This morning, we heard great words of wisdom from Andy Stanley about Love, Sex, and Dating – great advice even for those who are married (remember to date your wife and work on your marriage – the “Right Person Myth” has destroyed more marriages than I care to imagine). LOOK FOR THIS MESSAGE on North Point’s website this week (video messages are usually up by Tuesday or Wednesday) at www.northpoint.org/messages.
Tonight, my cousin, Nicole, passed on an article she was reading from Andy’s Dad, Dr. Charles Stanley. Entirely different subject – but it relates to how we conduct all of our relationships and is incredibly apropos in our discipleship relationships. Men, as you disciple your sons; leaders, as you grow your staff and speak into their lives; women, as you go about your business(es) – consider what scripture has to say about “The Words of Our Mouth“.
HT: Nicole Lewis
Pass it on!!!
When I’m consistent with “quiet time”, I’m not very consistent with which devotionals I read. I have a couple in hard copy and then a few others that come via email to my “@newsletters” folder in Outlook. Other times, I just skip back and forth between Psalms, Proverbs, Prophets, and the New Testament. When you talk to people for a living, you notice a handful of people who do the same thing every day, consistently. These guys are the low-spiritual-fat-percentage/chiseled character guys with 18-inch spiritual biceps that we all often idolize. Oops, did I say the “i” word? The i word often leads to the “c” word – comparison.
Today, as I’m reading through Neil Anderson’s final devotional for February, his questions jumped off the page. The scripture selection was from Colossians 2.6-7:
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith
I have a tendency to notice the “who” part of passages as I’m reading them and this morning, I thought “How often do I muff up the “so walk in Him” part? How often do I compare my self to Matt or Jeff or Jim when I should be comparing myself to “who I am in Him?” Doesn’t the passage say “so walk in Jim?” Nope. The comparison game can get messy when we’re not playing by God’s rules – when it comes to man, “comparison is the enemy of contentment”.
Anderson goes on this morning to ask the following litmus test questions about our faith (and, as he’s famous for doing, our identity):
I would be more successful if . . .
I would be more significant if . . .
I would be more fulfilled if . . .
I would be more satisfied if . . .
I would be happier if . . .
I would have more fun if . . .
I would be more secure if . . .
I would have more peace if . . .
The completion of these statements give us a great picture of the completion of the work of Christ in our lives. See – Ephesians 4.12-16.The biggest troubles we get ourselves into can be traced back to a lie that we once bought, which can easily be detected by holding it up to the plumb-line of God’s truth: Would you be more successful if circumstances changed or if you stayed out of God’s way and let Him work through and lead you? Would you be more significant if you made your mark on a situation or if you trusted in who God has gifted you to be and ran on the steam of His grace instead of your own effort? Would you be more secure if you had $25K in the bank or if you were breaking even every week, but clinging to Christ for every dime?
The worst form of idolatry is self-worship – my agenda, my plan, my energy, my competence. The greatest gains have been made in my life when I stepped aside and got God out of the co-pilot seat so He could fly the plane. Conversely, the biggest trouble and darkest times I’ve experienced in business, ministry, marriage, etc., have been the places where I “leaned on my own understanding” and trusted in my ability to walk, talk, work, or manipulate my way out of a jam. Grace is God’s way of empowering us to do His work. Misformed and misunderstood identity in Christ is the surest path to lost confidence in God’s sovereignty and diminishing Christ’s finished work on the cross.
If only we all would walk in that. If only we would encourage each other in that (like, discipleship). If only we would reassure each other there is no condemnation, God’s grace is big enough (though not to be abused), and that His mercies are new every morning. If only we would all slow down the hustle, quiet down the noise, and listen to the Holy Spirit’s lead – what would a lost and dying world think of our God if we all grew up into maturity in the faith, attaining to the full measure of Christ?
in it with you,
As children of divorce, we don’t need a book full of statistics to tell us about the impact it has on kids. We’ve lived it. As Divorce Care leaders, we’ve already come to the understanding that God a) hates divorce, b) loves us, and c) has plenty to say about abandoning our covenant to our spouse, not to mention the children involved. Furthermore, God has made one point abundantly clear to me about myself and those around me “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it”.
As a child of divorce, my default position has been carved into my heart – “fear abandonment”. [Not the definitive lesson that everyone takes away from their parents’ divorce, but a loud, resonant one.] As a child of God, adopted through Christ, I’m learning to bathe in my new default: “perfect love casts out fear”. I also bought the lie that my parents’ divorce was somehow my fault in part. “If I had only x a little bit more…” That can easily grow a kid up into a fixer. Graciously, God has taught me that I’m not in charge of fixing, rather delivering the only Truth that can set men free. But, it took the mentorship and direct counseling of men and women who’ve discipled both of us to really begin to internalize these truths.
It doesn’t happen by accident, it happens by reinforcement. Discipleship is critical care.
What gets learned by a child through their parents’ divorce (you know, the “he will not depart from it” stuff) can range from impulsive/impatient behavior, anger or distrust toward the entire gender of the
“offending” parent, anger or even destructive behavior toward self as a consequence of misplaced blame, overall confusion (often directed at self) as a result of dueling loyalties, isolation or withdrawal, even depression, drug use, and/or suicidal behaviors.
What Are We Doing About It? – Two Things…
First, we’re raising support and prayer for some of the marriages and couples around us to help them in the process of “simplifying their lives” (see post on Donald Miller’s article). We’d love to proactively send them out on a “date night” once a quarter (which would be once more per quarter than they’re currently doing): nourish their bodies and their marriages simultaneously. Also, there are about a dozen marriage conferences within 3 hours of the metro-Atlanta area this year. We’d like to take a few of these couples along with us, where God can “speak life” into their relationships before they ever consider divorce.
Second, God has led us to run a DC4K (DivorceCare 4 Kids) group for Free Chapel, in Gainesville. One night a week and with several hours of prep, we are leading a group of about 10 kids (age 6 to 10) through this trusted curriculum and what seems to be a terrible season of their lives. The obvious end here is this: what’s the difference between a kid who walks through this season of life alone versus the kid surrounded by loving adults who’ve been through childhood divorce and other kids weathering the same storm?
“The thing I learned the most is to control my temper.”
“I remembered when I got angry that I could stop, take a breath, “ask God” and relax.”
“My kids are happy to know they’re not the only ones going through this.”
“As I tucked my son in bed, he said, ‘Mommy, I know it’s not my fault.’”
What kid is going to learn that kind of truth from a grieving, recovering parent and no outside intervention? Where is a kid going to go in the midst of being shuffled back and forth from parent to parent to find a group of “Kids Like Me” that can shatter the enemy’s myth that they’re all alone in this catastrophe? DC4K works. Praise God for that.
What Can I Do?
We’re grateful for the opportunity to take on this mammoth work. We encourage you to help support this effort in prayer.
- Pray that the parents participating in DivorceCare can make DC and their own healing a priority. We also encourage you to help us financially.
- Pray that the fact that their kids are in DC4K gives these parents the peace of mind to focus on Christ and what He can do to lead them to the other side of this storm.
- Pray that we as leaders keep our hearts clean and abide heavily in our Savior, that we may speak His ways, His truth, and His life into theirs.
- Pray that God prepares the hearts of these children to receive the message that a) their parents’ divorce is not their fault, b) they’re not the only ones going through this and c) hope exists and He has a Name above all names.
Consider getting involved with a church that is offering DC4K and sign up to lead a group.
Help support this work financially. The program materials and snacks are covered by tuition, but our availability and transportation are not. We don’t anticipate this costing much more than $40 per week for the ministry. Would you help us equip and pastor these children? We currently have a little over $1,000 in matching funds to help us complete and continue this work for 2011. Would you consider this in your one time giving or regular support? Go to www.speaklifenow.org.
|My Dad’s “parting shot”, taken at the National Cemetery
Ever have someone congratulate you for “holding it together”? I used to think of it as a compliment. It is, in some senses. I mean, they mean it as a compliment.Ever experience joy at a funeral? No, not schadenfreude, but honest, heartfelt joy? Just before Christmas, I got an incredible gift of true joy that came from a guy who’s discipled me for years, at a time when it made all the difference in the world:
It was a week before Christmas. Dad had died a couple days prior. Arrangements had been made. Now, I was on a plane from ATL to BOS, to a funeral I didn’t think I needed to be at (I was over it, remember
?). I was leaving my wife to watch 4 kids, including two sick 8 month olds, by herself for 48 long hours. In the middle of the trip to Dad’s funeral, I got a text, one I didn’t think I needed, which sustained me and became a banner of hope I carried for the rest of my stay.
“Make sure to feel what you’re feeling. There’s no script for this.”
Suddenly, clarity. I thought for hours about how my family had made a name for itself by making it
through the tough times with humor. We could deflect from our issues with the best of them – just crack a joke at an uncomfortable moment, and we didn’t need to weep anymore. We’d also built a great reputation for “holding it together”. You know, keeping a stiff upper lip when the chips were down. We could “be strong” with the best of them.
And, yet, we were missing something.
There’s a point in the opening chapters of Matthew when Jesus gets up on a hill and starts teaching people some of the definitive points of what the kingdom of God is all about. It’s an upside down economy where the weak are made strong, the wise seem foolish, and something I needed to hear brought me tears of both pain and great joy. “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be…”
Holy $#!&. Are you serious? No magic words? No secret prayer that’ll make it all go away in one fell-swoop? I thought all I had to do was “keep it together” and everything would be alright. Be strong and you’ll be fine? Not in God’s economy. Jesus promised us something amazing would happen to us if we’d just let down our guard to Him: mourn and we’re candidates for comfort that we’ll never find anywhere else. Conversely, we’d all (my 8 brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles, etc.) been carefully taught to ignore the pain and it would go away. But, in truth failing to mourn revokes our candidacy for true comfort. Don’t mourn = disqualified for the comfort tailor made for you by the God who made you.
Gathered around the sarcophagus (alright, it was just a coffin, but it sounds more Indiana Jones, doesn’t it?), getting ready to bring Dad’s body from the funeral home to the church, were my brothers, sisters, and I. My brother Jamie had power of attorney, so his past few days had been eaten up by the taskmaster of preparing the funeral and taking care of administrative details so sterile you could eat off them. Yet, here, aside a body vacant of life, he finally fell apart for just a moment.
I couldn’t hold it in any longer. “Guys. Before we go, can I tell you something that’s given peace to my soul in a way I can’t even describe to you? Jamie finally cried. And, we all need to follow that example.” I told them about the text I’d gotten – read it aloud, told them how the guy who sent it to me had lost his dad to Alzheimer’s just over a year prior, quoted Matthew 5.4, and preached for 12 seconds on not being strong:
“Please, fall apart soon.” I said, “fall all apart, teary and snotty and messy. Nobody wins by being strong and Paul even said God’s power was made ‘perfect in weakness’. Please, don’t be strong.”
I didn’t know if it would have an impact, really. I just knew I had to say it.
I also knew something else: I had experienced it right there, several times. From the wake to the funeral, I’d had about a half dozen or more opportunities to look my Dad’s body right in the eyelids and weep, sob, or just tear up for a moment as I realized the many losses that had piled up, confessed them to God, and knelt overcome by the comfort that rushed in, in its place. This wasn’t one of those things they just tell you in a ministry training, conference, or seminary. It was the truth. Straight from a guy who’d discipled me for three years and right out of the word. And, I’d experienced it to be true.
So, are you experiencing loss? Will you trust God like David did in Psalm 6, Psalm 51, etc., like I was told to by my mentor, like my mentor before me had, and mourn? You will be… comforted.
The Bible teaches us a very simple truth which, in the natural is inescapable: “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
It’s so obvious that we don’t even really pay much attention to it sometimes. Then, our child repeats a phrase you know they must have heard from you. Or worse, they repeat something you shouldn’t have said around them, making you aware that you did in fact slip that time when you hit your thumb with the framing hammer, right? You didn’t want them to hear you say it, but you later thought “Ah, I only said it once. They’ll forget it…”
What we often fail to heed in this warning is this: discipleship is always happening. My friend, John Ott once quoted to me “children may fail to obey, but the never fail to imitate”. That‘ll bug you, won’t it? Let me
say it again: discipleship is always happening… not only in what we intend to teach, but what we hope they didn’t hear. Not only is it happening in what we say, it’s happening in what others say.
When I came to faith in Christ and He began to transform me by the renewing of my mind, I began to lose my taste for a lot of my favorite artists: Metallica, Papa Roach, Anthrax, Linkin Park… Let me be clear – I still like some of the music, a lot, really. But, the lyrics that used to resonate within my soul now grate against my spirit. I understand the struggle many of these guys are going through – they’re hurt, bitter, angered by injustice, and wounded by the world. Without Christ at their core, how could they possibly express their rage in a godly way? Read Romans 8.5-8 – they can’t.
In my bitter, disillusioned teenage years, I had been discipled by James Hetfield and metal/rap rockstars that taking out my aggression in the flesh was the right way to go. I had allies who understood what it was like to dub someone “unforgiven”. Jesus would later begin to teach me otherwise. Or, should I say, unteach me what I knew and re-teach me what I needed, and still need today.
The trouble is, just because we’re discipling our kids here and there doesn’t mean they’re immune to the principalities and powers of this world.
Action items for today:
- Pray that God protects their hearts from the lyrics that discipled me through my angst ridden teenage years. Watch who’s discipling them on the radio and YouTube.
- Pray for teachable moments when they do go off the right path and help them think critically about what God’s truth is versus what the culture is teaching them. We live in an economy of truth and lies. There is only One god who is the way, the truth, and the life. There is only one father of lies.
- Read Dennis Prager’s article about “F-you from the music industry” and consider who is discpling your kids. If you don’t, someone else will.
in it with you,