Friday, June 24, 2016

In The Aftermath of Terror

When I received the news of the terrorist attack in Orlando, like the rest of the nation, I was stunned. As the details unfolded, my emotions vacillated between sadness, anger, confusion, and shock. Many churches rose to the occasion with outreach and ministry. Our church led a city-wide prayer vigil for the families who lost loved ones. Other churches led blood drives and offered to help with funeral arrangements. The entire Orlando area was, and remains, very supportive of those who still suffer grief.

Our hearts continue to hurt for the families of the victims. I think we all want to help—we want to reach out to those whose lives are forever changed.  But now, in the aftermath of this horrible event, how are we, as Christians, to respond? We must begin with prayer.

1.  Pray for the victim’s families. We need to pray for those who were deeply affected by this act of violence. I remember when a dam gave way, collapsed, and a flood covered the campus of Toccoa Falls College in 1977. As a student at the college, I recall the nation mourning the loss of the 39 people who were killed. But as the lives of the nation moved on, we continued to mourn for weeks. Though we eventually became “yesterday’s news,” we students still witnessed the aftermath of the devastation and greatly missed our friends who lost their lives. When the time comes that national interest focuses elsewhere, let us remember to continue to pray for the families who will forever grieve the loss of their loved ones.

2.  Pray for our protection. I was reading an article this week concerning the many terrorist attacks that have been averted. This included 77 such would-be attacks in my home state of Florida alone. Let’s thank God that those actions were not successful. Let’s pray that God will supernaturally protect us from those who would hurt us.

3.  Pray for our enemies. In Matthew 5:43-44,  Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’” Love and grace toward those who dislike or hate us comes with difficulty. It is especially challenging when their attacks have a life-changing effect. However, as Christians we must show the same grace toward our enemies as we have received from Christ. To not do so is to testify that we had something to do with our salvation—that we somehow deserve at least a part of the grace and forgiveness that Christ has given us. Those who have truly humbled themselves at the cross, and experienced His marvelous grace, are compelled to share that grace with others.

4.  Pray for God to give you opportunities to share the gospel. Beliefs determine behavior, and behavior can often be hurtful. Jesus came both in grace and truth. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) Jesus not only came in grace, but also in truth. Grace does not change how God feels about sin, only how He deals with it. We must be people of integrity—believing and living the truth of the Scriptures. The foundation of our faith is Jesus dying on the cross to save us from our sins. The cure for behavior that destroys lies in the truth of Christ. Let’s pray that God will supernaturally create something positive in the aftermath of tragedy. Pray that God will draw people to Himself (John 6:44) and give us the opportunity to speak the gospel of grace and truth.

What do you think?

Friday, June 17, 2016

Encouraging Dad

On my Mother’s Day blog, I presented five things that moms need. Now, as we celebrate Father’s Day, let me help you encourage dad. 

Dads are vitally important. The Bible says that fathers are the first symbol a child has of God. Dr. Kenneth Canfield, founder and President of the “National Center for Fathering,” wrote that when dads attend church regularly and take their family; children grow up to attend church 75% of the time. Conversely, he noted, when dads stay at home and moms take the children, only about 15% attend church regularly. 

But, what does dad need? Here are my thoughts:

1. A man needs a family to respect and honor him. “Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband…honor your father and mother.” (Ephesians 5:33; 6:2)

Every little boy wants to please his mom and show her what a “man” he has become. As he grows up, he, in turn, needs admiration from his wife and children. A wife who does not honor her husband takes away his feelings of manhood. According to my studies, a wife can do this by:
  • Resisting his decisions in her heart
  • Resisting his physical affection
  • Becoming his conscience
  • Ridiculing him in public
2. A man needs a family that will follow his leadership. (Ephesians 5:22 and 6:1) Not following his leadership tells him that he is not trusted, or is incapable of making good decisions.

3. A man needs a family to be grateful to him. “It is the crowning of every man to be appreciated.” Williams James, Philosopher

No parent is perfect – we all mess up. We can show gratitude by:
  • Saying thank you
  • Honoring them on special days
  • Listening to them
  • Forgiving them
4. A man needs children of good behavior. “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.” (Psalm 127:3, 4)
  • Children honor their fathers by showing respect and loyalty.
  • Children honor their father by demonstrating good behavior. Few things cut at the heart of parents more than seeing their children participate in destructive behavior.
  • Children may dishonor their parents by rebellious behavior. 1 Samuel 15:23 teaches, “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.”
5. A Christian man needs to see his children receive and follow Christ (2 John 4). Every man wants to know he will one day meet his children in heaven.

We all possess shortcomings. We can complain about our dad’s faults, or we can rejoice in the positive things about him. Every man has a deep need to be appreciated and honored.

What do you think?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Right Now!

 Once you have overcome your spiritual vertigo (see my last two blogs), you want to move forward with courageous faith. When you have the strength and spiritual balance you need, you begin to have the courage to do something. The problem arises when we don’t do what we need to do—right now! Whether it’s beginning a new ministry or business, serving others, or simply spending time with God, chances are, if you procrastinate, you will never do it. In my book, Overcoming Spiritual Vertigo, I address several reasons why we need to begin today.

 1. Life is short. “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14)

 2. Life is measured by time. The Bible teaches that we need to measure our days that we may present a heart of wisdom. “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) To put this in perspective, pretend life is measured like a clock—if you are 20 years of age, it is only 6:00 a.m., if you are 40 years of age, the clock reads noon, if you are 60 years of age, then it’s 6:00 at night. If I live to be 80, I have 6,590 days left to live, serve Christ, and to make a difference in the lives of others.

 3. Your life has value. “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” (Psalm 139:14-16)

 4. We must use time wisely. “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15, 16)

In 2 Timothy 4, Paul is soon going to die. He writes to Timothy, his son in the faith, to come to him “before winter.” Why before winter? Because, once winter set in the docks would be closed and Timothy would be unable to go. There was a sense of longing and heartache in Paul’s voice as he wrote. The Bible never tells us if Timothy made the journey on time. 

 What do you need to do right now? Is there someone you need to visit, share your faith with, forgive, or express your love or gratitude toward? A few years ago, I was in a shopping mall near my hometown, and I noticed my dad talking to a man outside the store I was in. Later, when dad entered the store, he told me the man he was speaking with was Brother Bob, my childhood pastor.

I had not seen Bob in several years. Since that time, I had become a pastor of a large church in Florida—much larger than he had pastored. I wondered how Bob measured his ministry—had he accomplished what he planned to do for God? Could I be an encouragement to him? Now was my chance! But I froze—what would I say? I reasoned that I should have called him years ago and now it would just be embarrassing. By the time I finally found the courage to talk to him, he was gone, and though I promised myself I would call him one day, I never did. I just kept putting it off and sadly a few months later, Bob passed away. I lost my opportunity to thank him for being a good pastor to me.

 What are you putting off? Know this—if you do not do what God leads you to do right away, the chances are high that you never will.

Do it right now!