I know it has been a bit quiet on here for awhile. Some of it has been adjusting to a new ministry, the rest of my creative writing has all been invested in my school work. Good news, though, I plan on graduating this December, so I should be a little more active around the first part of the year.
In this time of “intermission” I am happy to announce the launch of Teen to Teen: 365 Daily Devotions by Teen Girls for Teen Girls. This is a collection of daily devotionals for teenage girls edited by Patti Hummel and published by B & H Publishing. What excites us most about this publication is that our own daughter, Hannah Arrington, was asked to submit some of her own writings to the collective work. Pattie Hummel says, “It is almost unheard of for an unknown adult with no platform in the publishing industry to be published, but for a teen with no name and no platform, this is rare indeed.”
This is a wonderful accomplishment for our daughter and we are very excited about how God has used her and will use the book to strengthen other teenage girl’s relationship with God. The books hit the shelves of Barnes and Noble, Christian Book Distributors, and LifeWay on November 1. However, as part of Hannah’s participation in the writing of the book, she has the permission to distribute the book privately and retain the profit for herself.
The book is in pre-release, but we are accepting orders now. When you order from Hannah, you will receive an autographed copy of the book, a personal note from Hannah, and the opportunity to support this wonderful young lady as she continues to pursue Christ through her future writing endeavors.
Please use the link below to visit our sales page below where you can place a secured debit or credit card order. To pay check or money order, please contact us by email for instructions.
Thank you and look forward to sharing more as the end of the year approaches.
I mentioned last week in my post, Pretty Quiet Around Here, that I had some great things to share as God has been moving in me and my family’s life and ministry. Before I get into recent events, I want to backup just a little.
At the start of 2011, I was serving as Youth and Children’s pastor at First Baptist Church of Bayfield, Colorado. The people were amazing, the town was beautiful and quaint, and the location was outstanding. My family really had no reason to leave there, but God did. God started changing my heart and gave me a new vision and passion for children’s ministry, with a dual emphasis on equipping families to grow in their relationship to God. I began to devour every resource and book I could get my hands on to learn more about ministering to the family. In the process, I called and emailed numerous pastors and leaders with their input, ultimately leading me to a connection with First Baptist Church of Borger, Texas.
God called my family to serve FBC Borger out of this new vision and passion He had given me. There we joined a team of church staff, volunteers, and families all seeking to raise the bar and reach the young families in the community with the love of God and the message of the Gospel. Up to this point, I had never seen nor heard of staff and volunteers so talented and equipped to complete the vision God had give them, and God fit me right in seamlessly. Regrettably, the goals and vision given to the church was not ale to be reached. Our church began to loose families drastically. Many God moved to other places. Others joined different churches, or stopped going to church all together. Church attendance dropped 60% over a two year time period, and all the pastoral staff left in answer to God’s Will.
Though this is discouraging tale for sure, it is not uncommon. Many churches across our country find themselves with limited to no staff, and no vision for the future. Most are at the brink of closing their doors if they have not already. Many would say, “How can this be? Does Jesus not claim that even the gates of Hell will not overpower it (the church)?” (Matt. 16:18). In reality, the danger is not from outside the church. When our churches refuse to change, refuse to step out of status quo, refuse engage a changing culture by demanding to stay the same, the church becomes it’s own worst enemy. The gates of Hell will not come against that church because there is no need, they are on their own path to self destruction. The greatest need for many of our churches today is a new vision, a new purpose, a new beginning.
New beginnings…this is where my tale picks up again. Yesterday, my family and I had the honor and privilege to visit First Baptist Church of Levelland, Texas. Their Discipleship Pastor contacted me a few months back letting me know about their church’s search for a Children’s Pastor. After talking some about his church and it’s vision, he asked if I would be interested in being considered. Time progressed and the more and more we talked and prayed, the more evident it became that God was bringing our path’s together for future service. For my ministry, this is a new beginning.
FBC Levelland is a solid church and God continues to do great things through them for His Kingdom. This church has expressed a willingness to change and go beyond the norm by choosing to bring on a Children’s Pastor. They have a great volunteer staff in place and have had directors and staff members minister to the children in combination with other ministry responsibilities. However, this will be the first time they have utilized a full-time Children’s Pastor. They are poised and ready to minister to children and families like they have never done before. For FBC Levelland, it is a new beginning.
Moving a family always presents challenges, joys, sadness. With the excitement of moving to a new community comes some apprehension, as well. Will we like it? What are the schools like? What is there to do? Will we have any friends? Questions abound that will be answered, but not soon enough in many cases. I am thankful to God for my family who adapts well to moving, but it can still be very difficult. For my family, it is a new beginning.
It is never easy to part ways with a church or ministry, even when in the midst of difficult situations. There are always many who become close to you, support you, offer help in life and ministry. You also have the children that grow fond of you, the ones that you really wish more than anything you can bring with you. There is a team of staff and volunteers that you have worked with that make it difficult to separate from. It is never easy to leave. The same holds true with FBC Borger. However, we always have the joyous memories to hold on to. In our day and age, social media keeps us connected to those we love. In the case of FBC Borger, my leaving will provide the church with new pastoral staff across the board, new vision for the future, and a new beginning.
Serving God is not easy, we all know that. Recently, I heard two sermons that both tie to the subject of new beginnings. Our former pastor shared that true service to God is giving Him a signed, blank check. This allows Him to write whatever He wants for our lives. God, through His Son Jesus Christ, is the expert at new beginnings. He provides them everyday for people who trust In him. Our future pastor noted that the theme for this past Sunday was new beginnings. As Spring time blooms, students graduate, people move from one ministry to the next, and others accept Christ for the first time, it all speaks of a great God who is the author of new beginnings.
Praise the Lord for new beginnings!
Tonight was a beautiful, calm night in West Texas-emphasis on the calm. A day without wind in this part of the world is a rarity to cherish, indeed. As I sat on the front porch enjoying the light breeze and watching the sky turn from blue to purple, I noticed that I was not alone. It seems that the peaceful evening was also being relished by several feathered friends. They tweeted and chirped, cooed and screeched. All flying and fluttering from fence post to tree branch, from electrical pole to the soft grass below. All different colors and kinds. Yet, with all the range of colors and voices, sizes and structures, they all had one thing in common – they were all care-free.
Matthew 6:25-34 provides us with the key to being care-free. “Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they” (HCSB). I don’t understand exactly what the birds were carrying on about in their various chirps. I venture to guess none of them were talking about the trouble of the economy or their 401K. I don’t think politics or natural disasters were on their mind. I don’t even think they were anxious about their future. I honestly believe they were praising their Creator for taking care of them today. They found food, water, shelter, friends, and survived other natural perils. On top of all that, they didn’t have to fight 30 to 50 m.p.h. sustained winds. What a great day!
God spoke to me through the peaceful evening and the joy of watching the birds. It has been a great day. All my needs were taken care of. My family stayed safe today. I even met a bunch of new friends. What a great day! There are certainly needs that need to met for me and my family. The future is uncertain, at best. However, I know God has already provided. He has taken care of it. It is not my job to fix it or fret about it. It is my job to fully trust Him. Give Him a “blank check” and let Him fill it out for the future. “Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt. 6:34)
What has got you worried about the future? What uncertain times have you concerned? God loves you and He knows the questions and the answers. If the birds can celebrate at the end of the day, then so can you. Trust God for today and for the future.
So, Joel. Where you been!?
I know things have been very quiet on the blog recently. But, yes, I am still alive.
Life can get difficult sometimes, you know. It seems like the more going on, the thinner you get stretched. My family and I have been really stretched recently, and I have God to thank for it. Not in a sarcastic way, but in a truly humbling and wonderful way.
You see, the Gospel writers record numerous times when Jesus withdrew, or sent the crowds away for a time of quiet. I can’t imagine people constantly being around Christ all the time, all wanting to hear, or to be healed, or just trying to understand. Yet, he was never ugly to them, nor did he refuse to meet a need. However, even with the weight of His love for the people always present and always in need, He took time to be still, be quiet, and be with His Father.
I can’t say that I have been the most faithful to retreat to my Father in recent days. When I have sat down with the keyboard poised at the end of fingers to blog, those times have turned into quiet times with God, producing rest, fellowship, and encouragement for my need alone. They have been refreshing to say the least.
But then there is you. You, too, are weighed down with the circumstances God has placed you in. You are not alone, and God has no ill intention in placing you there. You have a great plan to accomplish, a mighty goal to reach for His glory alone. “For I know the plans I have for you”–this is the LORD’s declaration–”plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.“, Jeremiah shares with us in Chapter 29, verse 11 of his writings. I wonder, in the midst of the crowd of people and things competing for your attention, have you spent enough time in the quiet? Have you followed Jesus’ example and withdrawn unto the Father for a time of rest, fellowship, and encouragement. I hope you have. I pray you will.
Don’t misunderstand, my lack of activity on the blog does not mean I have run out of things to say. On the contrary, I have much I want to share. God willing, next week I will tell you a great deal about God’s exciting movement in my family’s life and ministry. Until then, make plans to spend some quality time with God. You won’t regret it, I guarantee.
What comes to mind when I say the word “missions”?
Any number of things may pop up, like mission trips, special offerings at church, or the name of a family you know who is currently serving on the mission field. You may think of third world countries or pictures of little children with swollen stomachs digging for food in a landfill. Those thoughts are certainly realistic and pertinent to the question, but let me ask another question.
What comes to mind when I ask “How is your family being missionaries?”
Though many of us may have a confident answer, most of us would have to really ponder that question. Why? Well, because missions is a subject that seems better handled by the church. Let’s face it, where do you ever hear of mission trips? Where are mission offerings taken up? Who commissions people to go off into the mission field? The church. Missions is one of those subjects that we have successfully categorized as a function of the local church or a missions organization. By doing this, we have turned the necessity of personal and family missions into an optional program. We can now choose to go on a mission endeavor, send one of our kids on a trip, give financially to its support, or commit to pray on occasion for it. We no longer have to be concerned with fulfilling the Great Commission because there are others willing to do it for us.
However, the bible is clear that the parents are to be the primary spiritual influence for their children, including teaching and participating in the Great Commission. This includes missions. To put it more plainly, the local church is there to serve your family’s mission efforts.
So, now you know. Your family is called to be missionaries.
Alright, with that settled, I would like to share a few ideas that will help you get your missions started as a family.
- Connect and Pray: Collect the names of a few missionaries and information about the areas they are serving. Place their information on the dinner table or on the refrigerator where it will be seen frequently. Gather your family together around the internet and research facts about the places where they are serving, or have the kids research themselves and present their findings to the family. Send letters written by everyone in the family to the missionaries, and read aloud any letters you receive back.
- Sponsor a Child. There are great opportunities to sponsor a child from organizations like Compassion International and World Vision. Talk often about the difficulties your sponsored child may face and pray as a family for your child. Encourage and help your children write letters to your sponsored child and pray regularly for them and their family. Encourage your kids to look for ways they can raise the money for the sponsorship donations.
- Adopt a State or Country. Pick a state or country that your family can connect with in multiple ways to help missionary efforts there. Also, consider a family mission trip to that state or country through the church or other mission organizations.
- Local Missions. People in every community have needs. Look for ways that your family can meet some of those needs on your own, or can serve through the local church or another organization to help meet those needs.
- State Missions. Look for opportunities for your whole family to serve in other communities throughout your state or states close to your home. Or, when a disaster strikes a community in your state or one close by, decide as a family how you can help.
- Be Involved Through your Church. Make sure your family is involved in a church that has a heart for missions and provides opportunities for your whole family to be apart. Churches can usually provide contacts and resources to help with any missions efforts your family would like to join.
What are some other ways your family is involved in missions together?
We have an enormous privilege and responsibility to share the Gospel with our children. Yet, in and effort to make the Gospel “child friendly”, we come dangerously close to fictionalizing it. Now, I am a fan of the Action Bible and Veggie Tales just like you may be, but the problem is when parents and teachers rely solely on these types of media as a primary source of spiritual training for their children. This video presented by The Gospel Coalition addresses these issues and more in this video recorded forum at a recent conference. It is a lengthy video, but well worth the time no matter what your level of spiritual influence is in regards to children.
So, what about church? What do you think about it? Seriously….
Is it a place you go on Sunday just to say you went?
Is it a place you go so you can have your weekly social hour?
Perhaps you go when it’s convenient – you know, the kids are up anyway, we have nothing better to do…
Or maybe you go “because we have always gone.”
A better question yet – WHY NOT CHURCH?
Have you been hurt or offended by a person/leader at church?
Maybe you didn’t like the music or the preacher went to long?
Maybe your friends don’t go, so why go?
Perhaps there is a sporting event that is taking place and you feel the need to go there?
It’s the only day you have as a family….let’s relax at home?
As a minister’s wife and before that as a deacon’s daughter….I have at least thought ALL of the above and at some point perhaps they have all been true. However, the older I get and the more I grow closer to Jesus…the more I realize that church is family. I am NOT talking about a building that you attend on Sunday morning….I am talking about the body, the people, that comprise what is the CHURCH.
Recently, I heard it said that the reason attendance is down is because people aren’t committed to their churches…I agree but I think there is more to it.
Let me ask you this…Why family?
Think about it…does your family EVER offend you? Do you get tired of listening to the same old thing? Has there ever been a time where you wanted to stay home from a family event and didn’t simply because it was FAMILY? For the most part, we are committed to family. We will fight HARD for a relationship just because they are our FAMILY.
I know this from my own experience as well as from others. I have a close friend who has gone through some REALLY tough extended family issues…to the point of sister-in-laws criticizing, siblings judging, etc…It would have been easy for her to say “Forget it…their loss.” Yet, I watched a truly amazing thing…she FOUGHT for a relationship, she worked to love in spite of disagreement, she reached out instead of pulling away. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE FAMILY
Back to the church….What IF we saw a church as FAMILY? What if instead of comparing notes on what church is doing what programs and which church has the most to offer – we instead looked and said “Where can I contribute to this FAMILY?” Once in a church, what if instead of throwing our hands up and saying “I’m outta here” and walking away – we FOUGHT for relationships, we worked at it, we loved, we reached out…suddenly the stakes just got higher.
I am NOT talking about simple attendance on Sunday morning…although that is important. Anyone can get up and tolerate an hour or two at a church. What I am talking about is investing in a FAMILY. Putting their needs ahead of our own…reaching out to them no matter the cost, fighting for the relationship.
This issue has me up at this crazy hour of 4:30 in the morning…well actually since like 2:00. Anyway, as I lie in bed TRYING to go back to sleep I still wrestled with this whole – church attendance/commitment thing. As is typically the case, I knew that if I couldn’t sleep God must have something to show me. I got up and after taking our puppy out I began really seeking what God was wanting me to hear….
Acts 2: 42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.”
Acts 2:46 “EVERY day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude.”
As I read these verses, and then the commentary in my Bible – a few key points caught my attention.
First there were FOUR things that they DEVOTED (COMMITMENT) themselves to:
1.) Teaching of the Apostles – ie. Sunday morning church, Bible Studies, Small Groups.
2.) Fellowship – ie parties, socials, special events
3.) Breaking of Bread – they ATE together, they spent time around the dinner table, like EVERY family should.
4.) Prayer – They were COMMITTED to times of prayer.
Beyond these four things there was an amount of time and places that they met:
1.) EVERY DAY….church was a FIRST priority, before anything else. They didn’t “fit it in” they instead made it FIRST. It was a DAILY thing to be together as a church family…not a once or twice a week thing.
2.) FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE – Did you see that? They were in each others homes, daily. Like a FAMILY should be. They were JOYFUL with each other.
I have to say – some of these hit me HARD. As I was lying awake and thinking of our church family, I was quick to get frustrated and angry and start saying “Well they should…” and then I read these points…
Am I eating with my church family? Am I praying? Am I devoted to teaching – not just going since I am a minister’s wife? Am I a part of fellowships with a JOYFUL attitude? Am I inviting people to break bread in MY home? Am I putting my church family FIRST EVERY DAY?
Shaking head in shame…no, not like the church in Acts and not like the Bible commands. Oh sure, I am frustrated with attendance, I get more than a little discouraged to hear of a family going to another church for whatever reason, I am looking for the right “program” to attract families….but am I DOING IT GOD’S way?
Being on staff, Joel and I have an inside close up look at how churches are struggling both in growth and financially. We are more than aware of the stark budget cuts and having to trim ministry things here and there and to be honest it DOES get discouraging…but then I come to Acts chapter 2 and I realize it’s not about the amount of money our church has – PLEASE DON’T MISUNDERSTAND _ YOU NEED TO TITHE (that’s a whole different topic) but money doesn’t make the church grow. Yes, money helps expand the ways a church can do missions and reach out but that isn’t the key to a growing church.
At the end of Acts 2 it says “They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favor with all the people. And EVERY day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.” vs 46b -47.
I have this hunch, okay more than a hunch, belief – that IF we were to do what the church in Acts did – our churches would be overflowing. Instead, we have allowed work, sports, relaxation, entertainment, etc to become first and put the FAMILY last…both biologically speaking and the church family.
Here’s the challenge to myself and to you:
1.) Find a church family that you can be COMMITTED to – in the good, the bad, the ugly. Will you disagree? Yep! Will you get angry and frustrated? Yep! Will you be blessed beyond measure? ABSOLUTELY! Be committed – don’t give up on your church family when things are down or hard. STAY IN AND FIGHT…be like my friend and WORK toward a relationship and unity.
2.) Open your HOME on a regular basis. This is a tough one for me…I have four kids and my home is often not clean (okay pretty much NEVER clean). I have a REALLY small house – it’s crowded with 6 of us! I don’t like to cook…the excuses go on and on…but I can’t ignore Acts 2 when it says THEY MET IN HOMES….I want my home to be a place we can break bread together and be a part of each others daily lives.
3.) EVERY day connect with someone within your church family. A phone call. A cup of coffee. A text message. A facebook post. A lunch date. Somehow, someway, connect EVERY DAY!
4.) Make your church your FIRST commitment – not an “if it fits in”. When your church is having an event make sure that you and your family are there! Make Sunday a CHURCH with NO exceptions type commitment…that means YES you tell the coach your daughter can’t play in the softball tournament if it is on Sunday. That means that YES you are there on Wednesday nights even if you are missing an athletic event or some other thing. When you look at the calendar for the month – the church events are the FIRST things written in – not the last!
As the social/event/calendar coordinator of the Arrington Family – this is my challenge as well. Yes, we are on staff so in a sense we or at minimum Joel – is usually at all church events but I want more. I want a FAMILY relationship, a committed attitude. I want to be reaching out through my home, to be praying with and eating with church family. I want to CONNECT EVERY DAY!
I have never really been much for resolutions. I have tried, and failed. Tried…and failed. Year after year it seems to be the same routine. Yet, I can’t escape the urge to set some goals for the new year. So, I am not resolving or committing for 2013. I am just simply desiring more.
- I desire more of God’s Word. Not just read the Bible all the way through once, but several times.
- I desire to read more. There is so many great, God inspired books out there. I want to read more of them than I did last year.
- I desire to write more. I am really beginning to enjoy my blog and the art of writing. I still need lots of practice.
- I desire to give away more money. Finances have always been a struggle for our family. The money has been there, we just have not always made wise decisions with it. This year we will control our spending so we can give more money away in the future.
- I desire more holes in my belt. I like having to add notches in my belt to make it fit tighter. They call that a “Non Scale Victory”. More empty space on my plate will help with that.
- I desire to learn more. College studies will certainly contribute, but I want to learn more about the world around me and the people I share it with.
- I desire to serve more. There will be many needs this year. I want to help more than I ever have.
- I desire to share more. Time is short and there are still people who need to know Christ as their Savior. No time for slacking.
- I desire to parent more. The kids are growing up. I must be more involved.
- I desire to love more. My God, my wife, my children, my family, my friends, my church, my community, my world – all would benefit from me loving more this year than last.
I am very supportive of definitive, specific goals and these listed desires are certainly not void of such ends. However, if one year from now I look back and I have done little more than I did last year, I can be content and grateful to a great year and a great God.
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 84:2
What is it about squirrels that are so distracting? I mean, really. Are they that cute that they demand our immediate attention? Does the sudden appearance of them startle us? Can the fun way they hop through the grass or scurry around the base of a tree just mesmerize us? I don’t know the answers, but I do know that every time I see one it steals my attention for a brief time, or longer. I know that my dog can’t seem to bark enough at them. I know that people will drive their cars dangerously around one to spare its life.
As I was growing up, I remember my mother asking me frequently to go “pick up” my room. What she wanted me to do was to pick up all the toys, clothes, and other miscellaneous items I used during the course of the day and put them back where they belonged. What really happened was that I would pick up a toy, put it away. Pick up my socks, put them with the dirty clothes. Pick up another toy, and promptly sit down to play with it. A half hour later, my mom would ask , “Are you picking up your room, Joel?” Quickly putting that toy away, I would respond, “Yeeeessss.” A few more items later, I found myself engrossed in another toy. This is how I feel much of this past year has been like. I mean, just a year ago I sat down with pen and paper in hand to set my goals for the year. As I look back at what I did not accomplish, it begs the question – Why? It wasn’t that I didn’t accomplish anything. I just didn’t accomplish enough. I blame being distracted.
Distractions are not always bad. There can be good and even great distractions. Like, the ball you see bouncing out of the corner of your eye while driving, indicating that children are potentially in the road or soon will be. Or, maybe you are at the store and you see your old neighbor John who is visiting from out of town. Regardless, you take a brief change of direction or break from your current action…you are distracted. I have been distracted by good, bad, and just downright ugly distractions this past year. I would venture to guess that you may have had your share of distractions, too.
Good distractions – Distractions that add value or joy to your life or the lives of others. They may even promote your goal in the long run or present more opportunities for success.
Bad distractions – Distractions which divert you away from your goal, making it more difficult to accomplish. These distractions can happen only once, but are generally more frequent.
This new year I would like to avoid or overcome as many bad distractions as possible. I find that the prophet Nehemiah was a boss when it came to overcoming distractions. So, here are a few principals I will utilize this year as I set and accomplish goals:
- Prayer! (Neh. 1:4-11) Before Nehemiah even began rebuilding Jerusalem, he spent time in prayer. He renewed his relationship and the relationship of Israel, a re-commitment of sorts. Part of God’s plans for us is a growing relationship with Him. Without that, we have failed before we even begin.
- Asses the goal. (Neh. 2:11-18) Is it attainable with God’s help? Nehemiah had to understand the extent of his desire. He knew that with God’s power it would be accomplished. Sometimes, we do not rely enough on God’s power, so we get distracted early. Other times, our goals are so large and out of God’s Will that we just won’t accomplish it.
- Gather the right resources. (Neh. 2:4-8) Nehemiah knew he could not provide all the material needed alone, he had to get help. Some of our goals for the new year include personal finances, so, we have acquired Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University to help keep us on track. Find someone who has accomplished the same goals and utilize them as a resource.
- Expect distractions and prepare. (Neh. 6) As word got out, that the enemy kingdoms tried to stop the work. Nehemiah prepared the builders by placing a tool in one hand and a weapon in their other. What squirrels are going to distract us this year? Will they be the same or different? We must distraction proof our plans as much as possible and rely upon God to help us prepare.
- Know your enemy. (Neh. 6) Nehemiah’s enemies tried many times to discourage him and the workers. We all have the same adversary who will try to distract us, he has been doing since the Garden of Eden. But, what we will not expect is the other people in our lives who may serve as discouragers, whether inadvertently or purposely. We must be peaceful as a dove but wise as a serpent in determining whether these people are good distractions or bad, and then not let the bad get us down or of track.
- Stay on track. (Neh. 6:3) Nehemiah never lost sight of the goal to rebuild the wall. To do that would be a huge loss of time, resources, and the trust of a nation. Even if we the only ones counting on us to accomplish our goals, we must keep to it. To avoid distraction will build trust in ourselves and others around us.
- Celebrate each goal, no matter the size. (Neh. 8:13-17) The people celebrated when the wall was finished. We must celebrate our accomplishments, no matter how small. It builds momentum and strengthens our desire to see our other goals finished. I think I am even going to plan the celebrations as I plan my goals.
God purposes for us to succeed (Jer. 29:11). Not in everything, but in everything He puts our hand to. Satan purposes to distract us (1 Pet. 5:8). Not in everything, but in everything that would accomplish God’s will. This year I pray we will accomplish all God sets us to do and not be distracted by the squirrels that cross our paths.
I didn’t cover them all. What are some other ideas we should consider when “Squirrel Proofing” our goals for the new year?
I’m frustrated. I really am.
One of the hardest things I have found about ministering to families is the fact that they are so busy. Between school, work, sports, music practice, vacations, and other activities, they are rarely to be found. Never have we had so many opportunities to be involved in so much stuff. I can’t say that all this activity is bad thing. As a matter of fact, most people would consider this…normal.
Think about it, when was the last time asked, “So, are you staying busy?” How are you to answer that? You are always inclined to say yes. Why? Because it is expected. People expect themselves and other people to be “busy”. If you were to answer to the contrary, what kind of look would you get? What kind of smart remark would you receive? Would you be perceived as joking or being sarcastic? We certainly need to work hard and make good use of our time, but are we are really called to be busy? Is being busy a true sign of success, health, or normality?
My frustration lies where the hectic pace of life can negatively affect the spiritual growth of the family. Hopefully this doesn’t sound like your family: Me:”Hey, we have missed seeing you at church on Sundays.” Parent:”Oh, yeah, well…as busy as we are, Sundays are the only time we can spend together as a family.” Really? I often heard this and scratched my head. But, it makes sense to me, now. Monday through Friday is filled with school, work, practices, homework, and other valuable activities. Saturday is the day families spend playing all those sports they have practiced for all week, or spending all that money they have earned – which is rarely relaxing zipping through malls and grocery stores, driving in hectic amounts of traffic. Saturdays are project days at our home, while others work on the car, or do a little extra work for the office. Certainly nothing I have mentioned is a problem and is all useful. Then Sunday rolls around and our busy families need a day to recover from the previous week of busy and prepare for the coming week of busy, and it is just to difficult to make it to church.
I know that it sounds like I am complaining, but I am really concerned. Why? Because I have yet to hear people with grown up children say, “Wow, I wish our family had not spent so much time at church.” Or, “If only we had spent more Sundays at home, then our children would really love the Lord.” Nope, haven’t heard it. What I have heard is, “If only we had been more involved in church…” or “We made the mistake of not involving our kids in church, an now…” Do I sound like I am pushing the issue of church involvement? You better believe I am. Is church involvement more important than a relationship with Christ? Nope, but the admonishment to regularly meet in worship is still right here.
God’s word makes it very clear. “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 HCSV) This is not a statement made to all families in general. It is directed at people who claim to love and fear God. Do you see my frustration? The families that I am struggling to see involved in church are Christian families, the ones that claim they want their children to love and fear God, too. If you know me even just a little, you know that church involvement does not take the place of spiritual leadership at home. As a matter of fact, just because your family attends church every time the doors are open does not guarantee that your family will successfully grow in their relationship with God. It takes both the family and church working together for there to be growth.
I make this statement all the time to my children, “Don’t stop at the problem, tell me the solution.” So, what is the solution? I believe it begins with:
- Make Christ the priority in our families. We spend the most time doing what we love the most. If we love our kids the most, we spend all our time doing things centered around them. If we love our job, we spend extra time doing things for our job. Christ is to be our first love. All other loves before Him is idolatry.
- Be less busy. God has given us all the time we need to accomplish all we need to accomplish. If we run out of time, it is our own fault for misusing it. If busy is normal, than we need to be okay being different, or Craig Groeschel would call it Weird.
- Attend church regularly, more often than Christmas and Easter. Most churches have several services throughout the week. Try to join one consistently. If not church service, at least a church small group who consistently studies God’s Word and offers opportunities to worship and encourage one another.
- Be aware that time is short. You only have a few years with your family together. Time in general is waning. Every moment counts. How will you spend the little amount of time we have been given to grow you and your family closer to God?
Agree or disagree? What some other things families can do to make Christ and regular church involvement priorities? Blessings.