Why I don’t brag about my children publicly

This seems like an odd article to write, and there is a good chance you will not agree with me. I still feel I need to write it for all the Christian parents out there to consider. Maybe it will stretch your thinking.

My children have won more awards than you can imagine. Seriously. We have boxes of their certificates and letters of achievement. We have trophies and physical awards that all of them have received through the years. You might not believe this because you have never seen me brag about them publicly. I try to never mention their achievements at Church or in a sermon. I post no pictures on social media. Rarely do my wife, or I refer to them publicly to anyone outside of the six of us. I only say them here to underline that I am not a bitter parent.

This lack of praise is not by accident; it is a conscious decision my wife and I made years ago that guides our parenting. Here are the reasons for it.

1.They have value from God. Their life has infinite value and worth for two primary reasons. They were created in the image of God, and they were redeemed by his son Jesus. Nothing adds to that and nothing takes away from it.

2. What about those who lost? For everyone who achieves there are dozens of others who lost. We have never wanted anyone to feel bad for coming in second. Their life has value and worth even if they are not successful (see #1)

3. Spiritual growth is more important than worldly achievement. Hear me carefully; you can win every award and be an incredible jerk. We care more about what our children become than what they achieve.

4. What happens when my children fail? It is easy for children to think that your love is based on their success. You are so happy when they are first, and you tell everyone about it. Second seems unacceptable and is unmentionable. We love our children even if they never win anything. We want them to know that clearly.

5. Pride. If my child is best at something, doesn’t that mean I am a better parent than other parents? If they had raised their child as I did, then maybe their kid would not be such a loser. It is funny how the success of my children can fill me with pride as if I were something special.

6. Flawed priorities. I think most awards are given to the wrong kids. It is rarely given to the nicest child or the kindest to underprivileged. We award good students rather than good people. Does the child who is raised in a single parent home struggling to help by keeping a job and their grades up deserve less recognition than the children of affluent parents who can focus only on one thing? Think it through.

7. Meaningful recognition is given without prodding. If I must tell you how wonderful my boys are before you will say anything nice, then it is probably fake praise.

8. No one cares. Just being honest. I believe the majority of people could care less that our child was the best in Jr. High at whatever. My favorite line in “The Incredibles” movie, “They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity.” I couldn’t agree more.

Now, let me end with this. I am proud of my children. I tell them that every time they attempt something. Win or lose? Who cares? First or fourteen? Does it matter? I love and care about them no matter the outcome of their life. When they win, I tell then I am happy for them, and God has given us a lot of reasons to be happy. But those stories are our secrets to keep.

Weekend Reading

Here are some of the best articles I have read over the past several weeks. Enjoy.

18 Churchy Things the Class of 2018 Won’t Get

‘GQ’ Was Right About One Thing: Most Christians Don’t Act Like the Bible Matters

Spring Sports and Sunday Church: FIVE SUGGESTIONS FOR PARENTS

Gallup asked Americans why they go to church.

4 Little-Known Facts About the Bible That Suggest It Can Be Trusted

Business blogger Seth Godin has had some good stuff lately. They not only apply to business but to the Church and living like a believer.

How to give a five-minute presentation

After you raise your hand…

The words that work

Missing from your job description

Two Directions of Faith

The Christian faith has two completely different movements.

1.The Christian faith looks backward. We look back into the past to read about the work of God, particularly in his son Jesus. There is this fundamental element of trust in the Bible and the teachings about God. A believer looks back and says, “I believe that this happened and that the records are true.” This leads us to read our Bibles, studying the stories, dissecting the teachings and developing a theology based on what we understand.

2. The Christian faith looks forward. We trust that God will show up in our actions that we do for him. Faith allows us to pray to an unseen God and then to trust him to act. Faith believes that my work done for him will produce an eternal result. Faith keeps me moving forward in trust not knowing how everything will work out.

These two directions are inseparable in the life of a believer. We must have faith that God acted in the world through Jesus Christ. Also, we need to take the knowledge of what God did and apply it to every day of our life.

There are a number of people out there who have the first one of these faiths. They believe the Bible, they trust Jesus and are grounded in the idea of God.

People in the second group are harder to find. This requires deliberate action that can defy explanation. We step out into the unknown and wait for God to work. The response may be immediate, or it may take a lifetime. We might not even see a result, but we trust that we are doing the right thing.

One of the questions that faith repeatedly asks is, “Would my life be any different if I had no faith in Jesus?” Asked another way, “How is my belief in the past shaping my present?”

If you are not continually remolding your life today given what God has done in the past, then you are fooling yourself into believing you have faith, when all you have is a little historical knowledge.

Five Selfless Questions About Church

Over the years I have encountered numerous people who left a Church, including mine because they “were not getting fed.” For whatever reason, they felt like the Church was not providing them with all of the necessary ingredients to help them grow in their faith.

One thing I have never encountered is someone who left a Church because they “were not able to feed others enough.” No one I know has ever found themselves in a position where there was not enough work for them to do.

To me, this illustrates our selfish view of Church. We see our connection to a body of believers as purely utilitarian for us. We are there to get all we can get out of this group of people and nothing more. Today, I would like to flip this over and ask you for a few minutes to see Church as a group of people who need you to give as much as you receive. Take the time to ask yourself these questions.

1. Am I helping other people grow in their faith?

2. How am I teaching people about Jesus and the Bible?

3. In what ways can I better support the people in our congregation?

4. What needs has God brought me to this group to meet?

5. How are this place and these people better because I am here?

Would your view of Church be any different if you asked yourself these questions regularly? The people who form a Church need your contribution to be better Christians. We are in search of people who ask more questions about what they can give than what we receive.

Believers in Jesus are shaped by his life more than our culture. Jesus came into the world not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45)

Advice from Senior Adults

Recently our Church started a monthly gathering of our senior adults for lunch, fellowship, a devotional thought and a chance to get to know each other. We have held two, and they have both been a blessing. This month I asked them one question for discussion. That question was “What one piece of advice would you give our graduating high school seniors (and possibly why)?”

Each one could stand up and share their thoughts, and a few were willing to write them down. Here are the responses (with minor editing)

-“Follow Jesus – if you slip away from him for any amount of time, he will welcome you back. I know.”
-“Slow down. Life goes by fast. Take time to live.”
-“Take pictures, make videos and record your life. Make and keep your memories.”
-“Don’t walk a mile without Jesus.”
-“Look for a spouse with a good heart and is a Christian. Your job, house and bank account is nothing if you do not live with a good person.”
-“Chose your mate wisely.”
-“Always be yourself. Don’t conform to be one of the crowd.”
-“Trust in the Lord with all your might, and he will lift you up.”
-“Pray always and exercise your faith.”
-“Always follow the direction of the Lord. Let him be your guide in all things.”
-“Follow your dreams.”
-“Listen to those older than you – they have already been where you are!”
-“Be true to yourself.”
-“Ask yourself, ‘Would my grandmother approve of this decision?’”
-“Don’t forget God.”

There is the life wisdom of some of our senior adults. They are a great group of people, and our Church is blessed by their wisdom.

Do you like it or love it?

I love fishing.

I don’t know exactly why I love fishing. Maybe it was imprinted on me as a child. My dad loved to fish, and we made many memories with a pole in our hands. Perhaps it is the joy of the unknown. When you set the hook, you never know what is at the other end of the line. It could simply be that I love the taste of freshly cooked fish and want more to eat. There are dozens of little factors that make me love fishing.

Since I love it so much, there are very few limits on my fishing. I had gotten up well before dawn and stayed up all night. I have driven hundreds of miles and paid money to have a chance to catch something unique or big. I have purchased hundreds of dollars in the tackle and spent thousands on boats. I have missed meals, sleep, tv, and even dates for a chance to go fishing. The two nights of my Jr. and Sr. prom were spent fishing with a friend. Days, week and years of my life have been spent pursuing this one passion. Do you get the picture? I love fishing.

On the other hand, I like basketball.

I enjoy it most when my children play the game, but I like it as a sport. I watch it on TV when it is convenient. I do not plan my day or any activities around basketball. During March Madness each year I stay up late to watch some games, but I have never gotten up early to watch. I haven’t spent any money on basketball. I have seen two professional games and a few college ones, but those were usually tickets someone else bought. I have no real favorite pro team, but dad made me be an Indiana University basketball fan. I cannot recall ever missing a meal or a date for a game. I like basketball. I enjoy it and watch it whenever my schedule allows.

There are days when we need to ask ourselves honestly, “Do I love or like Jesus?”

Matthew 22:36-38 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (37) Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (38) This is the first and greatest commandment.” (New International Version)

For Such a Time as This

A young Jewish girl named Esther has become queen. It is almost unbelievable that she should ascend to such a high position. It was a great honor to her and should be to her people. There is only one problem; a nasty man is trying to get her people killed. Queen Esther sits on the throne in a royal position with influence and power that she can use to save her people. A family member named Mordecai contacts her, and he says a line that captures the moment.

Esther 4:14 “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

Mordecai explains that maybe God has her in this position so that she can save her people. Perhaps God has placed her in a unique place to make an impact for the good of his people.

This line of scripture goes through my head repeatedly when people tell me the stories of their lives. Recently a man explained how he and his wife were given the opportunity to offer counseling to another couple at a “just the right time.” Another person shared a story about how he, and some other people were able to help some homeless people they encountered. The list could go on and on. Right people placed in the right position so that they could offer the right action. Coincidence? Destiny? Fate? Luck? Could it have been a divine appointment?

The name of God does not appear anywhere in the book of Esther, and yet his fingerprints are all over its pages. He works and moves through the everyday situations of ordinary people to do incredible things. His people are saved. Lives are blessed. God is glorified.

Who knows but that you have come to your position today, for such a time as this?

Is it possible that God will bring people in and out of your life this day on whom you can have a positive impact in the name of Jesus? What would happen today if you looked around for divine appointments and then acted on this moments? Maybe the kingdom of God would be expanded through your life as people are blessed in the name of Jesus.

Maybe this day is the time for you to have an impact on this world if you will let God use you.

Five Things to Teach Your Children Before They Leave Home

We have headed into the graduation season again. Over the next eight weeks, there will be baccalaureate programs and commencement speeches given by adults and students in almost every location. Once again this year I will be a part of a program for seniors, but I am specifically talking to the parents. As a minister friend and I were working on what we were going to say, I started a list of things that teenagers need to know. Here is what I am thinking.

1. Teach Them to be Godly. You would expect this from a pastor, and I firmly believe it is true. Every child needs a moral compass. They need to be encouraged to read and learn the Bible. They need to be instructed in how to live a godly life. Every person, especially young people, need to know how to love God and their neighbor.

2. Teach Them to be Responsible. All people need to become responsible for their own actions. When they are called upon to act, they are willing to step up and perform while accepting whatever consequences follow. This includes doing the right thing when they see it needs to be done. They are not the victims or passive participants in their lives; they can steer their ship and help the world at the same time.

3. Teach Them to Make Wise Decisions. I am teaching this material to our youth group this month. The fundamental question is this, “In light of my past experience, my current situation and my future hopes and dreams, what should I do right now?” This question will force us to search through the Bible for insights along with asking people who are older and wiser for advice. The right decisions will always make life more comfortable and more joyful over the long haul.

4. Teach Them How to Handle Money. Young people must learn to be responsible with their money and their debt. Many are going off to college and accumulating a huge debt for a degree that has a limited earning ability. Others are racking up credit card debt or spending all their money on their vehicle. If our young people do not handle their money well, it will affect their marriage, parenting and even their spiritual life.

5. Teach Them How to Fail. It is going to happen. All of them are going to make a mistake. They are going to embarrass themselves and fall flat on their face. What will they do after that? Do they know how to get up and start again? Do they know how to ask for and offer forgiveness? Do they understand the importance of learning from their mistakes? Teach them to make failure their friend as they learn and grow into adulthood.

Those were a few of the things that made my list. What would you add?

Recently I read about a survey that explained how parents are very concerned about their elementary school children and have very little concern for their teenagers. Our young people need guidance during these years. They do not need to “figure it out on their own.” This sets them up for failure, heartache, and pain. Teach your children and teenagers well; it will benefit them for a lifetime.

Being Honest About Our Faith

It is easy to be deceived.

We all want to think we are smart enough to spot a con man. We are sure we will be able to recognize a fraud or fake the moment we see it. We are not some simple-minded people who fall for scams and sideshow deception.

And yet, I see people deceived every day, including myself.

This reality has pushed me to become “a numbers guy.” Over the last several years I began tracking the truth of my actions in statistics. I actually started doing this because of sports. Coaches would tell my boys that they were doing something wrong. For example, they would tell them that they were not getting many rebounds in basketball. Then I would start tracking the statistics. How many rebounds did they have? How many did their teammates get? Strengths and weaknesses were revealed through numbers rather than guesses. Quickly I could break down the truth from the lies.

Very often we see things in a way that is not based on truth. Our heart latches on to a piece of information that suddenly outweighs every other piece of information. Then we see the world in a slanted way. Our mind deceives us into believing lies about ourselves. As a preacher, I would say that the voice of evil whispers in our ears and we listen to it with total confidence.

Let me apply this to the Christian life. A person will tell me they are a committed Christian. I might then track the numbers. Suddenly a very different picture begins to emerge. Quite often we believe the very best about ourselves without any real facts to back it up. We are deceived into thinking we are something we are not.

Let me ask you these questions to help you honestly evaluate your spiritual life.

How much time did you spend reading the Bible this week or this month?

How much time did you spend in prayer this week of this month?

How much time did you spend with other believers trying to grow in your faith this month?

How much of your time has been spent in the service of the Lord this month?

How many worship programs have you attended this year?

There are other important questions we can ask, but this will get you started. We must ruthlessly evaluate our lives on a regular basis so that we are not deceived in our faith.

I really hope that you are living life as a fully devoted follower of Jesus. My question is this, “Would the evidence in your life demonstrate your faith to be real?” Be honest.

A Life of Farming

With a little break in the weather where I live in Missouri the farmers have hit the fields in full force. They are working the soil and planting their crops. The dirt is moving, and the seeds are dropping as the year of farming gets underway.

I admire the work of the farmers. It takes patience and perseverance to do this job. It will take 5-6 months or more before they will see a harvest. During that time, who knows what might happen. There could be floods, or there could be droughts. It might be an ideal season with no problems at all. Whatever happens, the final results will not be known for several months for the work they are doing today.

What would happen if you and I approached life more like a farmer? What if we knew that the hard work we did today would not see any results for a long time?

The truth is, whether you acknowledge it or not, you are already living this way. The things you do today will one day reap a reward. If you do the right thing in your family, your marriage, your work and even your soul, it will someday have a result. The flip side is also true, if you neglect your work today, eventually, there will be a negative result.

My question for you today is simple; What are you planting today that will see a reward in the future? What will be the result of your work today in several months or years?

Maybe there is an even more significant question than that; What are you doing today that will have a harvest in eternity?