Monthly Archives: October, 2015

Engagement–Exactly my plan!

I wonder what you thought when you read that title.  Did something come to your mind or did a sarcastic comment pass from your lips regarding the fact that your parents did everything wrong.  Truth be told, none of our parents did it perfectly.  Some may have come close while others missed the mark by miles.

This is one of the subjects I cover in a class I teach for Belhaven University.  The course is entitled Kingdom Life.  And Things My Parents Did Right is the content of a short paper I require the students to write.  Most of my students easily come up with a list of reasons for which they praise their parents.  Some struggle to do so.  Occasionally one of them has to dig deep into their memory banks to find positive recollections.

What about you?

Thoughts like these surface to the forefront of my mind on a regular basis.  Both the positive and the negative aspects of my parents parenting serve as fuel for me in my important role as Daddy to our five children.  My vocation (calling from God) of parent is a very high priority in my life.  It easily trumps my vocation as worker, though I am called to work hard as well.

I write these comments at the conclusion of a great vacation to Gulf Shores, Alabama.  We spent five nights in a condo on the beach and had a great time.  The last time we went Jodi was pregnant with Cadence.  This trip Cadence experienced the sand and the surf for the first time.  She loved it!  We all enjoyed watching her play in the ocean!  We also enjoyed viewing the morning sunrises over the Gulf and walking on the beach.  In fact, we pretty much enjoyed everything except the long drive.  I went out of my way to make it a fun week.

I did a lot of things my Dad never did.

My Dad did several things right.  I could write about his work ethic and his ability to relate with all types of people.  I could talk about his intelligence or his sense of humor.  He could’ve done a lot worse (I believe he struggled more with my elder siblings).  But he could’ve done a lot better.  While he was present much of the time, he was not engaged.  I could list several examples.  Here’s one.

To the best of my memory, my Dad did not come to any of my little league baseball games.  Correction:  I know he came to one.  Admittedly, I was nothing to watch.  I was not an athlete.  When the coach had to play me, I was stuck in right field.  He probably grimaced each time I closed my eyes and wildly swung my bat at balls outside the strike zone.  I am not using hyperbole when I state I was 0 for my career at the plate (for you non-sports fans, that means I was hitless).  They couldn’t count on me to get on base or advance a runner unless I was hit by the ball.  My hands and eyes were not coordinated!  I was a failure every night.

Every night save one.

The final night of my baseball career.

Guess who came to my game?

My Dad’s presence was not lost on me.  I knew he was watching as I stood in the batter’s box for the first time.  You won’t believe what happened next!  I hit a ground ball to third and outran the throw to first!  Safe!  Single!  My second at bat was identical.  So was my third.  And my fourth.  I couldn’t buy a hit for years prior, but the night my Dad showed up I had four infield singles!  4 for 4!  Who cares about my being 0-396!  My Dad saw me make contact with the ball four times and run faster than the ball could fly.

Engaged fathers can make a massive difference!

My children will NOT have a difficult time remembering the times I was engaged due to the level of my engagement.  Do I wish my  Dad would have engaged more?  Absolutely.  However, there isn’t a single thing I can do about that.  What I can do, though, is remain committed to regular participation in their lives.  And that’s exactly my plan.  Our beach vacation was a blast.  We hope to do it again.  We are also hoping to visit our nation’s capital and Disney.  I look forward to making those memories together.  Yet between Gulf Shores and our next vacation destination is tomorrow.

And tomorrow matters.

Engaged parents can make a massive difference tomorrow. 

And that’s exactly my plan.

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A beach vacation observation: God’s grand creation

I write this from a condo overlooking the beautiful Gulf of Mexico in Gulf Shores, AL.  This morning I saw another gorgeous sunrise.  As you can imagine, the sunsets are worth beholding as well.  And then there’s the beach.  The endless horizon.  The rich blue water.  The waves lapping the shore.  The sight.  The sound.  The smell.  The beach is an amazing place.

But something trumps the beach.

General revelation is an incredible gift from our Creator, Jesus Christ.  He both created and sustains His universe for His glory and our enjoyment (Col. 1:16, 1:17).  How thankful we are for all that we get to experience and observe on the earth below and the heavens above!  Yet another gift from the Lord is even better–Special revelation.  While there is much to learn about God from creation, invaluable information crucial for our eternal survival is found in the Word of God.  It is only through God’s Word that we learn how we can be reconciled to the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent Creator.

One day this week I was sitting on our balcony enjoying the view while also reading the Bible.  My daughter, Cascade, was with me.  I was talking with her about a passage I will be teaching this coming Sunday.  As we conversed, I was reminded again of a thought that I had had earlier in the week.

People are God’s grand creation.

As Cascade and I talked about both general and special revelation, I was struck by the fact that she possesses something both creation and God’s Word lack–the very image of God.

And that separates my precious “babies” from sunsets and Scripture.

Celena (15), TJ (12), Dayton (10), Cascade (7) and Cadence (1.5 mos.) all possess the imago Dei.  Unlike the graceful dolphins we watched swim and jump in the ocean this week, each of my children were made by God like God.  No, they’re not deity.  God alone is God.  But my kids reflect the Almighty.  They have His communicable attributes like creativity and logic and an appreciation for that of significant value.  That’s why they so look forward to our time away from all of our day-to-day activities and why they enjoyed the sunrise over the waves this morning or why they hold the Scripture in such a high regard.

These are some truly special creatures!

Meditating upon this truth this week has only served to enhance my pleasure.  I have indeed enjoyed my interaction with general and special revelation.  However, my time with my family has been awesome.  As our time at the beach now comes to a close, I find myself very thankful for all of God’s gifts!

Counting on God, Not me!

“You can count on me!”

Have you ever said that?  It’s probably rather presumptious to state since we have no idea what the future holds.  However, God can make such bold statements all day long.  He knows the future.  In fact, He’s already there!  That truth was boldly proclaimed last Sunday at the Homecoming Chapel at Bryan College.  My dear friend of almost thirty years, Christopher Burcham, reminded all of us in attendance that God is sovereign in our past, present and future.  He labored to present a very big view of God, a trait characteristic of his teaching ministry.  Though physically small in stature, my friend possesses a big view of a BIG God—a God who can be counted upon.

Yesterday morning I read Psalm 33. Here are verse 18 & 19:

“Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon those who fear him, upon those who count on his mercy, To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive through famine.”

I love that!  God’s eye is on me as I fear Him (respect, revere) and as I “count on His mercy.”  Here’s how The Message renders these two verses:

“Watch this: God’s eye is on those who respect him, the ones who are looking for his love. He’s ready to come to their rescue in bad times; in lean times he keeps body and soul together.”

Question:  Are you looking for anything from God?  Are you counting on Him for anything?  I sure am!  I’m expecting His mercies to be new tomorrow morning!  I am looking forward to the grace He will continue to bestow upon me!  I am trusting that He will remain faithful to His nature and fulfill all the promises He chose to make!

John Calvin remarked the following:

The Psalmist characterises believers by two marks, which comprehend the whole perfection of our life. The first is, that we reverently serve the Lord; and the second, that we depend upon his grace. Hypocrites may loudly boast of their faith, but they have never tasted even a little of the divine goodness, so as to be induced to look to him for what they need. On the contrary, when the faithful give themselves with their whole heart to the service and fear of God, this affection springs from faith; or rather the principal part of right worship, which the faithful render to God, consists in this, that they depend upon his mercy.

“They depend upon His mercy”!  Indeed!

This is how Eugene Peterson ends Psalm 33 in The Message:

“We’re depending on God; He’s everything we need. What’s more, our hearts brim with joy since we’ve taken for our own His holy name. Love us, God, with all You’ve got—that’s what we’re depending on.”

Are you counting on God today?

You should (as should I)!

Sinful Vacations

Before you think I am about to condemn vacations, let me assure you that I am not.  In fact, I write this on the verge of a much-needed vacation. In less than a week, we will be enjoying a week in a beach condo in Gulf Shores, AL.  To say that we are excited, would grossly understate the emotions we are feeling at this point.  Due to the arrival of our fifth child last year and our need to purchase a vehicle big enough for a family of seven, our 2014 vacation was cancelled.  As a result, we find ourselves very much in need of some genuine R&R.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard individuals tell me that I “work too hard” over the past year.  While I don’t necessarily agree with their sentiment, trust me when I state that I am not going to work for an entire week.  And—I’m looking forward to it.  I’m looking forward to the sight, sound, and smell of the Gulf of Mexico.  I’m anticipating the fun that I have watching the kids frolic in the waves and looking for seashells.  I can’t wait to see how Cadence (now seventeen months) reacts to it all.  Lots of laughs await!

But those laughs and smiles come at a cost.  Vacation isn’t cheap, even if you barter for the best price as we did with the owner of the condo.  It’s a sacrifice.  But some things, some events, some memories are worth it.  Others are not.

Last night we watched one of those cable shows about house-hunting.  Well, we thought it was going to be about a couple trying to find an awesome beach front house.  It was actually a series about a married couple investigating possible vacation spots.  The particular couple featured were from southern California.  They had been married for fourteen years and wanted a  great vacation.  The location was Bora Bora.  Their budget was $20,000.00.

I repeat:  Their budget was $20,000.00.

Have you ever a seen photo of Bora Bora?  Check it out:

Bora Bora

Several words that start with the letter “s” come to mind:  spectacular, stunning and

…sin.

Do I seriously believe it is sin for a couple to spend $20,000 for a week in a tiki hut in Bora Bora?  I seriously do.  There has to be a point where R&R becomes over-the-top materialism.  Surely $2,857.14 per night is past that point!

Personally, I do not feel guilty spending around $150 per night for our condo.  I can go to Gulf Shores and enjoy myself, thanking God for the opportunity to get away, spend time with my family, and enjoy His creation.  But at $2,857.14 per night I would not be able to sleep.  A simple question would hound me the entire week:  How could I have alleviated suffering with this money?

Beginning November 2nd, I will have the opportunity to talk with another group of college students about this very issue.  The course is entitled Christian Social Responsibility.  The title presupposes a point:  Christians have a responsibility to our society.  If you have read the Bible at all, this probably does not surprise you.  Believers are to make a difference.  One of the books I utilize in the course is Enough by Will Davis.  It’s both a comforting as well as a convicting read.  Consider the following:

“With every blessing, with every opportunity, and with every bit of favor that God gives you comes the equal responsibility to use it well. Rarely if ever does God give you blessings that He intends you to keep for yourself. He typically blesses you so you can serve and bless others. The more than enough He gives you is meant to be shared so that it can become enough for someone else. If you’re living today with more than you need–not more than you need the next ten years, but more than you need today–then that surplus is meant to be shared. If I live with more than enough and somehow interpret that as God’s blessing to me and me alone, than I am greatly misinterpreting why God has chosen to bless me. He isn’t just being good to me; He wants to be good to someone else through me” (Enough: Finding More By Living With Less, Will Davis, Jr., Revell, 2012, p.65).

AMEN!

In his book, Davis asks his readers which side of the “enough line” we reside.  We either have more than enough or less than enough (though some possibly find themselves with enough).  Those with enough, should be content.  Those with less than enough should pray for provision and trust God.  Those with more than enough should pray for wisdom and bless others.

The wealthy couple from southern California are definitely on the more than enough side of the equation.  Praise God for that!  I trust they work hard and that they have been disciplined to save for their vacation.  I commend them for both.  I don’t begrudge them a vacation either.  Everyone who works hard for a living needs regular time to unwind (God understood this need and created the Sabbath for us).  My issue is their extravagance while others are genuinely suffering.

America is a rich nation.  Most of us find ourselves on the more than enough side of the line.  All of our needs are provided.  Most of our wants can be purchased with a little bit of saving.  But Davis rightly points out that there is a reason for our wealth.  We are not called to build additional barns for storage.  Nor do I believe God wants us to spend $2,800 on an oceanfront hut with a spectacular, stunning view.

So–what side of the line are you on?

And–what are you doing about it?

Whatever you do, save your Bora Bora experience for heaven.