Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Faith, Family, and Sports

Faith, Family, and Sports
I know, I know, more parenting advice you don't want to hear, but this is not just about being a parent, but about being an example to our children and to other families that we or our kids might be friends with.  What am I talking about? I am talking about teaching our kids to put God first in their lives and we cannot do that until we are willing to do it ourselves.

We will devote countless hours to work on our golf game, spend hours in the woods or on the lake, plan big shopping trips, and we will spend hours upon hours taking our kids to ball games, practices, competitions, and tournaments, and will spend even more hours volunteering to coach, work concessions, or be in the boosters, and then we give God what's left if any? Is there something wrong with this picture? Yes.

We need to model consistency in our lives, especially when it comes to our children and family.  If we tell our kids that Jesus should be first in our lives then shouldn't there be a clear pattern and lifestyle of that in our daily lives? Choices? And even where we invest and spend our times.  In my years of being a youth pastor and now a senior pastor, I see the pattern far too often, we will drive hours and spend thousands of dollars traveling and going to our kids ballgames and competitions and we put our faith, our service to God, and our commitments to Jesus on the back burner or give, attend, or serve if it doesn't interfere with anything and as a christian, it should be the other way around.  God first, and then everything else second.

We teach our kids they can't quit if they start playing a sport, they can't let their team down, or they need to be a good team player in their teams, and yet what do we teach them with our actions?  Church is optional, I will give if I have anything left, and we will go to church as long as it doesn't interfere with our social lives, schedules, or calendar of events.  We really teach our kids sports is more important than God.

I am not trying to discourage you from letting your kids play organized sports or volunteering your time with other organizations, but you cannot tell me Jesus is first in your life and you are totally committed to your faith when your commitments, time, and heart are somewhere else a majority of the time.  The truth is we teach our kids we can skip church services, leave early, go late, or miss church events if we got ball games or sporting events. We model inconsistency, when we tell our kids to put God first, but then we put everything else in front of God.    I am not preaching perfect attendance at church services, attendance don't save you, but you show your commitment and loyalty to God and His church by your faithful attendance, giving, involvement, service.

When is the last time you made your kids go to a game late because of faith commitments or leave practice early to make it to church, when is the last time you made your kid miss a game or tournament or competition because of something going on at the church or because it interfered with your faith?  I think could count on one hand over the years, the times I've seen parents or kids choose their faith over their sports/hobbies and I'd need a CPA firm to tall the times I've been given excuses as to why someone didn't come to church, missed an event, or couldn't go to camp, or a youth rally, or something.  Look at how much time you spend on sports versus how much time you spend attending church or being the church?

The greatest thing you could ever do for your children, marriage, and family is model consistency of being a Christ follower.  From the moment you give your life to the Lord or make a commitment to follow Jesus you have to choose daily who you will serve, how you will spend your time, and what you will do with your daily life.  I am not suggesting you give up all sports, hobbies, or social activities or shelter your children, but what I am saying is it would be nice, if our own personal faith and the faith of our children and families was clear who and what was a priority in our lives and what truly mattered.

Some day it's not going to matter how many points your child scored, how many touchdowns, goals, home runs, or how many competitions, trophies, or ribbons were accumulated, but I can tell you those who commit to their faith, relationship  with God, His church, and kingdom will have eternal rewards.

I think it's time we take our families back and stop acting like we have no choice or say in the matter. You are the parent and you make the rules and no little league, cheer squad, soccer club, or biddy league should tell us when and where and how we should devote our times and lives. If more parents would stand up maybe coaches and leagues wouldn't schedule things during church times? Just a thought.  What if parents wouldn't let their kids go and they had to cancel or forfeit?  Just think if we treated church that way, if we had to cancel church services or events because not enough of our "team" showed up, after all the church is a body, how can a body be complete with so many members missing so often?

I love sports, I love games, and I love watching kids play sports, but I can tell you as a parent, a pastor, a  man, I will never put a game, or a sport, or a hobby above my faith, my relationship with God, or my commitments to serving the Lord and I challenge all people to do the same in their faith and family and see the difference it makes in your lives and the lives of your children.  Eternity is at stake, it's time we start counting the cost.

Joshua 24:15NIV
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Be The Parent

Be The Parent

Proverbs 13:24(niv)
Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

This article may not make me popular with some parents, but sometimes we need to hear things we know we need but don't want to hear  and that is many of us are failing as parents because we aren't parenting.  We are too busy trying to be our kids friends, give them everything we didn't have, or trying to be the cool parent, or whatever else your reasons may be.

I am certainly no parenting expert, but I have worked with kids and parents for nearly 20 years in a variety of ways, mostly through the church or the school system and I can pick out the kids very easily who have no home structure, rules, boundaries, or aren't disciplined properly.  I have 2 difficult children of my own, I know parenting is tough, especially with many other factors such as divorce, blended families, outside interference, special needs, and sometimes just stubborn rebellious children.  But, God has given us the task of parenting our kids, not being their friends, coach, or enabler.  Even grandparents and aunt's and uncle's who are in roles of authority need to exercise it.

However, we do not see the long-term effects of going years without making out kids mind, giving them everything they want, and not holding them accountable for their actions, what is the end result?  Children who are rude, obnoxious, dishonest, lazy, selfish, anger issues, no respect for authority, property, or others feelings.  I could go one, but being a parent and raising kids right is tough enough, but when you don't make an effort, stand your ground, be consistent, set clear boundaries, and follow-through with natural consequences, you really are hurting your kid and setting them up for failure

Worst of all, it won't end there, you'll continue to bail them out, enable them, and raise them in adulthood.  They will be a burden because you created the monster and allowed the pattern to go on for years. They will continue to use you, manipulate you, lie, steal, and make your life a living hell. You will constantly gripe and complain about them, but never realize or admit you are part of the root problem.  If you don't believe me, ask someone who has adult children who are still like this? Most if honest will say it's because they didn't make them mind, or let them get by with murder when they were kids and eventually just lost control, gave up, and give in.

I am not sure what your idea of parenting is, but from the beginning of time, God's plan has been for us to raise kids to become independent, responsible, and able to take care of themselves and provide for themselves, and to be positive productive citizens of the human race.    In today's society people don't spank or discipline their kids like when I was raised as much, we tend to give our kids what they want and let tv, computers, smart phones, and ipads raise and teach our kids.  We'd rather keep them busy and give them what they want than deal with them.  That is not parenting.

God's desire for us is to model good lifestyles, behaviors, principles, character, and work ethic with our children.  To raise them with discipline.  As a matter of fact, God says if you love your children, you will discipline them.  Yes, that means holding them accountable, making them do things they don't want to do, and having real consequences for disrespect, lying, backtalk, sassing, running their mouths, arguing, etc...We forget sometimes we are the parents and we set the rules, make the boundaries, and it does no good to have rules, boundaries and structure if you do not enforce it, live by it, or keep it.

There is no perfect parenting formula, and i am not perfect parent,  but the I know we need to go by God's Word as a guidance for how we should parent and raise our kids,  the bible is full of nuggets on discipline, parenting, and raising kids.  Take time to study, ready, and look. There are also good christian books out there on the subject, but the  main thing is to remember you are the parent and you have an awesome responsibility to raise a kid from infancy to adulthood and you only get one chance, and even though you may not like it, it may be tough work, and frustrating, you have to be tough, show tough love, and set clear boundaries, structure, and guidelines with your kids so they learn to behave, act appropriate, and learn the world doesn't revolve around them, they aren't always going to get their way, and they will always have to do things they don't always feel like doing.

It's never too late to start being the parent and parenting the way God intended.   Remember if you have kids or want to have kids, you are the adult, and the parent, and you set the tone.  Also remember, things like toys, cell phones, computers, and yes even sports are luxuries not requirements. I don't care how much society and morals in the world may change, we have to be good parents and should be Godly parents.

 It's sad that many care more about our kids jump shot, curve ball, social life, or status at school than we do their well-being their behavior, attitude, and most of all their soul.  We all can do a better job of parenting and being the parent in our homes and families.  Together, we can take our homes and families back and raise our kids to love God, respect our role as parents, and in the long run teach them to become mature christian adults, who will someday maybe be parents of their own.

Proverbs 19:18(niv)
Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Does It Matter?

*This is my article for the June Newsletter at my church
That is the question we have to ask ourselves when it comes to life  in our church, “What Matters Most?” There are many opinions,  traditions, preferences, and ideas out there as to what we should and shouldn’t do as a church as far as programming, services, facilities, etc..but we have to ask ourselves a bigger question when it comes to things, Does it matter to God?   There are things that are essential to salvation and there are things that are non-essential to salvation, however, many times we like to make the non-essentials essential and this is what causes problems in our churches.  Churches split and christians divide because most people tend to fight, argue, and split hairs over topics and issues that don’t matter to God, to His commission or commands, but they matter to us for a variety of reasons, but if we were honest are they really worth splits, divisions, factions, and hurt feelings?  What color the foyer is painted doesn’t matter, but reaching lost and unsaved people does.  How the auditorium is decorated doesn’t matter, but how we are discipling our members sitting in there does.  What programs we have doesn’t matter, but what programs or services we have being efficient and productive to the mission of the church does.  Do you see how easy it is to get caught up on “our opinions” and lose sight of what really matters?  It’s ok to have preferences, but we must be careful those things don’t become gospel in our minds.  What matters to God may not be what matters to you or me, but our existence as a church body is to please God and do what matters to Him, not us.  So, what do we do?  We strive to be a mature and positive part of the body, following and supporting our church leadership, doing our part to grow spiritually, serving, giving, sharing our faith, and doing whatever it takes to “Build Faith,  Hope, and Love in Greenbrier County and Beyond”!  Yes, there are things that matter, so let’s focus our time, energy,  and efforts on those things that matter to God, His Kingdom, and Church and be ready to be amazed at what God can do through us when we work together on things that matter to Him.   1 Thessalonians 4:1 (NIV)[ Living to Please God ] As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.”