Monday, June 24, 2013

Up In Smoke

July 4th is probably my favorite national holiday. I like hot weather - check. I like grilling out - check. I like fireworks - check. I like family vacation time in the summer to relax and do something outdoors - check. I like meaningful holidays for which I can truly be thankful - check. Our national day of independence is usually filled with memorable festivities and a multitude of blessings. I am especially thankful for the people and principles responsible for the founding of our country.

You have seen them now, the fireworks stands are in abundance. There is a great deal of money dedicated to celebrating with various explosions and spectacles of light. I have seen two fireworks shows at Major League Baseball parks this year. They were very enjoyable. They had the purpose of entertainment and they were impressive - it is amazing what they can do with fireworks these days.

Yet in all of this, I cannot help but wonder where the line must be drawn. What about those families who are barely making ends meet, who spend hundreds of dollars on one night of entertainment that literally goes up in smoke? I admit I have rarely spent any money on fireworks myself, because to me it was always a matter of stewardship. I just couldn't bare to see hard-earned money evaporate in a matter of seconds. This is just one example. I could provide a list of things that I will not spend money on because it is hard for my conscience to allow me to do so. It is not wrong to buy fireworks. Just like anything else, moderation is key.

This reminds me of another topic that is unpopular to speak on but needs to be addressed from time to time. People hold a stick of nicotine between there fingers and light it on fire all of the time. Forget about the entire argument to be made for taking care of your body as the temple of God, and strictly consider the expense and the bad stewardship. Almost 100% of the benevolence cases I have handled in the last fifteen years have been for cigarette smokers. I have often thought about the things those folks could do with their money if they were not wasting it on something that was taxing their families and that will most likely cost them their health in years to come.

So these are the questions for you and I to consider today. Are we being good stewards of the blessings God has given us? Or are we spending too much money on things that have no lasting value? Do we go to the restaurant too much? Do we spend too much on entertainment? Do we appreciate our blessings or do we waste what we have been given? Do we give to the Lord first, take care of our bills and obligations second, and then set some money aside for extras last? God is going to hold us accountable for the things we have been given. All blessings should be used to His glory. We need to remember to be making eternal investments, and not allow our physical blessings to simply go up in smoke.

"So he called him and said to him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship..." ~ Luke 16:2

Monday, June 10, 2013

What Makes a Father a Hero?

When I was growing up, I was always impressed with my father. He was my hero. He worked so hard and was so dedicated to our family. I cannot remember him ever doing anything for himself. Everything was about us. His vacation time = us. His work ethic = us. His frugality = us. His sacrifice of time, even personal time away from work = us. His work in the church  = God, others, and us.

There were other things that impressed me about my father. He was so strong. I was tall and skinny and he was shorter but more muscular. He was kind, everybody liked him and considered him their friend. He was loud, but not in the way you may think because he didn't speak often. When he was upset we knew it, and even though I loved him so much, I was afraid of what he could do if he needed to. I was impressed because he was more powerful and had authority over me and he wasn't afraid to punish me or let me know that he was still in charge. I would take ten spankings from mom over one from dad. But in all of these things I knew he loved me because of everything he did everyday.

To you fathers: On this Father's Day I want to remind you of what makes a father a hero to his children. Naturally, children want their fathers to be heroic. They may consider their father to be heroic just by his place in their lives, even if he doesn't prove to be. But what will make him the man they want to emulate? I think there are a few things...

1. Selflessness. True leadership is not wielding authority or proving you are in charge. Self-sacrifice and servant-leadership is respectable and people will naturally follow a leader who gives himself up for the benefit of those he is serving.

2. Humility. Many men allow their egos to turn them into people who have something to prove and then brag about later. When you allow your activity to do the talking and say nothing, what you do is much more impressive to those who are watching. It is better to talk less, listen more, and work hard, expecting nothing in return.

3. Time. Statistics show that most fathers spend less than seven minutes a day with their children. Shame on you if this is true about you. Get off the couch and out of the easy chair and spend as much time as you possibly can every day with your children. You can rest when they leave the house or when you are dead. The most important job you have is to raise your children. Your deepest regret in life will be what you wished you had done with them when they were at home. And by the way, you don't have to do anything grand while you are spending time with them. Just listen to them and do a lot of little things.

4. Be a Christian. Be the Bible's definition and not the world's definition of a Christian. Put God first. Don't miss worship, period. Prefer spiritual activities over physical ones. Be active in the work of the kingdom and let them know that the greatest thing a man can do is glorify God and help others get to heaven. You can do this in a variety of ways. Allow your God-given abilities to flourish in the kingdom over any place else. It doesn't matter how much money you make or how far you advance in your vocation. It does not matter how nice your boat or car is or how often you get to be in them. It does not matter how many ballgames you win or how far your kid makes it in sports. Those things will end. The souls of your children and the souls of the world are what matter.

You are already a hero to your child because you are their father. But being a father is not enough. Be a genuine hero. I am thankful that I had a father who lived up to and beyond my expectations. Do the same for your children! Fulfill your ministry!

"I write to you, fathers,  because you have known Him who is from the beginning." ~ 1 John 2:13

Monday, June 3, 2013

Is Your Arm Twisted or Raised?

There are some things we don't like doing. It is funny how that works. I don't like doing home improvements much, but my wife loves anything having to do with that. She would rather dust than vacuum, and I would rather vacuum than dust - so you can probably figure out who does what.

It is not wrong for us to have preferences. Our likes and dislikes are a large part of who we are. We have different personalities, and this brings a beautiful variety and flavor to the world. All three of our kids will want to do something different on their birthday - to go somewhere different. To eat somewhere different. To receive something that is different. We enjoy making each birthday memorable and special.

But there can be a point when we have to get over our dislikes and choose to do what is right. When it comes to the work of the church, is your arm twisted or raised? How hard does someone have to try in order to get you to do something that will serve God and bless others? We should not have to be made to feel guilty before we will put God first (if we serve out of guilt, is He really first?). Instead, we ought to be willing volunteers - happy and thankful to serve a God who willingly gave up His Son for each one of us.

The true church that belongs to Christ is filled with people who have chosen a life a service. We cannot be interested in presenting the church to the world as a group that is always here to fit the consumer's needs. Let the business world and the social clubs do that. We need to present the correct picture of the church that Jesus died to establish. The apostles did not sign up for an easy ride. They did not come into the church because of the programs that were available. Jesus told them they were all going to be persecuted and killed for the kingdom's sake. But the apostles were still motivated by the love of Christ to serve. Their hands were raised when Jesus asked, "Who will preach the gospel?"

Our world is becoming more self-centered and thus self-serving. We need to get back to being like Jesus. The world is passing away and the church of our Lord is its only hope. God needs you in His army. He is not going to draft you, but he is asking for your willing participation. He will not twist your arm. But He will accept your service if you volunteer.

"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: 'Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?' Then I said, 'Here am I! Send me.'" ~ Isaiah 6:8