Why Would You Leave Your Church?

Grace is Flowing

This is a good question. Most likely at some point in your life you may be faced with this question. What would guide you? There is an accompanying question that has to be asked: “What is a healthy church?” or “Why would I choose this church in first place?” There are many good resources today that can help answer these questions and maybe we can discuss them on a later post, but for the sake of this post, let’s assume you have been part of what you enjoyed as a “good” church and it’s not the same today and you are bothered by this. What are the core elements that have to be in place for you to stay?  Here is a list of questions perhaps you should ask about your church. The order isn’t particularly important as all of these are vital.

1.   Is there a genuine Christ-centered…

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Why Would You Leave Your Church?

This is a good question. Most likely at some point in your life you may be faced with this question. What would guide you? There is an accompanying question that has to be asked: “What is a healthy church?” or “Why would I choose this church in first place?” There are many good resources today that can help answer these questions and maybe we can discuss them on a later post, but for the sake of this post, let’s assume you have been part of what you enjoyed as a “good” church and it’s not the same today and you are bothered by this. What are the core elements that have to be in place for you to stay?  Here is a list of questions perhaps you should ask about your church. The order isn’t particularly important as all of these are vital.

1.   Is there a genuine Christ-centered approach to every aspect of ministry?  In other words, what flag is flying? For many, Christ is merely “understood.” Often Christ is not the center, the end, the beginning and everything in between, He is somewhere in the background. Read Colossians 1:17,18 and Romans 11:36 and compare. Is Christ really the reason you exist and meet together or is there another flag flying.

2.  Is there a genuine Gospel-saturation for living? Many have perhaps been brought up with the idea that the Gospel is the power of God unto Salvation (Rom 1:16), which is so very true and precious. But the Gospel doesn’t stop there! The same grace that saves is the same grace that sanctifies us every single moment of our life. We are be being saved daily (1Corinthians 15:2) and are being transformed into the image of Christ from one degree of glory to another which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). All of the message of the Gospel is true for us for everyday sanctification. If the Gospel is diminished for life the natural result is death, decay, and God’s glory will soon be missing. You can’t manufacture this and you can’t program it into your congregation. It either is or it isn’t.  church

3.  Is there an atmosphere of confession and repentance? Sin is by nature deceptive and so, well, it deceives. Confession and repentance must come from the top. There should be in the “atmosphere” of the leadership an on-going repentance. I have said so often to myself and to many others, “It’s not ‘Once saved, always saved;’ it’s ‘once regenerated, always repenting!'”  This is not just reserved for the leadership, however, the “followship” (my word…) should be a repenting people as well.  Confession and repentance in the heart of people is often exhibited in how people pray and what they pray for. Listen carefully to your own prayers and see if you include both in your own prayers. It is also seen in the church’s practice of the ordinances (The Lord’s Supper and Baptism are perfectly designed to speak of both confession and repentance as well as publicly declare the person and work of Christ).

4.  Is there an atmosphere of genuine growing faith exhibited and celebrated? Since it’s true that faith comes by hearing the Word (Romans 10:17) then theoretically people should be growing in their love, trust, and belief in all that Christ is and all that He has done. God’s Word is about God’s Son! Growth in faith is often exhibited in a strong hunger for the Word by the people, and a tenacious attempt by the leadership to be feeding them God’s Word. The giving of the Word and the receiving of the Word both need to be sought after by both leadership and followship and celebrated by a transformation in hearts that is talked about, and modeled in order to point the next generation to growing faith as well. If growing faith is absent, most likely church discipline will be absent as well.

5.  Is there a growing love for God that is seen in lives becoming more like Christ? It is easy to sit in public worship services and give lip service to loving God. It is yet another thing to see people who humbly admit transparently their own lives need Christ and thus pursue sanctification through accountability, life-on-life discipleship, iron-sharpening-iron relational living that result in a steady change into the image of Jesus. Once again, this is certainly leadership led, but it must be a followship thing as well! This should be what good ol’ fashion Acts 2 type stuff looks like that goes on in genuine fellowship “from house-to-house.”

6.  Is there a love for people that is sacrificial? This is part of God’s two-fold “greatest command” given to us in Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:5,6; Matthew 22:37,38) to love God and love people. Many will “do things” for people but that doesn’t mean there is a love for people. Christ is the model here. He sacrificially gave over and over (Philippians 2:1-11) in a way that met the need for humanity who could not do for themselves. Giving sacrificially as Christ gives means it is not convenient; it won’t fit your model of living; it will mean cleaning up messes, and it means they may not even like you for serving them. Loving people as Christ loved and gave Himself is just difficult. However, it should be a key element in leadership and in followship.

7.  Is there reproduction going on? Discipleship must be happening. Helping people become more like Christ needs to be front and center – the goal of preaching, teaching, activities, fellowship, worship, and evangelism. There should be an intentional outward focus that includes the inward focus. We follow the 2Timothy 2:2 pattern that flows from Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 20:19,20) that commands that we “teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.” This means there is the constant verbal communication of the Gospel to all as well as the constant visual communication of a life that is being changed by the Gospel.  This should result then in reproduction – people whose life will be changed as they continue to watch other people’s life change. It becomes multiplication rather than addition to the church. (As an aside, I think the ultimate in true reproduction will be in churches that will produce another body of believers–sometimes called “Church-Planting.”)

8.  Is there humble worship going on? Humble worship is often lost somewhere along the way and aberrant worship appears. By aberrant, I mean, is someone or something other than the God of the Bible being worshipped and is the worship acceptable worship? I think God does care how He is worshipped. There are often two extremes: 1. Worship any way you want to as long as you are sincere; and 2. You must only worship this way–a rigid adherence to a prescribed method. Either side is flawed. God is holy and thus He must be worshipped in a way that aligns with His very nature. The story of Cain and Able illustrate this. Numbers 3 also tells of a bitter story of two men whose worship was unauthorized. The One true God is to be feared and worshipped, and His glory must be at the very core of our love and submission to Him. Genuine worship isn’t electronic or non-electronic, fashion or lack of fashion, programmed or not programmed. True worship is the grace-filled heart of a servant whose soul desires to speak of the worth of God and hear His Word with great joy and submit his life to it all!

It has been my experience that if one or two of these eight are lacking, things begin to crumble pretty quickly. Some would look for external signs that are changed and to this I would offer a caution. The external things may or may not be genuine reasons for leaving a church. Be very slow to leave if these eight things are going on but you are uncomfortable simply because your preference isn’t considered. It may be God is working His will into your life and means for you to serve others by not demanding your preference. Many won’t immediately see any of these eight for some time depending on their involvement. Maybe God would have you stay to help model and shape a different direction.  Maybe you sense it is too late for that and you need to quickly move on. Either way, considering these things may just clarify where God has you and what your next step must be.

How Does One Leave His Church?

I told a group of people recently that someone needs to write a book on “How To Leave Their Church.” I think for the most part leaving a church should almost never happen. I have watched people come and go in churches now for most of my life. Sometimes, for very good reasons, people leave one church and go to another. I had to do this just once in my life as a church member (not for ministry reasons) and it was torture. As a shepherd, I have watched over and over people leave one church and go to another or just drop out of church altogether and in my experience many of the reasons people have left are certainly avoidable while very, very few are unavoidable and understandable according to the Word.
The question I pose without going into the question of whether one should leave or not is, “Just how should one leave the church?” Let me offer a few suggestions coming from one who shepherds the heart of people and will stand some day and given an account. church1

1. Be honest with yourself about why you are leaving. Luke 8:15 speaks of the good soil that truly receives the seed is a heart that is honest and good. True believers are constantly being warned about “deceiving ourselves” in Scripture (Jam 1:22). Because sin is so deceptive, we have to be honest with ourselves and leave open the reality that we may not be seeing things correctly.  God gives us many good ways to do this without violating other truths in Scripture. Gather people around you who will fearlessly speak truth into your life.  Read the Word and again I say “Read the Word.” Usually if we are not seeing things correctly in one area, you can pretty well take it to the bank that you are not seeing things truthfully in other areas.  Sin is very blinding.  Check your ambitions, your motives, your reasonings but most of all your adherence to the Word itself. Is your reason a genuine biblical reason or is there something going on in the church that is simply a preference issue? Do you have Scripture to back up your reason or are you just uncomfortable? Ask yourself, “How is God using this in my life to change me?” Be brutally honest!

2.  Humbly speak to the leadership. Understand what is being said here. God puts leadership in place for many reasons–but all of them have something to do with His great glory. It really isn’t that leadership can do no wrong (although, honestly, leadership can give that impression all too often). However imperfect they are, God has allowed them their existence in that position. If leadership is unqualified biblically and you can biblically prove it (two witnesses 1Tim 5:19) and if your objection is truly church-wide, then you have a bigger problem than this one article can handle.  The fact that God allows leadership to exist speaks to God’s design that is intentional and with purpose.  So, as you approach leadership, do so asking questions with a heart that earnestly and humbly wants to know God’s will and not to seek proof of your suspicions.  Questions always help the leadership speak to your concern which in turn, makes the path to resolution accessible.

3. Be honest with leadership. Many will go to leadership with their concerns but it often is covered with words like, “I have had some people come to me with these concerns.” It very well may be that one or two people have talked to you, but be careful that it isn’t also true that you went to them seeking to find out if they would agree with you on your “concern.” It may also be true that others do have those concerns, but that is not why you are meeting with leadership.  You are meeting with leadership because you have the concerns.  The fact that others have similar concerns does not necessarily validate your concern and really shouldn’t play into it.  It may well they are blind or prejudiced in the same areas you are and thus are not really helping you see things honestly. An honest heart is not concerned about “who” is right; it is much more concerned about “what” is right.

4.  Give time to your decision. Make sure you are not merely reacting. Give yourself room to be wrong. Time has a good way of revealing things.  Give leadership time for God to use your humble word to work in their lives. Give time on your knees. Give time to the Word. Give time for God to work His grace in your life. Remember, God is eternal which helps Him to be long-suffering, and forbear, and deal gently.  Time has away of tearing the curtain back so truth is exposed. God calls each of us to forbear with one another (Eph 4:2).

5.  Don’t burn bridges. If you must leave, be very careful to not let issues drive you away from caring and loving people.  Relationships are very important. Your walking away from a church will have impact on people, finances, and most importantly the gifts that God has given you to properly serve the church. These relationships are important ultimately for what God may be doing in their lives.  Burning bridges in relationships often can come back on bite you as you have no entrance back into the very lives God may want you to minister to later.

6.  Give proper notice graciously. Don’t just walk out. If you have obligations, finish them. Serve God’s Kingdom by serving the people you have obligated yourself to. Give leadership a chance to adjust to your absence ahead of time.  Be courageously gracious. Remember, people are not the enemy – we struggle not with flesh and blood (Eph 6:12).

7.  Immediately align yourself with another body of believers.  So many walk away from the church simply because they had a bad experience. It is in these transitional times when Satan can get his foot into a heart to stir up strife, pride, self-righteous thoughts, and a root of bitterness begins to grow. This is dangerous as the accountability of the body and the soul-searching ministry of the Spirit and Word will wane because of the absence from the body. This then becomes a situation that is worse than the original problem itself. Run to the Gospel! Run to Christ and the church He gave His life for. Be warned, though!  The next church will be imperfect to. The greener grass on the other side…needs mowing too.

The Amazing Work of God…in Prison!

We all know the apostle Paul and his life and ministry while God put Him in prison. Paul knew that he was in prison for the sake of the Gospel–not just because He preached the Gospel, but actually, being in prison was for the purpose that those in prison may hear the Gospel. prison
Some of you may know that I have a very dear friend who through some very unfortunate, yet God-ordained providences, God has placed him in prison. He has struggled deeply with many fears, anxieties, and human weaknesses. But his love for Christ and the Gospel has thrived. Take time to read this recent letter I received from him and marvel at God’s astounding goodness to use him as a tool for the spread of the Gospel. After you read it, spend some time in worshipping our great God!
“I JUST WANTED TO SEND AN UPDATE TO YOU — AND SHARE A BLESSING WITH YOU, THAT I JUST EXPERIENCED THIS PAST WEEK.

30 MONTHS AGO–WHEN I WAS IN PIEDMONT REGIONAL JAIL, AWAITING MY RESENTENCING HEARING IN RALEIGH, NC, I HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF LEADING A MAN NAMED WILL TO THE LORD. (WILL WAS MY BUNKMATE) A LOCAL CHURCH CAME EACH WEEK TO PIEDMONT REGIONAL JAIL AND GAVE USED BIBLES TO THE INMATES–THAT HAD BEEN DONATED BY THEIR CHURCH MEMBERS. I GOT A LARGE PRINT “OLD FASHIONED GOSPEL HOUR” BIBLE FOR WILL–AND HE ASKED ME EVERY MORNING–TO WRITE NOTES IN THE FRONT OF HIS BIBLE, AND HELP HIM STUDY HIS NEW BIBLE EACH DAY. I LEFT THAT JAIL AFTER MY RESENTENCING HEARING, AND WENT BACK TO FT. DIX.–THINKING I PROBABLY WOULD NEVER SEE WILL AGAIN. ONE MONTH LATER–WILL WAS TRANSFERRED TO FT. DIX, AND ENDED UP BEING IN OUR CLASSES AND BIBLE STUDIES THERE AT FT. DIX, AND CONTINUED TO GROW IN THE LORD. I WAS THEN TRANSFERRED TO PENSACOLA CAMP, AND THOUGHT, AGAIN, THAT I WOULD NEVER SEE WILL AGAIN. 3 MONTHS AGO–WILL SHOWED UP HERE AT PENSACOLA CAMP !! HE HAD BEEN TRANSFERRED HERE TO ENROLL IN THE BOP DRUG PROGRAM !! HE SHOWED ME HIS BIBLE–HOW HE HAD CONTINUED TO STUDY AND ADD TO HIS NOTES IN HIS BIBLE–THAT WE HAD BEEN WORKING ON TOGETHER AT FT. DIX. HE NOW IS INVOLVED IN ALL OF THE CHAPEL SERVICES HERE, AND IN OUR CLASSES AND BIBLE STUDIES.

WILL HAS A ROOM-MATE NAMED ALEX, THAT HE INVITED TO CHURCH–AND ALSO INVITED TO ENROLL IN OUR PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE CLASS. ALEX STARTED THE CLASS–AND AFTER OUR 4TH CLASS– ASKED ME TO MEET WITH HIM PRIVATELY, AND I HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF LEADING ALEX TO THE LORD. ALEX HAS NOW BEEN STUDYING HIS BIBLE EVERY DAY–AND GROWING IN THE LORD–AND GETTING INVOLVED IN ALL OF THE CHAPEL SERVICES. IT IS A JOY TO SEE HIM RESPOND TO GOD’S WORD, AND THE LEADING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN HIS HEART AND LIFE.

WHILE I WAS AT FT. DIX–THERE WAS A MAN NAMED “MEJIA”–THAT LIVED IN MY DORM — AND HE CAME TO THE CHAPEL SERVICES, AND TO OUR TUESDAY NIGHT BIBLE STUDY CLASSES WITH STAN AND LISA. (STAN AND LISA ARE WONDERFUL VOLUNTEERS THAT CAME IN EVERY WEEK FROM A LOCAL CHURCH–TO TEACH IN THE TUESDAY NIGHT CLASSES). AFTER A COUPLE OF MONTHS, “MEJIA” CAME TO THE LORD–AND ENDED UP HELPING WITH THE SPANISH INTERPRETING IN THE SUNDAY SERVICES AT FT. DIX. WHEN I LEFT FT. DIX TO COME HERE–I DIDN’T THINK I WOULD EVER SEE “MEJIA” AGAIN EITHER. GUESS WHAT !! THIS PAST WEEK–“MEJIA” WAS ALSO TRANSFERRED TO PENSACOLA CAMP, TO ENROLL IN THE DRUG PROGRAM–AND WHEN HE ARRIVED HERE–HE WAS ASSIGNED TO LIVE IN WILL AND ALEX’S ROOM !! WHAT A BLESSING–GOD IS SO GOOD !!

THERE ARE 900 INMATES ON THIS COMPOUND–BUT GOD TOOK 3 MEN, FROM 3 DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE COUNTRY–THAT ALL ACCEPTED THE LORD WHILE IN PRISON–AND PUT THEM TOGETHER IN THE SAME ROOM– AND PUT THEM BACK TOGETHER WITH ME–SO THAT WE CAN CONTINUE TO MENTOR AND MINISTER TOGETHER, AND CONTINUE TO GROW IN THE LORD TOGETHER !! GOD TAKES CARE OF EVERY LITTLE DETAIL IN EACH OF OUR LIVES– WHILE WE ARE ON THIS JOURNEY !! I AM SO THANKFUL.

THE MAN THAT IS THE SPANISH INTERPRETER FOR OUR CHAPEL SERVICES HERE AT PENSACOLA– IS LEAVING TO GO HOME THIS NEXT WEDNESDAY. GOD BROUGHT “MEJIA” HERE AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME, SO THAT HE CAN TAKE OVER, AND HELP DO THE INTERPRETING FOR OUR CHAPEL SERVICES. WHAT A BLESSING–AND WHAT AN EXAMPLE OF GOD’S TIMING !!

THANK YOU AGAIN FOR YOUR LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS–AND FOR PRAYING FOR ME, AND FOR THE MEN THAT ARE COMING TO THE CLASSES–AND FOR THOSE THAT HAVE COME TO THE LORD. YOU HAVE AN INTEGRAL PART IN EACH OF THEIR LIVES, AND THEIR SPIRITUAL GROWTH IN GOD’S WORD.

I AM SO GRATEFUL TO THE LORD FOR YOU — AND FOR ALL THAT YOU HAVE DONE TO ENCOURAGE ME, AND TO HELP ME. I DO NOT TAKE IT FOR GRANTED. YOU ARE SUCH A BLESSING.
GOD BE WITH YOU, AND BLESS YOU.”
I LOVE YOU–
SCOTT

Parents! Stop Making It Difficult!

As I grow old…er, I am becoming more and more aware of just how parents make it difficult for their children to honor them. I am mostly addressing parents who claim to be truly born again and follow Christ.

Good family relationships are inherently difficult because of sin.  We all go “our own way” (Isa 53:6) and it is a real recipe for disaster–especially if parents refuse to grow in grace and knowledge of our Savior (2Pet 3:18).

God commands children to honor Mom and Dad (Eph 6:2). This puts it upon the children to give respect, to prize, to revere, and value highly their parents. But it also is an implied statement about how parents should be honorable, respectable, and valuable. Now, if parents are not this, it does not excuse the children, but parents should make it easy for children to follow this command.

How do parents make it difficult?  Here are just a few ways:

1.   By refusing to be humble learners.  Parents often think that age = wisdom.  It certainly can, but not always.  It is only wisdom as the parents themselves continue to grow in understanding.  Understanding and wisdom all come from God which means we must always be learning (Psa 119:104). Parents often do not learn a changing and challenging culture, and do not continue to learn the vast depths of their Savior, the Word, and the glory of God.  They inadvertently begin to shut themselves off from aspects of life that their children and grand children are facing. They then send a message to the people they say they love that says, “I don’t love you to serve you in your environment, you must stay in my world.”  This is tragic as it shuts off channels of communication and can be a real source of hurt.

2.   By refusing to treat adult children as adults.  As parents get older they grow stuck in their ways and they assume that the children will always remain children.  As children, then, they cannot ever have opinions, logical thoughts, wise conclusions or make proper decisions. Parents unwittingly turn their children away from them by constantly treating them as children and further exacerbate things by thinking they cannot learn from their children.  We joke about someone being a “Mamma’s boy” but this is no joking matter. It takes special skill and wise discernment for parents to make it easy for their children to become adults and parents should work hard at this.  Parents often continue to make decisions for their adult kids without ever asking them or even considering they could make the correct decision for themselves. This builds resentment and anger and before long both sides are running for cover. It’s not healthy and causes great sorrow.

3.   By never admitting wrong.  Dads are notorious for this, but mothers are not far behind. Many grown kids today have never, ever heard their parents repent, confess sin, or demonstrate godly sorrow. This is stunning! In order for parents to be respected, they often think they need to be right. Dad’s angry outbursts or mother’s constant manipulation are off-limits and can never be spoken of and must be swept under the rug. It should never be about “who” is right, but always “what” is right. Parents who never see themselves as wrong cripple relationships. Generations of bitterness exists because of pride.

4.   By constantly having to be in control.  Mothers struggle here, but Dads are not without fault either. “I’m the mother and it parentsmust be done my way–this is how you show honor to me!”  Now, I doubt any mother would say this (although, I wouldn’t put it past some), but it is THE message that is received by the adult child. From holidays, vacations together, or even just friendly visits, the adult child of a controlling parent breaks out in heavy anxiety just at the thought of the visit. Dinner must be done a certain way; the house must be certain way; the children better be a certain way; or the adult child will hear about it. This can crush relationships as it sends a message of superiority, arrogance, and covetousness.

5.   By constantly making the child feel guilt. This perhaps is a bit of an overlap from #4, but I wanted to separate them for emphasis. Making a child feel guilt is controlling. It is a desperate ploy by the parent to make the child love the parent and have a relationship when it actually does the reverse. Things are said like, “You have to spend as much time at our house as you do your in-laws” or “I did this for you and you should at the very least do this for me” or “Your brother does this for me and you don’t ever do anything for me like that…”.  I could go on, but I think you get the point.  This makes it very hard for the adult child to love the parent and stifles relationships. Do this: Ask your adult child (and really mean it) how do they feel you try to control them? They may not give you a real answer at first because they will sense you are trying to control them again.  So, be patient and really seek their answers.

6.   By reversing the roles. Wow, this is a big one. I hear parents say all the time, “My children never come to see me; never call me; or forget my birthday…” and I typically then will ask, “Do you call them?” or “Do you go and see them?”  There are a variety of answers to those questions, but frankly most of the time the parent expects the child to do the adult thing and the adult then becomes a child by making demands. Make it easy for your children to honor you by calling them.  Initiate relationship. If they are not responding, it may very well be time to examine your heart and your actions/reactions toward them. Be the parent and like the older, more mature adult, initiate and seek restoration, forgiveness, and open communication by genuine Christ-like love and compassion. Parents cannot demand respect but get respect as they live a life worth respecting. Reversing roles puts relationships in real danger.

7.   By not highlighting God’s grace in the lives of their children.  Is every single area of your child’s life flawed?  Well, yes, theologically, sin reaches it all.  However, God’s grace is at work in the life of the child and it’s the parent who should spot it, celebrate it, and seek to highlight it. What we celebrate is what we will duplicate.  As parents grow older, it seems grace alludes them. This simply means that pride becomes even more prominent in their life and humility and its effects are lost in the constant friction of life. Hopelessness is all the child sees. They soon give up even trying.  This is sad.

Parenting is no easy task to be sure. Every step of life with all of its transitions are times for parents to regroup, check motives, recalibrate, and seek God’s grace. There is much uncertainty and insecurities in life because of sin but it is the Gospel that fixes all of that. Being kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving is all based on the cross (Eph 4:32). God’s glory is ultimately at stake here!

Parents, please don’t make it difficult!

10 Random Thoughts on Parenting

At Thanksgiving this past year, we had the joy of spending some time with all three of our children together with their families.  More than once, I was just overwhelmed with joy and several times to the point of tears welling up in my eyes as I thought of God’s amazing grace that continues to show God’s kindness to Cindy and me and our family. There are no magic wands or lists to follow that could even come close to orchestrating our family. Each child is so unique with the way God has designed them, and then you add the preciousness of their spouses and we have such a conglomerate of character, “characters,” personalities, physical abilities, and passions that simply cannot be because of any great thing we have done, but an absolutely undeniable gift from God to His great glory.

So, I thought I would jot down some things that I’ve learned, am still learning, forgot, advise, or not advise as the case maybe.  So, here are ten…for what they’re worth. They are not earth shattering thoughts nor are they prioritized in any way.  Just…random thoughts.

1.    Relationships are hard work. From the very beginning, work very, very hard on your relationship with them. You are not their “friend,” you are their parent. Especially at the beginning. As they grow and demonstrate they can discipline themselves this relationship grows and change will occur. Don’t hover over them, but don’t keep them at a distance either. As you change in age, responsibility, and life stages, understand they are changing too. Walk with them and work very hard at it.  It is hard, laborious, rest-stealing work. Nothing comes easy. Wrestle, struggle, weep, pray, and again I say, work!

2.    Keep looking down the road. You are training them for tomorrow, next month, next year, when they leave your home, and ultimately for eternity.  Don’t expect them to be 8 before they are finished being 7. Patiently take each day with the view they won’t probably get it today—but someday they will. We must give them an eternal perspective.  This takes time to form in our own minds so why don’t we give our kids time to “get it?”sipe

3.   Take time to learn them. God made them on purpose.  Do you know that purpose? We are designed to give God glory. Find out the fascinating parts how God made them unique.  Watch them—every part of them.  How do they act or react and to what situations are they really moved? Watch facial expressions, eye movements, bodily reactions and learn to decipher what God is doing in them and through them. It takes times.  Don’t be afraid to spend time.

4.    Teach them very early what “no” means. So many children do not get authority simply because Mom and Dad did not teach them what “no” means. It often means that they also don’t grasp “yes” very well either. This leaves them very insecure.

5.    Be consistent.  Spirit-driven, Christ-centered people are people who are not perfect, but demonstrate consistency. Children who never know what to expect from Dad or Mom because of huge swings of emotions or “moods” are once again raised in an insecure, fearful environment and those insecurities and fears are devastating to them.

6.    Constantly speak truth into their lives.  Everyday presents “Kodak moments” to speak God’s truth into their lives.  Don’t miss them.  They are precious times of relational heart-to-heart times that often do not come around the same away again. Store them in the library of your memory. A consistent focus on what is true keeps them in the realm of God and His glory. Learning to discern what is true in life must begin with the parent. Don’t be fooled by imitations. Satan is a liar. Sin itself lies. Christ, His Word, and the Spirit are all revealers of truth for all of life.  Learn it, live it, model it and speak it into their lives. Truth doesn’t come by osmosis.

7.    Laugh often and hard! Don’t take yourself so seriously. Laugh with your kids often and laugh hard. We have had tears in our eyes and our guts hurt with laughter. We laughed at ourselves, silly things, and even laughed a corny jokes.  Now that they are grown, they are now saying the corny things and we are laughing just as hard…well, most of the time!

8.    Build traditions into your lives. We have many memories that we all share and are now seeking to make more. We have places for vacation, we have holiday traditions, we have many “Sipe-isms” as well as times with extended family that we all cherish together. These are things that are like glue that keep us all coming back for more. As fun, weird, or difficult as family (and extended family) can be, are all opportunities to grow in Christ-like love and reminders of God’s grace to all of us.

9.    Make all of life ministry. Being a pastor meant that my kids were pastor’s kids, but I doubt they knew it much. Cindy and I sought to make ministry a life rather than a ministry. In other words, we got to share life and ministry all the time with our kids so they really couldn’t decipher when we were “ministering” and when we were living life.  It was all one. Loving God and loving people cannot and should not be put in dividers and segmented. I am overwhelmed now to see them doing what they have done all their lives.  They are making a living by it now.  Pure grace!

10.   Cherish every step.  I think Cindy is better at this then me, but learning to love and cherish every step of the way is a must. This demands a certain contentment combined with delighting-in-the-moment way of handling each moment through the years. Each child moves through life in his/her own way that should be cherished, enjoyed and not rushed. The mothers contentment at where she is in life is crucial here. If the mother is always up-in-arms and creating drama for her and everyone else, she is not cherishing the moment. Life moves at break-neck speed and we will miss things that are very dear if we are not alert. Stop and enjoy right where you are in life and where they are.

Just my thoughts…and I’m sure there’s more thoughts out there.

What’s Your Plan?

I read today my life verse–only it is what Peter preaches at Pentecost in Acts 2. He is quoting Psalm 16.

“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.” Acts 2:28

I was reminded that the very filling of my soul with joy or gladness is directly connected to being in the presence of God.

So, what’s MY plan? I want to stay in God’s presence–always. I want to pursue His glory. I want to know Him deeply. I desperately want to walk with Him now.plans

R.C. Sproul said this,

“Unless we know God deeply, we cannot love him deeply. Deepening knowledge must precede deepening affection.”

This is my plan for 2013.

What’s yours?