Kamis, 22 Oktober 2015

5 Practices of a Peaceful Home

5 Practices of a Peaceful Home

By Brandon Cox
Family Laugh
Guitars sound nice because of stress. Great guitarists know how to turn the tuning pegs just enough that all six strings are in harmony with one another and on key. But too much stress, too much tension, can stretch or break a string.
In the same way, every family will experience stress and tension. It’s inevitable, and it’s possible to experience peace together even in the middle of tension. But too much stress can cause us to snap and lose our harmony.
Families are experiencing unprecedented stress today. It results from economic hardship, the rat race at work, global and cultural events, high educational standards, peer pressure, and much more. I’m convinced that home ought to be a little like a island – a safe place in a war zone. And the Bible gives us some simple wisdom about some valuable practices for peaceful homes.

Learn to Laugh

Proverbs 15:13 says, A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.” (ESV) Laughter is like medicine, and laughing together as a family is highly therapeutic. And it doesn’t take a lot of effort to find things to laugh about. My daughter and I listen to the “PG Comedy” channel on Pandora in the car. We all take group selfies making silly faces, which is compounded even more with the Photobooth app. Learn to laugh, even on tough days.

Cultivate Contentment

It’s quite difficult these days to “keep up with the Jones’.” Families are crashing and burning today in the rubble of financial disaster because of consumer debt. We must have, and then we must have more. But Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:6-8, “A godly life brings huge profits to people who are content with what they have. We didn’t bring anything into the world, and we can’t take anything out of it. As long as we have food and clothes, we should be satisfied.” (GW)
Or in the words of Mary Poppins, “Enough is as good as a feast.” The word “enough” is a good one to draw out of our vocabulary on a regular basis to remind ourselves of the difference between wants and needs. It’s certainly possible to have enough toys, enough food, or enough gadgets, and enough is as good as a feast.

Alleviate Anger

Proverbs 15:18 says, “Hot tempers start fights; a calm, cool spirit keeps the peace.” (MSG) Not all anger is bad. Anger is just a normal human emotion. It’s all about what we decide to do with our anger that matters. When we stuff our feelings inside and leak or explode later, nobody wins. The better solution is developing the practice of giving soft answers to one another.
One of the best verses for families to learn together is found in Proverbs 15:1, “A kind answer soothes angry feelings, but harsh words stir them up.” (CEV) Imagine the change you’d see in your home if everyone’s first response was kindness.

Walk in Wisdom

To walk in wisdom, you need to walk together. Realize that your family is a team and everybody has a position to play. It’s not the parents against the kids, it’s the family becoming all that God intended together, as a team.
Parents, God has given you authority within the home, not so that you can take the place of God in your children’s lives, but so that you can be His representative. God has given you wisdom to guide them. And He will give you more! Proverbs 15:24 says, “Wise people walk the road that leads upward to life, not the road that leads downward to death.” (TEV)

Express Gratitude

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”     (ESV) There is incredible power in praying about tension and expressing thanks. There is a direct link between gratitude and joy, and often when we struggle to find joy, thankfulness is the answer.
You may have a family tradition like ours on Thanksgiving Day. Just before digging into the turkey and dressing, we express something we’re thankful for. But I like it even more when we do it randomly, not just on a holiday.
To make your home an island in the midst of turbulent waters, try being intentional about discovering truth together, laughing together, and encouraging each other. God knows we need peaceful homes more than ever!

How Confidence Makes Us Kind

How Confidence Makes Us Kind

By Russell Moore

How do we engage the culture with convictional kindness? How do we remain compassionate and loving, even in the face of intense opposition and hostility? If we’re going to be obedient in this, we must have confidence.
As I wrote this, I was simultaneously watching a number of discouraging fissures within churches and ministries. Some of them involved leaders falling. Some involved petty disputes between Christians that resemble Hollywood actors in grudge-matches over whose dressing room is bigger. I told a friend that this made me all the more in awe of the ministry of Paul. After all, we have two thousand years of history behind us. He was battling external threats of arrest, and internal wrestling in the churches with heresy and immorality. And all he had to go on was a career wrecked by a light and a voice.
Paul said that the false teachers were the equivalent of Jannes and Jambres, the Egyptian magicians who mimicked Moses’ and Aaron’s signs from God with their own occultist power (Exod. 7:11-12). God’s servants authenticated their sending from God by transforming a staff into a writhing, living serpent. But Pharaoh’s court magicians turned back their argument by doing the same thing. Exodus tells us simply, “But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs” (Exod. 7:12). That’s the point. Paul concluded a section of horrifying pessimism with the words, “But they will not get very far” (2 Tim. 3:9). This is crucial.
“This country is spiritually in decline,” or “If God doesn’t judge this country, he will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” Writer Marilynne Robinson notes that those who speak in such a way rarely include themselves, or their circles of friends, in this assessment. It becomes another form of “us” versus “them” demarcation. Moreover, it feeds into a sort of apocalypticism that feels invigorating, like, she says, a panic attack—with a jolt of adrenaline to fire up the passions. But this hysteria is actually a betrayal of Christianity itself, since it assumes that history is ultimately in the hands of humanity.
The opponents of the gospel often picture the onward advance of secularization and of moral “freedom” as the inevitable march of historical progress. Christian orthodoxy is on the “wrong side of history.” They believe this, but, too often, so do we. The culture around us knows what it means when they see a church in perpetual outrage and bluster. They know that we are scared. How different this is from the mindset of Jesus himself.
The kindness of Jesus toward sinners is not that startling, at least on the surface. We know, after all, that Jesus was on a redemptive mission, even when it’s hard to see how we fit into that mission. But what is remarkable to me is Jesus’ kindness, at least on one occasion, to the devils themselves. When Jesus encountered the man of the graves, filled with unclean spirits, the Bible tells us the demons “begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss” (Lk. 8:31). The Scripture says that these spirits begged to be sent into a herd of pigs. My response would have been one of fear, I’m quite sure. These are, after all, terrifyingly dark beings, normally shielded from our perception. Jesus doesn’t panic. He exhibits as he does in all sorts of terrifying situations a calm tranquility. The Bible says, simply, “So he gave them permission” (Lk. 8:32).
Why? Jesus obviously was not seeking to redeem these spirits; the Bible says they are unredeemable, not even included in the atonement of Christ (Heb. 2:16). Jesus responded this way because he was not afraid. He was confident in his Father’s mission for him, and thus was free from the need, rooted in insecurity, to constantly prove himself.
If all we have to go on is what we see around us, then, of course, we will become scared and outraged, and our public witness will turn into an ongoing temper tantrum, designed just to prove to our opponents, and to ourselves, that we are still here. And in so doing we would employ the rhetorical tricks of other insecure movements: sarcasm, vitriol, ridicule. But we are not the voice of the past, of the Bible Belt to a post-Christian culture of how good things used to be. We are the voice of the future, of the coming kingdom of God. The message of the kingdom isn’t “You kids, get off our lawn.” The message of the kingdom, is, “Make way for the coming of the Lord.”
A gloomy view of culture leads to meanness. If we believe we are on the losing side of history, we slide into the rage of those who know their time is short. We have no reason to be fearful or sullen or mean. We’re not the losers of history. We are not slouching toward Gomorrah; we are marching to Zion. The worst thing that can possibly happen to us has already happened: we’re dead. We were crucified at Skull Place, under the wrath of God. And the best thing that could happen to us has already happened; we’re alive, in Christ, and our future is seated at the right hand of God, and he’s feeling just fine.
If the gates of hell can’t hold Jesus back, why would we be afraid of Hollywood or Capitol Hill? Times may grow dark indeed, but times have always been dark, since the insurrection of Eden. Nonetheless, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not, the darkness will not, the darkness cannot overcome it. The arc of history is long, but it bends toward Jesus.
This article is adapted from my new book Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel

Rabu, 21 Oktober 2015

Who Knows You?

Who Knows You?

by John McGee
As a pastor, is there anyone who knows you? I’m not talking about knowing the names of your kids, where you went to school, or your favorite sports team. Is there anyone that knows you – really knows you?
Is there anyone that knows what you’re most excited about or what makes you the most fearful or discouraged? Is there anyone that could affirm where you’re growing spiritually or where you still have gaps? Or is there anyone who could tell you how you’re a better spouse this year than last and has the insight and permission to tell you where you still need to grow?
We’ve all seen the headlines of pastors who have disqualified themselves or led in such a way that they were asked to leave. If you dig deep on these stories, you’ll find almost universally that the pastor wasn’t really known or accountable. Those who left under cover of night or were forced out may have had hundreds of people that thought they knew them, but no one who really did, and definitely no one who knew them well enough to tell them truth.
If you’re wondering “What’s the payoff for being known?” I’m glad you asked. When you’re known and authentic as a pastor, it’s good for several people:
It’s good for you. The reality is that we all have blind spots, areas in our life that we can’t see. Everyone has character and leadership issues that they aren’t aware of but others see clearly. The question is will you let people know you and love you enough to tell you what you’re really like? It might not be easy, but it’s good for you and one of the best ways to keep you from being the next negative headline.
It’s good for your congregation. Being fully known is good for those you lead. You know this and have probably encouraged those in your congregation to be in some type of small group or smaller Sunday school environment because you know how helpful it is to them. You also know that if your church will meet together in smaller groups to encourage each other and spur one another on, they will grow in their relationship with Christ.
As you instruct others to be known, the best gift you can give to those you lead is a pastor who’s living out the life to which he is calling his congregation. If everyone in your congregation were in relationships as authentic as you, how authentic would those relationships be?
It’s good for your spouse. It’s tough to be the spouse of pastor. It’s difficult to have a hectic schedule and live with someone who feels the constant leadership weight of a church. However, one of the most difficult parts of being married to a pastor is feeling like you have to carry these burdens alone, that you can’t let anyone in, and that if things are not okay, you can’t speak up.
Isolation and not feeling the freedom to speak up is not only burdensome, it’s a recipe for disaster. One of the best gifts you can give your spouse is to allow your family to be fully known by other families. This includes being authentic enough that they can rejoice with you, carry burdens, give wise counsel, and even tell you the truth when you need to hear it.
One of the best gifts I’ve given my wife is the ability to “tell on me” to our small group. If there’s an issue in my life that she has pointed out and that I am being stubborn about, or we just can’t see eye-to-eye on something, she has the freedom to let our group know. When this happens, we submit ourselves to the same care and correction we’re calling others in our church to. This keeps me from being somehow set apart in ways that are dangerous and gives my wife the gift of being fully known by others.
Some will point out that pastors need to be careful about what and with whom they share, and there is no question that you need to be wise and discerning in this area. However, to have integrity as we call others to authentic relationships, we need to have those kinds of relationships ourselves. Being fully known as we lead is one of the best things we can do for ourselves, our congregation, and our families.

6 Eye-Opening Stats About Parenting and Smartphones

6 Eye-Opening Stats About Parenting and Smartphones

by Rachel Macy Stafford on Thursday, October 15, 2015 at 05:09 PM
Our children learn to navigate life by watching us. What do you do with distractions?
Pregnant mom looking at a smartphone.
Let’s be real: it’s no easy task to be a focused, patient, intentional parent in our fast-paced, task-driven, digitally-saturated culture.

We Feel the Pressure

We feel pressured to be available in remote places during the most sacred times. We often have multiple requests coming at us with flashing lights and intrusive dings.
We live in a world that wants to know how much we accomplished—a world where daily achievements are publicly broadcast—a world that values instantaneous electronic responses over face-to-face connection.
It’s challenging to live a distraction-free life as a parent when the world is constantly tapping us on the shoulder with another message to answer or task to complete. But how much I achieved and how fast I responded isn’t what I want my family to remember about me when I’m gone.
Earlier this year, I stumbled upon a few eye-opening statistics.

6 Eye-Opening Stats 

  • 65% of parents, ages 25-34, believe they check their phone too much. (56% of kids agree.)
  • 31% of parents say they don’t set a good example with mobile device usage. (22% of kids agree.)
  • 45% of parents get distracted while having a conversation with their kids. (39% of kids agree.)
  • 47% of kids say they would confiscate a parent’s mobile device if they could.
  • 53% of parents believe they check their phone too much (65% within the 25-34 age group).
  • 47% of parents believe their children spend more time on their mobile device than with them.
Source: AVG Technologies Digital Diaries Research, June 2015.

Is This You?

Do these statistics describe you? If so, don't fret. That was me too.
What may be more shocking is the percentage of kids who agree with the statement. For me, it's more than just being distracted. It affects my children too. I think of it like this:
  • If I want my kids to be awed by sunsets in the future, I must take time to be awed by sights in nature now.
  • If I want my children to appreciate the joy of a screen-free Saturday afternoon in the future, I must take time to show them the joys of a screen-free Saturday now.
  • If I want my children to value experiences rather than things, I must celebrate a run through the  sprinkler, good conversation, and crickets that lull us to sleep.
  • If I want my children to experience the freedom that comes from open blue skies, green grass between my toes, and crunchy leaves underfoot, I must partake in such freedoms myself.
  • If I want my children to look into the eyes of those who speak to them, I must look into their eyes and listen to their words.
Man looking at smartphone while hanging with son.

A Hands-Free Vow for Today

By modeling how to live life with open hands and attentive eyes, there is a very good chance my children will remember me as an active participant in their lives. So I started with a simple vow each day.
Today, I want you to remember my listening face—not my fake listening face, the one that nods robotically and looks right through you. Today, I want to love you by listening, really listening. Today, I want you to remember my open hands—not my multi-tasking hands, the ones too full, too busy, too pushy to gently tuck your hair behind your ear. Today, I want to love you by opening my two free hands. Today, I want you to remember my loving voice—not my impatient, exasperated, not-right-now voice. Today, I want to love you by speaking kindly. Today, I want you to remember my present self—not my moving-target self, the one darting frantically from point A to point B, too hurried to let you set the pace. Today, I want to love you by slowing down.

Put on a Listening Face

Out of all the behaviors listed in the vow, the most important one to me is the listening face.
My dad gave me the gift of the listening face throughout my childhood and tumultuous teen years. Looking back now, I’m quite certain it saved my life. The fact that my dad valued what I had to say—no matter how unimportant or trivial—gave me the confidence to speak up even in the most intimidating and dangerous situations. It gave me the ability to speak up for my beliefs, my dreams and for those who couldn’t speak up for themselves. My dad’s listening face gave me a voice.
When my children were born, I aspired to give them the same soul-building gift. I found great hope in the fact that even at the height of my overwhelmed life, I still managed to offer the listening face to my children. It was the one thing I knew I could do well, even if I was failing at everything else.
Today, I continue to make every effort to hear my children’s words. I know first-hand how important this offering is to the emotional well-being of a child, no matter the age.

Maybe, Just Maybe ...

Someday, I hope my children will remember the way I made eye contact, the nodding of my head and my thoughtful responses.
Maybe, just maybe, the results of these daily gestures of love and presence will be evident sooner than expected. Maybe, just maybe, I won’t have to wait until my dying breath to see these loving actions have made a difference.
Maybe, just maybe, these daily gestures will make up how I’m someday remembered, but more importantly, who I am. Maybe, just maybe, these offerings will live in the heart, soul, and facial expressions of those I love dearly.
And maybe, just maybe, their lives will be better for it.
Article courtesy of HomeLife magazine.