Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Stop Pointing Our Fingers Elsewhere!

The mayor of Ferguson gave a news conference yesterday afternoon as he brought together various local clergy, business owners and residents to speak of unity, peace and love.  All of those who spoke after the mayor were African American and they spoke of God, His love and the need for prayer. The last person to speak was the most inspiring. Here are Helen Douglas Taylor's words, a resident and educator in Ferguson ~

  “I really want to appeal to parents that we have to understand the awesome responsibility of raising our children and consequences of actions and one small act, though it seems small, affects so many. But this isn’t the end. We can get through this but we all have to look in the mirror, each and everyone of us and take an examination of everything that we do and what we say. And it is about human life, not black, white, purple or polka dot. It is about God’s love, one to another. I felt fortunate that just going about my day, God chose me, even in my sinful nature, to stand here and have this platform to say let’s take an examination of ourselves because once we examine ourselves and stop pointing our fingers elsewhere, I believe change can happen, and can happen with the grace of God.”

Helen Taylor gets it. She understands that personal, spiritual and cultural change begins with human responsibility. Only when a person is willing to own their behavior can they progress to the next level of life, relationships and success. As Steven Covey well said,  "Responsibility is the ability to choose your response!"

Whether we are talking about solving our marriage problems, our country's racial issues, or any relationship issue whatsoever, little progress can be made until each party looks into their own soul and behavior and examines themselves as to what they can do to be a part of the solution, not the problem. You often find a hurting soul asking a question of us as to how to change their spouse, and our first and most important response is almost always to try and help the questioner look into their own life and behavior before they can move forward to try to help influence another. 

I {Ken} recall some years ago when I was consulting with a team in Grenoble, France and  met a very talented, yet angry and bitter team member. She listened intently as I spoke to the group and thanked me for my challenge to all of them to own their own stuff so that they can grow up, and rid themselves of bad thinking that leads to bad behavior. A few weeks later, she contacted me and said that she was intrigued by what I taught, but she could never be happy again. She was a survivor of some of the worst life had to offer, culminating with her  difficult marriage by coming home with her two children in tow to find her bipolar husband had blown his brains out on the couch. "You see Ken, for some of us we will never be happy again."

It would have been so easy to just agree with her and thank her for sharing. Maybe even tell her I was praying for her, but I did nothing of the sort. What I did was to challenge her just as Helen is challenging the people in her community. I spent hours over many days of exchanged emails working not on her behavior, but on her "stinking thinking." Only when we change our minds by replacing Satan's lies with the truth can we ever grow up and reap the rewards that come from walking in the light. My little disciple tried and failed many times before she finally was able to make great progress in her life. A year later, she accepted the Lord and she is now a successful consultant herself in Europe, coaching others that change is possible no matter how difficult the circumstances. All because she was willing to examine her own life, even when we all would excuse her if she had just given up. 

The Ferguson story does not have to be one of an endless, hopeless, racial divide, if we will follow Helen's call for each of us to look in the mirror and take responsibility for our own thinking and actions first, then lend a gracious hand to those who need help in progressing forward to a life of success, instead of disaster. No matter what the grace and love given, whether by society or by God, if one is unwilling to accept it and be thankful for it, we can never appropriate it into our lives. Anger, bitterness and disdain for others, or the past, or one's present circumstances only holds our bright future hostage. Whether it is your spouse you feel has failed you, or your church, or society, you will never be able to grow up and be all that you were meant to be without doing your part, even when others do not do theirs. 

It is not difficult to know if your mind is aligned with the good things in life, or the bad things; if your values are aligned with worldly things, or God's eternal values. Just look at the results.  If the results of your behavior do not match up with the fruit of the Spirit, then you cannot expect that God's goodness and blessings will be upon you. If you are waiting for one more person to be gracious towards you before you can get that frown off your face, or put a smile in your heart, then you are doomed to fail. For no one can ever achieve personal or spiritual growth or success while being tossed to and fro by the circumstances of life, or by others. It you want to change your circumstances, first change yourself and build your life on values as they are the rock solid foundation of God's Word.

Bravo Helen, and all who spoke of personal responsibility, love and unity, in a day and age when these are the things most desperately needed in our society.

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye,
 and then you will see clearly to take
 the speck out of your brother's eye.
Matthew 7:5

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Joyously Celebrating the Holidays

Some Christians don't celebrate the holidays and I respect their decision. However, those of us who do celebrate them should use them as a time to shine the light of Jesus. I have gone back and forth with celebrating Halloween as I have shared HERE. With my children all grown up and married and since my health has not been that good, we usually just put a sign on the front door that says we have no candy. However, this past Halloween I changed my mind.

Kara Tippetts is dying of cancer. She has four young children. Here is what she had to say about Halloween, "I pray tonight you have the opportunity to love and meet your neighborhood. I pray you get to smile in the young faces that come to your door and radiate the beauty you know in Jesus. I pray as you meet your neighbors and love them with your brand of beautiful Big LOVE. I hope to meet and warm a few new faces by my fire tonight. Some of you darken your doors on this day. The freedom we are given in Jesus is to do that or to open wide our doors and meet the faces that come tromping to our door. There is liberty for us all. I do not wish to start a debate on this issue. Simply tell you tonight, the fire pit is moving from the back yard to the front yard, and the Holy Spirit in my soul will be meeting the faces that enter the warmth of my fire with the known grace I enjoy today." So I ran down to Costco and handed out candy to the children who came to my door.

 Kirk Cameron is a movie star who is bold about his faith in Jesus. He wants other to know the love of Jesus. He said this recently in an interview, "Let your children, your family, see your joy in the way that you decorate your home this Christmas, in the food that you cook, the songs you sing, the stories you tell and the traditions that you keep," the 44-year-old actor/director says. "Christmas is about joy and if the joy of the Lord is your strength, remember the joy of the mom is her children's strength."

Thursday is Thanksgiving. I am sure many of you will be with family members. Some of them may be unbelievers or difficult to get along with. Love them. Remember that we are to overcome evil with good and heap burning coals {love} upon our enemies head. Think of God's grace gently and softly raining down upon you, enfolding you in its embrace with forgiveness and love. Now extend that grace to those around you; whether it be your family, neighbors, or even your enemies.

Happy Thanksgiving and may you be filled with the 
kindness and mercy of our dear Lord!

This is the day which the LORD hath made; 
we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:2

Monday, November 24, 2014

Influencing Culture By Raising Young Women of Character

With a “hip” prime-time lineup that boasts TV shows like “Toddlers In Tiaras” and “16 & Pregnant,” it doesn’t take much insight to see that girls--and women-- face an enormous pressure to meet the world’s expectations of beauty and fame. In fact, you can’t even go through the checkout line of a supermarket without seeing evidence of the increasing, albeit unrealistic, “standards of excellence” that have been brought forth by our society. The message to women is loud and clear:  Beauty is everything. After all, what is there?

     When I {thejoyfilledwife} was in my 11-year-old “awkward phase,” a pretty, blue-eyed blonde came to our house one Saturday to spend the day with my older sister. She was only 13 years old, but you would have never guessed it by the way she wore the latest fashions and newest make-up. She had ambitions to be a runway model one day, and, with her tall, slim physique, she definitely looked the part.

     As I walked into the room where she and my sister were taking pictures of themselves in front of the mirror, the girl immediately stopped what she was doing, looked me up and down, and, with a disgusted look on her face, said, “Your sister’s much prettier than you are. No one could ever love someone as ugly as you.”

     My heart sank as I turned around and walked toward my bedroom, my eyes full of tears. Those hurtful words rang over and over in my head for many years to come and determined much of what I thought of myself throughout my adolescent years.

     Although the episode was devastatingly cruel, it’s not an uncommon scenario, especially today. In fact, it would be considered tame compared to the ridicule some girls face on a daily basis.  Why the unnecessary cruelty? And why the tolerance for an unbiblical description of a woman’s beauty? How have we come to a time when childhood celebrities “gone bad” are the idols our girls look up to, and true women of noble character, like Joan Of Arc or Mother Teresa, are nothing more to our youth than a boring assignment in their history textbooks? Have the once admirable traits of strength, integrity, and faith been replaced with fame, materialism and sex appeal? And all before the ripe old age of 18?

     The birth of my first daughter opened my eyes to the wonderful world of motherhood. As Christian parents, my husband and I strive to raise our daughter to be a woman of noble character, like the one described in Proverbs 31:10-31. We long for her to forsake the idols of the world and look up to the faithful women of the Bible like Ruth, Esther and Priscilla. But in a world where the lusts of the flesh are plastered on every street corner and in every facet of media, that’s much easier said than done. We have a battle for our daughters’ hearts on our hands, and we must use every resource we have to win the fight.

Protecting Their Hearts
     What will it take to win this battle? The first step can be found in Proverbs 4:23. I love the New Living Translation of this verse, which reads, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Practically speaking, we must protect our daughters’ thoughts by guarding their associations: the TV shows they watch, the music they listen to, the time they spend on the Internet, the places they go and the values we promote in the home. Each of these things has a profound influence on their thoughts and the value they put on themselves. When they spend time with worldly people, they begin to adopt their behaviors. When they watch shows that promote sin or the tolerance of sin, they gradually become more accepting of those lifestyles. When we, as parents, put more emphasis on filling our homes with material possessions than we do on reading Word and praying together, we teach our children to be a lover of the world instead of a lover of God.

Powerful Influences
     We must never underestimate how outside influences will shape our children into the people they will become. We have a duty as parents to be good stewards over the responsibility we’ve been given to shepherd our children’s hearts and raise them up in the ways of the Lord.

     Do you want your child to become a follower of Christ? Proverbs 22:6 promises, “Direct your children onto the right path and, when they are older, they will not leave it.” What a blessing to know that, if we are faithful to guide our children according to God’s Holy Word, they will end up on the right path!

 It’s no secret that we have a tough battle ahead of us. The Enemy wants to win the hearts of our children almost as much as we want to win them for the Kingdom. But if we will choose to be a godly steward over our children and teach them to forsake the world and set their hearts on the things of God, we can find peace in knowing that the Lord will reward us for our faithfulness.  

***Written by thejoyfilledwife!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Billy Graham's Prescription for Raising Godly Children in this Wicked Society

Billy Graham's preaching is still as relevant today as it has ever been. Christian parents need to be fully armed with Truth to be able to raise godly offspring but it is possible even as the days get darker. Do not fear, parents. As long as God is on His throne and He is sovereign over all, there is hope. You must be vigilant, however, since the enemy prowls around like a lion looking whom he may devour. 

I wrote about the public school system this past week. Many people disagreed with me but I stand by my words. Billy Graham agrees with me, Rearing children in this culture is difficult because "we have taken God out of our educational systems and thought we could get away with it,” said Rev. Graham. “We have sown the wind, and we are now reaping the whirlwind. We have laughed at God, religion and the Bible.”

If we want to have godly children, we MUST be careful to protect our children from evil and the depths of depravity in our culture today. Here are some of Billy Graham's remedies ~

One of the fundamental problems, according to Rev. Graham, is the failure of parents to fight “the Devil in the home” through discipline and, as a result, “children are allowed to go wild.” I completely agree. From the time they are young, be consistent with your children and insist that they obey you in everything. Raise disciplined children. Disciplined children grow up to be disciplined adults. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. {Hebrews 12:11}

“Very seldom do parents have trouble with children when the Bible is read regularly in the home, grace is said at the table and family prayers take place daily. Most trouble with teenagers comes from children reared in homes where prayer is neglected, the Bible is never opened and church attendance is spasmodic. Christ gives the moral stability, understanding, wisdom and patience needed to rear children.” But bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. {Ephesians 6:4}

There is only one solution to combating the problems afflicting young people, concluded Rev. Graham, and that answer is Christ:  “Christ in the home, in the lives of the parents, is the only permanent solution to the menacing teenage social problems in America.” You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. {Deuteronomy 11:19}

You can read the entire article HERE. Praise the Lord for godly preachers like Reverend Billy Graham who aren't afraid to speak Truth and live lives of integrity.