Challenge, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day, Prayer

Revival IS Breaking Out!

First Asbury College, then similar campuses like Cedarville in Ohio, Samford University in Birmingham, Lee in Tennessee and Belmont in Nashville and the list is growing with multiple college campuses experiencing revival fire. Thousands of people from around the U.S. and the world are desiring to be in on this and find themselves traveling to these universities. 

Since February 8, when students simply couldn’t leave the Asbury school chapel, there has been continuous prayer, praise and sharing of God’s word. Students were reading Psalm 86, they prayed, sang a song and then without an alter call students came forward to the alter to pray, to weep and to pray with others who were coming forward and falling to their knees. It’s been described as, “genuine, vulnerable, passionate, biblical and all about Jesus.”

The director of communications from Asbury college told Fox news, “If you look at the world, and you look at what is going on and what Gen Z is facing, I just think they are absolutely desperate for something other than what the world is giving them right now.”

How did it really begin? Well, I received a copy of this text message from a friend who received it from a friend:

2 years ago, almost to the day… I was driving through town, right through the center of the University, and noticed an Asian man standing in front of the chapel alone praying with his hands raised to the sky. I was on my way and running late to speak at a small youth conference at our church… but the Holy Spirit nudged me to turn around and go speak to him. I turned around and pulled the car over across from the Estes Chapel. I walked up to him and he was still in prayer… as he noticed me he walked up and we greeted each other. I asked him what he was praying about…. He proceeded to tell me that he is from Mongolia [Malaysia]…he left his country…his family…all that he knew because God spoke to Him and commanded him to come to the US…come to Asbury University specifically and pray for the faculty and student body. He said God showed him an extraordinary revival breaking out among the youth of America and that it was going to start in Asbury. It warmed my heart and I shared the message of revival with the youth that night.” 

And then came this reply:

Hi, this is Hong Too Leow. It was me you spoke to 2 years ago. I am from Malaysia…may God be glorified in all we do. Jesus has promised us revival and HE DID IT! He is so faithful and He alone deserves all the glory…

I received Christ as my Savior in 1971, during the height of the Jesus movement. Revival fire was spreading across America and the world. Now, after a three-year hold on the movie, the film Jesus Revolution is showing across the U.S. It is the story of the 1970’s Jesus movement. How timely is that?! 

Let’s continue to pray for the Spirit of God to spread the good news around the world and to see lives changed and discipled to follow Christ, one by one. 

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Challenge, Children, Issues of the Day, Parents, Training

What Are Your Goals in Parenting?

Do your children have the best, most stylish clothing? Are your children playing a sport twelve months out of the year? Are they attending the best schools? Are they applying to the best universities or working at well-paying, highly respectable jobs? 

I think we lose our vision for having children sometimes as they compare themselves among their peers and as parents do the same. Too many parents are living their lives vicariously through their children today. Too many parents think that things and stuff or more activity is what their children need. Too often parents feel that giving their children what they didn’t have somehow justifies always saying yes. 

But listen to what Deuteronomy 6:2 says, “That you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands…” Where is the best place for our children to learn this? In our homes, around our dinner table, or when putting them to bed at night. Your home is to reflect something so much bigger, so much more important than the things mentioned above. Children who receive and then who walk in a godly legacy will be the best hope for the world around them. 

Parenting is a sacred calling, a full-time job, a place honored and created by God. It’s a place to advance God’s kingdom. There is a biblical precedent to walk in this calling to the very best of our ability. It is not how much money a family has; how large their house is or how many toys and electronics kids have but rather how much of God is present in the home. 

If we fail to train our children to love and serve God, then our children will live life without God and that’s a scary place to be for anyone.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Women

Love for a Lifetime

They were married for 53 years when his wife passed. 

But this coach had a lot more numbers to his name. He coached the UCLA Bruins to ten NCAA basketball titles – seven of those ten consecutively. He won 88 games in a row, almost double any other coach at his level. He had four undefeated seasons. He had nineteen conference championships. His career spanned over 40 years. And in that time, he had one wife.

Sports Illustrated magazine featured this coach’s exploits, but something about his marriage intrigued me. Even though he lost his life mate in 1985, Coach John Wooden sat down every month on the twenty-first and would write his wife, Nellie, a love letter. He would tell her how much he missed her and how much her love meant to him. When he finished writing he would fold up his piece of paper and add it to the stack, a mounting collection tied together by a yellow ribbon gently placed on her pillow.

So there’s one other statistic to add to John Wooden’s stats, “devoted husband.”

What will it take for you to reach 40 to 50 years of marriage to the same woman or the same man?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Training, Women

Couples, Financial Differences and Discovering Why We Differ and Argue

It is said that the number one and most frequent argument in marriage is about money. My wife and I struggled early on with our differences when it came to the use, the saving and the spending of our finances. But, after eight years of mission work we discovered that we could fight and argue about money or pray and agree for our needs. Both methods are powerful. 

However, it took us even longer to get to the root of our differences. It is in this vein that I would like to share how those differences are important, can be valued and embraced to make better financial decisions along the path of finding financial agreement. 

See if you see yourselves in any of the points made below.

  • Financial differences are about differing expectations (good and not so good) and our insecurities around money. Does money provide security to us and in what ways? Are our expectations and the use of money different than our spouses? Work toward making those differences a plus and not a negative. We need to ask ourselves how do our financial differences strengthen us as a team? For example, my wife was more of a giver than a spender. We needed to ask ourselves how giving helps our overall financial picture.
  • Differing values – one wants to save and one wants to purchase.When is just saving negative? When is just purchasing negative? Saving for savings sake loses its focused goal of saving for a car or a house down payment. When we agree to save toward a goal, we find unity in that decision even with differing financial values. Purchasing simply for spending can be habitual or even addictive with huge losses realized down the road.
  • False beliefs must be confronted. For example: “If you possess a lot of money, you do not argue about money.” Is it money itself or is it differing beliefs about money that we’re arguing about?
  • “Spenders” are also investing, not just “savers.” They are often investing in family fun, the marriage, their children, or toward vacation. Imagine a vacationless, not-so-fun family. And, as mentioned above, sometimes spenders are really givers. They love to bless others with gifts because it’s a part of their love language.
  • Learn to value choices with money that moves your heart in giving, in sowing, in investing. Allow your partner to invest in what moves them and, at the same time, takes finances.
  • Work toward honoring what the other person cares about. Give one another an allocation to spend, give, save and invest toward their thing, their passion. It’s why you agree on an amount and an allowance for each other. This is not without accountability, but allows for far more freedom for each partner.
  • When you have a financial difference, be sure to enact James 4:1-3, pray and ask God in sincerity together!

As you grow through the financial differences, honor one another, and come into agreement by embracing what your marriage partner brings to the table, the arguments will decrease and you will discover more and more agreement in how you save and what you purchase. Further, the older you become, the less you need and the more focused you will be on giving to others!

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Training

Seven Key Leadership Lessons Learned

Early in our marriage, my wife and I served as missionaries for eight years. Looking back, here are a few lessons we learned that may also be applicable to your life today.

1. Calling vs. a ministry or a job. When God calls us to something, we

do not leave when it gets tough. Hirelings leave when the road becomes

too rocky for their comfort, but “called-out” ones do not leave until that

same Voice that called them speaks again in order to move them on to the new. (Isaiah 50:4)

2. Faith is at the core of all you do and think. Without faith it is impossible to please God or anyone else for that matter. Faith makes a way for your

leadership. Your faith will be tested. (James 1: 2, 3)

3. Critics will always be present if it’s a true calling. Your critics will assure

you that you are on the right path. They will come from outside you and

from within. You must listen to them, consider their words, pray and move

on about the Father’s business. Critics will come from the community when

you are attempting to do something for God in your community. Critics will

force you to hear God and refine the vision. (Luke 6: 9)

4. Never stop looking forward. If you keep looking back, focusing on your

mistakes you will inhibit your gain. Never stop imagining, dreaming and

praying toward that end. Do not lose your thankfulness or you will begin to

focus on what you feel God is not doing rather than what He is doing. (Isaiah

43: 18, 19)

5. Your insecurities will surface under pressure. When the pressure is on

your insecurities, your immaturities and your self-preservation will surface.

Recognize this fact, face them and ask the Lord to heal, restore and rebuild

you from the inside out. Pressure produces good things if we allow it to.

Pressure is not wrong; it’s how we deal with the pressure and what we tell

ourselves about the pressure. (Mark 8: 34, 35)

6. Trust is greater than understanding. You will not understand all that

happens in leadership and you do not need to, but you will need to trust your

Father in the process. Trust in God and knowing that He knows everything

that is going on is essential. He makes no mistakes and He is totally aware of

all you are experiencing and feeling. (Proverbs 3: 3-6)

7. Relationship testing will always be present. Often it is not who you are

serving, but rather who you are co-laboring with. Healthy relationships are

a key to any work to succeed. Those relationships will be tested, put through

the fire and some, no matter your effort, will be lost. It is those lost

relationships that hurt and wound the most. (II Peter 1: 5-9)

There you have it, seven keys. Which one or ones are you presently working on in your leadership call?

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Challenge, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Singles, Women

 Marrying Young and the Surprising Changes in the Beliefs and Boundaries of Marriage Today

In my many years of studying, researching, writing, interviewing and counseling in the pre- and postmarital realm, I had little hope I would see secular research come to agree with so many of my findings and beliefs. But the proof just keeps showing up in article after article.

My belief, without waver, is that premarital experiences directly relate to our marriages and that pre-marriage sexual experiences harm the marital experiences of life as a married couple. In the recent past the typical sequence to marriage went something like this: dating, sex, cohabitation, maybe children and then marriage.

Sex and cohabitation before marriage

Psychologist Galena Rhoades PhD and Scott Stanley in an online article titled Before “I Do,” What Do Premarital Experiences Have to Do with Marital Quality Among Today’s Young Adults, now questions this contemporary view of how family life begins in our society. She believes that every serious relationship has certain milestones, like the first kiss to actually coming to a definition of where the relationship is going. She unequivocally states that about 90% of couples are sexual before marriage according to one study (Diner, 2007). She also states that most couples live together before marriage (Copen, Daniels, and Mosher, 2013).

But then she writes this, “Many of them have sex with multiple partners before finding the person they will eventually marry. Do premarital sexual relationships relate to later marital quality? Yes and no. It depends on who you are having sex with. Men and women who only slept with their (future) spouse prior to marriage reported higher marital quality than those who had other sexual partners as well. This doesn’t mean that sex before marriage will doom a marriage, but sex with many different partners may be risky if you’re looking for a high-quality marriage.” 

Dr. Rhoades makes this eye-opening conclusion, “We generally think that having more experience is better [in life] but what we find for relationships is just the opposite.”

Multiple experiences with multiple partners sexually is now actually linked to marriages that are worse off and that having a long history with cohabitating may actually cause you to devalue your spouse. 

Marrying young

Brad Wilcox, a director of the National Marriage Project and Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia wrote an article on how marrying young (by young I mean early 20’s) and without cohabitating “seems merited.” He wrote, “Our analyses indicate that religious men and women who married in their twenties without cohabitating first–have the lowest odds of divorce in America today.” Read that last sentence again, please.

What is it that the author of this study suspected as to why the success rate? “We suspect one advantage the religious singles in their twenties have over the secular peers is that they are more likely to have access to a pool of men and women who are ready to tie the knot and share their vision of a family-focused life.”

It has been believed and practiced for decades that a college education with a lot of dating, partying, fun, one-night stands and living together and then finally career all came first before settling down with a commitment to marriage. The statistic of living together (70%) before marriage is scary high. But Professor Wilcox wrote this, “But the conventional wisdom here is wrong: Americans who cohabit before marriage are less likely to be happily married and more likely to break up.” In fact, he says that couples who do cohabitate have a 15% more likely chance of divorce than those who do not.

Milestones in dating and pre-marriage days in a couple’s life means something because decisions mean something. We can remember when our spouse first spoke the words, “I love you.” We can recall where we were when we became engaged. We either loved or endured premarital counseling, but it was another milestone, a decision we made for us and our success in marriage. 

Forty-Seven years of marriage 

Over 47 years ago my wife and I abstained sexually out of total love, commitment and respect for one another–keeping for marriage what belongs only to marriage. We did not cohabitate because we knew this one act reduces the chances of a healthy lifelong marriage. We had a large wedding because we wanted others to celebrate with us, hold us accountable and enter into our joy of oneness. We went on a two-week honeymoon dropping out of life as we knew it to simply work on becoming one. We did not know one another intimately (sexually) prior to marriage, but we discovered the joy of purity meeting purity night after night.

It was not a college education, financial security, sexual experiences or age that helped to create these milestones, it was love for God and a desire to obey His truth. We were married in our early twenties and we continue to celebrate milestones in our marriage. We look forward to celebrating the milestone of half a century of marriage in the not-too-distant future.

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Challenge, Children, Issues of the Day, Parents, Training

Rebellion in Our Hearts

Rebellion in our hearts or in the heart of a young person is never attractive. It is born out of resistance. And while there may be good causes for acts of resistance, a rebellious heart is often closed to change, closed to reason and closed to correction. (See Proverbs 13:1, 18; 15:10.) 

Rebellion has a main ingredient that travels with it: pride. A pride-filled heart will lead us into rebellion, because at its core it is the act of defending ourselves, our thoughts and our actions, be they right or wrong.

Having been a rebellious teenager and having a rebellious teenager does not make one an expert, but it does afford certain observations. (See Proverbs 17:25.) If we are astute enough to recognize our own heart or the heart of a child, rebellion can be addressed. 

Consider these four causes of rebellion:

  1. When rules and regulations are strictly enforced through a spirit of legalism, often rebellion is an end result. Love is absent in these types of relationships or at the least, not spoken and/or not felt.
  2. Rebellion can be an attempt to separate through resistance from family members like parents, siblings or bosses.
  3. When one engages and relates with other rebellious persons, the influence will be difficult to overcome. It will force an alignment with the group’s rebellious words and actions.
  4. Wanting all authority to lead one’s own life without the ability to take on all responsibility will foster rebellion. Often teenagers desire all authority to make their own decisions but since they cannot take all responsibility, that authority cannot and should not be fully given.

Since Genesis chapter three, rebellion is found in the human heart and detected even at very early ages. It was mankind’s desire to do it his way. We were created to live in the perfection of a Genesis one and two world by God, but when we chose to rebel we found ourselves in a fallen, Genesis three, sin-filled world.

It was God’s heart to place mankind in a perfect garden, a perfect world with perfect relationship and by Genesis chapter three, God giving us choice, we chose to disobey. That disobedience caused a separation from our Creator and now thousands of years later we still suffer the consequences of wanting our own way, outside of God’s way. (See Proverbs 21:30.)

If we are rebelling against God or His written word, we are emphatically saying our way is a better way or, we think we know better than God knows. Those thoughts reek of pride. (See Proverbs 18:12.) We are saying to God, “I want all authority over my life.” And here is the strange thing about that: God will let you have it. There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death (Proverbs 14:12).

And you will be one miserable human being, quickly coming to the end of yourself. That’s the thing about rebellion: it is building a wall of separation, a wall that closes oneself off to input and a wall that stunts personal growth. It’s your wall, you’re in charge of it and you’re in control. It’s dangerous and it will become disastrous. (See Proverbs 16:25.)

If we sense any rebellion in our heart, we need to give up. Surrender. Leave selfish desires. Leave selfish ambitions and give our thoughts and actions to God, asking Him to shape our heart toward His. 

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Just for fun

We’re Five Days Closer to Christmas

The gifts are unwrapped, the cookies are fewer, the surprises and anticipations of Christmas are now behind us. A New Year is just around the corner and we are five days closer to Christmas 2023!

Christmas is a temporal celebration, but the love story found within it is an eternal one. We are forced to consider that our earthly existence is brief compared to eternity. So let’s live that way in 2023. Give the King born in a manger the gift of your life to carry out His will and His mission on the earth. 

What are your hopes and dreams for a brand-new year, two thousand and twenty three? Every day is a gift; every breath is an opportunity. 

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Just for fun, Parents

Merry Christmas: Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle or Santa Claus?

The story of Santa Claus goes back to the 3rd century. A patron saint, a monk named Saint Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, modern day Turkey. He was known as the protector of children. The name we use today, Santa Claus, was derived from the Dutch nickname of Sinter Klaas.

In 1881 artist Thomas Nast, drew what we recognize as our modern-day Santa: a plump, cheery and white bearded man. It was Nast who provided Santa’s bright red suit and North Pole workshop with elves and a wife, Mrs. Claus. Prior to this image, he was often depicted as a gaunt or scary-looking man.

In the 1890’s the Salvation Army began to use this image by dressing their donation collectors in Santa Claus suits. But where this image received a huge boost was from none other than Coca Cola.

Santa has been featured in Coke ads since the 1920’s and the image used was close to Nast’s original art work. From 1931 to 1964 Coca-Cola ads showed Santa delivering toys, reading his scroll-styled lists and always enjoying a Coke.

While Santa Claus and his imagery are fun for children around the world, it was a very real Catholic monk who was said to spend all his money on rescuing young persons from slavery or prostitution. He gave away his inherited wealth to help the poor and the sick. It is that St. Nick that sounds the most like the Christ, the first six letters of the word Christmas.

May we all display the true meaning and character of this Christ by serving others, giving gifts of meaning and remembering the needy around the world. Let’s celebrate Jesus, the true meaning of Christmas!

A  special Christmas song for you.

And, a special video for your children and grandchildren to enjoy!

(Note: Much of the history above is taken from History.com)

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, History, Issues of the Day

Two Days Until Christmas

Brief thoughts leading up to the celebration of Christ’s birth and a Christmas carol, Drummer Boy.

Drummer boys. Were they there playing a drum solo for Mary and the baby that night? Doubtful, but drums are still my favorite instrument and I’d love to have played for Him.

A new born King to see

Pa rum pum pum pum, 

Our finest gifts we bring…

What gifts do you bring? Gold prices are up; that’s a great gift. Diamonds are still pretty meaningful and pricey. 

But those are not the gifts He’s looking for. He was sent to earth to dwell in you. Bring Him your best gift: you.

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