Before You Speak

Think

The above graphic has made its rounds on social media. Before you say anything you need to make certain that what you say is true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind. The idea behind these lessons is actually founded in the scriptures.   James 1:19 reads, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” The “Think” image is meant to fill in the blanks. James is not just telling us to not to be quick to speak. He is implying that we need to think about what it is we are wanting to say. The “Think” image gives us five things that we ought to think about before we say something.

Now, I could just explain what it means to be truthful, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind. But, the problems with our tongues does not stem from whether or not we realizing that calling someone fat is not kind. The problems with our tongues does not stem from whether or not we know the difference between the truth and a lie. The problem with our tongues does not stem from whether or not we know how to build someone up with inspiring words or cut them down with hurtful remarks. Intellect is not the issue. Application on the other hand is.

Why is it so hard to control our tongues? Why is it so hard to think before we speak? Why do we often feel the necessity to say the 1st things that come to our minds? Is it because we have trained ourselves to be more watchful? Again, in the book of James, it reads, “…no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison (James 3:8).” A dog can be tamed. You can train it to not mess in the house. You can train it to do tricks, and most importantly, you can train it to not attack strangers that come to the house. I have seen dogs so good with little children, that a child could torture that dog, and he wouldn’t so much as bark to get the child to leave him alone. The tongue is not like your family dog. James is saying that your tongue is more like a ship on the open seas (James 3:4-5). When a rudder is used you can guide that ship to where it needs to go. But, if there is no rudder that ship will be tossed here and there by wind and sea. Our tongues will never be tame. Our tongues should never be free to be used to say whatever, whenever. We need to train our tongues. We need to be actively concerned about what we say. And I might add, that in today’s social media world; that includes what we might post on twitter, Facebook, or in a text message. Think before you speak should also mean think before you post, send, etc. For once it is out there, there is no taking it back. As you look at what you feel like saying or typing ask yourself, what would you say if someone said that to you or about you. Is there any other way a person might perceive what you are writing or saying?

Of course, my greater concern is not whether or not we have been trained in how to use our tongues. My greater concern is that we have been trained incorrectly. I am afraid that most of us have already learned bad habits. We have learned them from our parents. We have learned them from our peers. We regretfully may have learned them from spiritual leaders. If this is you, and I suspect it is most of us, we have to learn to break the pattern. This is James’ big point in James 3. Fresh water and bitter water don’t come from the same source. Likewise the words of a God fearing person should never sound like the words of a person without faith. Our words should never be confused with being hateful, hurtful, thoughtless and degrading.

To Those That Make Their Wives “Football Widows”

football

I love seeing the different seasons that come and go each year, but no season excites me like football season. There is just something about watching this sport that can keep me captivated for an entire weekend. If you are lucky enough to live in certain communities, Friday night lights kick off our festivities. Saturday is an all day event. College football can be watched from morning until evening with seemingly countless games on every channel. And of course Sunday brings us the NFL. And two bonus games have been added to the NFL schedule throughout the years. We now have both Monday night and Thursday night football. Nearly every day provides us with a reason to watch the game. To the rabid fan, this can be considered nirvana.

But, to the wives of those whose lives become consumed by football, it is 6 months of not having their husbands around. I don’t remember the 1st time I heard the phrase, but it certainly is applicable. During football season, many wives become football widows. Their husbands tune out parenting responsibilities, the quit working on jobs around the house, yards don’t get mowed, projects are forgotten, and wives are neglected. Yes, I know that some of you men have wives or girl friends that are football fans. But, not every woman is into football the way many men are. As such, men, we need to be mindful of what we are leaving behind when the games come on.

As I said, I love football. I will watch football even though my beloved Bears lose. I will watch football even though my college team can’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag. But, I cannot love football so much that I love it more than I love being a father, a husband, and a child of God. So, what can you do to assure that your wife knows that you haven’t abandoned her?

Don’t make your week all about football. Yes, there are games on seemingly every day. However, that does not mean that you need to watch every game that is on TV. Just because you play fantasy football doesn’t meant that you have to catch every pass, every sack, and every touchdown. It takes 15 minutes to jump on line and check the stat lines for your team. One of the easiest ways to not make your week about football is to schedule certain games with your wife that you desire to watch. My wife knows that if the Bears are on, I am watching the game. The other games are games I would like to watch. However, my wife knows that those are games that I am not emotionally invested in as I am not a fan of the Packers, Lions, Vikings, etc. As such, she knows that if she needs my attention, a project done, or someone to talk to that she can ask for it during those times. But, more importantly, I don’t bother turning those games on if there are things that need done. If she needs a few hours to herself, I can be a dad and play with my kids.

Don’t make football your life. I know that we can be a bit fanatical about sports. But men, when your wife needs your attention, turn the sound off or better yet, turn the TV off and let her know she has your attention, even when your favorite team is about to score. She needs to know that she is the love of your life and not your favorite sports team or favorite player. One of the biggest reasons marriages fall apart is because husband and wife are not talking to each other. Don’t be that couple. Give your wife the attention she deserves. Let me put it like this, when you make petitions to your God, how would you feel if he isn’t really listening because he is distracted with things he deems more important than you? Would you not feel frustrated if you felt God replies to your prayers with a “Yea, Yea, Yea, I’ll get to that in a moment.” If we wouldn’t want God to half-heartedly listen to our requests and petitions, why would we ever listen to our wives with the same disdain for her feelings?

Get out and play the game. If you really want to make football a bigger part of your life, pick up a pigskin and throw it around with the kids. Your children are not going to want your attention all the days of your life. There will come a time when they won’t want to hang out with you. There will come a time when you will cease to be their hero. Use the time you have wisely. Teach them to love football by helping them to correlate football to time dad spent with them, not time dad spent glued to the TV all weekend ignoring them.

Your First Semester of College

college

It is hard to imagine that my first semester of college was 19 years ago. (I really don’t like to think of myself as actually being that old). It honestly feels like it was just yesterday I hugged my mother good bye and began this new exciting chapter in my life. As for myself, I traveled about as far from home as I could possible afford. After spending the first 18 years of my life surrounded by corn and beans in central Illinois, I headed for the Sunshine State. I attended Florida College in Temple Terrace, FL. I would be lying if I said that the transition went smoothly. While I was surrounded my many wonderful opportunities to grow as a Christian, as a student, and as a person, I really did struggle. And while I am nearly 20 years removed from my first day of college, I wanted to provide you with a bit of wisdom as you are now getting settled into your new dorms, your new classes, and your new lives. Here are three tips for getting off to a good start.

  1. Find a good church to identify with. At Florida College there were many opportunities to find a wonderful church to worship with. My first year in college I didn’t do this. Because I didn’t have a car, I was always relying upon the generosity of others to take me to services somewhere. I ended up bouncing from congregation to congregation. As a result I never really identified anywhere. This kept me from having a solid group of people to help encourage me. Instead, what I had was a vast sea of strangers and a few “I think you have been here before” types. I had no one to call when I was struggling. I had no one to help keep me on the straight and narrow, and because I was so far from home, I had no one I could call family. By my second year I began to realize my mistake. I began worshipping with the Belmont Heights congregation and found a family that loved me. It provided me with the opportunity to feel like a belonged somewhere. Don’t make my mistake and wait a year before you start looking. Begin looking now for a congregation of God’s people. Make certain that they are loving, kind, and compassionate. Make certain that they are not just about making your feel good about yourself, but will provide the proper environment for spiritual growth. And make certain that instead of offering you powder puff worship services, they are providing you with the bible based teaching.
  2. Don’t get distracted. This is easily one of the biggest mistakes freshman make upon heading off to college. Let us be honest, for many of you, it is the first time you have been on your own. Most of you just graduated highschool earlier this year and have been holding on to your parents’ apron strings for the last 18 or so years. Without their guidance it is going to be easy to permit yourself to get distracted. I recall one week we had a video camera on our floor. One of the guys recorded just about everything that happened that week. When we all sat down to watch it months later certain things came to mind. Such as, this was only a week? Did anyone get anything done this week? I really don’t recall any studying that went uninterrupted. And I really hope that was not indicative of an average week in our dorm. (Sadly I think that it was). I am not saying that you cannot have fun. By all means do as Solomon said, enjoy the days of your youth. However, don’t let your enjoyment get in the way of why you really are in college. You are there to get a college education. If I could travel back in time I would give myself a severe kick in the pants for goofing off as much as I did. I missed out on some great opportunities from some very knowledgeable men (some of whom are no longer with us). These are years you cannot get back. Don’t waste them by getting distracted.
  3. Maintain your purity. It is said that I feel compelled to write that. What is even sadder is that for many of you, that purity has already been lost. You have already succumbed to peer pressure and felt that living like Tim Tebow was to live a prude and boring life. It isn’t. It is living a life to its fullest. It is living your life without regret (such as getting drunk and then doing something that you wouldn’t want to tell your moms about later). College is filled with temptations around every corner. Don’t give in to them. Your “college experience” is not better because you went to the frat party. Your “college experience” is not better because you were sexually promiscuous. Your “college experience” is not better because you used to try all sorts of experimental things. These sinful actions will find you out. You see, Solomon didn’t just say, enjoy the days of your youth. He also said, “Remember your creator in the days of your youth ( 12:1). You might end up pregnant. You might end up addicted to drugs. You might end up with a few one night stands that end up with her being pregnant. Know this. You can say, that won’t happen to me. I’ll be careful. I won’t get in to deep. But no one says, “I hope I drop out of college because of stupid mistakes I made.” No one plans on messing up, but they do. They only sure fire way to assure you maintain your purity is to abstain from every form of evil (I Thes. 5:22).

Can the Preacher Live Happily Ever After?

family

The other day I was reading Wayne Cordeiro’s Leading on Empty. In his book he listed some rather alarming statistics I was unaware of for preachers. They were quite alarming.

  1. 80% believe that their ministry affects their family negatively.
  2. 33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
  3. 75% report they’ve had a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
  4. 25% of their wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.
  5. Those in ministry are equally likely to have their marriage end in divorce as general church members.
  6. The clergy has the 2nd highest divorce rate among all professions.
  7. 80% say they have insufficient time with their wife.
  8. 45% of their wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental and spiritual burnout.
  9. 52% say they believe that being in the ministry is hazardous to their family’s wellbeing and health.

Preachers are supposed to be examples unto the flock. “… set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity (I Tim. 4:12).” Paul told Timothy to be an example in conduct, to be an example in love. As I look at this list of 9 issues that many preachers’ families suffer from, it left me wondering what type of example are the preachers really setting? Are local preachers teaching, by their example, that great devotion to God causes familial suffering? Are local preachers teaching, by their example, that divorce is the answer to marital strife? Are local preachers teaching, by their example, that family should always be expected to be sacrificed at the altar of God?

If these numbers are accurate, and I have no reason to doubt them, then what the preacher is likely teaching in the pulpit is not what people are seeing in his life. I don’t know how many of my readers are actually preachers, but for those of you that are, I want you to be mindful of your family. I know that writing lessons, doing bible studies, evangelism, and visiting are all important. But, so is your wife. So are your children. Don’t neglect them. Remember what Jesus said to the Pharisees in Mark 7. Jesus condemned the Pharisees because if a man called something Corban he didn’t have to get it to his parents. It had been dedicated to God. By doing so they failed to honor father and mother. Don’t make God the reason you neglect your responsibilities to your children. Don’t make God the reason your wife never gets to see you. Don’t make God the reason your home is still in disarray. Part of being a good Christian man is being a good husband and a good father!

For those of you who aren’t preachers, I encourage you to help your preacher. No, not all preachers are suffering. But, the reality is many are. Many are hurting and feel like they have nowhere to turn. Be sure to send him a card every now and then telling him how much you appreciate him. Be sure to offer to watch the kids every now and then so he can treat his wife. Be sure to allow him to take vacation time so that he can recharge his spiritual batteries. Be sure he knows that his family doesn’t have to be second fiddle to yours.

The Wonders of God’s Creation

zebra

The reason this blog is running a few days behind is that I have been out of town and unplugged from the social media world. (I went to visit my family and see some old friends). On Monday, I traveled up to Chicago to go to Brookfield Zoo. I love going to the zoo. There is something about seeing all of these amazing creatures that simply fascinate me. But, I was not alone. My children were equally mesmerized. It was the first time two of my children got to see a dolphin. But, all four of them were astonished at their sheer beauty. My oldest boy was even given the pleasure of partaking in a show with the dolphins that morning (an experience I am sure he will never forget). But, it was the expression of my youngest upon seeing a zebra that stole the show. Upon our arrival she told me that was the only animal she wanted to see. It so happened that the route we took around the zoo meant that the zebra would be one of the last animals we would get to see. The sheer joy expressed upon her face upon seeing her first zebra was only beaten by seeing the baby zebra come out from behind her mother.

It really got me wondering. When is the last time I expressed such wonder at the hands of the almighty God. To have it quite literally take my breath away. I suppose it was a little more than four years ago when I first held my youngest child in my arms. (There really is something to be said about the miracle that is child birth). However, God’s magnificent works are all around us. Paul wrote, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made (Rom. 1:20, NASB).” His majesty can be witnessed all around us. As I watched my daughters awestruck eyes I began to wonder what I have been missing.

The reality is, many people have been missing it. The context of the above quoted passage is about those that miss the awesome power of God. Now, the gentiles overlooked the God because they were too busy worshipping the creature rather than the creator. Today, we don’t have shrines built to goats, cows, dogs, horses, stars, moons, and planets in our business districts. The largest buildings in our towns are no longer temples built to worship some creature. But, we still are missing the wonders of God’s creation. We are too busy watching sports. After all, football season kicks off this weekend. It begins with the college game and next week we will see the pros take the field. Baseball is quickly approaching the Fall Classic and basketball and hockey will be upon us before we know it. We wonder at great plays. We stand in awe of our sports heroes. And we distract ourselves from the Mighty One whose deeds for outweigh Johnny Unitas, Tom Brady, Jim Brown, or Adrian Peterson. But then again maybe it is not sports that you busy yourself with. Whatever it is, we find new ways to keep us from noticing God’s mighty works in our lives.

It is little wonder that our world lives in moral depravity. Paul goes on in Romans 1 to explain that the end result of failing to see God’s miraculous works was moral depravity. The cure for our nation is not more government regulation. Writing moral laws won’t fix it. The cure for our nation is getting them to look at the majesty of God’s works. To see a baby zebra and say, “Wow, God really has done a good work there.” But, we don’t. Instead we hear stories of evolution. To see the night sky and think, “God made all of that what he really care about is me.” But, we don’t. Instead we hear about the Big Bang. To behold your child for the 1st time on an ultrasound and think, “that is God’s little creation.” But, we don’t. We don’t hear any of these things. We pass them off as anything but God’s handiwork.

But, I am hopeful. I am hopeful because my daughter got it. She saw God’s majesty without one prompt from me. If a four year old can see God. Maybe the rest of us will learn to see Him too.