Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#3)

So you have completed a full day of ministry. You have proclaimed and taught the Word of God, perhaps as many as three to four times. You have praised the Lord with all your heart! You have listened to many burdens, heard maybe a complaint or two, and sought to encourage and edify many. You have worked through a power point failure during your third point, a crying baby, and on the way home, a flat tire. As you ease into your chair in the family room and take a deep breath, you can still hear all the “noise” of the day in your mind, even if you are catching up on Sunday night football and Facebook.

Be careful! Your mind and body are worn out! You are reliving the day. Thoughts of “what if” and “if only” and “I should have” start to permeate your mind. You are a prime target for the flesh and the devil to lie to you. It’s a set up, friend!

May I encourage you . . . and remind myself?

First of all, instead of listening to yourself, preach the Truth to yourself . . . instead of just to those who gathered to hear the message. You proclaimed the Truth with passion and conviction all day. Now, believe and live out what you preached! Rest in it. Lean hard into it. His Word never returns void (Isaiah 55:11). Your failures of the day are a good reminder that you are frail and totally dependent on God’s grace and mercy all the time. Your successes, and only God determines that, are what they because Christ worked through you to build His Church, to do His work, not yours. So rejoice in Him! Praise Him! Thank Him!

Second, start counting your blessings from the day and record them in a journal or on your phone . . . even if it might have been a difficult Sunday! Satan doesn’t want you to remember the goodness of God that you experienced through the day. Most of all, remember your position and identification in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14). You are accepted in the Beloved (1:6).

Third, track your thinking and what you usually do on Sunday nights. Make sure it does not feed your discouragements. Perhaps a good idea would be to put the kids to bed, and you and your wife enjoy some time alone! Act like you’re newlyweds! Hold hands, kiss, cuddle, and enjoy the wife your youth (Proverbs 5:18). Encourage each other. And, just like Saturday night, hold hands and pray before drifting off to sleep. You need her, she needs you and you both need the Lord!!

Sleep well, friend, and . . . let’s pray for one another to choose what’s right by God’s grace.

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
(Isaiah 26:3)

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, . . . and be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

It’ll Get Away From You!

My wife is a planner, organizer, and a go-getter! I owe the warmth and coziness of our home, demonstrated in so many ways, all to her. And, she doesn’t just sit on her accomplishments, she maintains certain areas of our home with daily care. According to her, if she didn’t, “it would get away from her!”

This reminds me of marriage; it too requires daily maintenance. If not, “it’ll get away from you!”

What are some daily maintenance needs to keep your marriage moving forward in the early days and even after 40 plus years?

Touch one another. A warn embrace, a long kiss, an arm around her shoulder, holding hands, sitting close to each other at church, massaging her shoulders, etc. How easy it is to become mechanical and monotonous in your relationship. Furthermore, do not let your children and schedule drive you apart. Spend time daily in each other’s arms. If you don’t, your marriage will get away from you!

Listen to one another. Last night after supper, we sat at the dining room table and talked for 30 minutes or so. No one was in a hurry. We shared about the day and about a huge burden on our hearts. We connected and made an investment in our marriage. If you don’t, your marriage will get away from you!

Forgive one another. This is an ingredient that is so necessary to maintain your marriage on a daily basis. Because a marriage is made up of two sinners, grace and forgiveness are extreme necessities. Here’s great biblical counsel—Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:31-32). This is an action that must be obeyed no matter the circumstances. If you doubt this is true, look at the cross. If you believe it is impossible, look in the empty tomb. If forgiveness is not a sweet (and sometimes hard, but always right) part of your marriage, it’ll get away from you!

What will you do today to maintain your relationship in a way that honors God and keeps your marriage from getting away from you?

The Empty Nest – Part 3

In the previous two posts, I have suggested that you can prepare for the empty nest by making daily investments in your marriage, by making your home a joyful place and by preparing your children to leave home.

Today, I submit to you that the greatest step in preparing for the empty nest is to release your children into the hands of God!

Truth is, we do not own our children. They were created by God and belong to Him. Parenting is His work, not ours. Grace to raise our children and send them out only comes from the God of all grace (1 Peter 5:10). Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward (Psalm 127:3). For you (God) formed my inward parts; you (God) knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14a).

Since this is true, He knows what is best for our children. Therefore, as they go from the “crib to college” or the “Johnny-Jump-Up to a job,” your goal is to . . .

  • Teach the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), live out the gospel, and teach your children how to live out the gospel. Our prayer was always, “Lord, may (name) come to know you as personal Lord and Savior at the earliest possible moment/age.” (10 Ideas For Living Out the Gospel In Your Home)
  • Make Christ preeminent in your home as you live out the Christ-life (Romans 6-8; Philippians 1:21; Colossians 1:15-18).
  • Live with your sights set on the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10) and eternity (John 14:1-3) not the world’s values.
  • Teach your children to love God’s Word, to know God’s Word, to speak God’s Word and to apply God’s Word (Psalm 119). A great way to do that is through the Inductive Bible Study.
  • Teach them to follow Christ all the days of their life (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 14:26; Philippians 1:21; 1 Peter 2:21)
  • Give your children the best gift . . . parents who Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37).

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth (3 John 4). If our children have left home and are following Christ, give Him praise, for it is all of His grace. Enjoy your empty nest and fill it with much love and prayer together.

If your child has left home and is not walking with the Lord, certainly that will be a burden to your heart, but our sovereign God can do greater things than we can imagine. Make your empty nest a place of prayer and submission to the omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence of God. Lean hard into His promises. Perhaps this will encourage you: Comfort For Weary Parents of Troubled Children

May you all find comfort and encouragement in the Truth as you face or live in the empty nest of parenting. Wherever you are and wherever your children are, God is there. Rest and rejoice in Him (Isaiah 41:10; Philippians 4:6-8). Husbands, enjoy the wife of your youth (Proverbs 5:18). Release your children to God.

From a pastor’s heart,

dale

The Empty Nest – Part 2

One of the most critical times in a marriage is when the only child or children begin to leave home, especially when “the baby” departs. My wife and I have experienced this, but can say with confidence, “You can look forward to the empty nest!”

Yesterday I began what I hope is a helpful set of posts on this subject of preparing for The Empty Nest. Here’s another step as you move toward that day.

Prepare your children to leave home. Denise and I had a dear lady in our church watch our second daughter for a couple of hours one month after she was born so we could continue our habit of dating. Certainly, Alli did not know about us being gone, but it set the stage for when she did understand, and it was an ongoing example to her older sister. You see, Denise and I were preparing our own hearts for when the girls would leave home. How?

  • Send your children to junior and teen camp. We highly recommend The Wilds.
  • Get your children involved in sports, 4-H, Sunday School, youth group and its activities, college trips, ministry within your local church, etc.
  • Teach them how to work and to have a godly work ethic. Let them get a job as soon as possible, but refuse to let them accept a job that will keep them out of church.
  • Train them how to clean up their room, do laundry, set the table, cook, wash dishes, vacuum, drive a car, mow the lawn, plant a garden, build a fire in the outdoor firepit, be financially responsible, how to dress for the occasion, how to treat and respect the opposite sex, etc. In other words, do not let your children grow up dependent on you.
  • Do not give your children everything. Let them learn the value of waiting on certain privileges as well as the value of earning certain privileges.
  • Allow your children to make mistakes within reason. They need to learn how to rise from failure and how to lose with a gracious heart yet be competitive.
  • Teach them to respect, honor and obey authority.

Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing one of the most important steps in this preparation process. Stay tuned!

From a pastor’s heart,

dale

The Empty Nest

One of the most difficult times of parenting comes when your children are ready to leave “the nest.”

I distinctly remember when we left our firstborn at college. The drive out of town was absolute silence for at least 30 minutes with some sniffles, tears and the need for Kleenexes.

When our second child, our last one here on earth, left home for college, this too did a major tug on our hearts.

Nevertheless, this is the way God planned. Genesis 2:24, Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Our children cannot “leave and cleave” if we as parents are still cleaving to them.

How can you be prepared to release your children and eventually enjoy the “empty nest”?

Make daily investments in your marriage. Remember parents, you did not marry your children. Your spouse came first and hopefully your spouse will still be there after the kids depart! Therefore, portray before your children a transparent, honest, grace-filled, forgiving marriage that will be a model for them to follow (Ephesians 4:17-5:33). Continue to date your spouse. Be lovingly demonstrative toward your spouse in the presence of your children. You want your children to grow up with the undoubtable knowledge that their parents love each other! Moms and dads, when your marriage is strong, your children will find an element of security in their own lives because they know their parents will be okay.

Make your home a joyful place. Parents, enjoy the Lord, enjoy life, enjoy your children, and enjoy each day. Even in the midst of sorrow, difficult parenting days, Covid, financial strain, the Spirit of God produces joy (Galatians 5:22-23) and gives us hope (Romans 15:13). Here are three ingredients for a joyful home that come with the grace needed for daily fulfillment—Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12). Recently I heard someone say, “Our home should be such that our children are prepared to leave but look forward to returning, not for what they get or to be a shelter enabling their laziness, but for the atmosphere that is set in the early years of child rearing.”

Yes, when the time comes for your children to move on in life, it will bring a dramatic change for you and your children. No matter, the grace of God and preparation today looking toward tomorrow and the future will enable this transition to be God-honoring and a blessing to your children. Remember, you left home and your parents, too, right?

More tomorrow.

From a pastor’s heart,

dale

Just Being Together

Valentine’s Day seems to call for “over-the-top” dates, gifts and excitement. And, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. To me, Valentine’s Day is exciting and adventuresome in so many ways!!

This year, our Valentine’s Day was not a fancy affair at all. Quite frankly, this year’s “day of love” was simply . . . just being together. It was so special as we literally took the scenic route in marriage !!

For starters, I fixed Denise’s favorite breakfast, French Toast, and served it with ham and assorted fruit. Everything was plated and served on a tray in the family room.

We shared cards, and my Sweetheart gave me a gift. She received a dozen roses on Friday!

Mid-morning, I gave Denise an optional plan for the day which included some of our favorite destinations. She surprised me with an option not mentioned—-Let’s go hiking!” Well, that was music to my ears!!

We headed out with our trail lunch and hiking gear for Rocky Fork State Park and Whitehouse Cliffs. This is a two-mile round-trip hike that is a somewhat strenuous, consistent climb. We took our time, stopping for a hug here-and-there and genuinely enjoying the quiet solitude.

From there, we headed south to Weaverville to Well-bred Bakery for a slice of delicious raspberry chiffon cake!! Oh my!! Light and tasty!! Definitely pairs well with “Jamaican me crazy” coffee. We were hoping to eat at Stoney Knob Restaurant, but they are closed on Mondays. So we decided to eat our supper backwards beginning with dessert.

Pink Champagne Cake

Denise had declared earlier in the day that it sure would be cool to be up on Wolf Laurel at sunset! Well, well, well, your wish is my desire! Supper options are very slim between Weaverville and Wolf Laurel Mountain, but I remembered a pizza shop just off the exit. Been living on a whim all day anyway, why not try it! Delish! Chicken ranch pizza in a styrofoam box at the top of mountain with a stellar sunset and your gal—romantic and delightful!!!

What was the best part of a somewhat unplanned, spur-of-the-moment Valentine’s Day? Just being together!

Guys, ask your girlfriend or your wife what they like most, and I would venture to say that the majority would answer, “Time with you.”

Just being together on the scenic route in marriage is always a win!!

Valentine’s Day Date Ideas

Ready for Monday?

Here’s a few ideas for a fun, romantic date.

Game Night Date: Choose three eating establishments (coffee shop, restaurant, bakery). Take three games (Shut the Box, Take Two, Quixx) and play a game at each location. Start off with a game at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. Make reservations for dinner at Chop House. Drive to Bristol and enjoy Blackbird Bakery. Game on!

Bookstore Date: After a meal out, head on over to a local bookstore and locate a cozy corner. Find a book for each of the following categories, five books in all. 1) A travel book that describes your dream vacation spot. After locating the book, bring it back to your table and read about it to your spouse. Put the books away and search for . . . 2) A children’s book that you enjoyed in your childhood. Return to your table and read it to each other. Put the books away and search for . . . 3) A book of love poems. Same as #2, but be sure to hold hands and look into each other’s eyes. 4) A hobby book. Same as #2. 5) A cookbook with a recipe that you would surely enjoy! Do the same as #2. Book it!

Put the Kids to Bed Date: After the kids are tucked into bed with instructions to stay in bed, order up a pizza. Pull out the china or good dinnerware and have a candle-light pizza party in your bedroom. Play some romantic music. Verbally share 14 reasons why you love each other. Talk about ways to grow your marriage and mature your love for each other. Take it from there!

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

Guilt-Free Valentine’s Day

Who’s getting married this Valentine’s Day weekend?

According to the LA Times, “Valentine’s Day is L.A.’s hottest wedding day” of the year. “In the last decade, Los Angeles County couples have chosen Valentine’s Day for their weddings more often than any other day — by far.” (LA Times, February 14, 2019)

The subject of Valentine’s Day and marriage is way cool to me! Having been married 40 1/2 years (June 20), I can tell you that romance, love, dating and all that comes with being married is a rich blessing! It’s fun, adventurous, takes daily maintenance and is way cool! Now, hang on a minute. Don’t get the idea that our marriage has been “and they lived happily ever after!” because that has never happened in any marriage!!

Although God created marriage (Genesis 2:18-25) in a perfect state and environment, sin crept in and marred the blessed arrangement. The issue today is not marriage but two sinners coming together in marriage.

Speaking of sin, there is a one that has been swiftly gaining ground in America and around the world for the past few decades, especially in the 2000’s—-couples living together before marriage or living together and never being united in marriage. Folks, I say this from a heart that cares for you and is at the same time grieved by how sin continues to mar the sacred gift of holy matrimony.

First of all, no matter how hard you try to make life work your way, God’s way is always the best because His way is perfect (Psalm 18:30), righteous and holy (Psalm 145:17), one of steadfast love and faithfulness (Psalm 25:10), and higher than your ways (Isaiah 55:9). We are exhorted in Galatians 6:7-8 that you cannot “out-box” God nor can you get away with your sin. Therefore, living together outside of the bonds of marriage is an affront to God. It is living in rebellion, sin, and pride.

Second, God says marriage is to be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous (Hebrews 13:4). Please let this passage sink into your heart! Because marriage was created by God, it is to be held in honor.

Grant Richison in his commentary on this passage says correctly, Marriage is “honorable” because it is a divine institution. It is the basic building block for society. The word “honorable” means to hold with great esteem. Physical love among married people is “honorable.” It is something that must be held in great respect. It is intimate companionship (Gen. 2:18). Any form of sex outside of husband and wife is dishonorable in God’s eyes.

The undefiled marriage bed belongs only to a husband and wife who have been united in marriage. Sex between a man and his wife is holy, pure, and beautiful, but is defiled and perilous to the couple who choses to live together and have sex outside the bounds of marriage.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality . . . . Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 18).

He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. (Proverbs 6:32-33).

Sex is for marriage, and marriage is for sex. God wants us to save sex for marriage not because it’s “bad” or “dirty”— but because it’s unique, exclusive, and wonderful. Sex isn’t just casual fun. And it’s not just a feel-good way of expressing mutual love. It’s about two people becoming one flesh. Jesus says, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4-5, ESV; quoting from Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24). [Focus on the Family]

As noted earlier, God’s ways are always best. God created marriage and has laid down His instructions for marriage. Life does not work in rebellion against its Creator. Furthermore, you don’t own marriage, God does. Therefore, you do not have the right to “call the shots” as to how you will handle marriage and all that God has intended for it. A man who surrenders to the will of God will never live with regret and shame (Psalm 32).

If you are living with someone outside the bonds of marriage, repent and run to the cross of Christ and accept God’s forgiveness. Also, please read the following: Three Lies About Premarital Sex

Valentine’s Day can be a guilt-free holiday of romance and joy if you follow God’s way!

Valentine’s Day Everyday!

Roses

Top 6 Valentine’s Day Facts for 2022 by Wallethub.com
$23.9 Billion: Total Valentine’s Day spending projected for 2022 ($175.41 per person celebrating).
$235 vs. $119: Men will spend almost twice as much as women, on average, for Valentine’s Day 2022.
$10.7 Billion: Amount Americans will spend on jewelry ($6.2B), flowers ($2.3B) and candy ($2.2B).
26%: Share of marriages that begin online.
33%: Overall online dating activity increase across the US between February 1 and February 14.
58%: Share of Americans who say that romantic gestures are more important to them now than they were pre-pandemic.

Valentine’s Day is a very special day, and it’s fun to try to express our love in big ways and in small ways, too!

Did you know that you can have Valentine’s Day everyday?

How?  Just work at your marriage by the grace of God each day. Make more investments in your relationship than you do withdrawals. Here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Tell your spouse each day, “I love you.”
  2. Kiss your spouse each day–not a peck on the cheek or lips, either!
  3. Hold hands as you walk through the store, down the sidewalk, into church, etc.
  4. Take 10-30 minutes each day to pay attention and communicate with each other.  No distractions (kids, phones, TV, etc).  You can do it! And look into each other’s eyes, too!
  5. Leave love notes around the house, in the car, in his shirt pocket, in her purse, on the bathroom mirror by using a dry erase marker, etc.
  6. Text each other throughout the day expressing your love for one another and what you are up to at the moment.
  7. Be demonstrative in your love toward your spouse in front of the children.  They need to see what marriage is really like.
  8. Plan an inexpensive date (A ride in the car after supper, a walk through the park, some time spent on the back porch, a personal pan pizza served on china plates after the kids are in bed, read old love letters and cards, shut the door to your bedroom making it off limits to the kids, listen to some old love songs, recreated a date from before you were married, watch your wedding video, etc.)
  9. Open the door (car, home, store) for your wife.  Seat her at the table, too.
  10. Look for opportunities each day to say, “I love you. I am thinking of you.”  If you don’t know what to do, pray about it . . . seriously.
  11. Give the gift of time.

Big event days and big gifts are indeed fun.  But, it’s the things you do the other 364 days that make Valentine’s Day so special!

Marriage Moments

There are many of these throughout the day.  The word moment is defined as “a very short period of time, a little while,” and it also refers to importance.  So a “marriage moment” happens when in the course of the day you plan or act spontaneously to take a brief amount of time to express your love, concern, and attention for your spouse because he or she is of  great significance to you.  Your marriage life is a weighty matter.  Both of you have decided to grow your marriage, enjoy each other, and not get used to each other as the days go whereby you don’t take each other for granted and your marriage grows stale.

It had been a taxing, stressful day which had an affect our on relationship.  Needing to stop my routine and work attitude of “let’s get this job done and move on to the next one,” I poured out on the bar counter all of our Scrabble tiles for a game of Take Two.  No phones, no music, no distractions, just a moment with my wife having fun because she and our marriage are important.  You see, a long marriage is made up of a WHOLE BUNCH OF MOMENTS over the years!

Need some help? Here’s a few marriage moment ideas:

  • Kiss longer; no peck and run!
  • Play a quick game of UNO, Take Two or Farkle after supper at the kitchen table. (Tell the kids to go to the living room, work on their SS lesson or homework. They need to understand that Mom and Dad need some fun time, too.  Don’t let your kids run the house!  Teach them how to respect your time and how to sit still. You also need to teach them what a good marriage is all about.  They are watching you.)
  • Call each other in between appointments, send a text or Facebook message. Build up some excitement for the end of the day or week. Give your spouse something to anticipate!
  • Go sit down on the back porch under the full moon and sit realllllly close!! Say you don’t have a back porch or a swing? You do have an old blanket and a backyard, right?
  • Sing your favorite love song to each other while dancing in the living room.
  • Hug like you were dating!

Proverbs 5:18 – Let your fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of your youth. . . for a moment and then a whole bunch of moments!!