Has your faith grown?

Moses strikes water from the rock

Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as He commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank“. 2 Chronicles 20:8-11 NIV

You may recall that God had shown Moses that He could bring water from a rock before. Moses had struck a rock with the staff and seen a gusher come out to quench the thirst of the people. There is something different about this occasion, however, but before we get there, look at what happens in verse twelve:

“But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

Wow! The first time Moses struck the rock with water, he was obeying God exactly. God was pleased, Moses was rewarded, and the people were satisfied. This time, God is not happy, Moses loses reward, and we are left to examine why.

Do you see a difference in what God commanded and what Moses did? Read the verses again. God said to “speak” the water out of the rock. Moses struck the rock with his stick two times. Moses may have thought to himself, “God, this is a hard rock. To get water out of this rock, I’m going to have to strike it like I did before.” Moses, however, did not fully obey God, and God was not pleased. (Thankfully, God didn’t punish the people for Moses’ disobedience.)

The first time, God had Moses strike the rock. No doubt this took great faith on the part of Moses. Who ever heard of water coming out of a rock? Moses may have looked pretty silly banging on that rock had water not come out. The second time, God called Moses to have even greater faith. Moses was to simply speak and the water would come out from the rock. Now you may be thinking what I thought the first time I read this: Big Deal! But, it was a big deal. God wanted Moses to grow in his faith. God wanted to see evidence of his deeper faith.

Do you sometimes feel the challenge of the Christian life get more difficult?

As you grow in your Christian life, God will require more of you. Not for salvation. That was done on the cross. As you grow in your relationship with Christ, you will be held more accountable with Kingdom responsibility. He wants you to trust Him more as He uses you more. Much like an older child may have bigger responsibilities within a family, if you’ve been in the family long, God expects you to have learned a few things by now.

What He calls you to do won’t always make sense, at least not in the natural realm, but when God calls us to something, we are to do exactly as He tells us to do it! God wants to see that our love for Him and our faith in Him is growing.

Be honest, has your faith grown more in the past year?

7 Ways to Help Children Cope with FEAR

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Tragedy is all around us. It’s on the news every night. We talk about it at the dinner tables. Our children are not immune in an information age. Violence even happens in school. Childhood can be a scary time of life naturally, but especially these days. How does a parent or teacher address this fear?

Here are 7 suggestions:

Don’t assume – Don’t assume just because your child doesn’t mention what happened that they don’t know or care. Fear is a normal reaction, especially for a child. Watch for unusual behavior. Be aware of mood changes or extreme sadness. Make sure they know it’s okay to talk about it and that there is no shame or disappointment from you when they are fearful. Maybe tell them of a time you were afraid…even a recent time.

Limit exposure – You’re curious, so the television may be on news stations. What are they covering right now? Remember they process information different from how you do. They may not appear to be watching, but they probably are more than you think. Fill their minds with things to encourage them not perpetuate the fear. This is a time to turn off the television and simply play with your kids. They’ll get no better assurance.

Ask questions – You may think they are afraid of one thing, but it is something completely different. Many times children, especially young children, are simply confused or have misinformation. You can better address the fear if you know its roots.

Assure them – Let them know they are safe. Don’t lie to them, but remember the chances of the same thing happening to them is rare…very rare. Remind them you’d do anything to protect them. You may need to help them process for weeks to come. Don’t rush them to “get over it”. Pray for and with them often.

Live normal – As much as possible, live a normal weekly schedule. Their routine is part of their “security blanket.” Don’t allow their fear to cripple them or the family for long. In spite of our fears, we have to move forward.

Be calm – Especially during this stressful time, don’t let your children see you in panic. Watch what you say in front of them. Parents shouldn’t fight in front of kids anytime, but especially during a time of uncertainty like this. Renew your faith. They get their faith through you.

Give them Scripture – They need something they can cling to as permanent and dependable. What better place than the Word that will never fade? Recite Psalm 56:3 to them. If they are old enough, write it down somewhere they can see it often. Memorize some verses of strength and share with them often.

What else would you share with parents?

Without a dad…

boy and father

A boy struggles…

Knowing what it means to become a man…

What courage, honor, and strength really looks like…

When to take a risk…

A girl struggles…

Understanding her beauty and value…

Sensing self confidence and independence

To demand respect and equality…

I’ve been convicted lately, that many times the orphans of today…

Are the fatherless…

(And many times the widows are the single mothers…)

The statistics of the impact of this on society are staggering. Great efforts are being taken by non-profits such as The Fatherhood Initiative. Even the government is getting involved, recognizing the problems associated with this issue in our society.

What is the church doing about it?

Seriously, what initiatives do you know of where the church is addressing the fatherless issue?

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress...” James 1:27

(This is not to say we don’t take care of widows and orphans. We certainly do, but, in my opinion, we must not forget the cultural issues of our day…if we want “pure and undefiled religion”.)

What do you think?

Husbands: 7 Gift Suggestions for Your Wife

Christmas gifts

I know I’m talking to some men who haven’t even thought about what you’ll get your wife for Christmas yet. Right? I understand. It still seems early to you Christmas Eve shoppers. :)

Maybe you’ve thought about it, but not being as in tune with things like this as your wife is, you haven’t a clue what to get her. It’s the same problem every year. Gift card may be what you’re thinking. Cash perhaps. Let your daughter pick something up if she’s old enough.

No sweat. I understand. I’m here to help this year.

Here are 7 suggestions to get your wife for Christmas:

Make a coupon book – A date night a week…or a month… Make up 12 random dates. A movie. (One she picks.) A walk in the park on a sunny, Spring day. Dance lessons. A cooking class. Print a coupon for each. Then give her access to your calendar and let her claim them as needed.

Break a bad habit – She may have tried to change you. It hasn’t worked. You need to lose weight, so she worries about you. You need to quit smoking. Or maybe it is the way you talk to her. You are super critical of her. You talk down to her sometimes. It may be as simple as never picking up your clothes from the bathroom floor. Whatever it is she may have subtly or not so subtly tried to suggest a change in you. You agree with the change, but haven’t made it. Just make it. Merry Christmas to you and her.

Start listening – Make a commitment to speak less and listen more in the new year. Perhaps you symbolize this with a token of some sorts. Wrap up the remote and give it to her. Would that do the trick? You know the distraction. Maybe it’s a picture of your face, symbolizing you’re going to look her in the eyes and not always have an answer…trying harder to listen next year.

Open a savings account – Put $100…or $50…whatever you can afford, into a savings account. Label it…”future investment in us!” Is there a family trip she’s dreamed about? Somewhere you always promised to take her. Take the first step to make it happen this year.

One night in a nice B & B – Many men shy away from these…and many women do…but for Cheryl and I, some of our most romantic moments were one night trips to a bed and breakfast. Make sure you get a private bath. A comfortable bed and a room with a view is great. If you plan ahead you will spend less than a really great hotel and the experience of reconnecting can be amazing for both of you.

Make a new habit – Could it be that you need to do a Bible study together? What about a prayer routine? Could planning your personal finances be in your future? You probably know what she wants in this area. If not, ask her. Then wrap it up! If you’re subtle enough you may even be able to surprise her still. And make her very happy in the process.

A trip away…in May – This is my best gift idea. It isn’t as practical for me now, because we are empty-nesters and can travel when we want, but this was the rockstar gift when our boys were home.This is brilliant on several points. It builds positive emotions up until the trip. When she’s having an exceptionally stressful day she can remember…at least we are getting away soon. In addition, you can plan the trip now, yet pay for most or all of it later, helping to stretch your Christmas budget. (To do this I often ordered brochures from a place I know we have thought about going and wrapped them in a pretty package. Sometimes I made reservations, sometimes I just picked the place. Either way, it is your responsibility to handle the necessary arrangements to make it happen.)

Do you get the idea that these are more about time than even money? I’m convinced it’s what most women want from their husbands. I realize some will say their wife once did, but doesn’t now. If that’s true, it’s probably an indication of a bigger problem. It may even be because she wanted you then and you weren’t there. Maybe the answer is to give her more time now.

Now before I get Dave Ramsey emails, be responsible. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Many of these are very low cost ideas. Some you can budget for and pay later. Chances are good you are going to get her something and I’m guessing some of these might be better than a dress shop gift certificate or another pair of those ugly pajama bottoms. You forgot you bought those already, didn’t you? She didn’t.

Seriously, not trying to be funny. Trying to help. Your marriage and your wife is worth the extra effort. This year, think through your gift. Be purposeful. The woman you love is worth the effort.

What gift ideas can you add to the list?

Where Are the Boots? The Danger of Losing the Wonder This Holiday Season

This is a guest post by my friend Margaret Feinberg. Margaret (www.margaretfeinberg.com) is author of Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God which releases on Christmas Day. To learn more about her new book and the incredible offer available, check out www.margaretfeinberg.com/wonderstruck.

Where Are the Boots? The Danger of Losing the Wonder This Holiday Season

Less than a month ago, a New York Times police officer Lawrence DiPrimo left us wonderstruck by an act of kindness when Jennifer Foster, a tourist from Florence, Arizona, snapped a photo of a member of NYPD keeling down to give a homeless man a pair of boots on a frigid night.

The officer didn’t just hand the man a $100 pair of Skechers but took the time to slip socks and new boots on the man’s blistered feet—a scene reminiscent of John 13:1-17.

The photo was posted on Facebook and soon went viral with more than 20,000 comments. The story was the perfect reminder during the holiday season of the power of kindness, generosity, and love.

But overnight the homeless man reached an unwelcome celebrity status. Identified as Jeffrey Hillman, he was baffled and confused by all the attention telling the New York Times, “I was put on YouTube, I was put on everything without permission. What do I get? This went around the world, and I want a piece of the pie.”

No sooner had Hillman received the shoes than news sources reported he was running around barefoot again. Jeffery claimed that the shoes were too valuable and dangerous to wear so he hid them. Some online snipers accused Hillman of selling shoes for a “bump”.

Reporters then uncovered that Hillman wasn’t homeless, but had an apartment paid for by a federal agency. With more details of Hillman’s life exposed, the wondrous story soon lost its news cycle luster leaving people asking, “Where are the boots?”

Reflecting on this current story, I was drawn back to an ancient one.

In John 12, Mary breaks all of the social cues as well an alabaster jar filled with very costly perfume, and anoints the feet of Jesus, wiping his feet with her hair.

The pundits soon question the act. “Why has the perfume been wasted? It could have been sold and the money given to the poor?”

Mary is met with contempt for her extravagance. For Mary, things didn’t turn out like she expected. In a brief moment of self-awareness, she may have even second-guessed her decision, What have I done?

I don’t know if DiPrimo ever second-guessed his actions, but I wouldn’t be surprised. In these kinds of situations, almost anyone would.

But whatever the details on Hillman’s life, we must not lose our ability to be
wonderstruck by this random act of kindness.

The danger is that if we focus too much attention on the fact Jeffrey Hillman isn’t technically homeless and he doesn’t feel safe wearing the shoes, then the police officers extravagant generosity is reduced to a foolish act. Why was the money not given to a shelter instead?

But if we focus on the act of selflessly giving—purchasing and tenderly placing socks and shoes on someone in need—we begin to see the heart and hands of Christ. We awaken to the wonder that the person giving and serving this holiday season could be you and I. We begin to answer the invitation to live wonderstruck.

An Organizational Growth Cap Theory

When I consider companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon, the one constant I think of is change. Interestingly, after I typed that first sentence, I Googled “Most Innovative Companies” and found Fast’s list for 2012. How close do you think I got to their list? See for yourself HERE. But, don’t be impressed with my guesswork. You could have done the same thing, because it’s obvious to us that these companies are all about change.

Then I think of churches I know…some of the most growing, Kingdom-impacting churches I know are also the most innovative…the most open to continual change. I think of LifeChurch.tv, for example. Not only have they impacted many with their vision for multi-site/video venues, but they’ve also helped us discover or been a part of YouVersion and Open, a resource website for churches and ministries. I also think of Andy Stanley’s North Point and how their version of doing church and Andy’s preaching style has impacted so many others. Both LifeChurch and North Point appear to be a culture of change. From what I read about their culture, change is continually being introduced.

Let me be clear. I’m not advocating that either of the church models is the right one for every church. Neither are they the exact right model for the church I pastor. I am interested in church growth. I do like to see progress. I do want to avoid capping Kingdom growth.

I am suggesting that there may be something about growth we can learn from the two examples…business and church. My personal experience, and watching other organizations succeed, has led me to believe that there is something about continual change that produces continual growth.

In fact, I wonder if:

The level of growth an organization can experience may be determined by its level of tolerance or resistance to change.

I’m still processing that thought.

What do you think?

3 Things I Know About God

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until He comes and showers righteousness upon you. (Hosea 10:12)

As I read the Scriptures, here are 3 things I know about God:

God wants people to seek Him – From the beginning of time, God has been calling His creation into fellowship with Him. Before a person ever seeks God, God has first sought after that person. (John 6:44, Acts 17:26)

God is easily found – Remember the story of the boy Jesus where His parents misplaced Him for a short time. Mary and Joseph found Him in the temple, learning from the temple leaders. When questioned, Jesus responded, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” God desires that same attitude in our hearts today. I have never known anyone who genuinely searched for God who didn’t find Him, because God is always waiting that we may call on Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you. He will never hide from you. (Jeremiah 29:13, Acts 17:27)

God desires to change our lives – God’s design for us is to be righteous. He wants us to have the mind of Christ so that we might receive the full blessings of fellowship with Him. Being perfectly Holy, God cannot accept sin; any sin. He wants to clean us up and mold us into the image of His Son. He wants to turn over the “unplowed ground” and make it fertile enough to bear good fruit. He wants to change us so we may better experience Him and all of His glory. (Romans 8:29, Ephesians 2:10)

What thoughts does this post trigger about what you know about God?

NOTE: If you’re seeking God today, don’t be surprised if you find He’s already been seeking you!

An Encouraging Phone Call

My childhood pastor preached for me recently. He is 93 years old and still preaching almost weekly. He continues to be one of my mentors in ministry today.

He called me the following week…It was one of the most humbling phone calls I ever received.

It went something like this:

Ron, I want you to know I’m proud of you. You had some difficult family situations growing up. You’ve come a long way. You had your own obstacles to overcome. But, you’ve allowed God to use them for His glory. I’m just really proud of the man you are.”

Don’t you think I was encouraged? Of course I was! In fact, it was one of those days I needed the call most. I’m so thankful for the people who have believed in me and invested in my life.

It was also another reminder to use my experience to encourage you:

Don’t let trials hold you back. Let them launch you into who God wants you to be.

All of us need encouraging at times.

Who could you encourage today?

Make the call!

When the best seat in the house…isn’t…

I was at a dinner theater recently. We had “good seats”. At least that’s what we were told. What that really meant is that we were in a crowded room, with lots of people I didn’t know, eating, watching a play, while it seemed like every was looking through us (really at us) to see the play.

Stand out.

In front.

On the floor.

In the center of attention.

Conspicuous.

For the introvert in me…that “best seat in the house” quickly became the worst seat in the house.

That’s a silly illustration, perhaps, but it’s a good reminder for church leaders.

I remember several years ago, while meeting in a school theater, having a discussion about closing off the loge (balcony) section to force people into the center section of the auditorium. There was one big section apart from the loge. I struggled with that. I was with the people who resisted that change. It made sense to create more energy in the center of the room, but in the process, for some people, wired like me, we were making the “best seat in the house” the worst seat in the house.

That principle is true in other areas of ministry. When we plan activities and programs, even the welcome portion of our service, we have to remember that everyone is not wired like us. For some people, it is the best way to do something. For others, it is the worst. When we force people out of their comfort zone, simply to create what we think is better for others, we may be making things worse.

The best approach here is to always ask other people, people not wired like you, to sit at the table of discussion and invite them to speak into the process. And, value their voice.

Because…

Sometimes the best seat in the house…isn’t.

Am I alone? Is the “best seat in the house” sometimes the worst seat for you?

Some of my best work…

Is done when I can’t understand all that I’m doing…

  • When things are messy…
  • When my head is cloudy…
  • When I have more questions than answers…
  • When my faith is being stretched…
  • When I am unsure of my position…

If you wait until you have all the answers…where doubt is removed completely…

You’ll often find yourself stagnant on making decisions…

You’ll seldom achieve “the best you can do”…

And the rewards you receive will be less than monumental…

Part of living the Christian faith is actually using it!

How are you currently having to walk by faith?

One who watches the wind will not sow, and the one who looks at the clouds will not reap. (Ecclesiastes 11:4)