Jesus Loves the Little Children: Reflection from Sierra Leone


Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)

I understand the heart of Jesus for children even more from my time in Sierra Leone.

The innocence of children was evident to us in every village we visited. The children would run to us, swarm around us, and follow our every move. They were sponges for the love of God. They were filled with joy and excitement…always seeming to anticipate more.

I was reminded that children are the future of this great country in Africa. The children of Sierra Leone may not remember the war, which devastated their country or the lasting effects it had on this nation. I hope they know the history and never forget the pain and destruction of war, but I hope they see a brighter future and set a new way for this nation.

God bless the children of Sierra Leone.

It also encouraged me as a pastor to continue to invest in our own children at Grace Community Church. I’m thankful for the incredible team God has assembled at Grace who lead our children’s ministry. Under the direction of Katrina Watts and Adam Bayne, our children get to experience worship and teaching with excellence every week. I want to continue to push for adequate funding and resources for these important ministries of our church. They are our future.

God bless the children of Grace Community Church.

Do you work in children’s ministry at your church? If so, please accept my thank you. Have your children been blessed by others who work with them at church? Consider thanking them today.

Advice for Men after the Wife Says the Marriage is Over

I hope you don’t need this post. It is for a select audience.

After I have answered a question too many times to count, I figure more people have the same question. One of the issues I see frequently is what happens to men when their marriage caves in around them and their wife no longer wants the marriage to work. This could be because of simple neglect over the years or an affair, but she wants out and he wants her to stay. When this happens, a man often becomes a vulnerable puppy of a man and literally doesn’t know what to do next. (I’ve sadly seen it so many times, especially recently.) It could be his fault or her fault, but at this point, the man just wants to save his marriage.

Here are a few suggestions I gave a while ago to a man in this situation. Although this is a personal reply to one man, I believe it may have application for many man in this situation. One thing needs to be clear, however; you must own your decision. You know your situation far better than anyone else. These suggestions are based on experience with dozens of marriage situations, but they are simply my opinions and not designed as professional advice.

If you are in the immediate days and weeks after your wife has indicated she thinks the marriage is over, this is what I suggest:

1. Don’t beg. You are likely much more broken and emotional right now than normal, but women are attracted to a man’s strength, not as much his emotional side. (Even if they say they are…over time they want to see strength.) She needs to know you are hurting, but not see you as weak. That balance is hard to strike, but important to find.

2. Sometimes writing a letter works better than talking in person, because you can share your true heart, think through your words, etc, without all the emotions being involved. When the relationship is especially strained, we tend to say the wrong things, which backs the other spouse into a corner, causing defenses to rise and emotions to take over the conversation. Read THIS POST about how to write this type letter.

3. As hard as it is, after you’ve told your spouse your heart and what you want, you have to give her some space. Honestly, she’s probably feeling crowded right now. After a woman has wrestled through this as long as she has, when she’s done, she’s done. That doesn’t mean her heart can’t change later, but for now she feels smothered almost to be around you. I’m not trying to add to your hurt here. I am simply giving you the reality from what I have seen many times. That’s why she may talk about one of you moving from the house. Chances are this was a very long process for her and you just found out how severe it is for her. That’s typical.

4. Build yourself up physically, emotionally and spiritually as much as trying to save your marriage. You’ll need that in days to come regardless of what happens and it will make you more attractive. In these days, you should draw closer to the heart of God than you ever have before.

5. Seek professional help. You probably aren’t as capable right now of making wise decisions. Find someone to help you do this. Ideally this would be professional Christian counseling with you and your wife, but could be a mature friend or minister. Regardless, get personal help if your wife will not go with you.

6. Do your best not to make stupid mistakes during this time. It’s hard to do, because you are vulnerable, but you don’t want the marriage set back further than it is. Spend time in personal reflection, asking God and yourself what you did to contribute to this situation. If you already know your blame, seek God’s forgiveness, your spouse’s and anyone else you have injured.

7. Surround yourself with a few other men you can trust. Be accountable, open and honest with them. It’s especially helpful, and they are plentiful, to find men who have walked where you are walking and survived.

8. Realize that any change of heart in your spouse is going to take longer than you would hope it would. A woman’s heart usually changes slower than a man’s heart. Be patient. Pray that God brings the right people and influences in her life and that her heart changes towards you.

Please know I’m praying for you as I type this. My prayer is that your marriage will be saved, your wife’s heart will change, and the two of you will grow a marriage that glorifies God. Also, again, this post is not professional counsel. You didn’t pay me to receive this, so don’t hold me accountable for it’s success. I can’t stress enough that every situation is different. I would suggest, although, that these situations often have similar characteristics. Hopefully some of this will help.

Men/Women, what would you add to this?

Happy Father’s Day Challenge: The Nurturing Dad

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Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 NIV

Fathers are not usually seen as the nurturing ones in a family. When my boy’s get sick, they don’t want me, they want Cheryl. The Bible, however, tends to also place the father in a nurturing position. We are told not to “exasperate” our children, which means not to wear them out with correction, but to “bring them up”. That phrase literally means that we spend time with them on a regular basis and encourage them in the development of their character.  That sounds like nurturing to me.

The Bible tends to lay responsibility on the father to help set the tone or the climate of the home. A father, who is consistently harsh or is never satisfied with his children, will tend to produce children who lack the confidence to face tough situations in life. On the other hand, a father too quiet and passive to be intimately involved in the lives of children will likely lead to adults who cannot connect well with others, either in the workplace or in their own marriages and homes.

Fathers are often one of the best determinates of a child’s future success in life. If a boy never feels he meets his father’s approval, he may become either an underachiever or an overachiever, but he will likely never feel that he “measures up” in life. A girl whose father fails to affirm her will often seek that approval from another man, often in seeking inappropriate or less than ideal relationships. She may enter marriage unrealistically expecting something from a husband that he may or may not be able to give. I haven’t even mentioned the effects of an absentee or abusive father.

The biggest impact in the life of a child whose father never nurtures is that they often have a harder time realizing the nurturing aspect found in a loving relationship with a Heavenly Father. Without the model from an earthly father, they see God more in the role of Judge than of “Abba”; which is the Hebrew term for our modern “Daddy”.

I’m thankful for the grace and mercy of God that allows so many second chances for fathers who have missed the mark, but if we desire to be Godly fathers, we will strive to nurture our children in love.

For more thoughts on parenting, click HERE.

Happy Father’s Day!

What changes do you need to make this year to be a more nurturing dad?

Children Have Become Media Junkies


Our children have become media junkies. The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released a study of children ages 8 to 18, which found, not surprisingly, that they are consuming a astounding amount of media entertainment each day. Children now consume an average of 7 ½ hours per day or 52 ½ hours per week of media saturation.

Consider the average daily media consumption of U.S. children according to the study:

  • Listening to music: 151 minutes
  • Watching television: 270 minutes
  • Playing video games: 73 minutes
  • Talking on cell phones: 33 minutes
  • Text messaging: 90 minutes
  • Nonschool computer use: 89 minutes

Do you find these numbers surprising?
Do they alarm you?
If the numbers are what they are, how does this impact the way we attempt to reach this generation with the Gospel?

Your thoughts? Do we run from this part of culture, ignore it or embrace it?

Source: ON MISSION magazine Summer 2010, from Kaiser Family Foundation, February 1, 2010.

How Will This Decision Impact Others?

If we want to build a healthy community and strong relationships, we have to learn to think beyond ourselves…

Let’s face it…we live in a very selfish society…

Scripture is clear, however, that the role of a believer is to consider the interest of others, even before we consider our own. Paul writes, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3…emphasis mine)

Before we make decisions, a good practice is to ask ourselves “How will this decision impact others?”

If I buy this…
If I control this…
If I say this…
If I allow this…
If I park here…
If I wear this…
If I post this…
If I ignore this…
If I pull out now…
If I ________(What else would you add?)…

Part of loving God and loving others is considering others interests as we make decisions.

In what ways do you need to think beyond yourself?

Middle School Camp…Wish They’d Let Me Go

The Grace Community Church middle school camp is this week. Thanks to our family pastor Michael Bayne for letting me grab this video from his blog. (I didn’t ask permission, so I hope he’s okay with this.) Our youngest son Nate is serving as student pastor this summer and so he’s at the camp and in the video. I wish they would let me go sometime. I’d show them a water party!

Anyway, I’m thankful for those that invest in tomorrow’s church leaders. Be sure to follow Michael’s blog for updates on the experience.

Do you wish you were at middle school camp?  Want to start a food fight?

What Does Summer Mean to You?

Memorial Day weekend…

Some say it’s the official start of summer…

Picnics, vacations, camps, flip flops, outdoor baptisms, family reunions, fireworks, sweat, grilling, swimming pools, bugs, harvesting wheat, homemade ice cream, baseball, fresh vegetables from the garden….

Those are just a few thoughts that come to mind when I think of summer fun…

What thoughts come to your mind when you think of summer?
What are your favorite memories of summer?
What are you most looking forward to about this particular summer?

Share with us today…

One of the Biggest Mistakes I See in Marriage

Still In Love

One of the biggest mistakes I see made in marriage, and one my own marriage suffers from at times is:

…forgetting that men and women are not made the same way.

I was reminded of that fact again this morning by reading the story of a man in the Bible named Elkanah and his wife Hannah. (1 Samuel 1) Hannah had been unable to have children and it was the deepest pain in her life. (I wrote previously about that pain HERE.) Every year (and perhaps every day) Hannah would go to God begging for a child. God eventually blessed Hannah with a son, but in the midst of that story is one of the saddest, but funniest verses in the Bible (my opinion). It certainly illustrates the great difference that exists between most men and women. Here is the verse:

Elkanah her husband would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8)

Do you see the mistake? Elkanah could never fully comprehend the depth of Hannah’s emotions. To him, life was good the way it was. He had other children through another wife and he and Hannah were free just to be happy with each other. He couldn’t sense the depth of pain that was in Hannah’s heart. To him it made sense that as a couple they were enough. Hannah, I suspect, could never fully comprehend how insensitive Elkanah seemed to be.

Therein lies what I believe to be one of the largest mistake men and women make in a marriage. Whenever I believe Cheryl completely identifies with me or I completely identify with her, we are bound to run into some conflict. I will never understand the depth of emotions Cheryl is capable of producing and she will never understand the shallowness of emotions I am capable of maintaining. Neither of us is right or wrong, we are just different, and as I look at the situations we have handled together in life, I see why God allowed the uniqueness in each of us. To make our marriage strong, I must be careful never to place expectations on Cheryl for her to be like me and she must do the same with me. I have to learn to be more sensitive of her sensitivity and she has to learn to be more patient with my insensitivity.

This is just one issue among many where Cheryl and I are different, which makes marriage a consistent challenge. With awareness, communication, commitment and a willingness to humble ourselves and give grace to each other, we can allow our differences to work for the betterment of our marriage, not to the detriment.

In what ways are you different from your spouse? How do you see those differences working for the good of your marriage?

For more thoughts on marriage click HERE.

Don’t Confuse Activity with Success

Here is a principle that works in many areas of life.  You’ll find it helpful in businesses, in organizations, in churches, in relationships and in your personal life.  Here’s the principle:

Don’t confuse activity with success.

I once wrote that growth covers over a multitude of problems.  (Read that post HERE.)  I know many organizations and people that mistakenly believe for a time (before it catches up with them) that busyness means things are moving in the right direction.  That may or may not be true, but long-term success always depends more on the quality of activity than on the quantity of activity. In the short-term, you can mask success with an abundance of action, but substandard performance will be discovered in time. (For more on this thought process, read my previous post, The Tortoise and the Hare Principle of Organizational Growth.)

If you want to ensure success, consider the goals and objectives trying to be attained, determine whether they are currently being achieved, and, depending on your findings, be willing to adjust activity accordingly to achieve better results.

Have you been guilty of being busy rather than being successful?  In what areas of your life are you more likely to allow that to occur?

Father Influence Survey


I’m working on some blog posts, messages, and eventually a book on the impact of fathering. I’m especially interested in addressing the absence of a strong father figure in a person’s life, since I see it as a huge scar in many people’s life.

You can help me with this part of my ministry. Please consider completing my survey on fathering. It’s quick and easy and all responses are anonymous. I understand in advance that just answering questions about your father may be difficult for some, but your responses may help others. Thanks!

Click HERE to access the survey. Feel free to send others here to complete it also.

Also as a part of this post, I would love for you to add your public comments on fathering and the impact it has on your life, either as a father or by your father as a comment on this post. What difference has being a dad made on your life? What influence did your father have on you? Who knows, your comment/story may make it into a book some day!

Thanks!