Tag Archives: love

True Treasure

Estate (ist`eit) n.
a landed property. The whole of a person’s property, including real estate and personal estate.

This weekend my family attended the estate auction of my grandmother, Beulah Irene Deckard. There were thirty-two acres with a small house and barn. Furniture sat empty along the walls of the living room and bedroom forming a line of memories out the back door into the yard where there were two tents with tables supporting boxes upon boxes of stuff; much of which I did not remember.

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There were several things that would make the people on those antique reality shows drool. I smiled at the thought as my wife and I walked along the tables looking at everything. But then it happened…we walked by a box of wooden shelves and I saw the crescent moon with a stairwell going from one landing at the bottom of the moon to a landing at the top. There were two of them that hung on the walls holding the small knick-knacks that Beulah’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren had made over the years. The sight of the moons that hung on the walls, among countless pictures, waiting to greet us every time we would visit was too much. I lost it. Just as I was able to turn away and choke back most of the tears, we walked toward the tables (plural) of quilts my grandmother had sown by hand.

After the auction was well underway and the real estate had sold, I stepped into the house and found the new owners standing in the kitchen. The wife remarked, as she closed the oven door, how Beulah was known for her cooking, “But this stove looks almost new.” The tears started flowing again as I smiled, “It is. She wore the other one out.”

Matthew 6: 19-21 says, Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. When I thought of that scripture, I realized the quilts and meals my grandmother’s hands had made for so many years were never her treasures…we were. Anyone who received either from her was given a gift of abundant love. Her family knew the Gospel because her husband was a preacher. They understood the Gospel because she lived it.

As it turned out, I was able to see my grandmother the day before she died. We had gone down to visit with her in the nursing home. When my mother was ready to leave, she took my youngest daughter and walked outside. I stayed behind another minute because I wanted to pray. When I finished, Granny looked over at me and said, “I want to go home.” That was the first time I had ever cried for my grandmother, because when I looked into her eyes, I was sure she didn’t mean her little house in Gamiel, Kentucky.

In the end, Beulah Irene Deckard left this moth and rust riddled world with her treasures in the right place. We left the auction with a few quilts, two moon shelves, and a lot of memories. But the tears I am wiping away from my face as I write this have a lot of joy in them. You see, I have one more treasure waiting for me in Heaven. I love you Granny and I can’t wait to come home.

 

Article by C.S. Depew

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A Matter of Perspective

sw2004_2_06aEvery so often, I feel a little out of place or disjointed. I wonder if I am where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to do. At first, scrolling through the articles of my fellow partners didn’t help. There are several articles concerning leadership. While those are helpful to an employer, a pastor or even a deacon, what about the rest of us? You can find articles, news, seminars, self-help books or even take classes on how to lead. But what about how to follow? More importantly, what about how to follow non-Christian leaders?

In order to provide for our families, we work more hours or more jobs. We spend more time at work or looking for work knowing good and well our family needs the husband and father around more. But something occurred to me a while ago; the large company I work for doesn’t want me working more. In fact, the company doesn’t want me at all. If they could automate my job today and let me go – they would. I have worked there for seventeen years and they see me as a liability, not an asset.

Now I know the general biblical response to such feelings or situations; we treat those around us the way we would like to be treated. We respect the authority set over us. We try to be a light in the workplace so those non-Christians will hopefully see Christ in us. But that brought me to another problem. I read and/or study my Bible or meditate on a scripture daily in order to help me lead my family. From Genesis on, there is an amazing theme happening through the Bible – God is sovereign. He cannot be stopped. His plans cannot be thwarted. Even when the fathers of Israel didn’t have enough faith, enough courage, or enough brains, God still achieved His eternal plan. That made me realize something else entirely; God doesn’t need me. If He worked around the saints of old, then His will is still going to be done today, with or without me.

I stewed on these thoughts for a few days and then posed a question to a dear friend: If you spend the majority of your day working and reading/studying the Bible so you can provide for and lead your family, what are you left with when you realize you work for a company that doesn’t want you and serve a God that doesn’t need you?

Remember when I said God can’t be thwarted?

Through my friend, God gently twisted my perspective. The truth of the matter is – I was right. God doesn’t need me at all. In the grand scheme of His plan and the universe He created, I am a grain of sand. He will reclaim what is His. Satan will be cast into the lake of fire and there will be a new Heaven and new Earth. And God doesn’t need me for one bit of it. But He wants me to be there to see it! You see, this grain of sand means something to its Creator. In the vastness of all the stars, moons, and planets of the universe, God named a grain of sand. In Jeremiah 29:11, He says: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. He doesn’t need me – – He wants me! The thought of being separated from His Creation, even the sand, bothered Him. So much so, that He sent His Son to pay our ransom for sin and bring us home. He wants every last one of us.

As for the company I work for, I was right about that too. They don’t want me at all. But they need me. For seventeen years, I have honed my skills to do the best job I can. They are working as we speak at automating my job, and they will…eventually. But God has this grain of sand right where He wants me. 1Corinthians 15:58 says, Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Out of love, I was created. By faith in Jesus Christ, I was saved. By grace, I am wanted by the King of Kings.

 

Article by C.S. Depew

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Forgetting the Fairy Tale

fairy-tale-190x300I’ll take 100 copies in camouflage please!

My friend & new ministry teammate has yielded herself to God & written an incredible book!

I do, in fact, recommend that you read it.

It seems that most of the people who read my blog are men. Readers other than my Mom that is–hi mom!  Notice that I didn’t recommend that you buy this book for your wife, your daughter, or your mom—though that’s a good idea, first why don’t YOU read it.

I need to insert a confession here:

I did have a little trouble getting “into” this book to begin with. First, because many of the illustrations are girly; second, because some of the application was a bit harder for me to identify with (cause I’m a dude); & third, I kept seeing the faces of young ladies who I’d ministered to, as a pastor, who got caught up in the “fairy tale.”

This last one was most distracting:

Some of my “manly” readers will jump to a conclusion here. You’ll be thinking, ah, Brian is recommending that I read this book so that I can help ladies in my ministry more effectively.

Again, good idea, nice try, but that’s not my primary intent.

Instead, I want you to take the time to apply this book to your life! I think its concepts will be as helpful to you as they have been to me.

You will find them Biblical & as a result meaningful.

Yes, some of the illustrations won’t “connect” immediately but if you change out “shoes” for “guns” you’ll get the message just fine. On the surface the application might feel different for you, but at the root our need for ultimate satisfaction in Christ alone is the same!

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:

I challenge you to take time to consider the vastness of creation and the indescribable glory of our Creator, Jesus Christ. Ask Him to open your eyes to the truths of His majesty. Empty your mind of all that seeks to distract you from true communion with Him and give Him praise. Lift your hands and heart to Him in complete surrender and ask Him for the grace that you need to love Him as you ought. It is a prayer that we all need to pray every day of our lives. Our sinful natures prevent us from knowing true love as He is love, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, He can open your heart to love that is deeper and more fulfilling than anything any man on earth could ever provide for you and far more than anything you could ever have imagined. Let Love reign in your heart and life from this day forward.

Now, tell me you didn’t need that!

So really, I’ll take 100 copies with a camouflage cover and a few different illustrations but until that edition comes out, dudes, get over yourselves, grab a pink copy.

Go ahead, open up Forgetting the Fairy Tale, buckle your seat belt, and listen as my friend Donya walks you through the Word reminding YOU that Jesus is more than enough one story at a time!

It’s available on Barnes & Noble’s website & on Amazon too, check it out!

Article by Brian Norris

@BrianNorris

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3 Things I Learned from Joel Osteen

osteenA wise man once said that he could learn from anyone… did you catch that?  He was wise… because he didn’t let anyone stand in his way of growth.  Not their successes or their failures. Not their preferences, their convictions, their methods, their mannerisms, their eccentricities.  We would be wise to learn from this as well… everyone can teach you something!  Some might teach you WHAT to do, HOW to live, WHY, WHEN – but others might teach you why, how, and what NOT to do!

Here are three lessons that I learned from the pastor of the world’s largest church:

I learned that a smile goes a lot further than a shout

Osteen is known for his trademark smile (it’s almost creepy how much he grins, isn’t it!?).  But the fact is – warm joy takes truth further into the soul than the cold call of duty.  Happy creatures are magnetic while negative ones polarize.  The good news is truly that — good news!  How tragic when the good news is delivered with a frown or a tone of judgment.  I realize that the gospel incorporates ‘negative’ elements of sin and God’s wrath, of blood and death… but it’s overarching message is one of hope and grace.  Share His love with a smile.

Warm joy takes truth further into the soul than the cold call of duty.

I learned that hope is a powerful thing

In his book, Osteen challenges the reader to believe in himself because of the ‘Champion’ within.  He convinces his audience that he believes in them, that they need to believe that things will not always be the same as they are right now, that they don’t have to live under the circumstances, and that they should take action to change their lives right now.  This is powerful because it offers people hope and a promise.  Personally, I believe that the source of hope needs to be more than just believing in yourself; it should be sourced in the great truth that God believes in you (although Osteen might see this as semantics / splitting hairs).  How might God use you to give hope to someone who is struggling today?  Believe in them because God does!

I learned that God can use anyone

Although Osteen was a PK (preacher’s kid), he has readily admitted that he didn’t see himself in the pulpit.  He avoided the spotlight and felt much more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it.  But, in spite of my many critiques of his methods and quirkiness, I believe that God is bigger than my level of tolerance or acceptance of his ministry.  I should admit that God IS using him to share the gospel and bring glory to His name.  God’s grace is bigger than anyone can imagine.  Don’t get me wrong… I’ll not soon throw the baby out with the bathwater. I would never deny hell or the sinfulness of sin on national TV (like he did on Larry King Live) – but then I’ll not answer to God for what Joel Osteen has done, will I?  I’ll try to keep my eyes on my own life and keep myself in check.  Aren’t you glad God uses us all in different people in different ways?  To think… Wow, God can even use me (and you)!

Article by Patrick Nix

@patchnix

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Want a Better Marriage? The Answer Is Surprisingly Simple – Part 2

side-coupleRead Part 1 first.

Jesus loved the church first; Jesus loves even when His love is not reciprocated; He loves unconditionally; and He loves eternally.  There are also many characteristics of His love.  I’ve outlined a couple below, those that I believe are the most important for us, as Christian husbands, to remember.  Jesus’ love is a…

Calvary Love

You might be thinking “Ok, I’m good here.  Even my wife would admit that I would die for her.”  Sorry to burst the proverbial bubble, but there is so much more to Calvary than Christ’s death.  Calvary was the culmination of Christ’s life; it was the crescendo to a life of sacrifice.  Christ left Heaven to become a man; we must be willing to take on things we might believe are “below us.”  In the Garden, Christ submitted His will to that of His Father.  We must also fully submit to the Father’s will for us as husbands, even when it is outside our comfort zone.  The sacrifice associated with true Calvary love will result in humility, in willingness to serve, and ultimately in sacrifice.  Are you willing to give up your dreams, your career, and yourself to better your marriage?

Curing Love

Sometimes the answers to the world’s most-asked questions seem too simple.  If you want to be successful, work hard!  If you need to lose weight, eat less and exercise more.  If there are struggles in your marriage – whether they appear to be caused by you or your wife – exercise Biblical love.  There are long-standing problems that might have been festering for years, but the first step in strengthening your marriage is loving your wife like you have been commanded.  God created marriage; He understands you and your wife perfectly; and He has commanded husbands to set the tone in the marriage with love.  I am firmly convinced that the overwhelming majority of problems in Christian marriages could be solved if husbands really and truly would love their wives as they are commanded, as Jesus loves the church.

Article by Bryan Likins

@bmlesq

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Want a Better Marriage? The Answer Is Surprisingly Simple – Part 1

When our nation has a divorce rate that exceeds 50%, I think it is safe to say that many either are or should be asking how to have a better, stronger marriage.  I do believe people are looking for answers.  For example, a search of Half.com for books on “marriage” yields more than 23,000 hits!  These books were written to fill demand created by people searching for books on the topic.  But rather than filling out an online quiz, attending couples’ therapy, or reading a dozen books, I believe the answer to most problems in most marriages is quite simple.  It is time for Christian husbands to get back to Biblical basics.  It is time for us to understand and fulfill the role God has designed for us, as defined in Ephesians 5:25-31.

25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

couple-arguing

I am a relatively young man, still south of 30.  Though we do not pretend to have a perfect marriage, in our almost 9 years of marriage, my wife and I have attempted to fulfill the role of husband and wife as commanded in Ephesians chapter 5.  The most accurate description I have heard for the husband’s role is “loving dominion” and for the wife’s role is “influential submission.”  Almost every reader of this blog likely knows the word for love used in this passage is agape, or God-like love, yet many men fail at this basic task – loving like Christ.   His love is a…

Causing Love 

As I John 4:19 puts it, “We love him, because he first loved us.”  Similarly, when we display Christ-like love to our spouse, we create a desire within our spouse to reciprocate.  This is basic, but it is important.  And it is important because it places the burden on the husband to create an atmosphere of love in the home.  This also means that if there is a lack of love in our relationship it is squarely our fault!  But be careful not to love or care for your spouse in order to create a sense of indebtedness or obligation.  Rather, love in order to lay the proper foundation for your marriage.   Would your wife say that you create an atmosphere of love in your marriage?

Calming Love

In order to properly respond to problems your wife or marriage might experience, you must react in a spirit of love.  I John 4:8 says that “[t]here is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear[.]”  Whether it is a problem your wife is experiencing at work, an issue with the kids, or a financial difficulty that seems to be out of your control, confronting the problem with an attitude of love will be calming.  More than knowing that “you have all the answers,” you have a “plan,” or you have the money to pay that bill, your wife needs to know you love her unconditionally.  She must know that, despite how enormous the issue seems while you’re in the midst of the storm, you are there to help her get through it – and you always will be.  Do you approach each marital challenge you face with an attitude of love?

Article by Bryan Likins

@bmlesq

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Give the Band a Pat on the Back

It was late in the third quarter, we’d lost our momentum, and we were down by 4 after having a good lead at the half. That’s when I heard it… the school band!  They had been playing the whole game, but that’s when I realized how important they really were.  At that moment I enjoyed them, but I also felt sorry for them.  All of us wearing blue and black had the wind knocked out of us by the other team – yet they were having to suck it up and play despite their emotions.  We were all spectators to the sad event, but they were still playing with all their hearts.  Why? It’s their job to lift the crowd, to lead our spirits, to get us back in the game – even when they didn’t feel like it.

Thank God for the Band – thank God for the Encouragers!

If you have a pastor or spiritual leader, mentor, teacher, or counselor – I want you to think of them for a minute a little like that band.  When you get the wind knocked out of you, who is there to help you and lift you up?  Who is still actively participating while you’re just a spectator? Even when they don’t feel up to it, who is it that sings into your life?  My heart goes out to those who encourage others, even when they themselves are so discouraged they have trouble believing.  I know, I’ve been there.

When the game was over, the score didn’t matter – because the band had captured my attention. I felt both gratitude and pity.  Thank God for the band – thank God for the Encouragers.  And don’t take that person – or those people who make a difference by keeping you in the game – for granted.  Take time today to give your band a pat on the back. Take a minute to jot a note or make the call to encourage your encourager!

Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.  
– Galatians 6:6

BTW – you can visit our band site here… Thanks SCHS Band!

Article by Patrick Nix

@patchnix

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Do You REALLY Care about Your Family?

Do you care about your spouse? Does it matter to you what your children will become? Not what they will do for work – but who they will be – what they will become.

What legacy you are leaving for your grandchildren?

Happy family preparing a healthy dinner at home.

In our parenting journey, Sarah and I have noted essentials for healthy families. Every family can do these!

Discover and pursue their dreams

If you are spending significant quality time with family members, then it’s likely that you are intimately familiar with their ambitions, passions, and dreams. And when you are, you can help them fulfill those dreams.

Nearly every day I do something or say something to help my wife and children take the next step in the pursuit of their passions.

This is important – these are not MY dreams for them. Rather I’m encouraging them to pursue the calling and the passion that lies within them.

Consequently, I must regularly assess my understanding of their dreams as they evolve. And I must evaluate my motivations for challenging them to move forward.

Independence

This area was particularly challenging for me because of my tendency to be too engaged in most everything.

I’m a problem-solver. So I naturally want to fix problems – some before they even occur.

But my problem-solving occasionally robs others of valuable life experiences. So I’ve had to learn to back off of problem-solving and allow others to grow through their experiences.

When Madison was very young I began allowing her more and more freedom to make healthy decisions – decisions about spending and saving, planning family trips, getting involved in athletics, doing chores.

This week she told Sarah and me about a product that she’d like to invent and how she plans to do it. Another evening she drafted a simple plan for a business she’d like to start.

In reality, she often falls short of her ambition. And that’s ok – because failing facilitates growth.

I want those closest to me to know that I believe in their dreams. And I want them to know that I will do everything possible to support them. More than anything, I want to challenge them to follow their calling with abandon.

Pursue spirituality

I’m not sure if it’s your style or not – but Sarah and I encourage Madison to pursue spirituality. As a result, she loves church. She loves to read Scripture. She loves to pray with us…

Over the past 2 months our family has experienced a significant transition which included moving 1300 miles to a new home and community. So our schedules got all out of whack.

Prior to our transition we’d been praying with Madison every night. (We pray at other times throughout the day too – but our bedtime prayers have become a special time for us.)

This week we’re finally getting back into a routine. So last night I laid down with Madison to pray. She went first – “God, I know we haven’t prayed in a while…” Whoops!

I love that she understands the importance of faith and that it plays a significant role in her life.

It’s a non-negotiable, a top priority for us.

This post is part of the series – Non-Negotiables For a Healthy Family
Part 1: Family – It Doesn’t Have to be This Way

Question: What non-negotiable would you add to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Article by Michael Nichols

@michaelenichols

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Family – It doesn’t have to be this way!

The most heart-breaking stories are those of broken homes and fractured relationships. There’s one reason – because in most instances they’re avoidable.

Broken Home

This post is part of the series – Non-Negotiables For a Healthy Family
Family – It Doesn’t Have to be This Way
Do You REALLY Care About Your Family?

This past week I was told of two families who are navigating incredibly challenging circumstances. In one household, the father has a history of abuse and the family has had enough. In the other, one parent was convicted of embezzling funds in the workplace and is serving a long-term prison sentence leaving behind a spouse and 3 precious daughters.

It didn’t have to be this way

These unfortunate situations are the direct result of bad decisions. They’re avoidable! And many similar situations (not all that different from yours and mine) are avoidable too.

But – and this is the difference-maker – it will require you to be more purposeful than you’ve ever been.

It’s not enough to deal with life as it happens. It’s not enough to succeed in your career and expect home life to work itself out. It won’t be enough to send your children to the best schools your money can buy. Taking them to church won’t be enough. It’s simply not fair to expect your spouse and children to keep it together when your behaviors demonstrate that family is not a priority.

So – if you’ve ever cared about your spouse, what your children will become, what you are leaving for your grandchildren, or what matters most to those who love you most – now’s the time to really do something about it!

Here are 2 essentials for healthy families – and you CAN do them. Everyone can…

1. Time

Sarah and I spend a significant amount of time with Madison and Andrew. And we love it. I’ve previously written about spending time with our children – you can read about it here.

But there was a time when I didn’t. Not because I didn’t want to. Not because I didn’t care. Not because I didn’t love them. I simply had not made home life a high enough priority to elicit a change in my behavior.

It’s true – to most people love is spelled t-i-m-e. Our children love our time together with them. So last night I laid down with Madison in her bed and talked about all kinds of “important” stuff.

A few moments ago, she walked in while I’m writing this post – I stopped and helped her buckle her sandals. And I’ll walk her to school this morning. Why? Because I have more time than the average dad? No – because she is a top priority for me.

If you’re like me, you’ll have to schedule significant time into your calendar for family or it won’t happen. At first it will feel forced because you’re changing old habits. But the longer you do it, you’ll get better at it and it will feel more natural.

2. Full attention

It’s one thing to spend time with a spouse, a son, a daughter, a grandchild. Yet I’m learning that HOW we spend the time together is far more important.

Are we fully engaged in the moment? Do they know that they have our undivided attention? Do they feel as if they are the most important person in the world during our moments together?

Or do they only get our undivided attention when we don’t have something more urgent to do?

Madison craves our undivided attention. For more than 7 years she was an only child. So she was regularly asking my wife and me to play with her. I wish I had done so more often.

We’ll never get parenting right 100% of the time – but we’ll get it right a lot more if we are purposeful with our time.

Article by Michael Nichols

@michaelenichols

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Is Peace in Every Human Relationship Possible?

I was recently watching a TV show and saw a character, a grown man, who was talking about his list of “mortal enemies.”  The comical part was the reasons the man had that led them to get on his list.  One “enemy” was a TV character he idolized who failed to make a scheduled appearance the man had attended as a child.  Another was “on the list” for opening the package of a collectible toy that apparently was valuable.  The reasons this guy had “enemies” was not because they committed some atrocious act against him; in many cases the reason had practically nothing to do with things the “enemy” had done but was instead about his reaction and his pettiness.

Shortly after this I read Proverbs 16:7, which says: “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”  That’s powerful!  Implicit within this verse is the idea that there is peace in all relationships, even those relationships which humanly you cannot imagine being peaceful.  According to Matthew chapter 5, when we, as believers, remember that our brother has anything against us, we are commanded to make reconciliation.  Immediately following, we are also instructed to agree with our adversaries quickly.  These verses put the onus on us, not the other person in the relationship!  We are commanded to consider whether someone has a problem with us and, may I add, when we have a problem with someone.  We are told to take the steps necessary to reconcile and to do so quickly.  Few of use regularly practice step one; and I fear even fewer even consider step two!

Inspection

Most of us rarely stop to evaluate our human relationships.  We may look at our marriage or our family, but, assuming we do even this, we almost never evaluate our workplace relationships or our friendships.  It’s as if we think things are unchangeable.  Are there regular conflicts with others in your life?  When you do recognize a conflict or strained relationship, do you think things like “so long as he works here it will always be like this” or “I wish those people would just find another church” or “why does my spouse always create problems?”

Introspection

When we are dealing with issues in any relationship, especially with people we’ve never gotten along with, the tendency is to complain about and blame them.  Our first reaction should be inspection, followed immediately by introspection.   What should you and I do?  Look inward and see if “our ways please the Lord.”   Biblically speaking, this our duty.  Are you living life according to God’s commands?  Are you exercising patience, love, and forgiveness towards others?  Have you taken affirmative steps to mend relationships, even when you think you weren’t in the wrong?

The Exception

Bible study reveals that sometimes there are times when Satan attacks Christians, but contentions and strife generally are of our own creation.  Our biggest mistake is not that we fail to realize there is conflict or a lack peace; our mistake is often that we want to blame it on “the Devil” when it likely is “our ways” that need examining. Don’t try use the exception as an excuse to avoid inspection and introspection.

In Proverbs chapter 3, God tells us that the ways of the wise are “ways of pleasantness” and “paths of peace.”  Does this describe all of your human relationships?  We can claim God’s promise of peace but only after we have look inwardly and know that we are living our life in a way that pleases the Lord.  With God, peace in every human relationship is possible.

Article by Bryan Likins

@bmlesq

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