Sandwiches & Stories

“You used a Black & Decker drill to perform surgery on a man in jail?”  That was my response a few years ago as an OB-GYN doctor serving in medical missions in Africa told her story while we were gathered around our dining room table.  Even better was the fact that this man later came to believe in Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior (John 3:16; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-13).

This story was one of probably a thousand or more in my lifetime! Growing up in a pastor’s home provided many opportunities for evangelists, college presidents, pastors, and missionaries to put their feet under our kitchen table and/or sleep in our guest bedroom.

I can remember as a grade school aged boy sitting at the kitchen table after an evening church service listening to all kinds of ministry stories.  Those memories are also a part of my junior and senior high school days as well as college.

With eyes wide open and ears open even wider, those narratives told me that life was full of blessings, fun, hardships, trials, laughter, questions, burdens, answers to prayer, rich in Bible knowledge and application, and tears to name a few.  But no doubt about it, those stories from real Christians revealed a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ and an unshakable faith in an awesome, faithful, promise-keeping God!

Interesting enough, I did not learn until long after I had left home that it was my dad who invited most of those folks home.  My mom really did not like duty in the kitchen.  That was just not her “cup-of-tea.”  I share this to encourage you.  Our meals were usually very simple.  The table was not elaborately set.  Mom used what she had, and in our early days at home, that was not much.

You see, it was not the food at the table I remember or how the table was decorated that has left an indelible impression upon me.  Most assuredly, it was all those hours in the presence of simple servants of the Lord.

How grateful I am that many, many times, my folks would let me stay up on a school night way past bedtime to sit under the influence of such godly men and women.  The eternal influence in their eyes was always more important than the temporal influence.

May I encourage you to host missionaries, evangelists, preachers, and other servants of the Lord in your home?  How cool it is to have a faithful missionary from a far-away land while eating dessert share accounts of God’s grace, protection, and answers to prayer!  What an impact it is to listen to a preacher tell about a lost soul receiving Christ as his Savior or expound the Word while eating a grilled cheese sandwich!  Oh, how wonderful to hear a college president while enjoying a bowl of corn chowder share how the Lord provided the school’s needs at just the right time!

Parents, your children need to experience this!  They need to experience it often.

Prepare the guest room, fix some sandwiches and invite a servant of the Lord into your home.  By the way, be sure to open your ears, too!

Let Them Come to Me

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This week my wife has written some extremely insightful, practical and helpful posts about the issue of children coming to Christ for salvation at an early age.  These writings would be extremely helpful for parents and anyone who works in children’s ministries.

Having received Christ as my personal Lord and Savior at the age of five, this is a subject very dear to my heart.

As a pastor, I have had the joy of seeing many children born again over the years.  How precious is a tender heart coming to Christ in simple faith, taking God at His Word.

Here are the links:

How to Tell If a Child Is Ready to Be Saved

What’s Wrong with Waiting Until a Child Is Older to be Saved

What if Your Child Doubts Their Salvation

Preparing a Child’s Heart to Know Christ

Men, Your Daughters Are Watching You

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To balance the scales in reference to yesterday’s post, may I, from my heart, challenge dads to consider their impact upon their daughters?

God graciously lent us three daughters to raise for His glory.  He saw fit to take our middle daughter before she ever experienced the outside world of sin.  She was stillborn twenty-nine years ago.  What a reunion awaits us in Glory when our family will be together again for all eternity!

In spite of all the trials, bumps, mistakes, tears, miscalculations, and naivety of raising two girls, I assure you that the blessings far outweigh all the aforementioned.   We are richly blessed!  But . . . it takes hard work, time in the Word, and MUCH PRAYER!!!

So with that said, men, may I ask . . . what are your daughters learning from you by your example and through your instruction?

May I strongly encourage you to go back through yesterday’s list and replace all the boy/son references to girl/daughter?

And let’s add the following.

  1. Men, do you want your daughters to marry a man like you? They are watching how you treat their mother, how you honor or dishonor her and what you say about and to her.  They hear your vocal tones, your words of endearment or criticism as well as your body actions.  Men, do you seat your wife at the table, open the car door for her, send her loving texts, bring her flowers, buy her a new dress, etc.?
  2. Men, do you “date” your daughters? Some of the best times of my life have been spent at a gas station eating a donut with my oldest daughter . . . an every Friday morning school day routine when she was in junior high, attending a Southern Gospel concert together, driving through the night to deliver a package to a plant in Chicago, etc.  And then, there was the joy of a Starbucks chat with my youngest or the meal date before heading off to college or a meal date with both girls when they were in college, or a trip to Dairy Queen.  Men, you need to date your wife and your daughters.
  3. Men, your daughters need time with you because they need your security, your listening ear, your loving heart, your connection with their lives. If they don’t get it from you . . . then they will seek it from some fella at school or on the internet.
  4. Men, do you encourage your daughters; do you affirm them? (Ephesians 6:4)
  5. Do you show them unconditional love? (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)
  6. Dads, in an absolutely appropriate way, do you still hold your daughters, hug them, kiss them on the cheek, and express your love for them?
  7. Do you treat your daughters with respect or talk down to them?
  8. Do you bring them flowers every-once-in-awhile?

To my two daughters who are now married, how blessed to be your dad!!  My heart is full when you and your husbands are able to visit and we gather around our table or sit in our living room, to hear the laughter, quote our Andy lines, share our joys and heartaches, laugh at each other and just be family.  How awesome to see you continue to grow in your relationships with God and your husbands!!

Accomplishing anything good as a father is ONLY by the grace of God and His sovereign leadership.

Men, your daughters are watching you.

Here are two recommend links that offer further insight:

Why Daughters Need Their Dads

Dads and the Daughters They Love

Men, Your Sons Are Watching You

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Men, may I ask you some questions?  These are not accusatory questions.  They are truly questions from my heart after 35 years as a senior pastor.

  1. What are your sons learning from you about a vibrant, personal, daily, dependent walk with Christ? (Job 23:12; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 11:1)
  2. Have you taught your sons to pray? (Matthew 6:6-8; Luke 18:1)
  3. Do your sons know how to study and apply the Word of God to their daily life? (Philippians 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:15)
  4. Are you memorizing Scripture with them? (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119:11)
  5. Do your sons bring their Bibles to church, use their Bibles during the message, and take notes from the message because you do? Do you discuss the sermon with them afterwards? (Ephesians 6:4; Psalms 19:7-14; 119:97)
  6. Do you and your sons sing with all your heart in church? Are you engaged mentally, physically and emotionally in the presence of God?  (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16)
  7. What have your sons learned from you about serving in the local church? (Colossians 3:23-24; 1 Peter 4:10-11)
  8. Are your sons solid in their personal salvation testimony? Are they able to give a Bible reason for the assurance of their salvation? (1 Peter 3:15)
  9. Have you taught them how to share the Gospel with the unsaved? (Matthew 28:18-20)
  10. Do your sons have a critical spirit toward Christ, His Church, and other believers or are they deeply in love with Christ, His Church and other believers because of you? (Ephesians 4)
  11. Are you sons learning that you love Christ with all your heart, that you are seeking Him first, and that in all things He is the preeminent One? (Matthew 22:37-40; 6:33; Colossians 1:15-18)

Men, your sons are watching you, imitating you, and learning from you . . . and you don’t have to say a thing.  The old saying goes, “what you do in moderation, your children will take to excess.”

Men, it is important that our sons learn how to work, drive a car, be a gentleman, and make a living, but it most important they learn about the One Who is Life and how to really live by divine viewpoint.  When they stand before the Lord at the Bema, they will be so glad that Dad walked the talk and taught them eternal values.

My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
He guards the paths of justice,
And preserves the way of His saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
Equity and every good path.
  (Proverbs 2:1-9)

Been There . . . Sustained

 

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Memory flashback.  Aware that the potential was before them, the truth of her passing yesterday afternoon hit my heart with an aching pain of grief for them.

Yesterday, dear friends of ours held their 26-week-old daughter in their arms and watched as she slowly enter Heaven into the presence of the One Who had created her.  She, along with her twin sister, were born at 25 weeks and 2 days.

This family has been down this road before having seen their first son born at 22 weeks.  The only difference, after many, many weeks in the children’s hospital, he came home. Today he is an active, healthy little man . . . a trophy of God’s grace.  His younger brother was full-term and likewise is doing very well.

Why a memory flashback?  July 2, 2017, will mark 30 years that my wife and I held the precious lifeless body of our second daughter in our arms.  She was stillborn.  I so well remember her little rosy cheeks, head of hair, and tender lips.  My, how it hurt that night, just like I’m sure our friends hurt yesterday, and do today.

What sustains you in a time like this?  In spite of the tremendous grief and pain, these truths hold you together.  These were our rock in the midst of our storm.  These held us together as we departed from the hospital with an empty car seat, and then arrived home to see a vacant nursery.

Psalm 91:1-4       He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

2 Samuel 12:22-23            And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.

2 Corinthians 1:3               Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.

Psalm 73:22-26, 28           Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.

Romans 8:26-31                Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

Memory flashback?  Yes.  Tears, hurt, grief, and a hurting heart? Yes! Marvelous, unexplainable, sustaining grace?  YES!!!  A grand reunion awaits us and for our dear friends, too? YES!!!

 

Encouraging resources to offer further help:

Grief – Finding Hope in the Darkness

Blessings – Laura Story

I Will Rise

Ordinary Christianity

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Ordinary, average, middle-of-the-road, uninspired, undistinguished, indifferent, unexceptional, unexciting, unremarkable, run-of-the-mill.  These are all words synonymous with a word that means “of only moderate quality; not very good.”

That word—mediocre.

Mediocrity describes too much of daily life today at home, the work place, in businesses, churches, entertainment, and sadly at times in my own life.  Yet, I believe that the worst place for mediocrity to raise its indifferent, ordinary head is in a born-again Christian’s life.

Consider what the Bible says about mediocrity:

Romans 12:11  Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.

1 Corinthians 10:31  Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Colossians 3:17,23  And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.

Simply put, a mediocre Christian is one whose thirst for God has waned over time, and sadly, he/she  doesn’t realize it.  Instead of giving diligence to his growth in Christ, to add to his original faith in Christ (2 Peter 1:3-7, 10), he has become barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins (1:8-9).

As we heard last night in our Men with a Mission weekly ministry, “Mediocrity cheapens the grace of God.”

Are you a mediocre Christian?  Here are 10 questions taken from last night’s lesson to ask yourself to determine your level of mediocrity.  Read each one carefully and thoughtfully.  Do not rush through the list or be mediocre about it.

  1. Is your thirst for God growing?
  2. Are you more and more loving?
  3. Are you more sensitive to and aware of God?
  4. Are you governed more and more by His Word?
  5. Are you more and more concerned for others?
  6. Are you more and more concerned over the Church/the Body of Christ?
  7. Are the disciplines of the Christian life more important to you?
  8. Are you more and more aware of sin?
  9. Are you more and more forgiving of others?
  10. Are you thinking more and more of heaven?

When you are cold, you want to be close to the fire.  How’s the fire in your Christian life?  That will be determined by how close you want to walk with Christ.  That will be determined by your vine/branch relationship with Christ (John 15:1-11). You are as close as you want to be; you are as zealous as you want to; you are as zealous as you want to be. God does not force His will on anyone.

The remedy for mediocrity:

For me to live is Christ (Philippians 1:21)

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17‭-‬18)

When we stand before Christ one day at the Bema and our works will be judged, do you want Him to say, “Well done for being completely mediocre.”?

Christmas In the Past; Life in the Present

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The build-up and anticipation of Christmas is unequaled in our country!  As is often said, “The preparation for Christmas seems to get earlier and earlier each year.”  Indeed, Christmas is a very special holiday and one that many folks prepare for throughout the whole year.  But, what about the days after?  Is there a let-down?  After all the planning and performing of cantatas as well as children’s plays, buying and wrapping gifts, preparing for company and meals,  taking family photos, and  celebrating firsts (marriage, children, house, job), is all over, how will you handle the days and the weeks after?

  1. Begin today in God’s Word reading it with the same passion as you did all the “Christmas passages.” Memorize other portions of the Word of God with the same fervor as you did to memorize Luke 2:1-20.  Read books about the life of Christ beyond the cradle with the same zeal as you did all the Christmas books.  Read them to your children, and make Christ’s life BIG to them every day!!
  2. Live with a daily anticipation of the next biggest day of your life as a believer—the Rapture & the Bema (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Titus 2:11-14; 12 Corinthians 5:10).
  3. Enjoy singing songs of praise and worship to our God all the other months of the year with gusto and joy on your face as you did the carols of this season (Psalm 96:1-9).
  4. Be a giver today as you were on Christmas (Acts 20:35).
  5. Open up your home for family and guests today and into next year (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9).
  6. Walk in the same grace today that was sufficient yesterday as you dealt with the “tug in your heart” over that special person that was not here this Christmas season (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  7. Be as energetic today about the gospel as you have been prior to December 25 (Philippians 1:27).

2 Peter 1:3-8

According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(Photo:  Steven Lawson)

A Parent’s Best Gift

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Let’s go back to the Sears Christmas Wish Book I mentioned yesterday.  So many memories..

Here’s a few of them:

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Wow! A banana seat bicycle!  Pop a wheelie!
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Can you taste it?
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This was serious right here!!

How many times I would pour over the pages of the catalog, mark what I wanted, then proceed to my mom and dad and say, “You know what I want for Christmas?”  And how many times did I hear them say, “We can’t afford that.”

What could they afford?  The same thing that every parent can afford—time.

When I survey Scripture, I see God’s instructions to parents taking time not money.

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

  • To train, discipline (which is teaching, instructing, and correcting) and nurturing takes time.

Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

  • Often children get into trouble because they are just crying out for someone to pay them some attention. They want to know where you will draw the line.  It takes time to teach what is right, what is wrong, what to do to stay right, and what will happen if we choose to go our own way.

Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

  • Please note again the meaning of discipline and the need to take time to be diligent to fulfill the complete picture of discipline/discipleship. If a child does need a spanking, it should not be a quick strike out of anger, but a time of loving correction and training.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9        And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

  • Once again, you cannot teach, train and disciple on the run. It is your lifestyle.  It takes time.

Parents, your greatest investment on this earth will be your children.  They don’t need you to buy them things to make up for where you have failed.  They need your love, attention, character-training, and fun times.  They need you to teach them the Word of God.  They need to hear how you came to salvation.  They need you to pray with them.  They need you to make spiritual applications of life with them throughout the day.  They need you to teach them how to work, how to eat, how to be hospitable, how to serve others, how to talk, how to be a blessing to others, how to make their beds, how to get up and make the day count, how to cook, how to do life in general by the grace of God.

They need you.  They need you every day.

Parents, this Christmas, rather than spending so much money, spend a lot of your time.  Give your children something that will eclipse that banana-seat bicycle.  Give them the best gift—your time; give them you.

I Want an iPad for Christmas

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Christmas is four days away?  Seriously?  It seems like just yesterday that we celebrated Christmas 2015!  Of course, the older you get, the faster time seems to slide by.  Also, retailers help us get cranked up for Christmas in August each year. So, here we are just days away!

My wife and I have always loved Christmas since our earliest recollections.  My, how I remember waiting for the mailman to deliver the Sears & Roebuck Christmas Wish Book.  By the time December 25th rolled around, it was well-worn with many dog-eared pages.

One of my all-time favorite gifts was in the fourth grade . . . an electric football set with the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.  The quarterback could even throw a felt football.  If you hit your receiver with the football, it was a completion!

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Another huge favorite was the seeming miles of Hot Wheel track, supped-up Hot Wheel cars and a Hot Wheel power house to send those cars tearing around the track.  I can still hear ‘em!

Oh how I loved the snowfalls of Christmas in southeast Ohio and West Virginia.  One Christmas in Bluefield, it snowed a foot by Christmas morning!  What a time we had building sled runs and just wearing it out!

Those were simple, innocent Christmases that are etched in my mind and thought of with great joy and thanksgiving.

This Christmas, I am fearful that many parents will unknowingly give their children and teens a gift that could turn simple, innocent Christmases and lives into sinful, indecent, regret-filled Christmases and lifestyles.  Please take time to read the following blog post and take heed.  I am begging you to do so!!

Please Do Not Give Them Porn for Christmas

Seeing Double

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Once-a-month, our church serves the homeless a lunch meal in downtown Johnson City, TN, at the Melting Pot.  One of the blessings of this journey to and from town is being accompanied by a young teen boy who attends our church and lives near us.  I love to watch him because when I do, I am seeing double.  Double?  Yes, his father.  His dad is a faithful servant of the Lord, a “full-blown” engineer at a local plant, an intentional man, one who runs from anything that would even give the impression of feminine, and dearly loves his family.  When I watch his 13 year old son, I see a young man thinking like his dad, walking like his dad, dressing like his dad, talking like his dad, and . . . I am not surprised.  He is also the firstborn and looks up to his dad.

When someone looks at you, who do they see?  Paul said it so well in 1 Corinthians 11:1, Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.  How natural it is for children to act like their parents and other family members because of their natural birth and so much time spent in their presence.  How really natural it should be for those of us who have had a spiritual birth (John 3:1-17) to imitate Christ because He lives in us, and we spend time with Him in prayer, in worship, in singing, and in the memorization and meditation of the Word of God.

Colossians 1:27 – Christ in you, the hope of glory.

2 Corinthians 3:18- But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Truth is, only when a dad is imitating Christ should he be able to say to his family, “Imitate me.”  And, our desire to be like Christ should be so genuine that it creates a thirst in our family to imitate Christ. Just as exposure to the sun makes people acknowledge your tan, our exposure to the Son, Jesus Christ, should cause others to recognize Who we are imitating, Who means the most to us, and Who we are seeking first (Matthew 6:33).

Are the folks around you seeing double?

You must abide in Christ in heaven before you can descend with heavenly ability to act for Him down here. The great secret of all blessing is to come from the Lord.  Most Christians go to Him. (A. J. Gordon)