Monday, August 19, 2019

Praying our kids back to school

I hope the school year is off to a good start for everyone. We helped our oldest son move-in to his sophomore year at college last week, and our youngest starts his freshman year in high school. It’s an exciting season – maybe a little nervousness (or a lot!) for some, but a new path full of adventure awaits at every turn.

One thing is for sure: Our students need our prayers for the journey. And so do our school staff. And so do all of their families. Thankfully, God hears and answers prayer!

In case you’ve been living on a remote island somewhere lately, you know that things ain’t like they used to be. I could only begin to scratch the surface in saying that an increased lack of respect creates many classroom headaches, or that drug and alcohol issues are probably more prevalent than most people realize, or that cursing, gossiping, bullying, gender identity issues, lack of parental support, mental health problems, financial concerns, teacher shortages, or a host of other things are worse than they were when we were in school.

And aren’t you glad that not every stupid and embarrassing thing you did in school got captured on video and posted to social media for all the world to see?

And what about the constant burden of trying to prevent your school from becoming the next Columbine (or Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech or Stoneman Douglas or Northern Illinois or you name it)? I never once worried that someone may walk into my high school and try to kill people. But students today think about that.

Let me urge you, parents, grandparents, concerned community citizens – pray for this school year!

Ask God to shield our students from all harm. Pray that God will fill their hearts and minds with what is good, that He’ll surround them with positive friends and influences, that they’ll be respectful and kind to one another, and that they’ll grow in knowledge and wisdom.

Pray, too, for all the teachers, administrators, school board members, coaches, kitchen staff, bus drivers, aides, custodians, and other school staff. Ask the Lord to give them grace and wisdom and patience and love for their students. Pray that they’ll find joy in what they do, and that their lives would serve as a good role model for the students.

And pray for the families of all the above. Let’s ask God to fill their homes with stability and security. Let’s pray for environments of love, encouragement, discipline, and peace. Ask our Father in heaven to lay foundations of godliness and grace in Christ Jesus as parents seek to train their children in the ways of the Lord.

Friend, your prayers can make a difference. We call upon the name of the One for whom nothing is impossible, a God of goodness and mercy, whose “way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30).

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Changed lives

Do you believe the gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to save and change lives? I do! History provides overwhelming evidence of men and women whose lives were transformed by the mercy and grace of God.

Think about the apostle Paul. Before his encounter with the risen Savior, he hated Jesus, and he hated anyone who liked Jesus. By his own admission, he was the “chief of sinners,” but Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and Paul’s life was forever changed.

Then there’s Mary Magdalene, a woman with seven demons (Luke 8:2), and some say she was the ill-reputed “woman of the city, who was a sinner” (Luke 7:37). But she found freedom and forgiveness in Christ and became one of his most devoted followers.

No one is beyond the reach of God’s mercy.

John Newton was a slave trader, a drunk, an obscene and vile man. But Jesus came to his rescue, turned him from his sinful ways, and used him mightily to preach the gospel. Newton later wrote one of the most beloved hymns of all time, a song which detailed his own conversion, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

Again I say, no one is beyond the reach of God’s mercy!

What if the madman who went hunting for humans in El Paso had heard and believed the gospel? The hatred in his heart would have been dissolved and 22 innocent people would still be alive today, because the gospel drives men to repent from sinful motives like racism and replaces it with reconciliation and brotherly love.

What if Jeffrey Epstein had heard and believed the gospel? His young female victims would have been spared from his depraved advances, because the gospel gives men freedom from sexual sin and does not exploit or abuse others for one’s own selfish and sinful desires.

Friend, I don’t know where your journey has taken you, what you’ve done, what you’ve said, or who you’ve hurt along the way. But I do know this: You are not beyond the reach of God’s mercy. God loves you, and He is patient with you, not wishing that any would perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

Count me as one who’s life has been changed by the power of the gospel, as well. And yours can be, too. Turn away from sin today, believing that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness for your sin and rose from the dead to give you new, abundant, and eternal life.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Can we please bring back the Golden Rule?

Maybe you’ve heard the story of two guys golfing one day near a cemetery. As the one was preparing to putt, a hearse turned into the cemetery. The guy immediately looks up, drops his putter, removes his cap, and bows his head. After a couple of minutes he gets back to the game and finishes his round.

When the men return to the clubhouse, his friend mentions how moved he was by the respect shown to the deceased. The man acknowledged him saying, “I really feel it was the least I could do for her; after all we were married for the last 34 years.”

Okay, so maybe that’s not the best example, but wouldn’t you love to see real respect for one another become part of the fiber of our nation? Where have you gone, Aretha Franklin?

Let’s make it a personal crusade to be polite, kind, and considerate of others. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with everyone about everything, but surely we can find a way to have healthy conversations about controversial topics without being angry, rude, or hostile, and without resorting to yelling and name-calling like spoiled little 2nd graders.

Let’s bring back the “Golden Rule:” Treating other people like you’d want them to treat you. We can do that, can’t we?

Parents, it starts with us. Take responsibility for teaching your children respect for other people. Model it for them and instill it into their way of life.

If your children hear you often talking bad about your boss, berating your spouse, dissing the President, slamming their teachers, complaining about this person and whining about that situation, you’re training them to be disrespectful.

But if they hear you speaking respectfully about people – from the mighty to the lowly, rich and poor alike – even when you may not see things from the same perspective, they’ll learn to show civility and courtesy toward all people. 

Adults, it takes all of us. I know it’s the rage in this age to get outraged over every perceived offense and every slight injustice, but can’t we learn to be patient and kind with others? Can we give people the benefit of the doubt and not assume everyone’s out to make your life miserable? Can we learn to really listen before we speak and discern the truth before we judge? Can we at least be nice, and not obnoxious, when dealing with people even when we disagree?

Isn’t that how you’d like to be treated?

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Jesus, Matthew 7:12).