But I Don’t Know How to Pray

Earlier this summer, I had the privilege to participate in a one week mission trip to western Pennsylvania to assist in building ramps for folks in need. A dear friend who has a heart for these type of adventures encouraged me to join him this year. My calendar was clear, the distance geographically was not a bridge too far, so I thought “why not?”, there would be much to learn! You see, construction skills are not something that come naturally to me. Building ramps had the potential to perhaps expand my “Handyman” capabilities around the house. Maybe, even increase my courage to tackle some of the more difficult “honey do” items around the house.

So I signed up with the great expectations of learning a new skill. Little did I know, however, that they were running short of team leaders to guide the crews of young people who would be building the ramps. So, shortly before the trip, you guessed it, I learned that I would also be learning the skills of being a team leader! While I’ve led teams before, I generally had some level of experience with the subject to be addressed. Not so here! This was going to be a greater adventure than originally envisioned. Fortunately, I soon discovered that my team was comprised of several young people who were well equipped veterans from prior years. They would be the experts, and I would be the learner.

The mission trip was sponsored by the GCYM; the Geauga Christian Youth Mission. For more than 25 years, these highly dedicated men and women who lead the mission, have purposed to help youth learn the joy of serving others in need as well as to grow spiritually in their walk with Christ. Many of the adults attending are veterans of many trips over the years. Sleeping on the floors of churches is not for the faint of heart, nor perhaps is the 90 degree heat and high humidity of building ramps in the sun. But their dedication and commitment to spend time working beside young people is greatly to be admired. Investing in the lives of youth who are growing and developing their identity in Christ as they serve others. That’s a great opportunity…..an opportunity where spiritual conversations can take place.

One of those spiritual conversions took place for my team during lunch early in the week. Dining at the job site entailed “sandwich dujour” prepared prior to our departure from the church.  We would break around noon ready for a rest break as well as some discussion time. With the purpose of encouraging others to join me in praying that week, I asked if there was anyone who would like to give thanks for our meal. After a period of awkward silence, one of the young ladies stated, “But I don’t know how to pray.” Her heart felt and sincere statement placed her in good company. Everyone can relate to those feelings when it comes to prayer. Even one of the disciples of Jesus asked our Lord to teach the disciples how to pray. (Luke 11:1-4) Yes, prayer is something that we learn how to do. How to have a conversation with God. The Creator of heaven and earth.

Learning how to go about a conversation with God can be daunting, whether in public or in private. Where do we begin? Jesus response to his disciple was to teach them what has become known today as the “Lord’s Prayer”.   A great place to start. While many of us may have learned the Lord’s prayer in church, it’s a prayer we can enjoy each day of the week.   But what else can we do? Well, first the Lord has given us a book, the Bible, to teach us how to have a relationship with Him. To know Him and how to live in accordance with His plan for our lives. We learn about prayer in the Bible. We can pray God’s Word in praise to Him, in prayer for others and in prayer for ourselves. Secondly, we learn about prayer from others. Family, mentors, and friends.  It should be as natural and as common as daily meals, chores, celebrations and trials. Prayer is integral to the web and weave of life for the Christian. A vibrant relationship with God presupposes that we communicate regularly with Him. We talk with Him in prayer and God communicates with us through His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.

In future posts, we will spend more time discussing the subject of prayer. But let me encourage you today to start praying the greatest commandment.  (Matthew 22:37-38)  Pray it for your spouse, your children and “yes”, even yourself. This is God’s greatest command and desire for our lives. There is priority in prayer and this prayer should be near the top of that list.

The Best Defense is a Great Offense

Last month our family traveled to the great state of Texas to attend a convention in The Woodlands. Along the way, we made a stop in the Cincinnati area to visit Uncle Denny. He joined us as we spent a day to visit “The Ark Encounter” in Florence, Kentucky. Quite an experience and one we plan to enjoy again in the future. Our time with Uncle Denny is always a delight. With a heart fervent for the Lord, he is an encouragement to be around. He attends church twice on Sunday. Once in the morning at an apartment complex nearby and again in the afternoon at the nursing home care center which is also a short walk from his apartment. The morning session is held twice a month by an itinerant pastor in the Wesley tradition who stops by to share the word of God and sing hymns with the willing tenants. Recently, the pastor asked Uncle Denny to consider picking up his mantle to share the word of God on one of those two Sundays when the pastor is not able to be there.  It was not a surprise to hear that he had been asked. Uncle Denny has a passion for Christ and it shows. He delights in sharing the Word of God with those he meets; friends and strangers alike. Well, Uncle Denny accepted the mantle and began his first sharing of the Word in June. While we were with him, he was focused on preparing to share his next message on John 14:6, where Jesus stated that, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Those who hear will be blessed!  Uncle Denny just turned 85 earlier this month. 

At a breakfast this past month my dear friend, Steve, shared that his world as a grandfather was going to be expanding very soon. His second and third grandchild were to arrive during the third quarter this year. He was excited and I was excited with him. Or as a friend from Australia shared last year, “I was upcited!” With emphasis on the “up”! It provides a better mental picture! My friend had a prayer verse posted in his home that provided guidance for him in his role as a grandfather. It was Psalm 71:18 – “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”  Steve’s desire was to not only spend time with his grandchildren, but to invest in them spiritually.

Both Uncle Denny and Steve’s examples were encouraging. These men are making a difference. Investing in others. It reminded me of the phrase, “The best defense, is a great offense.” A term historically associated with military campaigns but used more frequently today in the world of sports. A good offense keeps the enemy off guard and less capable to attack. It also focuses on taking new ground.   Playing offense is something we should do our entire life. There may be times when limitations surface in our lives, but the Lord will be faithful to provide new opportunities to guide our steps. We need to remain faithful to follow His lead.

What is the Price of Your Integrity?

The story is told of “Honest Abe” Lincoln that as a young man he held a job as a clerk in a country general store. One day in selling goods to a woman, Mrs. Ducan, he charged her two dollars and six cents. In reconciling his accounts at the end of the day, Abe recognized that he had charged Mrs. Ducan, six cents too much. When he closed the store, he walked the two miles to her home to return the overpayment to her*. Other examples of Lincoln’s life have been noted that earned him the moniker of “Honest Abe”.   Nations today, as they did then, long for leaders with such integrity.

In attending a convention in North Carolina recently, I went to a presentation by Steve Scheibner. Scheibner is a pilot with American Airlines and he was giving a message to men on “Second Mile Leadership”. A good message that was based on Jesus statement in Matthew 5:41. One of the areas of leadership that he addressed was integrity. He asked the question, “What is the price of your integrity?” His answer to that question was that he believes for most men that their integrity is worth about a “buck seventy-five”, $1.75.   He had a simple test. See how you fare. He asked the audience, “What do you do when you are paying the bill at the restaurant and discover that your waiter failed to charge you for one of the beverages that you had ordered?” Do you, consider it their loss and your gain? Or do you immediately inform the waiter that they made a mistake and they need to add one more beverage to the bill? Scheibner’s conclusion is that most men take the money and run, rationalizing that the error belongs to the waiter and the restaurant.   For Christians, of course, that’s never an option. As the apostle Paul testified in his trial before Governor Felix, “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” Acts 24:16 NIV

Our integrity should not have a purchase price. Living a life of integrity brings its own rewards. Proverbs 10:9 states that “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” When our conscience is clear before God and before man, we can rest secure. Just like Honest Abe, our reputation remains intact. Integrity enables others to rely upon us and to trust us; our word and our actions represent our bond.   In the restaurant example above, informing the waiter of the error on the bill even has the opportunity to open doors to a conversation about God. A strong testimony accompanies a man of integrity. And when the waiter asks “why would you do this for me?” Make sure you are ready to give an answer for the hope that is within you!

 

*The Character Journal, A Ministry of Home Life Ministries……Taken from Gaining Favor with God and Man by William M. Thayer, 1893

Generational Dads

Earlier this month, I was reading in the first chapter of Luke, verse 17 where an angel was speaking to a Dad named “Zechariah” and proclaiming to him news about his future son. A son yet to be born. The angel said, “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” NIV   Zechariah’s future son would be “John the Baptist”, who would go before the coming of God’s Son, Jesus. And what would he do? Turn the hearts of Dads to their children……I do love that part! John’s mission was to get the attention of Dads to wake up and turn their focus to the most important needs of their children. And what were the most important needs for their children? Preparing their hearts to be ready to receive the Lord. Helping Dads to get back to their mission: teaching our children to love God, love our neighbors and love His Word. Psalm 78:1-7 outlines it clearly. A generational perspective. So our children can tell the next generation and their children the next generation.

It’s been a traveling journey for our family since late May with Christian Home Education Conventions in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. During those travels, I met many “Generational Dads”. Men who have a passion for their families and a desire to raise their children according to the Word of God.   They were an encouragement. Even saw some grandfathers who were supporting their children and grandchildren in the endeavor. Quite an example!

The absence of Dads in families today is reaching epidemic proportions in the U.S. According to U.S. government statistics, 41% of children today are born to unwed mothers. *   There are three major institutions in society that will primarily impact the spiritual development of our children: the family, education and the church. Dad’s absence will impact all three with severe consequences.

In June we celebrate Father’s Day. We need to celebrate Dad lest our nation forget their critical importance to our children, our families and indeed our country. Many thanks to all of you faithful Dads out there! You are greatly needed by your children, your children’s children and for all of those generations yet to come.

 

*The Benedict Option, p. 22

A Journey to the Cactus League

     In early March, Marian and I hitched up the wagon via American Airlines and headed to Arizona for time in the sun, a little baseball and some relaxation. A new experience for both of us. We’ve never vacationed in the land of the sun, but we came to enjoy the warm weather with temperatures reaching up into the 80’s and 90’s. Phoenix is quite a popular destination this time of year with considerable traffic at the airport as well as the freeways! People were very friendly, hospitable and tan. Guess that would be characteristic given the high volume of sunshine. Rather uncharacteristic for a couple of white washed northeast Ohioans where you get one day of sun per month from November through April and nearly everyone needs to consume 1000 mg of Vitamin D each day to keep your doctor happy. One element about the people in Arizona that was quite noticeable, however, was that the age range tended to be very highly populated by members of the half century club. That was a new experience for us!

The Cactus League plays baseball from late February until the end of March. Sixteen major league teams play their spring games in Arizona with two of my favorite teams, the Cleveland Indians and the Kansas City Royals participating. It was quite a treat to be able to see them play. Although the games don’t count, the games are competitive with most players competing to try and make the major league roster. The teams also house the players from their “farm teams”, the minor league teams that serve as their development program for the majors. Enjoyed visiting one of the morning practice sessions for the Cleveland minor league players. There were up to 200 players there that morning all dressed up in their polished uniforms; it was quite impressive. It brought back memories of playing baseball during my teenage years. You could see the excitement and hope in the faces of these young men as they wholeheartedly worked with all of their capability to make a good impression on the coaches. In a highly competitive league, most of these players will not make it to the majors. Yet, they were giving it their best shot; an effort to be applauded.

In attending many of the baseball games, several people associated with a particular team wore T-shirts that stated, “Train to Reign.” An appropriate theme for training camp obviously. Competitive sports serves as an example of the importance of “training.” The difference between those teams that are able to perform at the very highest level is ever so slight. The emphasis on the fundamentals of the sport and the time invested in training generally make the difference for the eventual “winners” who reign. The parallels of this principle to the Christian life were evident while reading through Romans 5:17 one morning. Those who receive the gift of righteousness will reign in life through our Lord Jesus Christ. In becoming a Christian, we begin our walk with Him as a “rookie” in camp. We are on the team but our training has just begun. Fortunately, the Lord has given us a playbook, the Bible. II Timothy 3:16 is a good verse to have memorized. It summarizes that God has given us His word to teach us, correct us, even rebuke us when needed, but also to “train” us. Transitioning from a rookie to a veteran in the Christian life doesn’t happen overnight. It generally takes considerable time; an investment in God’s word along with a desire to put it into practice in one’s life. In so doing, one moves from being a rookie to a veteran. And in the Christian life as well as in baseball, veterans help rookies in making the journey.

While on vacation unexpected encounters sometimes take place that can add a bit of encouragement along the way. During a trip to Camelback Ranch Stadium in Glendale to watch the Chicago White Sox and the Indians play, we needed to purchase tickets at the stadium since we had not done so in advance. The young lady at the ticket counter made my day when she asked for my identification to prove that I was old enough to qualify for the Senior Saver rate on the tickets!   No offense was taken, of course. Gifts sometimes come in small packages.  Another chance meeting took place at the hotel where we were staying. My regular routine, since my internal alarm clock goes off early in the morning, is to head to the lobby to grab a cup of coffee and have my Quiet Time. On occasion it’s not so quiet if it’s crowded, but sometimes it also brings along the opportunity to meet someone new. That happened on this trip as *Bill, a man in his 40’s, stopped by my table when he saw me reading the Bible to ask where I was reading. That morning I was in the book of Romans and as our conversation went further, he indicated that he was there that week to minister to one of the baseball teams. A former professional major league baseball player in his earlier days and now a pastor of a church, he takes about 3 to 5 days a month to minister to the team. Blessed with a supportive church, a team with a supportive executive leadership, and a supportive family, Bill has the opportunity to speak the love of God into the lives of these young men during perhaps one of the more challenging times in their lives. Amazing how God works to provide a godly man at the appropriate time and place.  As a former baseball player, he relates well with the players and knows the challenges they are facing being far from home. He shared a small piece of his own personal story of his early days as a baseball player and a new Christian. Like a “fish out of water” in a world without familiarity, Bill was looking for help from someone who could help him grow in his faith. At that time, God brought an unlikely man across his path. A man whose appearance would not lead you to believe he was a Christian. His visage would tell you that he had lived a hard life, having spent his time on those activities that take life away rather than build it up. This man whom God had redeemed from perdition, offered to help him. Having no other options at the time, he said “yes”. In the process, this man introduced Bill to the three R’s. Similar to the basics of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, Bill was trained in reading, researching and remembering the word of God. He got him into the word of God which is exactly what he needed. Reading it daily, researching (studying) the Scriptures to understand what they meant and how they applied to life, and remembering: learning to memorize the verses. After about 6 weeks Bill realized his life was changing and he was headed in the right direction. Gratitude is perhaps the best way to describe Bill’s countenance as he shared his story. Extremely grateful to God for this man, this veteran, who invested in him when he was a rookie in the Christian life.

The Journey to the Cactus League was a wonderful adventure. Lots of baseball, warm weather, beautiful country, and meeting some wonderful people. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” according to the book of Proverbs, and I experienced some sharpening during this trip. That’s always a good investment.

 

*Not his real name.

 

A Treasure Map to the “Fear of the Lord”

The topic of the “fear of the Lord” is not one you hear a great deal about today. Can’t remember the last time I heard a sermon on the subject, a message at a conference or even anything on talk radio. It may be passé within modern Christianity. Hopefully, my experience is an anomaly because it is anything but when one opens the Bible. Vine’s dictionary states that it is used 330 times in the Old Testament. In my education on effective communications, repetition is one of the keys to ensure understanding of the message. Good leaders practice it. God had that figured out long before mankind. He knew we needed to hear it over and over and over again. Perhaps a good opening question for new Dads just starting out at a parent’s conference might be: “If you want your children to grow up to be men and women who will love Christ and walk in His ways; would you be willing as a father to make some adjustments?”

So what does the “fear of the Lord” actually mean? The first thing that comes to mind is to be afraid, that’s what fear generally means. There is a passage in Exodus 20:20 where Moses says to the nation of Israel when God descends on Mt. Sinai and he says: “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” NIV He uses both words (afraid and fear) in the same sentence to communicate a truth about our fear of God. In this particular case, to understand that to fear God is to abstain from sin. God wants us to know that He is the One who made the heavens and the earth and all that is therein. He descended on Mt. Sinai in dark clouds, lightening and smoke and with the sounding of a loud trumpet. The people of Israel fell back in fear. God’s power and might were in full display. This fear is one of reverence, awe, and submission to a God who is worthy of our worship and our obedience. God knew that our fear needed to be channeled correctly. When we get it wrong bad things happen! Proverbs 29:25 states that “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” NIV We take the wrong road in the midst of our circumstances and end up in deep weeds. That’s what happened to several of the Israelites a short time later when they turned their worship of God to worship of a golden calf made by human hands. For many, it cost them their life.

In the book of Proverbs we learn that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. That’s where we begin. To grow in my understanding of what it means to fear God, I need to recognize where I stand in comparison to God. God made me, He is my creator. As Isaiah so clearly outlined: God’s ways and His thoughts are so much higher than mine! He instructs and counsels me, not the other way around. As God said to Job: “The fear of the Lord — that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” NIV

In understanding what it means to walk in the fear of the Lord, the characteristics of our life will also change. In addition to the areas noted above: avoiding sin and growing in wisdom; we will also grow in 1) hating evil – Prov. 8:13, 2) godly worship – Psalm 5:7, 3) living in purity – II Cor. 7:1, 4) administering justice – II Chronicles 19:7, 5) godly service – Psalm 2:7 and the list goes on. The apostle Paul instructs that when we become a Christian we become a child of God and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The outcome of our new relationship in Christ changes our perspective on fear. In Romans 8:15, it states, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry “Abba, Father.” NIV As children of God, we seek not to disappoint Him, but to please Him. Those who love God, obey God. They walk in the fear of the Lord.

Our relationship with our heavenly Father models a Dad’s earthly relationship with his own children. David highlights this connection in Psalm 34:11 when he says, “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”  God has also not left us without a roadmap.  You can find the directions to the treasure of walking in the fear of the Lord at Proverbs 2:1-5.  Read the passage through once and then again and again and again; up to fifty times.  By then you should have it memorized.  Let the words soak in deeply for a time, then seek to put them into practice in your own life.  Your journey to walking in the “fear of the Lord” will be underway.  Be sure to share your new discoveries (treasures!) with your children.  They will be grateful…….and they will be blessed.

A Man of the Word

“Dusty Bible, Dirty Life”. Those words were spoken by a speaker at a men’s conference I attended and they stuck with me. The four words painted a mental picture; one where a Bible is sitting on the shelf buried in dust with cobwebs attached. That picture was emblematic of my early years of life. Having been awarded a Bible by my church upon my graduation of studies during my middle school years, my Bible gathered a great deal of dust on my book shelf during the succeeding 10 years. My memories do not recall a time when I opened it. Thus, God’s word was not a focus in my life and it showed.

It is often said that “ideas have consequences.” Perhaps a more preferred statement would be to say that “decisions have consequences”. Even the postponement or the lack of a decision, is a decision. Time marches on……..each person will make a decision on the priority of God’s word in their life. For Dad, that decision has consequences. Not only for himself but also for his children. For the Dad who is a “man of the Word”, there is great blessing for his children. Psalm 112:1-2

So, how does Dad become a man who has a firm grip on the Word of God?   A helpful diagram was given to me several years ago that provided guidance on an approach that would get me started. It was called the “Word Hand” and it was developed by the Navigators. The illustration demonstrates that there are multiple methods of intake into our lives with the Bible. They are listed as follows:

  • Hear – we can listen to the word through sermons, audio tapes, CD’s, podcasts, TV, etc. In listening to the word, we retain approximately 5% of what we hear.   Romans 10:17
  • Read – reading the Bible is generally accomplished through our daily Quiet Time where we spend time reading the word and responding back to God in prayer. We retain about 15% of what we read. Revelation 1:3
  • Study it is noted in Scripture that the Bereans were “men of noble character” because they examined the Scriptures each day. Having spent 19 years in elementary, secondary, undergraduate and graduate education, it has become obvious to me that “study” is required to know a subject. While not an end in itself, study will be needed in order to know the word of God. We are better at retaining what we study! It moves up to 35%. Acts 17:11
  • Memorize – the ability to retain God’s word improves significantly for us when we memorize. We achieve 100% retention! Keeping that level of retention, however, will require periodically reviewing what we have memorized in order to sustain the gain. Psalm 119: 9, 11
  • Meditate – the capstone is meditation. As we spend time in hearing, reading, studying and memorizing the Word, we focus on the implications, the truth and the applications for what we believe and how we are to live. Psalm 1: 2-3

The apostle Paul in his last letter encouraged his young disciple Timothy to be a workman approved, a man who correctly handled the word of truth. (II Timothy 2:15) Reaching that standard requires that we spend time in it. Achieving any standard of competency or excellence requires an investment of time, commitment and practice. Whether one is competing in athletics, business, arts, medicine, or skilled trades; this principle applies. A Man of the Word will be one who has put this principle into practice. He knows the Bible well and lives by it. His Bible will not be dusty nor covered in cobwebs; but will likely show that it has been well used, likely even falling apart. His children will be blessed.

*If you would like a down loadable copy of the Word Hand illustration, you can find it on the Navigator’s website here.

A Man with a Plan

A colleague of mine many years ago recommended a book to me called “The Gift of Fear.” Now there’s an oxymoron.   Rather difficult to ever see “fear” as a gift, right? Personally, that’s something I seek to avoid, not embrace. Yet the author went on to explain via research and numerous examples where fear actually serves to keep us safe from harm. What to avoid or how to proceed with caution. By the time I made it to the end, he had me convinced, it did make sense. Fear is a motivator. It makes us gravitate toward action and, generally, that’s a good thing. Likely the Lord knew that when he was in the designing process. There’s a connection between fear and wisdom, fear and humility, fear and learning.

     In my days of bachelorhood and early marriage years, there are a couple of appointments with fear that readily come to mind. The first is when I proposed to my wonderful wife to be, Marian, and the second is when Marian was expecting our first daughter Melanie. The first tale here needs to be saved for another day and Marian is the far better story-teller on that front. But the second episode, the arrival of our first daughter, is the second memory of fear. Fear that has served as a gift to me. The fear of becoming a “dad” with the responsibility for raising another human being struck me as being quite daunting. What role am I to play? Can we afford this? How will I handle the unexpected?  What about discipline, education, college, etc., etc., etc.? The list of questions seemed to keep coming with no end in sight. It was a time for anxiety to peek, knowing that as the “head of the home” this REALLY IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY, DAD. YIKES! My mind kept questioning me on whether or not I would be up to the task?

This time of high anxiety led me to seek for wisdom on how I was going to handle this whole new responsibility that I would be taking on. And this wasn’t just a responsibility for a week, or a month, or a year but actually a life time; with the first 20 years being the most critical. The mission was just beginning and “shooting from the hip” (my regular course of action!) didn’t strike me as a very viable strategy that was going to work well nor ease my fear. God, however, has a plan and that begins with Philippians 4:6-7. When anxiety strikes, He instructs that we’re to take it to the Lord in prayer. So that’s where I started, sending out a SOS message for assistance. God answered quickly in reducing my fear over this new chapter in my life by assuring me that He would be with me and He also provided a verse while reading the Scriptures. Psalm 112:1-2 – “Praise the Lord. Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.” (NIV) My responsibility as a Dad begins with my walk with God and a delight for His word. When Dad follows God’s plan, God brings blessing upon his children. Quite a promise! Just the word I needed at that time in my life. I had a plan.

The Inevitability of the Necessary

During my freshman year of college, my parents moved to a ranch house on the edge of the town. Across the street from their new home was the city cemetery. A place that is an integral part of small town America, a destination of frequent visitation throughout the year. It is wrapped up into life and as essential as the local hospital, grocery store, elementary school and the local café. Destinations that serve us in many ways from the time we enter this world up until the time we depart. It brings to mind a humorous anecdote from many years ago when our children were in their preschool days. When traveling to Nebraska, our daughters would recognize that we had arrived at Grandma and Grandpa’s house when the cemetery was in view. As we passed by the cemetery that particular year, one of our young daughters boldly stated, “there’s the necessary!” While we enjoyed a good laugh, we were reminded of the profound truth that was inadvertently conveyed in her words. Yes, the cemetery is a necessary part of life. One that we prefer to ignore or avoid until we experience the loss of a loved one, friend or coworker. The inevitability of this very necessary part of our life, however, enters in periodically to remind us that we are on the clock. Time marches on and everyone will one day experience that which is necessary in this life; our departure from this world and our journey into the next.

 

We mark “time” via a variety of milestones in life. Whether the marking of the seasons for those of us who live in the colder climates or the celebration of holidays, graduations or most notably birthdays. This time of year most of the world highlights the change in the calendar year. Looking forward to a new calendar year signals new beginnings with the launch of several “New Year’s Resolutions” for many people. This past Saturday at the gym where I exercise was quite crowded. It has a tendency to be so during the month of January each year as new goals for weight loss, exercise and Superman muscles inspire many. Reality tends to take hold by February, however, as the gym returns to normal with generally only the regular crowd in attendance. Why is that? Well, it can be hard to change course……to break across the grain of the routine and habits we have developed. To do something new, we need to give up something else generally and that can be a challenge. Making resolutions or goals, however, are clearly worthwhile. Organizations would be lost without them and would likely soon fail. Setting new goals each year have been an integral part of my business profession.   (My success or lack thereof on these were also an integral part of my performance review!) Yes, establishing goals are a means of setting the “compass” for the organization. Where are we going and how will we know when we get there? The principle here for the organization is also true for the individual. Individually, setting a direction for where I want to grow personally in my walk with God, my marriage, my role as a Dad, my relationships with others, and yes, even in my profession are critical in order to make progress in the things that matter most. Yet, in my discussions with people, it’s rare to find those who have established specific goals for their personal life and even more rare if they are written down. It’s just not a common practice.

Shortly after becoming a Christian in my 20’s, I was encouraged to take into account this element of “time”. How will you “spend” your time? What will you invest in? The verse Luke 2:52 was used as a focal point. The life of Jesus. He grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and with man. As a Christian, I’m called to walk as Jesus did…..I John 2:6. It begins with my personal walk with God. How can we grow in that area of our life this year? Some steps that can help get us started in moving in that direction. First, reflection – In reflecting back on 2016, identify at least one area of progress in our spiritual life this past year and spend time in prayer thanking God for His work in our life. And after spending time in thanksgiving, ask God for insight on opportunities where we need to grow this year. Secondly, spiritual goals – set at least three goals for how we can pursue a closer walk with God this year. The word of God is central to our efforts here along with the power of the Holy Spirit at directing our steps. From our prayer life to our time in the word, numerous avenues can be followed that will deepen our fellowship with God. He has called us into fellowship with Him and He will be faithful to meet us there. I Corinthians 1:9

Moses knew the importance of time…..he stated that “the length of our days is seventy years —– or eighty, if we have the strength;” Psalm 90:10a. Moses also asked God earlier in this Psalm to teach us to number our days aright that we would gain a heart of wisdom. May that be our prayer this year, a heart of wisdom to know God, His truth, His ways, and to walk in them.

In the beginning…….

Recently, I asked our daughters if they remembered what “sticker” was identified with the Scripture verse, Genesis 1:1. They all responded with the “snail” sticker. Now you are likely wondering what in the world is he talking about! Well, you have to go back to the “beginning.” The beginning of when our girls were just growing up; even before they were able to read and write. Marian and I wanted our children to know God’s word. So, when they were in the “preschool days”, Marian put together a number of Scripture verses on cards. And to help add some fun, “stickers” were attached to each of the different Scripture verses. Our girls ended up identifying the verse with the different stickers. The Genesis 1:1 verse was remembered as the one with the snail sticker and they can still quote the verse.

In our early years of parenting, Marian and I sought the counsel of godly people to help us in the great adventure of raising our children. We knew that we only had one shot at this and we wanted to do our best to get it right. We were encouraged to start early and to look into the Scriptures for guidance. What does God say about this whole parenting thing? So that’s what we did. We had a concordance and looked up verses that pertained to family, parents, father, mother, and children (son, daughter). That was a great start and gave us a beginning foundation. We also sought to ask others whom we respected for advice and they were glad to share about the lessons they had learned through the years. A godly woman who had taught and directed Christian education for many years provided verses that would be appropriate for children during their early years of development. She gave us several verses to consider but the one that stood out to me at the time seemed unusual. Why would she include this one? It was Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Years later I began to truly appreciate the importance of that verse through the experience of a missionary family with New Tribes Mission. As the father explained their method of sharing the gospel with a “new tribe” of people in Papua New Guinea, they did not begin with the New Testament. They started with Genesis and it took many months before they even began to talk about Jesus, the Son of God. They needed to start with God, the Creator and His work on earth before He sent His Son to redeem mankind.

Teaching our children the Christian worldview starts at the beginning of their life and will continue for the remainder of their days. In western civilization, it is not essential that we begin teaching our children with the Old Testament. The Bible is still very much a part of our culture and society contrary to the efforts of many today. But our teaching will need to entail the whole Bible; both Old and New Testaments. Teaching our children is certainly our responsibility, but it is also a great privilege that we have as parents. To be able to share the “good news” with our children. To know God and to make Him known……there is no greater adventure!

About Kirk

Kirk Thomsen grew up in a small agricultural community. Farming carried a significant impact on the early days of his life until he finished college and joined a manufacturing company in the field of human resources. An important detour took place in his mid-20’s when he discovered the true “King of Kings.” The adventure that began then still continues today with the world’s greatest wife, Marian and three wonderful daughters. He is a very blessed man!

About the Blog

While the jury is still out on whether Kirk can write or not, (still a work in progress!) he does have a passion for knowing Christ and for making Him known. The focus here will be consistent with the mission of Daughters of Decision, encouraging believers to grow as disciples of Christ. The perspective, however, will be from a man’s point of view. Think of it as being “fair and balanced.”