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

If You Have Chosen to Be Sexual…

I had this thought the other day when considering sexual boundaries in our lives. It’s one that I suppose some persons will agree with and perhaps others will strongly disagree with. It’s an observation I have made over the years as I watch how people respond so differently to God’s sexual boundaries lovingly written to us within His word.

Here’s the thought provoking question: If one chooses to be sexual prior to marriage, why not be sexual outside of your marriage?

It’s the same act isn’t it? It’s breaking the same moral guideline, right? It bears similar consequences, doesn’t it?

When we sow sexual seeds before marriage, what makes us think we’ll reason differently or be tempted differently while married?

If you are a young person who desires to obey your heavenly Father, then choose to sow into your future marriage relationship by following God’s moral code today. Do not think that you’ll get away with acting out sexually and then have no consequences after you say “I do,” having spoken vows of commitment for the remainder of your married life.

If you have crossed God’s boundaries, then I urge you to ask for forgiveness and experience deep repentance over disobeying your heavenly Father. Your future is very connected to the seeds you sowed in the past. Break off any soul connections from prior relationships. Declare Galatians 3:13 over your life and disconnect yourself from curses spoken or sowed. Commit once again to purity before marriage and within marriage.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Issues of the Day

The Answer When We Lack Peace

When facing troubling times, our human soul can take on thoughts, reoccurring thoughts, to the point that we lose our inner peace. We can also lose sleep, bite our fingernails, overeat, lose our appetite or sleep too much. We each deal with stress and anxiety in different ways.

 

 

Persons who spend an inordinate amount of time worrying can even lose weight, burning energy unnecessarily. Let’s face it – our emotions can get the best of us at times. If these emotional responses become longterm, our physical being can begin to break down with stomach issues, migraines, muscle cramps and the like.

 

 

When something is weighing on me and I know I am carrying extra things I should not be, my neck muscles will tighten and begin to ache, becoming sore. It’s where I tend to physically carry stress. It may be something with my work or my family life, but I’ll know it’s there if I pay attention to my body. While our bodies may not be able to tell us where the issue originates or what it is, our physical being can reveal there is an undealt with, ongoing concern.

 

 

It was Jesus who said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) Peace is attainable; Jesus handed it to us. Was He saying fear could be a reason for our “troubled” hearts?

 

 

Fear of the unknown. Fear of the future. Fear of loss. Fear of harm. Almost any fear could steal our peace. If we do not take on the words of Jesus and apply them to our lives, then we have to worry; we have to carry the burden ourselves. We have to become our own answer. That is an extremely exhausting way to live. Jesus said it this way, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)

 

 

Our worrying adds nothing but more worry. Where do we find peace so we can sleep at night and not worry unnecessarily? The other day, I came across this verse and the answer to that very question, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

 

 

The answer is trust. Who do you trust? If you only trust yourself, you will find no lasting peace. But when we learn to give our worry to the One who desires to carry the burden for us and trust Him fully, He grants peace.

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

Joining the Dishonest

Why do we think it’s more spiritual to appease others or live by conciliatory gestures?  And why is passive-aggressive behavior tolerated more today?  Are we being merciful and gracious or are we being dishonest?

 

Today we write comments on social media or letters to the editor trying to get our aggressions across in an acceptable media-centered way.  But is it the right way?  As well, what about the people in your life who will not tell you what they see or feel, but they will definitely show you or make an inference on Facebook?  That is passive-aggressive behavior.

 

Matthew chapter 18 tells us that if your brother sins against you, you are to go to your brother.  Nowhere in that chapter does it say to write a letter to the editor, bully them on Facebook, ignore them or slam them with passive-aggressive tactics.  We are to go one-on-one in love, in the hope that our brother will hear us.

 

Listen to I Peter 3:8 & 9: “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”  We must determine that part of being a blessing is speaking compassionate truth and words of blessing.

 

One day Jesus encountered an issue with Philip while Philip was requesting to be shown the Father.  Jesus looked straight back at him and said, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you for such a long time?  Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’”  I’ll bet Philip never asked that question again.

 

I’ve had leaders who have loved me enough to confront me with what they saw as a deficit in my life.  As hard as that kind of thing is to receive and look at, I realize they love me enough to tell me the truth as they understand it.  To me, that is real mercy.  Not being confronted toward change will cause me to repeat the wrong I was doing. 

 

I’ve often asked other leaders to let me know if they hear something in what I teach that is culturally insensitive or incorrect.  After speaking on one occasion, I requested input and, low and behold, I was told, “Yeah, there was one thing…”  I agreed and was thankful for their honesty.  If you do not want truthful input, don’t ask, but then do not expect to grow.

 

Another Reason or Three Why We Do Not Confront

  • Self-protection – I am apprehensive because I am protecting myself from a projected reaction that will affect me, so I choose not to go there. Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying, “True friends stab you in the front.”
  • Arrogance – Rather than moving in love, compassion and humility, we feel arrogance because we’re not walking in this sin, wrong doing or what we think is wrong thinking. Arrogance is full of pride and will keep us from changing.
  • Insecurity – I perceive my worth, my identity wrapped up in the garment of this person liking me and not rejecting me. If I confront them, my identity could be shaken.  Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare…”

 

The book of Proverbs wisely counsels there are times we are to overlook an offense.  (See Proverbs 17:9, 19:11.)  It simply is not worth getting into.  But when is it worth getting into how do we confront someone with the truth?  Here are some life-giving ways or approaches to consider.

 

  1. When you expose another’s fault, a sin, you do so in love in order to win your brother or sister back (Matthew 18:15). Compassion is a major ingredient in the why of your confrontation.  “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”  (Proverbs 27:6)
  2. When it is not criticism for criticism’s sake and it is not, “The truth hurts sometimes,” because that can be mean-spiritedness. It must be that I love you enough to tell you the truth.  The spirit of the conversation is love and the vehicle is grace.  (Ephesians 4:15)
  3. Paul the Apostle disagreed with Barnabas about taking John Mark on their missionary journey because John Mark had deserted Paul in Pamphylia. Paul was honest about how he felt concerning John Mark and why.  Be honest, be truthful while at the same time believing for and positioning yourself for healing in the life of the one you have to be honest with.
  4. Paul would eventually reconcile with John Mark. Everyone is worth a second chance.  Give the one you are confronting the benefit of the doubt and trust God for a second chance and reconciliation.
  5. Proverbs says that the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18). Is what you have to say spoken in an effort to bring healing or destruction and judgement?  It takes courage in the desire to bring healing to another.
  6. Stop airing your opinions and move toward understanding (Proverbs 18:2 – “Fools have no interest in understanding, they only want to air their opinions.”). Once we speak what God has shown us, stop and listen to understand.
  7. Be the tongue that brings life and not death (Proverbs 18:21 – “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”) Grace-filled truth brings life.
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