Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Men, Parents

Raising Your Children Without Faith

Ten years of my working career were spent as a social worker in the foster care field. Then, another fifteen years were given to marriage, family and individual counseling. After 25 years I felt as though I had heard and seen it all or perhaps too much. 

In foster care I saw the direct result of youth who had little to no faith training from their biological homes. Perhaps this was not on purpose or to drill secularism into their heads, but more so the lack of faith among parents. This lack of faith came with direct consequences to the child. 

In counseling I saw missing fathers or abandoning mothers, divorcing parents, single or single again parents and lost children. These children, with no faith to rely on, often enter into a world of self-blame, depression, emotional upheaval and/or self-destructive behaviors. 

When you choose to raise your children without faith you are making a choice to have your children ultimately trust themselves and the adults in their lives who have proven to be trustworthy. At one time or another, we are let down by those adults and we have to return to the single thought of self-trust. This creates a seedbed for selfishness, self-reliance and the possibility of continually letting oneself down when discovering that all of a child’s self-effort is simply not enough.

Without faith also means without a faith community – a local church. That community reinforces your values, provides relationships and amazing activities for children. It gives them a sense of belonging to a larger family that worships together and does life together.

Without faith also means without the word of God, the Bible. These words handed to us from God provide the ultimate spiritual training, reinforcement of sound values, love and a source of daily encouragement. The stories of Jonah and the big fish, the parables of Jesus, the wisdom found in Proverbs and the prophecy about the future are all more current than tomorrows newspaper.

When God and God’s Son are not a part of the picture, we are left with our best thoughts. But when training our children to love and trust God first in their lives, we are preparing them for eternity, we are bringing them hope for today and their future and we are encouraging them to look beyond their personal limits to a limitless God. When children are taught to love God first they will have a greater capacity to love others and to properly love themselves in a healthy way. (See Matthew 22:37-39.)

When a child is taught to act on faith rather than their best thoughts or intentions, they are acknowledging personal limits, a need to trust Someone bigger than themselves, that life with faith in God is a life with meaning beyond what parents and things/possessions can provide. For a child to learn to acknowledge faith, they are acknowledging a need beyond personal limits with a healthy expression of “…seeking first the kingdom of God.” (See Matthew 6:33.)

When a child learns to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” they are learning that ultimately their physical, emotional, spiritual and financial needs are met by a loving heavenly Father first and foremost. They are learning the security of God’s loving boundaries. They are discovering faith in their Creator who has their best interest in mind. They are receiving an affirmation of their existence, a security, an identity and safety in the Protector who watches over them 24/7. 

Dads, you are a primary source of faith training to your children. How you live your life and how you share your faith will directly reflect upon how your son or daughter views their heavenly Father. When your children see you serving God, serving their family, serving them and serving others they will identify with a loving heavenly Father. The love and security, affirmation and acceptance from you directly translates into your child’s ability to discover those things from Abba God. And what a joy to hear your children’s prayers, to see their loving acts, to find security in a God they can trust and to watch them follow the God you yourself follow. 

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

Happy Father’s Day to you!

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day

Trying to Reason with a Mocker

For reasons beyond my capability to understand, some persons have become extremely cynical, arrogant and engaging in mockery. Let me try to explain.

It seems that once a side is taken, a mind is made up and this is the way they have self-determined it to be, teachableness severely decreases, if it is existent at all. Being able to approach this person with a different thought or view becomes almost impossible. These persons immediately enter into a defensive mode, with raised voices, anger present and a listening ear completely turned off. 

What makes anyone think they know it all, are completely knowledgeable and/or need no outside input into their lives? Is it the media, the internet, the mocking podcasts, their peers or their inability to admit they could be wrong? I’m really not sure.

But, I did come across one very poignant and powerful answer. I found it in the book of Proverbs, chapter 9. Consider these words:

If you reason with an arrogant cynic, you’ll get slapped in the face;
    confront bad behavior and get a kick in the shins.
So don’t waste your time on a scoffer;
    all you’ll get for your pains is abuse.
But if you correct those who care about life,
    that’s different—they’ll love you for it!
Save your breath for the wise—they’ll be wiser for it;
    tell good people what you know—they’ll profit from it.
Skilled living gets its start in the Fear-of-God,
    insight into life from knowing a Holy God.
It’s through me, Lady Wisdom, that your life deepens,
    and the years of your life ripen.
Live wisely and wisdom will permeate your life;
    mock life and life will mock you. 
(The Message Proverbs 9:7-12)

Wow, “…mock life and life will mock you.” It’s ok to have your opinion, but it’s not ok to close yourself off from learning something new from a trusted relationship. They may be just as sincere as you think you are, but we need to offer more grace to one another in the process.

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Challenge, Issues of the Day, Just for fun

If You Would Have Purchased Apple Stock Instead

Most people love their Apple products. What would your bank account look like if rather than purchasing the new Apple product, you would have bought their stock instead–dollar for dollar? Well, in an article written by Yaron Yitschak found in the Plugged newsletter, this is what you would have realized:

The first iPad arrived April 3, 2010 and cost $499.00, but if you would have purchased the same amount of stock at that time you would have $3,000.00, a 500 percent profit. 

The first iPhone came out June 29, 2007, cost $499.00 and your profit today would be $5,700.00.

The MacBook arrived in 2006. If instead you bought $1,099.00 in stock you would have accumulated $22,500.00. A 2,000 percent increase.

The first Mac Mini came out in 2005 and cost $499.00. Your stock worth today would be $19, 700.

The iPod debuted October 2001, cost $399.00 and with a 14,500 percent increase your profit today would be $58,000. But wait…

One more. The first Macintosh computer was released on January 24, 1984 and the base model cost $2,495.00. If you would have rather opted to purchase Apple stock verses the computer you would have gained 38, 500 percent on your money and be sitting on $960,000.

Wow, that sure made me think. Unfortunately, I never had that kind of insight. While raising a family in the 80’s, there was no possible way I would have shelled out $2,495.00 for any stock to have possibly lost it all. But, I have been told repeatedly that if you like a certain product or company and think others will as well (think Amazon), then purchase a small amount of stock as an investment, e.g., 100 or 500 dollars. 

There is a Proverb that says, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.” When we expect an instant return on our money without any labor invested, we are gambling. Some say that investing in the stock market is like gambling, but publicly traded companies are owned by their investors, you and me. Your retirement account (IRA, 401K) more than likely has a percentage of your funds invested in stock.

What to do with the gain realized? There is another Proverb for that question, “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”

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Challenge, Encouragement

Pigeons Carried Messages that Saved Thousands

Were you aware that the undergarment company, Maidenform, designed and created 28,500 pigeon brassieres? They were vests really. The vests attached to the pigeon leaving their head, wings, tail and feet exposed.

 

Using carrier pigeons throughout WWII was a safe, secure and reliable method of communication. The Army Signal Corps sent out 30,000 messages via these homing birds. They traveled at 50 miles per hour and an average of 25 miles per mission. Pigeons were actually capable of 600 miles of travel if needed.

 

Housed in their vests were messages, maps, photos, reports and even tiny cameras. While the U.S. military utilized 55,000 pigeons, the British used 200,000 feathered messengers. Some even received medals of honor.

 

Today technology has replaced the pigeon. But this story caught my eye because man has this unique way of discovering the reasons that God created certain animals, plants, bacteria and matter. With bombs dropping and bullets flying these birds, not recognized by the enemy as a threat, flew behind enemy lines to deliver life-saving messages to troops on the ground. Their heroic efforts saved thousands of lives.

 

Christians carry a message too, and it’s life-saving. The Bible calls it the gospel, i.e., good news. It’s not political, it’s not controversial, it’s not negative and it’s not embarrassing; but it is urgent. The good news of the love of Jesus to all of mankind is life-changing and it is our responsibility to carry this message to the world.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Issues of the Day

My “Victim Awareness Letter of Apology”

A number of years ago we were robbed. What a mess with such senseless damage to deal with. There were police reports, insurance company calls and descriptions, pictures taken and more police calls after the individual was caught.

 

Long after the damage was repaired and we were able to identify what was stolen, we received the following letter from the minor who created this nightmare. It read:

 

Dear Mr. Prokopchak, I’m sorry for what I did to you and I know it was the wrong thing to do. And if there is anything that I can do for you tell me or write back. And will not ever do some thing like this again. So plz take my apology and I’m really sorry.

 

We were pleased the probation department of his county required this letter of apology and for him to pay his fines. It was a costly mistake.

 

I did write him back. I told him how violated we felt. I told him that it was not good for him or for us and I told him that taking responsibility for his mistake was the right thing to do. More importantly, I told him that we forgave him and we would not hold it against him. Finally, I told him that I believed it had matured him and that he would become an amazing young man with a wonderful future who would experience personal growth through all of this.

 

Then I shared what he could do for me. I wrote, “You could receive God’s forgiveness for what you have done and then forgive yourself and start over. All things could become new in a personal relationship with Jesus.”

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Men

Our Remarkable Mothers

My amazing mother was a hardworking hair stylist and worked most Saturdays.* One Saturday, my Russian speaking Ukrainian grandfather was in charge of my care until she returned home from the beauty shop. He loved mushrooms and mistakenly decided to pick some orange ones that were growing beside an old tree stump in our front yard.

You might be able to surmise these were no ordinary mushrooms, nor were they suited for human consumption. They were toadstools, a toxic and highly poisonous mushroom. My grandfather cooked them. They turned green and we ate them. My young body became ill, violently ill. When my mother returned home and identified what “Pop” had cooked for lunch, she gave me warm milk to expel the poisonous contents from my tender stomach. Then she rushed us both off to the doctor.

The doctor told my mother that she saved our lives by creating a way to rid the two of us of the toxins. My trust in my mother increased hugely that day and my dependency on her increased as well. I felt secure with her presence or just knowing she was in the background somewhere. From this and multiple other incidents in my life, she became a safe place to me.

How about you? Was your mother a safe place for you? It’s time to honor her this week for Mother’s Day. “Her children arise and call her blessed…” (Proverbs 31:28)

(*Note: The above story was taken from my bookIdentity: The Distinctiveness of You.)

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Challenge, Marriage, Men, Women

Are You Living in the Past or the Present in Your Marriage?

Often the present is a window into our past, but it doesn’t have to dictate our future. We often develop what many call, “self-directed commands” from our histories. For example, “I need to make sure my family is protected” or, “I need to perform to be approved of.” These are innocent responses to how we interpreted our environment and they’re not always correct, but seem to remain with us until God deals with those areas. Obviously, as they are revealed, it’s good to work on them, discover the truth and find freedom from them.

Here’s the thing though: marriage can tend to bring out those self-directed commands and most times we’re not realizing it. We observe something our spouse is doing or not doing and it is accentuated in our head due to a historical connection. I am not saying our spouse is faultless, but all too often it’s not really our spouse, it’s us, i.e., our reaction connected to our history. That’s why it is often said you cannot change your spouse, only yourself. The reality is marriage teaches us to love and God uses it (as author Gary Thomas states) to not necessarily “make us happy,” but rather to make us more like Him. In short, one of the ways we express our love for God is how well we love our spouse in spite of their imperfections.

Marriage exposes our weaknesses and when our weaknesses are exposed the more difficult it may be to show respect. However, showing respect amidst difficulty is a sign of maturity. To dishonor and disrespect our life mate is a sign of immaturity. That is, immaturity defined as my needs are not being met and I am not happy. Truth is, in marriage we are no longer free to pursue whatever self-centered thing(s) we want. What we must strive for is what is best for our partner so that it builds “us” and not just me. When we run toward our struggles, we are strengthened. When we run away, we remain immature and weak especially when it comes to relationship.

Finally, when we hold back in marriage due to a present or historical incident, we are saying, “I will no longer relate to you on a deep level of intimacy.” When we move away from that deep level of intimacy and we stop sacrificing for one another, we are on the road to narcissism. And that is so well addressed in the verse that follows.


“…Being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others [your spouse] better than yourselves. Each of you should not only look to your own interests, but also to the interests of others [your spouse].”  (Philippians 2: 2-4)

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Challenge, In the news, Issues of the Day

Earth Day: Some Not-So-Scientific Observations from Six Decades of Life

It’s interesting living life in my mid-sixties. That doesn’t seem so old to me now. I was born in the 50’s, grew up in the 60’s, left home and established my own household and served in the US military in the 70’s, went to college and was a missionary in the 80’s and traveled the world in the 90’s to date. I love the fact that I can now say, “I’ve been around the block.” It means I have lived through many major world crises, four in particular that I want to point out.

 

 

I lived through the drug infested, rock and roll introduced sexual revolution of the 1960’s and 1970’s. I also lived through four “scientifically proven” crises as well. In 1975 the talk around the world and in the scientific community particularly was “global cooling.” Yep, Time magazine even had a cover article on it in the 1970’s. Everything, everywhere on our planet was cooling and one day we would be living in a frozen tundra if we were living at all. Our planet as we knew it would be modified forever.

In the 1980’s the scientific consensus was that acid rain, caused by electricity-generating plants fueled by coal and spewing out sulfur dioxide was destroying our forests, our deserts, our lakes and our streams. Yes, acid rain would eat the paint right off of our cars. Not one fish would be left in a stream due to acid rain. Food could not be grown as we knew it because of acid rain. By 1991 following a ten-year study by the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program the conclusion was acid rain was not destroying our forests and did not hurt our food crops and caused no measurable health risks.

 

The third major scientific crises in my lifetime was the earth’s ozone layer developing holes and weakening. The ozone layer that surrounds our earth is made up of gases approximately 12-18 miles from the earth’s surface and it absorbs ultraviolet light—a pretty important part of God’s creation. Soon scientists discovered the real enemy to this disappearing ozone layer was hair spray, chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) used in spray bottles. Quickly, every pressurized spray can using CFC’s disappeared from the store shelves. By the mid 1980’s animals “were going blind” from this phenomenon. Depletion of this layer is still being studied, but scientists are also recently discovering that in many areas the ozone is “repairing itself” or there is actually an increase in thickness.

 

Today, we are suffering from “greenhouse gases” like CO2 and global warming. Yes, even cow flatulation is being measured by scientists. Climate change is our newest fear from science. I wonder if one day all of the present “facts” will change as the three previous disasters have? I don’t know. I am not a scientist and I cannot attest to the effects of global warming to be true, to be false or to be somewhere in between. I will let you decide that for yourself.

But this I do know:

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. (Psalm 24:1)

The Heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. (Psalm 89:11)

God created our world and He has a long-term plan for it, meanwhile, we need to be the best stewards we can possibly be of the earth because it belongs to God. We must do our part to not pollute, to use less water and become more conservative with all of our natural resources. But we need not live in fear. I appreciate science, but while the “facts” of science seem very convincing, they can also be very wrong and change. Two more things I know about God? He is never wrong and He does not change.  (See Malachi 3:6.)

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Parents

A Crochety Old Store Owner

Down the street from where my mother worked as a beautician was a candy store with every child’s dream of sweet delights. So many kinds of candy imaginable and most of it was one cent per piece. However, on this particular day, I was after an ice cream cone. The problem was, there were too many flavors to choose from. The elderly store owner was growing impatient with me, but I just struggled to decide. Finally, she barked, “WELL, WHAT DO YOU WANT?!” I looked at her, the flavors, the ice cream, fiddled with the change in my hand and then shrugged my shoulders.

 

The next thing I knew she told me to, “GET THE H*** OUT” until I could decide. I was so scared, I ran for the door, ran down the street and ran into my mom’s beauty shop. Through my tears, I told my mother what happened. She marched me right back to that store, letting the crochety old lady know the little boy hiding behind her was her son. Man, did that store owner ever change her tune in a hurry. With ice cream in hand, my mother taught me a few lessons that day.

 

The first lesson was to not be afraid of confronting my fears. My mother was not afraid or intimidated by that store owner. She pursued what her son was too fearful to complete. Believing my story, she refused to allow her son to be treated in such a harsh, unpleasant way. Parents protect. She taught me that I could stand up for myself and it wasn’t wrong to do so. There was no love in that store owner’s expression to me, only fear-filled words. My mother, on the other hand, spoke only words of love.

 

Joshua 23:10 expresses that God would be with Joshua and fight for him. I believe He fights for you and me. Like a loving parent, He sees how His children are treated and responds in love to each of us. You are protected by Him and with His voice of love, encouraged to face your fears.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Issues of the Day, Small Groups, Training

The Look

It transpired right after Peter’s denial as he disowned Jesus. Jesus was within sight of His disciple Peter and just after Peter’s final denial something really unnerving is mentioned in the gospel of Luke, chapter 22.

The rooster crowes and then this happens, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” There were no recorded words spoken, only a “look.” It was done, over, just as Jesus had said it would happen. Peter would deny Him in His presence. Can you imagine with me what Peter felt in that moment? His whole body must have become warm and filled with mixed emotions as blood flowed through his neck to his flush face. I can see him wanting to escape the trauma he felt, looking down, shaking, feeling embarrassment and, of course, shame. What thoughts were going through his mind as fear must have gripped his heart during and after “the look?”

Sometimes I ask a small group question that goes like this, “If you had the opportunity for one do-over in life, what would it be?” I know mine; do you know yours? I’ll bet everything I own that at that moment Peter would have wished for his one do-over.

However, Peter received His Lord’s forgiveness and went on to be the greatest soul winning preacher of the New Testament. He didn’t quit, he didn’t get depressed and he didn’t remain in shame. I believe he went to the cross and made it right. And for me, it is one of the greatest stories of redemption in the Bible.

Is there anything in your life that needs redeemed? There is One who from the cross said, “Shame off of you. Let’s work on a do-over.”

For Peter, the hours leading up to Jesus’ resurrection must have been pretty dark, but then came Sunday, where everything must have become full of light, life and hope!

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