Wednesday, July 20, 2011

God is Moving in Our Life -- And Moving Us!

Over the past several years the Lord has focused my ministry and equipping, as well as Judy and our children, on interceding in the lives of children and families in crisis. Effective August 1, we will laser-focus that calling by joining the team at Wear's Valley Ranch

Judy and I have spent two months shy of 10 years loving and learning at First Baptist Concord ( It has been a life-changing, growing experience, and we pray it benefited many. Over that time, our family structure changed dramatically as we hosted most of the 21 foster children we have had, adopted 3, and our adult daughter Jessica added three more grandchildren. We await another adoption, of Bogdan (left of picture above, with Caryn, Judy, Tori and Morgan, respectively in a 1 1/2 yr old photo). Bogdan lives in an orphanage in Ukraine.

Now we will all move under the shadow of Cove Moutain to serve under one of our spiritual heroes -- Jim Wood ( -- at Wears Valley Ranch as Biblical Counseling Director.

WVR is a home and school for children who come from families in crisis. Many reading this are in vocational ministry or very active in ministry -- I am asking you to remember us because you consistently come in contact with the type of children who need what WVR offers! Further explanation and application are available at  E-mail me at with any questions. I would love to tell you more about the ministry of Wears Valley Ranch -- there are many, many ways to partner with us!

If you are an FB Concord church member, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for letting us serve you. We are leaving a staff positon, not friends! If you are a fellow minister, I look forward to continued fellowship with you, in particular about WVR helping families you encounter. If you came across this by chance on social networking -- perhaps it wasn't by chance after all. We would love to hear from you.

Yours, in Christ,

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Anatomy of a Fight

"What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?"

I wonder if James was a parent, because he knew how to ask a pointed question, one that you and I as parents deal with almost daily.

So where do the fights at home come from? He continues (in James 4) with a rhetorical question: "Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?"

Well, that nails it, doesn't it? Why are there fights at your house? Because a child -- sometimes an adult! -- wants what they want, and they don't get it when and how they want it, so they fight. Period.

Daily we encounter selfishness. Daily we battle it within ourselves. Daily it overflows from the mouths and body language of our children. So what do we do? If I had that nailed down, I'd write the book, do the conference and fix the world, but short of that I'll keep turning to Scripture to wash over me and my family until transformation comes. I think that's the only way it will work for you, too!

Continues in verse 2, "You desire and you do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain so you fight and quarrel."

Don't think that sounds too harsh -- replay your children's words (or yours). What mean things have been said? Selfishness is powerful! People kill over it. Marriages break up over it. Children leave the home sometimes in mid-to-late teen years just so they can simply do as the please (ignorantly not realizing they will be more restricted than ever, but that's another blog post).

Let's begin to get to some helpful parts of the passage, continuing in verse 2: "You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions."

We must teach our children and remind ourselves that it is not each other that ultimately satisfy us, but the Lord, and Him we must seek with our desires. Howver simple or great, we must take our desires to Him. If we submit to Him, He either alters the desire or fulfills it. He sets it right in our heart. And our heart is the issue!

Our children are drawn in by the world. They are manipulated by the enemy through the media and selfishness around them to believe you are owed personal, momentary, immediate satisfaction. God, being a personal Father, says, "Come to me with your desires."

When our children fight because they don't get what they want, let's work hard to avoid fighting back. Let's turn each occassion into a teachable moment in which we a) call out the sin graciously; b) point to why it happened (if possible); c) instruct what the action should have been, then d) most vitally! Re-direct the child to the places in the Word of God where there is instruction about it. This will take a little time and effort to find those places. But the working of the Holy Spirit in the heart and on the mind of the believer is the only thing that transforms.

Where the selfishness is mimicking the world's standards, we must teach them about verses 4 and 5, where our friendship with the world is literally called 'adultery' against God. Verse six points out the attractiveness of humility to God, and his resistance of the proud.

These teachings are vital to our households. As we make progress in understanding and processing these truths in our hearts, fights will decrease. What those we love want will matter more. Work at it! Mere behavioral management won't work -- we must get to the source of the problem, as James did.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How to Relieve Your Stress & Transform Your Child

Matthew 7:7 promises, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you."

As parents, I believe we can rely on this promise if we are already honoring God by pouring into our children what the Lord pours into us.

Paul Miller, author of A Praying Life, changed how I think about parenting with his simple-but-powerful method of praying for each family member. He said, "Prayer is how I get things done." Then he explained how he gets things done with His children.

He uses a card -- say, a 3x5 -- for each child, and lists each thing he wants to see happen in that child's life. Daily he prays over the cards. Simplistic? Yes. Powerful? Think about it: A Godly daddy who is already bringing up his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is taking specific requests for his children to God, his and their ultimate Father.

That trumps worrying. That beats 'trying harder.' That trumps fussing and wrestling with the kids, your wife, or God over their behaviors and circumstances.

It lays the issues at the feet of Christ! Paul says he has steadily seen God do what He has asked.

I have as well. Let me tell you (!), my stress level drops, my peace level rises (those are always in direct correlation, by the way) and my hope for my children sky rockets when I pull out those cards.

Ours is a good Father who desires to give good gifts to His children, including developing their lives according to His will. On that issue, He and I agree, you and He agree, and He will honor you as you raise up your children. He is steadily working harder and with more wisdom than you and I at transforming our children! So take your requests directly to Him, and trust Him.

Ask Him. Specifically. Daily. It's one way you get parenting done!

(Photo is of a sample, mock card for an 11-year-old girl)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Restore a Child in the Way You Want to be Restored

Last night one of our children made a mistake. They had lost a privilege -- for a long time -- then worked hard to regain it. Maintaining it for a week, they lost it again last night by indulging significantly and with deceit beyond our stated limits.

This otherwise seemingly minor loss was a big deal to the child, and it is a big deal in their spiritual growth, because the violation was sin. They 'missed the mark' (the definition of sin) by violating the guidelines of their parents.

Once this was found out by Judy and I, the challenge was to deal with the child in a redemptive manner, both last night and today as they awoke dejected. We have not always handled these things well. Anger has ruled, frustration has boiled over. In short, we have at times taken the offenses personally, when in fact it is as simple as 'the child wants what the child wants, and will sometimes do anything to get it.'

That sounds familiar for children and adults, doesn't it?

So how do we handle such things? A few sequential guidelines come to mind.
  • Give a consequence. That's obviously necessary so that the child sees a clear boundary.
  • Make the consequence related to the offense if at all possible.
  • This one is where some parents -- read: US many times -- make a mistake: Make the lost privilege sometime that can be retained in a reasonable length of time so as not to exasperate the child.
  • Encourage the child to repent before the Lord first.
  • Build up the child. You might say something like, "You made a mistake. I'm disappointed that happened and sorry for you. I've made mistakes many times, as you know. God is merciful and forgiving. If you have repented, and if you trust God to give you strength, you can behave according to the guidelines we've given you and get the privilege back. More importantly, that will please God, and us. I believe you can do it and look forward to seeing it happen!"
When we handle these matters well, Judy and I are pleasantly surprised that we often see a genuinely repentant attitude. This morning the child seemed very 'bummed out.' I asked if they were angry because of the consequence. "No, I'm mad because I was stupid enough to do that."

I followed with, "you sinned, you repented, you've learned from it. You  can earn back the privilege. Now move on and have a good day."

These simple situations make up the crux of our parenting. When we miss these opportunities to be Biblical redemptive, we must repent, re-focus and wait for the next opportunity.

It will come soon.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beware the Babel You Hear at Home

After the flood, Noah's people repopulated the earth, and they all were of one language. They were one big family and they went about the earth looking for a place to settle. They decided on a plain in the land of Shinar (in what is now Iraq).

Despite all that the people had heard from their forefathers about the work of the Lord --  the direct instruction about building the ark;  the exhibit of His great power via the flood; the observation of His profoundly creative creation from living with all the animals -- these descendants of Noah hardened their hearts and became self-assured. Genesis 11: 4 records, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth."

And thus they were scattered, because to make a name for ourselves instead of for our Lord is to encounter His displeasure. That tower was the tower of Babel, and God said, "Indeed the people are one and they all lhave one langauge, and this is what they begin to do . . . come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." So the Lord scattered them abroad . . .

One big family. Searching to find its way. Self-centered instead of God centered. Confused and scattered. When I survey American Christian culture, that description looks painfully familiar.

Do the members of your family sometimes feel as if they just aren't communicating? At times, mine does. I know they are not literally speaking a different language, but doesn't it seem like it sometimes?

 Is everybody building their own little world, scattering themselves too thin and too far apart? We need to all check ourselves and ask, 'What towers are we building (figuratively)? Are we reaching toward heaven in man-made ability? Are we trying to lift ourselves high?

If so, He may let us live in confusion. The key is building what He wants to build, His way, to His glory. Let's set our families on that path, then speak clearly His Word, according to His Will, and live in His power!

PS -- If you want to help your family get on track or stay on track, go and plan to join us for a one-day training that could change your life.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

You Can Make a Difference Personally & Powerfully in 2011


What does this picture say? Not about the man in it -- that's me, in case you don't recognize me in sleep pants and in sleep -- but about the boy?

The child is Bogdan, 12, from Ukraine. When Judy snapped the photo, he had arrived at our home an hour earlier for his third visit in a cultural exchange. We hope to adopt him in May or June. (Please pray, as nothing is settled until it is settled, so to speak).  He came home, showered and changed into the Kobe Bryant jersey he had to have when Judy took him shopping hours earlier, before they even got to the house. (She had to right away; he arrived with the clothes on his back, and had been wearing them for three days.)

He wandered downstairs to find me resting on the sofa-recliner, sat down next to me (I woke briefly as he did) and slipped over onto my shoulder. Curtis-the-poodle couldn't resist making it a group snuggle and crawled over Bogdan.

This is a very personal picture, to me, and I run the risk of appearing self-promoting in this blog, but I judge both worth it to communicate again a vital truth that many of you can embrace in a constructive way: There are 163 million homeless children in the world. YOU may be who they need.

Like Bogdan, most of them are a sponge for nurture, love, appropriate affection, coaching, leadership, a Mom and Dad. Or even a Mom or Dad. (Single adults, one good parent is much better than no parent). Like Bogdan, who lives in an orphanage, most have never had someone to hug them, much less care for them the way a loving parent does.

This is not intended as a guilt trip, though it could be a conviction trip, if the Holy Spirit does takes you on it (but I don't think I'm Him!) I'm just a man -- an impatient one who is amazed God ever asked us to take homeless children -- stating these truths and hoping more people respond:
  • The Word of God says, in many places, to care for the orphan and the 'solitary.'
  • American, middle-class-and-higher Christians have vast, wasted resources (big houses, money, time). The use of those resources should be reconsidered to be purposeful rather than just pleasurable.
  • We are called to live on mission.
  • The need is great and obvious.
  • Two plus two frequently equals four.
No, this isn't for everyone. I don't suggest it is. I do suggest that all families and many single adults should at least ask the Lord if this is something they should consider. I hear people say, "I'm not called to that." I just hope they make sure by seeking Him diligently.

And does He have to 'call' you in some special way? Isaiah said, 'Here am I, send me,' apart from a personal call and prior to specific instruction, in simple observance of the need and willingness to meet it.

The picture tells the story. They need love. They'll embrace it. They need Christ. They'll receive Him (Bogdan did a year ago, on his first visit. He gladly reads the Word and related books now, and will pray aloud in Russian when we pray).

Will your family make a difference in 2011? There are many, many ways. This is just one. Let me know how I can help you to help them.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Revisiting 'Thank You' During a Week of Madness

This is my revised Thanksgiving Column for, from a decage ago, offered as a Word of perspective, thanks and encouragement to parents, friends, family and ministry colleagues

Ever notice how hard it is to get a sincere ‘Thank You’ from anybody? Do you recall how good it feels when those words are spoken to you in sincerity? Do you know the pleasure of looking into the eyes of the seven-buck-an-hour-single-mother-of-two who checked you out at the grocery store and sincerely thanking her for her hard work?

Thank You’ is something we are not very good at saying any more. We don’t say it enough to each other, and we certainly don’t say it enough to God. We are a nation on the run, streaking toward what we perceive as more, bigger, and better, while hardly noticing the blessings left in our wake. How poignant that 'Thanksgiving is Thursday' and 'Grab Day', or, 'Black Friday' is the next day. (And why is it black Friday if everyone is going into the red?)

Read carefully the words of a wise leader, a man of dignity and depth, as he considered the season at hand:

 “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.”

Those words apply to us today as much as they did when they were written 149 years ago by President Abraham Lincoln upon the establishment of Thanksgiving as a holiday. Thanksgiving informally began in the fall of 1621 when the pilgrims, thankful for their meager sustenance and grateful to the Indians for their help, invited the Indians to a day of Thanksgiving. (Why, even our steeped Thanksgiving sports tradition began that day: The Indians and pilgrims held foot races, wrestling matches and shooting competition.) The celebration lasted three days. Prayer and genuineness thankfulness were the focus rather than food and fun, though there was plenty of each.

How things have changed. We killed as many Indians as we could and drove the rest onto reservations. We’ve been grabbing all we could ever since, ever mindful of how to get more; rarely mindful of the one who “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.Our games have gotten bigger and our guts have gotten softer while our hearts have gotten smaller and harder. By this time of year, many parents are stressing over how they are going to afford more 'stuff' for Christmas. And to many families, Thanksgiving 'celebrations' have become elaborate, costly, stressful productions.

My encouragement to us all – especially to the man I see in the mirror – is to spend much of this Thanksgiving week in thankful prayer, in genuine reflection upon God’s glorious gifts, both earthly and eternal.

Parents, plan some slow time for your family, read Scriptures of praise and thankfulness, and literally ask each family member to thoughtfully list the many blessings (not merely possessions) they have. Don't get lost in the rush!

The Word of God encourages us to “come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.” (Psalm 95:2) We are repeatedly admonished to be thankful to Him. If you want to enjoy the blessing of blessing God in this way, read carefully many of the Psalms. Psalm 100:4-5 says, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.”

Perhaps today you cannot think of much for which to give thanks. Perhaps your earthly circumstances are dire. Even so, the Bible tells us, “In everything (in all circumstances) give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thes. 5:18) Perhaps you need to call some brothers or sisters in the body of Christ to pray over you, to comfort and love you. God uses everything to teach us, shape us, draw us to Him. Even those hurting deeply today can be thankful that there is a merciful God who desires a personal relationship with you and will give you answers and help both temporal and eternal. He is a God of mercy, and He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price for the sins of each of us. The price is paid in full, and we have eternal life with Him if only we give Him our life. As if to make sure we understand that His mercy is to be our first focus of thanks, Psalm 136 begins, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!” then proceeds to invoke “for His mercy endures forever” 25 times!

If you are a very blessed family, with a warm home and good food and love to share, perhaps you need to think of some hurting or lonely or broke people you need to share your home with in this season. Extend the context of 'family' and bless someone - and yourselves.

May those of us who know God personally through Jesus Christ rest joyfully and thankfully in His mercy this weekand always, and may we be eager to share the news of His salvation with those who do not know Him, urging them to receive His life and thus His mercy.