Monday, April 27, 2009

Learning My Alphabet

Today I learned about the letter “Z.” Of course a 38-year old college graduate should have learned about “Z” a long time ago but I guess I am a slow learner. But the lesson I saw today in the 26th letter of the alphabet was not about phonics. It was about parenting and the brevity of life.

It seems like just yesterday when I walked Andrew (my "almost-5" year old son) to his preschool class at Southeast Christian Academy. Most parents know how quickly those years fly by. I thought I knew how quickly it would pass too. But nothing had prepared me for what I saw today when I walked him to class. They were working on the letter “Z.”

In case you don’t know it, Andrew’s class work on the final letter of the alphabet means the year is drawing to a close. How can this be? We just started on “A” yesterday. OK, it was really 8 months ago but it sure seems like yesterday. How can this be?

My mind raced with all manner of thoughts. If you think I was wondering about his college, marriage, and career choices you would be wrong. My thoughts went to the recent statistics about children and their world-view. It seems as if a child’s world-view, the way they think and process information, is largely set by the age of 10-11. In other words, my son is about ½-way there.

So my thoughts were not about the secular. I wondered, “Will he know Christ?” I mean really know Him? Not just the stories…not just the Sunday School answers…not just the facts…I mean really know Christ? Will he know more about Diego and Curious George than he knows about the Scripture? Will his love for the Savior be outweighed by his love for football and hunting?

Or will my son be like the 70% of churched kids who leave the church for 1 year or more after graduating from high school? Will my son be in the ½ of 1% of American young people (the so-called Mosaic generation) who possess a Biblical world-view? Or will he find a comfortable place among the 99.5%?

Will Andrew’s dad have an ongoing passion to reach and teach his son? Or will I bury my head in the sand like most parents (even Christian parents) and obliviously skip down the road of life as if on my way to a lazy afternoon of fishing?

As Andrew sat at his desk to begin working on his letter “Z” the inspired words of James came flooding in to my spirit. “Life is a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” That Scripture was not intended to be given numeric value but yet I pondered, “If a 77-year life is a vapor…and my son’s world-view is established by age 11…then I have 1/7th of a vapor to get this thing right.”

As a parent and a pastor the Lord is reminding me the task is great and the time is short. I cannot be so devoted to my calendar, my church, or my convention that I miss the harvest field right here under my roof. I told the church last night that I don’t merely want to raise 3 Christians. I want to raise 3 productive and effectively-serving disciples. Andrew and his sisters deserve a dad like that and our Lord is worthy of me being a dad like that.

Pray for me that I will keep my hand to the parental plow and my eyes on the finish line. And pray that I will do that today.

After all, my son just starting working on the letter “Z.”

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Great Word from Brother Philip

Philip Tyre serves as the student pastor at Emmanuel. On Sunday night, at my request, he taught God's Word concerning the task of reaching the next generation. Using Ephesians 6:1-4, Philip challenges us with the question, "Will our children keep our faith?" As a father of 3 and pastor to hundreds I was deeply challenged by his thoughts from God's Word.

With one click (and 53 minutes) you can hear from the passionate heart of a true servant of the Lord and of His church.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Love of My Life

Today I had the unusual privilege of taking part in 2 separate pre-marriage counseling sessions. I don’t do a great deal of counseling and I don’t know if I’ve ever done 2 pre-marriage sessions in one day. Today, both couples and I discussed the importance of “love” in a marriage.

Because I only provide Biblically-based counseling, I primarily use 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 in discussing love. As I talk to couples in counseling settings I try to simultaneously do an inventory of my own skills as a husband. Today was no exception. As we moved through the well-loved Corinthian passage I asked myself:

Do I demonstrate patience to Andrea?

It involves a lot more than just waiting on her to get ready. It also includes the attitude with which I wait. Sitting in the garage blowing the horn does not constitute patience. Thankfully, I don’t do that!

Do I show her kindness on a regular basis?

Someone once said to me, “I don’t need my husband to treat me like a queen. I just wish he would treat me as well as he treats strangers.” That quote haunts me. How sad that sometimes we treat the clerk at the store nicer than we treat the person who has committed their entire life to us.

How do I overcome the fleshly desire for jealousy?

For me the answer is found in the reality of oneness in Christ. If Andrea and I are one (and we are) then I can never be jealous of her accomplishments, achievements, or accolades. When she achieves something…I do too! Besides, if I love her like I am called to do by Christ, then I am too happy for her to be jealous of her. When she receives praise, I don’t think it could have happened to a better person :)

How do I avoid the sin of pride and arrogance toward my wife?

The best place to begin is to realize I am called to be a servant who sacrifices his all. The servant has no cause for boasting in the presence of the one(s) he is called to serve. Since there is no such thing as an arrogant servant, if I focus on serving my family then any hint of arrogance toward them will flee.

How do I keep from “behaving unseemingly?” Or as we say here in the South, “How do I keep from showing out when I don’t get my way?” Do I demonstrate servant leadership and refuse to “seek my own?”

Simply put, love doesn’t seek its own way. My natural tendency would be to act in an unbecoming manner when I don’t get my way. I believe the key is trying not to seek my own way. Then when I don’t get “my way” there is no shock, sadness, or surprise. In other words, this isn’t Burger King and Frank Sinatra doesn’t live here. (Hint for you younger readers: Old Blue Eyes sang a song called, “My Way.”)

Am I easily provoked to anger or do I have a slow temper and a long spiritual fuse?

I am not an angry person so this isn’t a really big challenge for me. But sometimes I carelessly break the commands of 1 Peter 3:7 and Ephesians 6:4. As a strong leader, I have to remember that my wife and children may see strength as harshness if I am not very intentional in my tone. In other words, the problem is not in my heart but sometimes in the miscommunication of it.

Am I a forgiving husband or do I keep a list of every offense committed in the last 12 months?

Honestly, I fail far too often as a pastor, preacher, husband, dad, and friend to be a list-keeper. List-keepers need to be much closer to perfect than I am.

What are some ways I can avoid rejoicing in unrighteousness but rather rejoice with the truth?

The biggest mistake I see (and hear) people make on this one is when they publicly denigrate their spouse. If I do not rejoice in my wife’s unrighteousness (or she in mine) then I do not want to bring it to light…to anyone. In fact, after the matter is settled I don’t even want to bring up to her again.

How can I bear all things, believe all things, hope all things and endure all things?

When the Bible repeats a phrase it speaks of its importance. Here of course, the emphasis is on “all things.” It’s the AGAPE love of the Greek New Testament. The only way I can love Andrea, Michaela, Andrew, and Sarah this way is to stay with them through “all things.”

I know a lot of men who claim they would die for their families. With characteristic machismo they brag about their willingness to step in front of an assailant’s bullet to save their wife or kids. But frankly, I’ve never known anyone who was ever called on to make that sacrifice. I’m sure there have been some but I’ve never heard the story.

The call and commitment to die for my family will more likely play out every day in much less exhilarating and less spine-tingling ways. I am called to die for my family when the kids need bathing and my wife is as tired as I am. I am called to die for my family when the dog needs taking to the vet and neither of us wants to go. I am called to die for my family when Michaela needs help with her homework and I’d rather FaceBook or blog.

God isn’t calling me so much to die for my family as He is calling me to die to myself and to live for my family. Granted, stepping in front of a burglar’s bullet sounds a lot more heroic than taking out the trash or changing a diaper. But at least this way I don’t end up in ICU.

As I do a little marital inventory on my skills in being a “1 Corinthians 13 husband” I really think I’m doing pretty well. But by God’s grace, I will do even better tomorrow.

Monday, April 6, 2009

An Atheist Pastor

In case you missed it, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lousville, Ky offered this commentary in today's Baptist Press. I can add nothing to his insightful analysis so I give you, my Emmanuel family, Dr. Al Mohler.