What is the value of a life today?  Even if that life is smelly, dirty and unhealthy, that person is still human.  

Making it personal: 

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What if that person on the street is your brother or sister?  What if that homeless person is a son or daughter?  Wouldn’t you want others to treat them fairly?  Would you want someone to help them?  There are many root causes of homelessness, drugs and alcohol are usually the first things we assume brought them to homelessness, but mental abuse and disabilities are also contributors.  These are the least of these in our communities.  These are people without voices.  What if we made homelessness personal.  What if we humanized these poor wretches for a moment.  I don’t use that term to make them seem “under” me by any means, but how much of a difference does it make to see them as equals to us?  Sure they may be without homes, incomes and families, but are they not still loved by an Almighty God who knows their names and loves them the same as He loves us?  

The difference between apathy and mercy:

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There’s a vast difference between these two words.  One speaks of indifference to others while the other speaks of compassion and love.  One is uncaring while the other cares.  Which are we?  Do we see people living on the streets…actually see them?  Is there something that WE can do?  I certainly don’t propose that we go and put ourselves in danger…but there is something we can do to avoid apathy in these situations.  Care.  Find places like The Salvation Army who can go in uniform with many hands to help clothe, feed and show love.  Become involved, volunteer in church groups who minister through soup kitchens and other feeding programs.  One such program is The Salvation Army’s Bed & Bread club – http://www.usc.salvationarmy.org/usc/www_usc_detroithl.nsf/vw-text-index/9b2226ecdc63d0518025717f007045c7?opendocument

http://salvationarmynorth.org/community-pages/bed-and-bread-club/

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Contribute to authentic ministries and missions who actually go and help those living on the streets. Make homelessness personal. Each person who sleeps out there under bridges and in the nooks of buildings are still people.  Some of these homeless individuals have family members still looking for them.  We can either construct crude spikes on a street or park bench and drive them from our sight, or we can lend a helping hand without prejudging their motives or intentions.  

Homelessness should be personal to us.  We should care about others, and if we can help…we should. 

 

-Just another thought to ponder. 

Prayer: Lord help me to see others the way that You seen them.  Help me to be an instrument of Your peace.  Remove my prejudgments and prejudices.  Grant me wisdom and love, fill me with Your mercy, and may my hands become Yours.  -Amen.  

The Salvation Army – Are we enabling through Social Programs?

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This is an open question that begs your response. 
Don’t kill the messenger here, It’s something that I’ve not only seen, I have heard said as well.
Are we working to address underlying needs of those we love and serve or are we just addressing the basic needs of “the moment”?  
All too often it is far easier to “meet human needs in His name without discrimination” right now based on what they need…but it’s much harder to ask the difficult questions, to pry back the hurt in order to discover underlying causalities.  

NOT A STEREOTYPE
I recognize that not every Salvation Army does take the “easy” route in services.   Some take great pains to work with those in need and to help discover and address the real issues.  I am certainly no unopposed to handing out a food box or securing temporary housing for a displaced family but without addressing the real causes are we slowly hurting those we serve more than helping?

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 Enabling is okay for time, but providing solutions, real tangible answers to their problems…isn’t that what Booth was all about?  If you have a problem with drink – stop drinking.  If you need a safe environment to work – here’s a job.  General Booth said to his son Bramwell “do something!”  

WHAT ARE WE DOING?

Perhaps the question shouldn’t be “what are we doing” but rather “what can we do better?”  
How can we get to the bottom of life issues, help to heal – feed both the body and the soul and help a person back onto their feet? 
I understand some may never get back on their feet…some may have experienced the worst kind of life imaginable and they will need our support for the rest of their lives…but not all are like this.  Can we help them and then send them to become helpers as well?  Can we break from the “status quo” and become revolutionary again?  

This revolution may look very different in other countries, but what about your country?  What is YOUR Army doing to pick people back up, to help heal the hurting, to mend the shattered?  Can we avoid enabling within our social programs?  We must recognize that we are called to so much more than just social programs…but spiritual hope and salvation as well first.  

I would like to hear your thoughts on this. 
What is being done? 
What can we do differently? 
Are we impacting the world as we once did?  
Do we risk enabling souls instead of healing souls through the power of the Holy Spirit?  

-Something for our Army to ponder today.

May we ever be daring to continue to “go for souls and go for the worst!” 
 

4 Steps To Godly Parenting

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“…Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” –Ephesians 6:4

Definitions: 

I’ve always been curious of this word “exasperate”…what does it mean?  Here are some synonyms – 

agitate, annoy, enrage, rile, inflame, aggravate, “drive up a wall”, disturb

You get the point.  

Questions to consider: 

I think it only fitting this week that we look at the healthy attributes of a father.  How can we be better parents, teachers and leaders of the children that we’ve been given?  What do we want our children to remember us by?  

It is crucial that we instruct, lead and love our children on godly principles and holy living.  Does it always work?  No.  Will we make mistakes along the way?  You bet we will.  Does that mean that we don’t try despite our propensity for mistakes?  Absolutely not! 

4 Steps to Godly Parenting: 

1.  Honesty with Self: 

 

First we must tackle honesty within our conversation today.  Be honest with yourself, you’re not perfect.  You were not perfect growing up, and you’re not perfect now.  That isn’t an excuse to not try, or to abdicate your responsibilities as parents.  Just understand that sometimes the expectations that we put on our children stem from our own shortcomings and inadequacies in ourselves.  We long to push our children harder and we set the bar higher because we look back at our own life and wished we had made other decisions or worked harder at specific moments in our past.  

Be honest with yourself.  You are the parent of a precious life, and when we push too hard out of personal unfulfilled dreams and goals, we will exasperate our child(ren).  Take a long hard look at your expectations for your child.  Goals aren’t bad to have, but if you find yourself pushing your child in a direction that resembles your own shortcomings and disappointments just to live vicariously through them perhaps you must stop and realign your motives and intentions!  Godly parenting wants to impress Godly principles, but doesn’t try to force children into molds that do not fit their personalities and temperaments.

2. Beware of the Anger trap:

 I find myself struggling with this one.  It is one thing to appropriately discipline children, it is another to lose your temper and rage at them.  Be careful how your discipline your child.  Children model themselves after their parents.  If you resemble a grumbling bear all of the time your children will eventually resemble this too.  If you rage, scream and shout your child will rage, scream and shout because this is a learned trait.  Similarly to growing up with an alcoholic parent, a child who grows up with a raging parent will be inclined to resemble that upbringing.  This isn’t absolute, but the propensity for modeled behavior such as anger can be passed on from generation to generation.  

Discipline, but don’t allow your anger to rage and fume and create a fire within your children.  These flames can burn long after they have left home.  

3.  Show up.

Your child’s interests may not always be the same as yours.  They may find a love for art or sports that perhaps you never had.  Invest in your child.  Spend time encouraging healthy interests.  Show up to events that your child will be participating in.  Also, actively find additional helps within your child’s likes.  If they enjoy sports, sign them up for that soccer team in the summer.  If they enjoy art, sign them up for a community art class.  Take the time to show up as the guide for your child.  Invest your time and encourage them in their interests.  A parent who shows up and invests in their child’s interests displays to that child that they matter and they are worthwhile and valuable.  

4.  Share the Word and Pray.

You don’t have to do this rigidly, but “devotion” time with the family is important. Carve out intentional spiritual teaching moments with your child.  Don’t make a big show of it, but let it be a part of who you are as a person and as a parent.  Don’t teach from a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality either.  The Word of God is vital to godly living, practice what you preach and teach through your example. You don’t have to purchase curriculum to teach your child about God.  Read a passage of scripture at night after dinner or perhaps pray before bedtime.  Living as a godly example to your child has to begin with a daily dose of personal time with the Lord as well.  Are we spending our time in the Word of God?  Do we pray diligently for our families?  From this stems our desire to spiritually instruct our children in the principles of Godly living.  

 

These are just a few suggestions to aid us as parents who long to raise our child up right.  Take time to pray for your child.  Ask God for guidance and wisdom as you teach and love your family.  

-Just something else to ponder today.   

Perspectives Day 6 – Featuring Jim Gallop (Major) “Reminiscing”

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Reminiscing



Reminiscing; a song written by Graeham Goble of the Little River Band in 1978. While this song received ample air play on many radio stations during the late 70’s and early 80’s, it has unfortunately faded into relative obscurity. After all, the song is about ‘looking back’, and in todays hurried culture most people seem intent on ‘living in the moment.’ Yet this lively and upbeat piece of music still affects me today as I skim through my state of the art Ipod. The song delves into the writer’s memories of a time period, seemingly removed from today’s progressive pace of life. He writes romantically of his pursuit of that one special lady whom he wishes to ‘build his world around’. He croons nostalgically of the joy which he and his love experienced as they danced across the floor to Glenn Miller’s band which was ‘better than before.’ He then tells us of their present condition, when he intones “older times we’re missing, spending the hours, reminiscing.”

Reminiscing…..thinking about the past with an intense yearning to re-live those days which excite your memory. When those memories are shared, they can ignite a much needed spark in a relationship which may have waned over the years.
Many things can cause romance to lose its spark; too much time spent at work, the numerous events involving our children as they grow and mature, wasted hours in front of the television, exhaustion from little sleep. All of these challenges whittle away at the precious commodity of time, and in doing so tend to cause an imbalance in even the best of relationships.

The ultimate question is for the couple who wants to both maintain and strengthen their marriage. Is there a way to rekindle that spark which initially set your romance aflame? Or are we going to choose to be bound by those self-made schedules which in turn allow us little to no time to creatively explore our partnership with our wives/husbands?

The singer of reminiscing reminds us of a simple, yet poignant point. He reminds us of the way in which their romance started, singing “That’s the way it began, we were hand in hand.” To be hand in hand with your partner in life, and in ministry. To be united in love, under God, and with His desire that your love be expressed to one another. To make sure that the love you have for your partner remains fresh and alive, and does not become stagnant.

Is this an easy task? Not at all. It requires an effort by both partners; an effort to step beyond the status quo, and into the potential of re-discovery. It also takes commitment to achieve this, commitment to one another, which in turn will hopefully flow into romance. Further, it demands dedication; to not give up despite the hardships which you may discover as you seek that time together. To keep trying, keep seeking, keep that spark alive. Hopefully, it was there on your wedding day. Prayerfully, it is still there. We just need to re-discover it……and if it takes “reminiscing” to do so, then so be it! Let God’s love, which is ever new, and ever exciting, lead you into a greater commitment to your partner. Let your marriage be one filled with excitement, as God created marriage to be!

 

The Salvation Army…A Holiness for Failures.

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Okay, I admit my title is a little inflammatory…hang with me, I’ll get to the point.  Here’s what I mean: The Salvation Army ministers to many who come from hard-living lifestyles.  Admittedly many souls who come to us for help are victims of these lifestyles.  How we minister to them begins with the old catch phrase/slogan “Soup, soap, salvation”.  We long to fill their stomachs, clean them up and get their lives back on track before we can minister to their hearts.  Perhaps it doesn’t have to be specifically in that chronological order either, our ministry opportunities could come simultaneously.  But the core of our ministry stems upon a demographic of those who are marginalized, poor and/or destitute…and the failures – there I said it.   

The “Failure” –
We live in a numbers oriented ministry driven world where, from an outside point of view only having 20 or 40 in a service on Sunday seems to indicate a dying church when compared to mega churches and large community churches that boast well over a 1,000 members.  I’m not knocking these churches, nor am I jealous and want to become them…but there are quite a few who join the ranks of the army who look at these churches and then look at our corps attendance on Sundays and feel as if we’ve failed and/or are dying.  It’s a failure of a different sort, a failure of perspective.  This failure of perspective comes when we buy into the lie that numbers in the pews are the only source or indicator of a ministry’s effectiveness.   Successful ministry begins and ends at personal relationships.  Do we spend quality time one on one with those with whom we minister with and to?  This is the true evidence of genuine discipleship.  Not that it can’t happen in other ministries where you can possibly get lost in the crowd, but can you hide in a corps that boasts 40 members?

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 Are we caring for the complete person?  Is there follow-up and attention to the real sources of crucial personal issues in their lives? The Salvation Army isn’t like other churches because it isn’t just a church, it’s a movement and a triage location to the lost, hurting, marginalized and the failures.  

Operating within a Holiness For Failures: 
Fellow spiritual freedom fighters we aren’t strictly in the business of merely facilitating “goods” to those in need.  We have a broader, greater mission to fulfill.  It may indeed begin with the services of goods in order to meet the physical needs, but it mustn’t end there!  That is only the beginning.   We must be willing able to help usher those we serve in our community into the very throne room of heaven in order for them to have the opportunity to meet and know Christ Jesus.  Providing “goods” and services gets us in the door but if we are a mission of holiness for failures (myself included) then we must do more than a box of food, a place to sleep and a warm meal…we must display and convey Jesus!  

Jesus came for the Failures and the Lost! 

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Jesus came for the whosoever, and those He picked to serve in His mission were not the best of the best.  They were tough men and women.  Many were from hard living lifestyles and many did not have the best of educations.  If Jesus had operated within modern day success oriented means He would have gone to the synagogues and recruited the most educated.  He would have filled the temples to the brim and He would have had an active prosperous ministry that would have afforded Himself many properties and riches…yet this wasn’t His mission.  He came to the rejects, the prostitutes, the outcasts, the uneducated, the lame and the sick, the dead and all we failures.  Not failures by occupational standards or in friendships (not all anyway) but by a salvation standard.  “For all have sinned (failed) and fallen short of the glory of God.”   (Romans 3:23)  He operated within a holiness for failures system.  This isn’t to mean that Holiness is or was a failure, but rather He went to the sinner, He lived among to poor, He cared for the outcasts and brought the power of redemption to those who would hear and seek.  Even selecting His disciples He showed evidence that He would use anyone who was willing to follow and willing to receive His holiness and success at the cost of even death.  

From point ‘a’ to point ‘b’ 

How are we bringing people from point ‘a’ (a life of sin and shame) to point ‘b’ (a life of salvation, redemption and holiness)?  What are we concerned with more?  Numerical success or the success of holistic ministry and spiritual life altering opportunities?  Are we looking over the fences at other ministries that do not embody what our movement is all about? We are many parts of the body of Christ and with that being said other ministries out there operate for different reasons.  Jesus brought hope to a world of failures, how are we emulating Him in our Corps and in our various ministries in our communities?  

Perhaps you’re hung up on the word “failure” today because of its negative connotations.  Jesus came you and for me because we needed Him!  Still today many are lost in their failures, blinded by habitual sins and shame…be a light to them not by your power but by His Holy Presence.  Help to usher His holiness to those who need Him most!  Perhaps we must stop looking over the fences, stop comparing ourselves and get back to work.  The upside – when we allow Christ to work within us as well as those we minister to He will turn us from Failures into His Holy Success stories.

 “Go for souls, and go for the worst!” 

-Just another thought to Ponder.

 

 

Is the traditional family close to death? 4 threats that will flatline the family.

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The divorce rate in the United States is at an all time high – 50% and climbing.  For married couples, the busy world around them and the drive to be successful can be both rewarding and detrimental to their relationship.  If that issue were not enough, children within the family structure are facing greater societal pressures and visual/auditory simulations than ever before.  From images and videos on the web to television and online streaming accounts, the standards of moral living and what accepted behavior is, which should be taught by the parents are being contradicted by these outside influences.  

The argument can be made (and rightly so) that it is the parent’s duty to monitor and regulate the “data” consumption of their children yet all too often parents are either too busy working or have little to no interest in correctly parenting their children.  This is just one danger that threatens families today.  A sociological description of this is summed up in the phrase: “if you want to change society tomorrow you must teach the children of today!” The question is, who is teaching our children if the parents are not?  

4 threats that will flatline the family:

1 Societal Pressures: As mentioned above, who is teaching our children and what sort of influences are we allowing to infiltrate our homes?  Sometimes these influences seem innocuous yet just beneath surface there looms a greater threat which could potentially disrupt the teachings of the parents.   I don’t wish to sound like an alarmist or fire the danger flares without a clear sign of danger but parents be aware of what you allow your children to see, hear and do while they live in your home.  You have the greatest power to mold and shape your children, don’t let these outside influences disrupt or distort the godly principles that you are displaying and teaching them!   

2. Busyness: 
Parents, this is a warning to all of us.  Do not let your work and your job become all that you do!  Your first ministry and profession is to be a good parent!  This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work, but rather prioritize your schedule where possible in order to be there for your children.  The threat of “busyness” can be translated by your children to mean that they don’t matter to you, they are less important than your work, and this is how they should in turn become parents to their children in the future.  

Do you remember the old song “Cats in the cradle”?  In the chorus there’s that haunting lyric:
When you comin’ home, Dad
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then

You know we’ll have a good time then.”

And the song goes on and the son becomes just like his Dad and never has enough time because he is always busy.  
Spend time with your children.  Don’t let this threat flatline your family and your relationships to your children!  Someday, if we allow the busyness to consume us, we will come to regret all of the broken promises and unfulfilled plans that never happened because we never took the time.  

3.  Materialism: 
This might get personal, am I stepping on anyone’s toes yet?  Good! 
This whole “keeping up with the Jones'” needs to end in our homes!  We run the risk of becoming so “stuff” focused that we lose sight of the precious relationships we have right in front of us.  God gave us these living and breathing miracles to watch over, to teach and to love, and if we are so consumed with “stuff” what will our children see and want to become as well?  There are some things we absolutely need in this life, but then there are those things that we crave and desire and even covet.  Has materialism become an obsession in your household?  There is no doubt that in our media saturated world the “tech craze” has perpetuated our wants over our needs.  It has driven people to spend beyond their means and even at the risk of their families and livelihoods.  If we have become obsessed with stuff, not only do we run the risk of our kids following close behind us in our footsteps but perhaps we have removed God from His rightful place as well.  Does materialism rule you?  Beware of this family threat that could flatline your family.  Perhaps this threat may not flatline you right away, but gradually over time it has the propensity to wreck havoc in your lives and the lives of your children. 

4.  Financial Pressures: 
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One of the biggest threats to marriages today falls within the realms of finances.  Some of these financial pressures are interconnected with the third threat of materialism.  Families dream of buying that bigger or better house only to find that they have a bigger and harder mortgage to pay per month.  Financial pressures build and create fissures within the marriage relationship.  Married couples have to then work harder and slave over longer hours to help pay for the financial mess they find themselves in.  Along with the housing pressures come the credit card pressures (I’m beginning to sound like Dave Ramsey now).  Credit cards can be useful at times but it can also perpetuate this never ending cycle of debt in some and the dependence on borrowing money that we do not posses to pay off.  “At the end of the second quarter 2013, there was approximately $850 billion in outstanding revolving debt, mainly credit cards.” (Source: http://www.credit.com/debt/five-shocking-credit-card-debt-statistics/) 

Here’s another credit card statistic: “the average credit card balance per consumer was recently reported to be $3,779″ (Source: http://www.credit.com/debt/average-credit-card-debt/) 

Many families are living from pay check to pay check and at times have become enslaved to their credit card debts because they have overspent and lived without a backup plan and/or financial understanding of realistically “living within their means”.  This isn’t a discussion about poverty or the rich vs. the poor, this is a discussion about understanding how dangerous credit cards and debt in general can be on the family structure.  Financial pressures can be inherited and taught just as moral principles of living can be taught.  This doesn’t mean that all children will emulate their parents all the way into financial woes but certain habitual traits within finances can leave unhealthy blueprints for our children’s future.  

Get out the paddles and jump start the family heart: 

 

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Spend quality time with your family!  Regulate and filter what your children watch and hear in a media saturated world!  You are the parent so take the time, live like it and share your love and passions (those things that matter) with your family!  Don’t let these threats flatline your family, instead jump start your crew by intentional time and care!  Plan creative family events.  Do a family movie night.  Talk around the dinner table.  Invest in your children and in what they love to do.  Go to their school events when you are able!  Show up, don’t merely attend!  The family is your first ministry.  From your home stems all other avenues of God’s love for the world around you!  Don’t let your family flatline, it’s far too valuable to lose!  

-Just another thought to ponder.  

 

 

 

“Lord, I love you THIS much!”

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“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30) 

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Hey Dad guess what“, my son Ethan said as he looked at me with his ocean blue eyes and mischievous smirk.   Okay, I’ll bite, I thought to myself as I smiled back at him.  “What Ethan?”  I asked.  Seeing I had taken the bait, Ethan’s eyes lit up and his smirk broke out into a full smile as he quickly replied rather loudly “I LOVE YOU!” 

It is a game that we like to play.  We attempt to catch each other off guard with a simple question like “Guess what?”  As far as I can remember my Grandfather started this game and it is still going on today.  Truth be told, Ethan is rather good at it and at times he blindsides me with his spontaneous expressions of love.  

-Expressions of love-

What do our expressions of love look like when it comes to our Heavenly Father?  Does He receive our “first fruits” of love or just the left-overs?  When asked about the commandments and which was the most important, Jesus said “The most important one is this:…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.”  (Mark 12:29-31) 

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Do we understand realistically how important our love for God truly is?  Without this “first love” as our reference point all other ‘loves’ (including people) cannot be fully realized!  Jesus doesn’t just say “love God” but He goes on to say “With all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” (it is known as the Shema or “hear”).  In other words our expressions of love to God and the way we express THAT love is to be all or nothing.  This love is to be complete or completely useless.  Jesus’ usage of the word “ALL” means we must employ EVERYTHING in order to express our love to God.  From that love relationship with and to God, we can then begin to love those around us even those who we have deemed ‘unlovable’.  

How much? 

How much do we love the Lord our God?  How much have we expressed that love to Him?
Are we holding anything back?  Are we giving Him our first fruits of love?  
Can we say to the Lord: “Guess what? Lord, I love you THIS much!” as our arms are outstretched as far as they can possibly go?  
The depth of our expressions of love to God will determine the depth of love that we are able to show to those around us.  How is your love today?  

-Just something more to ponder.  

Is technology killing our family relationships?

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I have been told that the best messages we share are those that come from the heart and are personal.  This specific topic hits home with me because I love technology and and use it often…cue the song from NapoleonDynamite as Kip sings “I love technology”.  

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 But seriously, I have found myself once in a while checking my social media sites or texting another person on my phone and then I look up to discover one of my children had been telling me something and I completely missed it.  

Are you missing it to?

 I’m not a hypocrite here, I am equally guilty.  Technology is awesome in that it brings our big world so much closer and we can communicate to so many different people in it.  But what are we sacrificing when these “tools” become our whole world or our one obsession?  

We rush home from church on Sunday and instead of a nice family meal where actual talking takes place, we instead grab our tablet devices, video game consoles, cell phones a quick bite to eat and we’re all off in separate rooms practically living separate lives.  It’s sad but are we missing out on relationships that actually matter? Image

 

 Are we looking at the broad forest, which is the internet and all of the social media connections out there, while we completely lose out on these trees and their decaying roots (our families) right in front of us?  

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not that these things are inherently evil or bad, it’s just how we choose to use and sometimes abuse them.  Technology is bringing the world to us but is it pushing our families away from us as well?  Is there a balance that we can find?   

Here are three suggestions to help with our over indulgence of technology.  I also plan on utilizing this in my own life and with my own family as well: 

1)  Have a family meeting

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Sit down together without any distractions of televisions or any other electronic device.  Discuss your concerns with your kids and your spouse.  Share the desire to spend more quality time with them without being distracted.  Allot time to be on devices and online, but also carve out specific times in the week that you go “device free”…parents this includes you too! 

If it helps (and you’re that OCD) post a schedule on the refrigerator or in another prominent place where every family member can see it.  

2) Dinner Nights

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Depending on how busy you are, ensure that there are specific nights (perhaps every week night) where you sit down at the dinner table and have dinner together.  BUT: do not allow devices at the dinner table!  Perhaps even turn off the television if that is a distraction to your families and your conversations.  Communication is so important!  We don’t often realize how much we miss out on when our eyes are not focused on the one who is talking.  We miss the non-verbal language which includes body language and facial expressions.  Put the devices away for dinner and start talking to each other. Those devices and those “online” conversations will be there when you get back, they aren’t going anywhere.   

3) Go a week without.
This probably seems drastic to you…it does to me as well.  I was very reluctant to recommend this.  I am still leery of such a proposition.  A technology fast seems improbable in our tech-savvy/tech saturated world.  Yet what would happen if we tried to simply put the devices down for a week?  Could we do it?  Are we THAT addicted?  Why does it create such consternation in us (admittedly me)?  You know the old adage about addiction, addicts refuse to admit they have a problem.  Has technology become an unhealthy addiction you?  Do you find yourself checking status’ on facebook and other social sites more than a few minutes an hour?  Perhaps then there is some merit to going a week without these things.  

We can use the excuse that we need them for work, and rightly so.  But don’t try and rationalize away your usage of devices while on a fast if it isn’t “work” related.  Take a break.  Get away.  Go outside.  Go for a ride.  

No Excuses just love!  

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Spend time with those that truly matter to you!  Don’t neglect them or come to regret that you “weren’t there” later on in your life. Technology is great, but so is your family!  Use tech as a tool a means to connect but don’t let it consume and separate those that matter most to you!  

-Just something else to ponder today!  

 

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