Category: Encouragement

Live Fearlessly

11156384_10206298906337374_6382280851986253488_nChange is life.

For the past 20 years, the world has steadily been changing at a rapid pace, so much so that the younger generations have associated change with life. For a person younger than 40, the absence of change represents stagnation and death.

Today, students are either being trained for careers that won’t exist in 20 years, or they are being trained for careers that don’t exist yet. Their lives have so been defined by change that they aren’t even bothered by that fact.

For those of us north of 40, however, change brings uncertainty. It’s a new world, new parameters, and often, we struggle to understand the path forward. Therefore, we feel insecure, and we fear. Even the youth can experience massive personal changes that make them uncertain of their future.

Recently, I experienced a career change when I went from a stable position in a company where I had plateau’ed, to a performance-based position in an upstart. My new position involved selling a new product from a new company of which many of my clients would not be familiar. It was scary.

To find peace in my heart about the change, and the direction in which my life is moving, I returned to an old friend that has helped me through similar transitions in the past, the book of Psalms.

Each day, I pray that God will guide me, and that I will not only honor and glorify Him in my new position, but that I will also be a proper representative of Him. Furthermore, I pray that He protects my testimony, and that He steers me away from the pitfalls that could discredit my ministry.

Then, I read one of the psalms.

Today’s passage was Psalm 37, which includes the very famous verse 5, “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”

All too often we misread this verse to say, “Decide what you want to do, then ask God to bless it, and He will.”

However, if we look to the preceding verses, we see that there is a far more blessed, and effective, approach to applying this verse to our lives.

Psalm 37:3 tells us to trust the Lord. Psalm 37:4 tells us to delight in the Lord. Psalm 37:4 tells us that if we delight in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our hearts.

Now, in reading and properly applying those two verses, we understand that our first priority is to seek the Lord, trust the Lord, and bring our values and desires in line with His. Once we do this, He gives us those desires.

Then, we commit our way to the Lord. In committing our way to the Lord, we are not simply naming a blessing we want and claiming it. Instead, we are committing to serve Him, honor Him and glorify Him through our “way.” We are committing our way unto Him by bringing our way into alignment with Him. Once we do that, He works His will in the situation, and we know that God works all things to our benefit.

There is no safer place to be than the will of God.

So today, if you live with anxiety, return to the scriptures. I recommend the Psalms in times like these. Read the scriptures. Trust the scriptures. Assess what God wants you to do, and what you can do to honor Him. Pray. Then, put your assessment into action, and trust that God holds you in the palm of His hand, that no weapon formed against you will prosper, and regardless of the outcome, you will win.

5 lies parents bite, hook, line and sinker

15675996_10211148555255566_9200556580741383012_oI have found that in whatsoever setting I have found myself, I am surrounded by parenting experts. Some days, it seems that everyone knows what to do with my children but me. In the course of some of these enlightened discussions, bits of foolishness disguised as universal wisdom tend to surface time and time again. It is my endeavor to expose these lies for what they are, and to reassure you that your God-given reaction to these things is justified.

1. Bad decisions are a rite of passage.

“Oh, we all did that when we were that age.”

“All teenagers do it.”

“It’s really no big deal.”

Whether the topic is alcohol consumption, experimentation with marijuana, sexual experimentation, truancy, shop-lifting, criminal mischief, or basic defiance, today’s street-side parenting experts will excuse your child’s behavior by explaining that you did the same thing as a child, and you turned out fine.

In fact, some have even argued that these bad decisions are so normal, that it is impossible to teach your child to abstain from them. Therefore, your job as parent is to make sure that your child makes a bad decision in the safest way possible.

Think about that last statement. The so-called “parenting experts” that surround us, and constantly barrage us with parenting advice, want us to let our children make bad life choices, but in a safe manner.

Nowhere is this mentality more prominent than in the debate over sex-education in the public schools. There are those who advocate for abstinence education. Others belittle that approach, saying that kids are “going to do it” anyway, so we need to make sure they have condoms and access to abortion. (Never-mind the failure rate with condoms, the potential for sexual abuse, or the regret and emotional trauma caused by bad experiences).

You also see this mentality present with parents who provide alcohol to teenagers under the guise of “providing a safe environment” for underage drinking, or drug use.

We experimented. We made mistakes. Our children, too, will experiment and make mistakes. It’s a rite of passage. Part of growing up. It’s normal. Hogwash and horse-feathers!

Looking back on my teenage indiscretions, I regret many of them. I made choices concerning alcohol and substance abuse that I regret. I wish I had begun adulthood with a healthier understanding of sexuality. I have regrets.

Scripture speaks to this in Romans 6:21, “ What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.”

In our youthful indiscretions, what fruit do we have in those things, of which we are now ashamed? Should we resign ourselves to the idea that our children, too, will make the same mistakes and have the same regrets as we?

I say, Nay! Nay!

Our job as parents is not to make sure our kids have the same experiences we had, nor is our job to navigate our children through the same pitfalls we fell into as kids. Our job as parents is to use our experience to our kids’ benefit. Our job is to steer our children away from the pitfalls we fell into, drawing on our experiences and teaching our kids to make the decisions we didn’t.

Setting your children up for a better life than you had used to be a virtue. It’s time we restore that virtue.

2. I have to allow my child to make their own mistakes, and learn from them.

This lie comes from the same mentality as the 1st lie… that bad decisions are inevitable, therefore we should teach kids to make them in a safer manner.

Bad decisions may be inevitable, but our job as parents is to warn our kids against them, steer them away from those bad decisions, and hold them accountable for their decisions, and for the behavior leading to those bad decisions.

Ephesians 6:4 tells us to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The meanings of these words carry the notion that our role as parents (and more specifically, the role of fathers), is to constantly warn children against sin and rebellion. This means to warn them, not only of God’s consequences, but of the worldly consequences of sinful choices.

To stand idly by while our kids “make their own mistakes” is an abdication of a God-given responsibility, and a rebellion against a God-given commandment to parent our children.

3. I have to be my child’s friend, or, my child is my best friend.

If you’re looking for validation or affirmation from your child, you’re doing life wrong.

Your job as parent is to prepare your child to launch into the world, not to establish your child as a lifelong companion and confidant. Your role as parent involves giving your child the tools they need to succeed in life, spiritually, economically and socially. Your child is not there to meet your needs. You’re there to meet your child’s needs. And what your child needs from you is not another friend or buddy (honestly, they should be making those from kids in their own age-group), but rather the guidance and leadership that will prepare them for the next phase in their life.

This involves discipline. This involves tough choices. This involves denying them things that you really want to give them.

This is a tough road, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

Scripture says “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” For your child’s safety, survival and betterment, you must use the rod of correction to drive the foolishness from your child’s heart.

And while that verse is often associated with spanking, the rod of correction can take on many forms. It can be a mode of punishment, or, like the shepherd’s rod, it can be a guiding force.

The rod of correction can come in the form of grounding, lost privileges, chores, consequences, earned privileges, and earned rewards.

The rod of correction, that is, discipline, is not merely punishment. It is the shaping of proper behaviors and attitudes within your child. And no matter how positive you try to make it, it will not be an easy road for your child.

They will tell you they hate you. They will call you the worst parents ever. They will say they wish they had never been born. They will threaten to run away. If your personal validation requires positive feedback from your children, this is where you will implode and fail. You must be strong. You must know your role. You must remember the goal.

In the short term, you will find yourself at odds with your child, and your feelings hurt. In the long-term, you are shaping the world view, moral character, and if done Biblically, the Spiritual fortitude of your child. In the long-term, your child is better off for it, and will love you for it.

To borrow a cliche, “They’ll thank you someday.”

Okay, maybe they won’t thank you. But then again, that’s not why you parent in the first place.

4. I want to give my child everything I didn’t have.

This is a materialistic mindset. Your goal is not to give your child a better material life, but a better start in life, and a better life overall.

If you didn’t make the team, weren’t elected class president, or weren’t accepted into Harvard, do not make it your mission to make sure your child gets all of that.

If you didn’t have your own car in school, don’t make it your mission to buy your kid a car.

Make it your mission to equip your child for adulthood.

5. My child deserves the best.

Yes, and no.

Your child deserves your best. However, your child does not deserve the best the world has to offer. That has to be earned.

A better mindset is that your child needs to learn to make the best of what they have. If you can teach them that, then they are head and shoulders above the rest.

The conclusion of the matter.

Parenting is an 18-20 year journey full of ups and downs, hills and valleys, roadside raiders and landmines. It’s not for the faint of heart. If it were easy, Dr. James Dobson would be running a hotdog stand in Anaheim.

There are times you won’t know what to do. There are times you will make mistakes. There are times you will wonder why God trusted you with your children in the first place.

God didn’t make a mistake. Trust Him, trust His model for parenthood. And reject the lies that the world throws at you regarding parenthood.

Love your child. Prepare them for adulthood. In the end, you will see a blessing.

Are there any other parenting misconceptions out there? Feel free to post them below. God bless you.

When Rome falls

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You find the most interesting things on Facebook.

Scrolling through my news feed this morning, I came across this gem, comparing the distraction most Americans enjoy via the NFL with the distractions most Romans enjoyed via chariot races, gladiator “games,” and the Olympics.

And while the Roman government deliberately built elaborate stadiums to distract the masses from the crumbling empire and human rights abuses, in America, we distracted ourselves.

Now, I’m not bashing sports, or the NFL. I enjoy watching football, and even have been able to attend a few Big-12 College Football games, and one Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day game.  I will probably continue to enjoy watching sports for the foreseeable future.

But for some reason, seeing the above-posted meme on Facebook was kind of an eye-opener for me.

Do you know why the NFL protests were so controversial? And subsequently, why the NFL protests have, at least in part, played a role in the decline of NFL ratings? It’s because, once the players used their platform to advance a socially conscious agenda, they reminded us of the social problems that remain in America.

Whether you agree with Colin Kaepernick or not, seeing he and his followers take a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner reminded you that the reconciliation we thought we had accomplished hadn’t advanced us as far as we had thought. Having that bubble burst, watching football became a reminder of the deep-divides that remain in American society. Once that happened, watching football wasn’t as fun as it was before.

And that’s why the NFL protests were so controversial. People don’t like to be reminded of their problems as they try to escape them. So, we had the controversial debate over the past two years, and we quit watching football.

The good news is that we can use our newly raised awareness to make good things happen. True change will not come through legislation, political action, or by socially-conscious NFL players. It will come through the small, daily decisions made by each individual. So, to borrow a phrase, “be the change.” Extend random acts of kindness to others, and let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in Heaven.

And Go Bulldogs!

We never meant for this to happen, but we can still help

11156384_10206298906337374_6382280851986253488_nIn 2003, I was sold on the Iraq invasion. Saddam Hussein had used weapons of mass destruction against his own people in order to put down rebellions, and was possibly colluding with terrorist organizations who planned on carrying out major attacks against the American homeland.

If the above statement seems ignorant to you, please forgive me. I, like millions of other Americans only want to see our nation secure and our people prosper. In the aftermath of 9/11, neither could be guaranteed as terrorist organizations in the Middle East had not only stated their intent to destroy America, but managed to kill thousands merely by hijacking airliners.

What we were told leading up to the invasion of Iraq was that we would (a) be neutralizing a direct threat to the American homeland, (b) eliminating stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, (c) disrupting terror operations and (d) liberating an oppressed people.

We were warned that the war would be a prolonged effort to establish a free and democratic nation in Iraq, and that the culture change would take at least a generation. The cost would be high, the sacrifice would be great, but once successful, Iraq and Afghanistan would become beacons of freedom and hope to the Middle East, which would result in people being liberated from dark totalitarian regimes.

That’s what we were told. I believe that President George W. Bush was sincere in his desire to effect lasting change in the Middle East, but that didn’t happen.

In the aftermath of the invasion, the country destabilized. Al Qaeda set up operations in northern Iraq and immediately began persecuting Christians. When the Obama administration pulled out of Iraq (to fulfill a campaign promise to end the war), ISIS went on the offensive, essentially conquering the northern part of Iraq and increasing the persecution of Christians and non-Muslims.

This morning on my radio show, I had the opportunity to visit with Juliane Tamoorazy, the president and founder of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council. Tamoorazy discussed the plight of Christians in northern Iraq, and hoped that Vice President Mike Pence would visit with them upon his trip to Iraq scheduled for January.

While Tamoorazy blames American policy for the problem in northern Iraq, she doesn’t blame Americans, emphasizing that Americans have good hearts and want to help people. She noted that, even in Iraq, the people blame the politics, and not the American people.

It was a difficult interview for me to conduct, because I couldn’t help but think about what the situation would be like if it were my house that were marked for persecution, if it were my family kidnapped and sold into slavery, or it was my time to be killed, all for believing in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

On my show, we debate policy. We discuss political ramifications of legislative or executive action. We discuss what’s happening in the government. Today, I couldn’t have that conversation.

So, I asked, “What can Americans do for our Christian brothers and sisters who are enduring persecution in Iraq?”

She thanked me for the question, indicating to me that she doesn’t get that question very often, and told me that the Iraqi Christians need blankets, heaters, air conditioners and basic needs for living. Of course, her organization is putting on a drive for those products.

Scripture tells us in Hebrews 13:3, “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”

To remember them in bonds, to remember the persecuted Christians, means to keep them top-of-mind, the way God remembered Noah in Genesis 8:1. We are to be mindful of them as if it were our very own in bondage, because, when you think about it, they are our very own. We are to remember them the way we would want to be remembered if we were enduring that persecution.

And, we are to remember them “which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.” This means that when some of us suffer, we all are affected.

2018 promises to be a good year in American life. Let us not be guilty of enjoying the good times while our Christian brothers and sisters suffer. Let us remember them, and as we have opportunity, do good unto them. This can be done through a number of organizations, including the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, Open Doors, or Voice of the Martyrs.

The time for silence and complicity has ended. It’s time to help.