Thursday, October 29, 2015

It's Always Easier to Do Than to Be

I can’t remember exactly how the topic came up, but at a recent dinner at home, my daughters were talking about the movie Aladdin.  Of course, the character of Genie came up.  Aladdin finds a golden lamp in a collapsed cave, and as he rubs the lamp, he inadvertently unleashes Genie.  Genie reveals that he will grant Aladdin three wishes, with the exception of murder, romance, and raising the dead, of course.  So, my girls began talking about what they would wish for if they had unleashed Genie.  At the time, I think their wishes had something to do with not having to eat their vegetables.  That one didn’t come true.  But, it did bring about an interesting conversation on what they would do with such power at their fingertips.

Now, I’m certainly not comparing God to Genie, but in Ephesians chapter 3 we are given a very powerful promise a promise that God is able to unleash His power and do immeasurably more than all we could ever ask or imagine.

In the first three chapters of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul is writing all about what God has done to bring us in to a relationship with Him and all that He will do to continue to shape our relationship with Him.  So for three chapters we hear about God’s grace and His blessings in Jesus and His plan for Jews and Gentiles.  Chapter 3 ends with Paul basically telling us about the amazing love of God that we literally need supernatural power from God to even begin to grasp “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (v.18) Paul then ends chapter 3 by telling us that God is able to do “immeasurably more than all we could ever ask or imagine according to His power that is at work inside of us.” (v. 20) 

As Paul moves to chapter 4, this is where things turn a corner in the book of Ephesians.  We are moving from what God has done to what our responsibility is because of what God has done.  And, this is where things start to get really interesting for me.  If I were writing the book of Ephesians and I just said that God’s power is so incomprehensible that He can do immeasurably more than all you could ever ask or imagine, my first instructions then would probably be something like this:   “Since God can do more than you’d ever imagine, go get ‘em!  Be bold!  Take the ball down the field.  Don’t let anything stop you or get in your way.  Since God can do immeasurably more, go after it!”  Now, all of that is true, don’t get me wrong.  We certainly need to remember that God is with us and we can move forward in His power.  Our faith is meant to do some good!  But, Paul’s very first instructions after saying that God’s power is so great that He can do immeasurably more is a mysterious contradiction to all of that.  Paul says, “God can do anything, you know.  He can do far more than you could ever imagine or guess or even ask for in your wildest dreams! Because of that be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.’”  (v. 2) Interesting.

When told that God can do immeasurably more, I immediately want to turn it toward what I can now do, but Paul immediately turns it toward who I can now be.  As I’ve reflected on this over the past couple of weeks, I’ve come to realize that it’s probably easier for me to take the ball down the field and to go after it and get something done because all of that focuses on what I’m doing.  But, being humble and gentle and patient and bearing with one another those things focus on who I’m being.  I think it’s always easier to do than to be.  It’s always easier to focus on what I want to accomplish rather than on who I want to become.  And, my own personal thought is that God is probably more concerned with who we are being rather than what we are doing because who we are will always show up in what we do every time. (Stanley).

So, personally, that means it’s more important for me to think about who God wants me to be and how He wants to continue to shape me into that person and that change will always start with humility.  

So, if I want to allow God to continue His change in my life, it always has to start with me humbling myself.  I know I’m not humbling myself when I see the best in me but the worst in others. I know I’m not humbling myself when I’m more concerned with being right than trying to understand.  I know I’m not humbling myself when I’m more aware of what God has to do in you and less aware of what God wants to do in me.  I know I’m not humbling myself when I start looking down on someone else because they are not yet where I believe I am.  I know I’m not humbling myself when I’m seeking to be heard more instead of seeking to listen more. I know I’m not humbling myself when I’m willing to accept the credit but unwilling to accept the blame.  I know I’m not humbling myself when I’m not praying.  I know I’m not humbling myself when I’d rather be known for doing great things for God instead of being known for faithfulness to the God who has saved me.

If I’m not humble, I won’t be gentle.  If I’m not gentle, I certainly won’t be patient.  If I’m not patient, there is no way I will bear with someone in love.  And, all of this just seems like an impossible task to me to be humble and gentle and patient and bearing with other people I mean, seriously!  Give me a task to do any day!  But, the reality is that I can’t “do” humble.  I must “be” humble.  I can’t “do” gentle.  I must “be” gentle.  I can’t “do” patient.  I must “be” patient.  I can’t “do” bearing.  I must “be” humble and gentle and patient in order to bear with others in love. 

There are some very difficult people out there.  And, honestly, I don’t have to look any further than the mirror to see one of those difficult people.  When dealing with difficult people, my natural reaction is to always ask, “Why do they have to be this way?”  But, when I do that, I am basically looking at how they need to change instead of how I need to act.  Yet, in the most difficult of situations, I need to be completely humble and gentle and patient and I need to bear with others in love.  And, I just don’t know how that’s even possible sometimes until I read Ephesians 4:7 “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”  So, what that tells me is that God’s grace will always intersect my life and enable me to be the person I could never be on my own.

“God’s grace is the most powerful force in the universe It reaches you where you are and takes you where God wants you to be. It has the power to do something that nothing else can do: transform you at the core of who you are as a human being - your heart.”  (Tripp)


The more I allow God’s grace to intersect my life, the more I will be able to extend that same grace to others through humility and gentleness and patience and through bearing with others in love.  As a man, as a husband, dad, pastor, as part of the Church, what greater thing could I ever do?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

5 Ways to Teach Your Kids Grit

This is a portion of an interesting article by Kelly Wallace that I read on CNN.com.  My wife and I try to raise our kids in such a way that they will work hard and not give up because something is hard.  I thought this article provided a few practical insights on doing that.  

Would you add anything to this list?

Our culture is so instant right now, added Koval. "When we were growing up ... there was an expectation that you kind of had to work really hard if you wanted something to happen. And while you still have to work really hard if you want something to happen in our culture, we hide a lot of that. So it does look like you can become instantly successful."
What can you do to raise a child who knows what grit is, and works on developing grit, so they can deal with life's challenges that will inevitably come their way? I have boiled down Kaplan Thaler and Koval's helpful advice with five tips:

#1 -- Make your kids make their beds

In their book, the co-authors talk about how Adm. William H. McRaven, during a commencement address at his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin, said the No.1 lesson he learned from his Navy SEAL training was making your bed. That's right, not the brutal training that goes into being a Navy SEAL. The top lesson was making his bed every morning. It starts you off in the beginning of the day doing something that you have to learn how to do perfectly, said Koval, and if you, by chance, have a terrible day, when you come home, at least you've done one thing right. 
"We tend to want to create such wonderful environments for our kids and maybe don't push (them) enough" when it comes to chores, Koval added. "It's such simple easy advice to follow ... It's really easy to make them make their beds."

#2 -- Don't pack their camping gear

When you child is going on a camping trip (or sleepover, or you name it), don't pack for them, said Kaplan Thaler. "It's OK if they forget something. And so what if they forget the flashlight? They won't forget it the next time when they are walking around in the dark." It's so hard as a parent to remember that, she admits, but eventually our children are going to learn these lessons on their own, so it's better they learn it when they are young.

#3 -- Encourage your kids to solve small problems

Kids, and adults for that matter, too often see a problem, get overwhelmed by the size and scope of it and then become paralyzed and do nothing about it, said Kaplan Thaler. Instead of trying to solve problems that feel unsolvable, we should find easier problems and solve those first. 
"So ... do this with your kids and say, 'OK, you say that you can't do the science project but [what] can do you? What are the three sources that you could look at every day? Let's make a list.'"

#4 -- Praise the effort, not the end result

This one can't be repeated enough, especially in our ultra-competitive, testing culture that places an extraordinary emphasis on grades from elementary school up through college. As schools are teaching grit and resilience, part of the grade is determined by the effort that went into the activity, said Kaplan Thaler. "And that's the thing that we should be applauding. Not like, 'Gee, this was a breeze and I got a B,' but 'Wow, I worked harder than I've ever worked and I went from a D to a C plus.' Whatever it is ... you want that approval to come from the effort."

#5 -- Everyone can learn grit

If you have more than one child, no doubt one might be naturally grittier than the other, but that doesn't need to be a constant for the rest of their lives. Grit is a trait you can develop, said Koval. 
"So for kids who are naturally not as gritty, I think it is finding ways for them to see that success does come from grit," she said. Letting your child occasionally fail also helps them learn grit, she said. So does helping them find the things they really love to do and are successful doing. 
When high school and college kids hear this message, it doesn't demoralize them, it empowers them, said Kaplan Thaler. They might think they are already at a disadvantage because of their grades, test scores or the schools they attend. "What we tell them is it doesn't matter. What matters is something, we call it humanity's a great equalizer ... It's all about the work ethic and what you put into a job. And I say my money's going to be on the person still standing when your boss tells you do it over, do it over, do it over. That's where the successful people are."

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

How We Handle Halloween

There are so many confusing messages surrounding Halloween.  For example, every other day of the year, we would never allow our kids to accept candy from strangers.  But, then Halloween comes around.  Not only do we tell them it’s OK to take candy from strangers, but we put them in costumes, send them to a stranger’s home, and then ask them to grab some extra candy for us too!
So, yeah … confusing.  But, the confusion can be taken to an even deeper level, as well.  Is it OK for a Christian to participate in Halloween?  Why would I celebrate something so blatantly satanic?  Why would I participate in something with pagan roots?  Why would I open my children up to demonic influence?  I grew up in a very conservative church, and these were all reasons for NOT participating in Halloween.  So, for quite some time I found myself being afraid of Halloween.  Just like it’s the one day a year we can take candy from strangers, many Christians I knew seemed to treat Halloween as the one day a year when God couldn’t keep the devil in check.  So, if I was going to dress up in anything, it needed to be the armor of God. Protect yourself!  Don’t knock on the devil’s door … even if he’s handing out Reese Cups. 
What is one to do?
This is how our family has decided to handle things. You may agree.  You may disagree.  I think this is one of those topics that could be argued either way.  On something like this, I think it’s important to discover, discern, and then decide. (Meuller) 
Any Wikipedia search will help you discover more than you’ve ever wanted to know about Halloween.  Take the lead on this.  Do your research and seek to discover why some feel it’s a big issue and others do not.  After you take time to discover, then take the time to discern.  The word “discern” means to see or understand the difference.  So, in an effort to discern, you can ask a question like: “Is participating in Halloween impacting the way the Bible tells me to live my life?”  Finally, decide.  After you’ve researched the issue and prayed for discernment, you can now make a decision based on how God is leading you personally on this issue.
I feel there is freedom and grace in this approach.  We would not impose our Halloween views on others or say that if someone disagrees with us then we are right and they are wrong.  As a family, there are battles that we would choose to fight and areas that we firmly believe are clearly right or clearly wrong according to the Bible.  For us, this is not one of those issues.  So, that is why we try to live in grace and freedom in this area and try to extend that to others as well.
This is the simplest way I can describe how our family has decided to handle Halloween.  For 364 days a year, we would allow our kids to dress up in costumes.  We would allow our kids to eat candy or have a treat.  We try to engage our neighbors and build community in our neighborhood.  We try to be generous and friendly. Because we are responsible for shepherding the hearts of our children, we do set boundaries and standards for modesty.  We try to protect our kids from gore and violence in the games they play and the shows they watch.  As a husband and dad, I take seriously my role as “gatekeeper” in our home and pray regularly over our kids and our home.  Since these are things my wife and I do every other day of the year, we don’t feel a need to change just because one day is labeled as Halloween.  So, we have allowed our kids to dress up because we’ve found that our kids really enjoy dressing up in costumes. But, we do set standards for their costumes.  We walk around our neighborhood and trick-or-treat because it allows our family to engage our neighbors and build relationships.  We pass out candy and try to do it a little “over the top” because we want to be known as a generous and hospitable family in our neighborhood.  We will try to have something for the adults in our neighborhood as well ... some hot cider, de-caf coffee, or something else they may enjoy.  When our kids get back from trick-or-treating, we encourage them to swop and share candy with each other in an effort to help teach them how to interact with each other and do interpersonal relationships. And, on this day, just like every other, we pray for our kids.  We pray over our kids.  We trust that God is in control and so we seek to live in freedom, not fear.
Again, this is simply how our family has decided to approach this.  We certainly do not think our way is the “final authority” on how to handle this topic, but after discovering, discerning, and deciding, it’s how my wife and I have decided to lead our family.  I hope it’s been a help to you as you shepherd and lead your family as well. 

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