Monday, August 13, 2018

The Relenting Parent

One thing I think all parents are guilty of from time to time is throwing the towel in. Giving in. Giving up. Folding. Caving. Relenting. However you package the action, the end result is still the same. Your kid has pushed you to the limit. You know you can't take it anymore, you fold, and you give in to their demands like a rookie negotiator. Blame it on stress, being tired, a long day, the tenacity of your strong-willed child, or any of the other countless reasons we use. You give in to a piece off candy before bed time or, like I did the other day when I caved, banana pudding for breakfast. It may be for a toy or a few more minutes of video game time. It may be to play in a mud puddle or to let them go out of the house dressed as a cross between a ballerina, a cowgirl, and Wonder Woman. Sometimes we pass it off as being the cool parent or not wanting them to make a scene. Whatever our reason our action is the same. Rather than standing our ground on something we know is for the best interest of our child, we give in. I don't know a parent who hasn't occasionally relented to the demands of a child. I have watched though as some have never shown restraint and gave in to every demand, which does no good for the child and the society that will eventually have to deal with them. Our relenting shows flexibility on our part as parents but should we ever be unrelenting?

The simple answer is "Yes." When it comes to sin in the life of our child, spouse, siblings, parents, friends, co-workers, and fellow believers, yes we should be unrelenting when it comes to our honesty about sin. Does this mean we constantly nag at others about how they need to quit sinning? No it doesn't. It does mean we need to speak plainly about sin and the impact it has on them and others. It means "calling a spade, a spade" without whitewashing it, but doing so in a tactful and grace-filled way. For example, when we have children reaching adulthood and they mention living with their significant other before marriage, we need to speak plainly to them about what Scripture says and how we feel about it. Ultimately the decision is theirs to make, but we cannot gloss over sin and relent just to appease someone. There are countless other examples you can fill in here, but the end result should be the same, us speaking in love to those we care about on how their sin will or is impacting their lives.

In our culture today, spiritual accountability is all but extinct. You can't try to follow the commands of Scripture (Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20) and help someone stuck in their sin without being considered hypocritical or judgmental. But the last time I checked, the responsibility of a Christian is not to fit into the world but to minister to the world. When it comes to our responsibility to speak the truth in love about sin, we must be as unrelenting as God is on the subject. The Bible is clear in many places that God is unrelenting of His view of sin and the judgment that comes with it. Just as God is unrelenting about His view of sin, we ought to have the same dogged determination to stand our ground when it comes to sin. If we don't, then we are no different than the parent who showed no restraint, raised a spoiled child, and left society to deal with their own lack of tenacity.


*If you enjoyed today's post, be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Building a Strong Fence

After our calves were out of the pasture for about the 10th time in 10 days, I had to rebuild a section of fence they had broken. As I worked on the fence this morning before coming into the office I couldn't help but think about this blog post from a few years ago. We need to make sure our spiritual fence is in good working order. Check out the post below.
_________________________________________________________________________
*This post was originally published 3.7.2016.

This past weekend I spent about 8 hours fixing the fence around the perimeter of our farm. I learned some valuable spiritual lessons from my time spent bending, wrapping, and pulling barbed wire. Here are just a few of them.

Don't let your neighbor build your fence.
We had a neighbor do some maintenance to their property and in the process they tore down a large section of our fence. The neighbor never told us about it and our cows got out because of it. These are the same neighbors who, in a different section of the property line, put up a convoluted mess of 10 strands of barbed wire in what seemed to be a basket weaving style. Needless to say, both of these fencing issues came about because our neighbor had been allowed to mess with our fence.

If you want a good spiritual fence to protect you, then you cannot expect anyone else to build it for you. No one else can properly maintain your spiritual fence. Not your parents, your siblings, your children, your spouse, your friends, or your pastor. In the book of Nehemiah we read about the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem. Nehemiah had each person build the section of wall that would protect their home and family. Why did he do that? Because if you build your wall (fence) you'll make sure it's done right.

Build your fences strong.
The old farmer's saying is that "Your fences need to be pig-tight, horse-high, and bull-strong." There is definitely some truth in that statement. But after we put some newly weaned calves into a field separate from their mothers, I'd amend that to "Your fences need to be strong enough to keep a calf from it's momma." Two of our calves broke through our divider fence and went back to their mothers. Needless to say the fence should have been tighter, higher, and stronger than I originally built it.

A weak fence is a useless fence. If you don't have a strong spiritual fence then you leave yourself open to all sorts of spiritual issues. Fences are used for two things. To keep things in or to keep things out. If you want to protect yourself spiritually from the attacks of Satan (1 Peter 5:8-9), then you need to do the work to build up a strong spiritual fence. The five spiritual disciplines that will help build a strong spiritual fence include: Prayer, Bible Study, Worship, Fellowship, & Service. As you practice these disciplines your fence will become stronger and stronger.

Talk to the One who knows how to build your fence.
Nearly 20 years ago I started helping my dad farm. In those 20 years he's taught me many valuable lessons about farming. Last week while I was fixing a section of fence, he came to check on me and see what I was doing. Even after all these years, I found myself asking his advice on how to do something. While working on the fence, he kindly advised me to do something differently than the way I was trying to do it. Both times his counsel was spot on.

When it comes to building your spiritual fence, no one knows better what needs to go into building your spiritual fence than God. That even includes you. Most times we think we know exactly what we need to do spiritually, but we are simply fooling ourselves. God knows us more intimately than we even know ourselves (Jeremiah 1:5; Matthew 10:30). That means we should seek His counsel for building our spiritual fence. As we ask Him for guidance, He will tell us how we ought to build our fence. When we start to build our fence our own way, He'll loving guide us to build it a better way. But the key is we have to spend time in prayer seeking His help.

I hope these three simple lessons from hours of fencing will help you develop a strong spiritual fence.


If you enjoyed today's post be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Dented Marriage

Recently I was carrying some stuff from the pool to the house following a swim with Misty and the boys. As I reached for the door the items in my left hand shifted and I dropped something. Usually I am able to grab things I drop before they hit the ground because I have quick reflexes. This time I wasn't so fortunate because of the stuff I had in my hands. The one item that slipped out of my hand was Misty's wedding ring. And of course it didn't gently land on the ground and wait for me to pick it up. No, it landed stones down on the corner of our brick steps and rolled across the cement floor. As you can imagine, the ring did not come away unscathed. One of the stones on the ring was knocked out and fortunately no more damage was done. Thankfully for me Misty was understanding and I'm sure this will be the catalyst to her getting a well deserved and newer form of jewelry.

As I've considered what to do about Misty's ring over the past week, I couldn't help but think about how her ring was representative of any marriage. Marriage is the second most difficult job you'll have in life, just behind raising kids. When you consider what marriage is and was originally intended to be, you easily understand why it is so challenging at times. Marriage is God's perfect design for human relationships practiced by two imperfect people. Those two people are attempting to fulfill a perfect plan when they themselves are flawed, sinful, broken people. In the course of attempting marriage we all make mistakes. At times we make it all about ourselves and not about our spouse. We might put all our attention and focus into work. We may give all our energy to our kids, hobbies, or something else in life and none of it to our marriage. You can fill in whatever mistakes you've made in your marriage here. Simply put we all mess up in marriage and no marriage is immune to mistakes. But the way we respond to those mistakes made in our marriage reveals the true health of our marriage. If we shut down and refuse to work on the problems in our marriage, we are begging for more problems. When we refuse to work on the problems in our marriage we are inviting Satan to wreck havoc in our marriage and he'll gladly oblige.

If you'll come to a realization about a few things in your marriage, then you can begin to work through the problems you are facing. First, you probably didn't get into this situation overnight and you won't get out of it overnight. Be patient and willing to work on your problem for the foreseeable future. Secondly, you aren't perfect. No matter how perfect you think you are, you are just as flawed as the rest of us. That means you aren't always a joy to live with, but your spouse loves you anyways and wants the best for your marriage. Remember, they know you more intimately than anyone else and they love you in spite of your flaws. Thirdly, extend grace to your spouse. He or she needs more grace and less criticism when it comes to the problems in your marriage. Approach this the way Jesus would have, you know, treating your spouse the way you want to be treated (Luke 6:31). Lastly, your problems can destroy your marriage if you don't address them. Like a cancer or infection that goes untreated in the body, a problem in your marriage can start out slow but have grave affects on your marriage. When you stop communicating because of the problems in your marriage, you are putting the nails in the coffin of your marriage. You have to communicate to work on the problems in your marriage. If you don't communicate and aren't willing to work on your marriage problems, then you might as well realize that at best you'll have an unhealthy and miserable marriage and at worst your marriage will fail.

I'll close with this. The family unit in our society is daily being attacked by Satan. He is trying everything he can to undermine the success of God's plan for human relationships like marriage. Look at the cultural acceptance of same-sex marriages and cohabitation and you'll see how effective Satan has been at his job. Take seriously the vows you made before God and each other and work to make sure your marriage stands the test of time. It's one thing to have a marriage that has been dented and dinged by the trials of life, but it's a whole other thing to throw it away because you've not done what was necessary to keep it from breaking apart.


*If you enjoyed today's post, be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Training in Cages

Not my plants!
One of the things I despised as a kid but enjoy as an adult is working in the garden. My great-grandmother would have us picking beans and shucking corn the minute we were dropped off at her house during the summer. My grandfather had us picking up potatoes as he and my uncle plowed them up using a hand plow behind a 1949 Allis-Chalmers G. My parents and grandparents regularly used us in the garden to cut off cornstalks and harvest vegetables. As kids we hated it. Now that I'm an adult, I enjoy working in the garden with my dad or in my own raised bed garden in my backyard. This year I planted two tomato plants, two cucumber plants, a zucchini plant, a squash plant, and 3 pepper plants in my raised bed. I've been watering these plants nearly daily and put out fertilize a couple of times to help them get big and strong. Over the last 5 weeks I've been carefully training my tomato & cucumber plants on a daily basis to stay inside the cages I put around them. These cages help protect them from storm damage and to support them as they grow larger. These plants that started out small have turned into beautiful, mature plants that are starting to bear vegetables.

Last week as I was putting a cucumber vine back in the cage I thought about how these plants were similar to children. Like plants, children start out small and need many things to grow to maturity. They need the water of love and the fertilize of time with parents to develop into strong, healthy people. This work requires daily attention on the part of parents. They also need the cages of rules and discipline. To kids, rules and discipline feel as confining to them as the cages do around my cucumbers and tomatoes. But just like the plants in the cages, children thrive and flourish when there are rules and discipline used to train them. When parents consistently train their kids with firm rules and adequate discipline, then the children are better off because of it. We've all seen "those" kids who have never been disciplined a day in their life and never been made to follow a rule. We've all seen them in the store, or in church, or in restaurants, or at school. Why do they act like a cucumber vine growing all over the back yard? Because they haven't been trained and they are running wild. Unfortunately it isn't good for the kid and eventually you, I, and the rest of society will have to deal with the parent's lack of willingness to train their kids.

My plants.

As my plants have grown to be healthy, strong, mature plants I've had a sense of pride in them. I look at them and think about all the mornings I've watered them after running on the treadmill. I think about the time I've put into pulling weeds so they didn't take over. As I picked the first couple of cucumbers the other day I was proud of what my plant was producing. When it comes to our kids, we can have the same sense of pride as we watch them mature into young adults who are emotionally healthy, spiritually strong, and mentally mature. The best way to accomplish this is through spending time with them and teaching them to be respectful of rules and the discipline that comes with breaking those rules. When they are older we will finally see the training we did when they were younger paying off.


* If you enjoyed today's post, be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Tuna gods

One of the shows I always try to catch, no pun intended, is National Geographic Channel's Wicked Tuna. For those unfamiliar with the show, it follows several fishing vessels out of Gloucester, Massachusetts as they try to catch giant bluefin tuna. It is always interesting to see how the process goes and how sometimes they land monster tunas and other times the fish gets away. One thing that always causes me to roll my eyes when watching this show is a reference I've heard from all but a few of the cast on the show. When things are going good or when things are going bad, they regularly give credit or blame to the "tuna gods." Sometimes they go as far as to put their hands together as if they were praying, look to the heavens, and plead with the tuna gods to give them a fish. There are a few captains who seem to be believers in Christ and give credit to Him for the fish, but all the rest seem to seek out provision from the tuna gods.

I realize many will say, "What is the harm in it? What does it matter if they playfully ask the tuna gods for a fish." The reality of the matter is that when it comes to everything in our life, good, bad, or otherwise, God has allowed it into our lives and He alone is to be praised for it. When we give credit to anything other than God, what we do is we put that "thing" above God, as if it were more powerful and more important than Him. Whether it is the imaginary good luck or bad luck we as humans have created or some fictional fish god, we are still committing good ol' fashion idolatry when we give credit to anything other than God. God is clear on this topic in the pages of the Bible and spells it out for us time and time again how He is the only one worthy of worship, praise, glory, and honor. This idea is most explicitly spelled out for us in Exodus 20:3 (NIV), "You shall have no other gods before me." He goes on for the next 3 verses and details how we aren't to worship other gods or have images of gods. God is serious about His worship and we should take it serious too. It is real easy for us as humans to give credit to anything and everything but God. We can worship luck, coincidence, fate, destiny, and a myriad of other idols without ever giving God the honor He is due. We are hardwired to worship God and often times we pervert that innate desire to worship by focusing our attention on other things. We have to be vigilant and diligent about making God the focus of our worship and then keeping our focus there.

Take some time right now to examine your own life and those areas where you have idols. Ask God to show you those idols and ask Him to bring you to the point of conviction and repentance over those idols. Then pursue Him as the only object of your worship. I'll leave you with this closing thought from Dr. Walter Martin and it best sums up why we need to only worship God. "[God] does not share His throne with Krishna, Buddha, Mohammed, Zoroaster, or any of the endless assortment of gurus and gods." This includes the tuna gods!


*If you enjoyed today's post, be sure to share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!

Monday, June 25, 2018

A Trickle or a Flood?

Last Saturday I had to work on one of our tractors. After baling some hay a few weeks ago, we had a fuel system problem on our Allis-Chalmers 185. The strainer or sediment bowl that keeps debris in the diesel fuel from reaching the motor was clogged. As we were working on it a few weeks ago we found that parts of the 40 plus year old sediment bowl had deteriorated. We had to order a new one to replace the whole set up and I set out early on Saturday morning to knock out this 30 minute job before it got hot. But, like anything on a farm, things rarely go as planned and take much longer than you expect! I had to drain more than 20 gallons of diesel fuel out of the tank so I could replace the old part. The problem was that to drain out the fuel I had one of two options available to me. I could either take the sediment bowl off and let the fuel come flooding out and hope to catch it in buckets, or I could put a hose on a part of the sediment bowl and allow it to trickle through the blocked fuel line into a hose and into containers. I chose option 2 and in the words of the narrator on Spongebob Squarepants, three...hours...later...I had the fuel finally drained from the tank and replaced the part in 20 minutes. I was able to get other things done during the tedious draining process, but it caused me to repeatedly second guess myself as to whether I should have gone with a trickle or a flood when draining the fuel.

When it comes to our spiritual growth as Christians, we don't have a choice between a trickle and a flood. The only option is a slow, methodical process of growing our spiritual life to a place of maturity. Think about it from this perspective. Our spiritual growth is based on our relationship with God through our faith in Jesus Christ. You cannot rush the development of a relationship in the physical world, so why would we think we could rush the growth of our spiritual relationship with God? We cannot flood ourselves with an intense 2-3 days of reading the bible or spending a bunch of time over a few days in prayer and hope to suddenly be on par spiritually with the late Billy Graham. It doesn't happen that way.

Time is required to grow spiritually mature and to develop your personal relationship with God. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Time is required. In the time it requires for this maturing and development to occur, a few things need to be happening. Here is you a list of the things you need to be doing to grow spiritually mature and to develop your personal relationship with God.

Prayer. Spend time in prayer daily with God. Praise Him. Confess your sins to Him. Thank Him for His provision. Share with Him your needs.

Study your Bible. Get on a daily bible reading plan that fits you. But don't simply read a handful of chapters each day and think that's all you should do. Find unique and creative ways of studying the Bible as you read. Use devotional material that speaks to your situation. 

Worship. Make it a priority to be in your church for worship. If worship in your church is once a week, then be there. If worship is 3 times a week, commit to being there to worship God. Connect with God during worship through the songs, prayers, giving, and the spoken message.

Fellowship. Churches offer many different ways to fellowship together. Some are formal and others are informal. Some are based around meals and others are based on nothing more than good company. Take advantage of opportunities to grow closer to fellow believers.

Service. God gifts every believer for service to Him in His kingdom. Find your unique gifting and find a way to serve Him through your local church. There are plenty of ministries and missions that you can be a part of that will help build up the church.

I can guarantee you with 100% assurance that if you regularly and systematically practice these five disciplines you will grow more spiritually mature and develop a strong relationship with God. There are no two ways about it. If you practice the disciplines that are essential to the Christian faith, you cannot help but accomplish the goals of the faith. Those goals are to grow to spiritual maturity and to develop our relationship with God. And the only way to do this is through a slow, methodical trickle rather than a flood.


*If you enjoyed today's post, be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!

Monday, June 18, 2018

All At Once

After a stint on the injured reserve I've recently been able to take back up running. The most aggravating aspect of a long layoff due to injury is that you aren't automatically back where you were when you had to quit. I was running at a pretty high level, for me anyways, and was doing really well before a knee injury sidelined me for a bit. Now that I've recovered to the point I can run again, it would be nice if I could just pick up where I left off. But unfortunately that isn't possible. Stamina decreases without exercise. Muscles atrophy some and aren't as strong. It would be great if none of this happened but of course it does and we have to build back up to where we once were. The only catch is it takes time. We can't do it all at once. 


It is interesting to hear people talk and watch their actions in regards to their spiritual life. Some imagine that sitting in a pew on a Sunday will make up for their limited interaction with God the previous week. Others will see their Sunday Duty as a chance to get ahead on spiritual things for the week ahead. Their thought, I'm assuming, is that as long as they make it for church on Sunday then they are good to do all of their "spiritual stuff" all at once. The sad reality is that nothing could be farther from the truth. A man doesn't ask a girl out on a date, start a relationship with her, and then only interact with her once a week for an hour, does he? Not if he has any common sense! We all realize this is not a healthy way to attempt a relationship. If we realize this fact, why do we try to make our spiritual relationship with God fit in to this type of mold? If it doesn't work in physical relationships, it surely won't work in spiritual ones.

To have a healthy, growing, and vibrant personal relationship with God means you have to put the time in. It means you have to do the work necessary to develop your relationship.When a new relationship starts between a man and a woman, they both put great effort into learning about each other and spending time together. To continue to grow together and have a healthy relationship, these two people must continue to spend time together and learn about each other. Our relationship with God follows the same principles. If we want a healthy and strong relationship with God, then we have to spend time with Him and put effort into learning more about Him. This requires us to intentionally carve out time in our day, each day, to spend time with Him in prayer and learn about Him by reading His Word. When we do, we'll find that our relationship with Him will change for the better. But we can't expect a week's worth of relationship building with God to take place in an hour service on Sunday morning. I've mentioned a few times to my congregation the perspective believers ought to have about worship on Sunday. Worship should serve as the pep rally preparing you for what God has in store for you in the week to come or the post-game celebration where you celebrate what God has done in your life the previous week. This is a simple perspective of worship that will help you frame how you ought to view worship.

I'll leave you with this. If you are approaching your church's corporate worship as anything other than a time to revel in the goodness of God and celebrate Him, then you're missing the point of worship. Don't expect worship to complete what you should have done in the previous week in regards to your relationship with God. The reason being, developing a strong relationship with God requires time. It isn't something you can do all at once.


*If you enjoyed today's post, be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!