by Paul Stone | June 16, 2016
Being a Dad is tricky business. Now, I recognize I am quite the novice compared to many. Yet, I have been a Daddy to three daughters for over 20 years now and had my share wins and losses in that role. It seems to me that much of being a Father is about timing. Here’s what I mean. I remember quite vividly getting some advice from a father of girls who I would consider an expert. I based my opinion of the weight of his words on how long he had been a father to these ladies as well as the close relationship they all shared and their sense of secure identity in who they were. One of his first pieces of advice was to constantly build them up; tell them how beautiful they are, affirm their worth, and let them know you will always love them no matter what. Solid advice. I employed it immediately and my launch into fatherhood of young ladies was off to a great start. That is until they began the trepidatious journey into their teen years; I was dead meat!
I’ll never forget the day when getting the girls ready for school, crying emitted from the bathroom. I immediately suspected that the mischievous middle daughter had done something to upset the oldest. Come to find out, acne was to blame and her whole existence was forever ruined. I thought I would employ some of my friend’s fantastic fatherly advice. So, I told my now pimple laden daughter how beautiful she was…she wailed even louder yelling back to me, “You don’t count, you’re my Dad!”
I have much more stories of my personal fatherly follies but I won't bore you any longer.
Being a Dad, or a parent in any respect, is not an easy job and requires a massive amount of love, wisdom, and character.
Luke 15 gives us the story Jesus tells of two sons; one who demands his inheritance before his Dad’s passing and runs away with his loot to live life on his terms, while the other is a task master who starts crying your favorite statement and mine, “it’s not fair!” There is this beautiful-tense moment where the runaway son realizes what a mistake he made, is humbled, and returns home to beg to simply be one of his Father's servants. We all know the beautiful scene in verse 20, "And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him". He gave him his best robe, put a family ring on his finger (apparently he had pawned that in the process), and threw him a lavish party in celebration of his return. Meanwhile, the other son hears the music and sees the festivities at his brother's return and begins throwing a baby-man tantrum because he never got a party such as this. I can only imagine the look of bewilderment on this Dad's face; it is a face I am familiar with seeing in the mirror.
Dads of both sons and daughters face many peaks and pits as we attempt to raise our children to be the best God has wired and constructed them to be. After all, we recognize that our children are simply on loan to us from God; we are charged with the daunting task of somehow pointing them back to Him. As wrought with peril as parenting can be, one of the single best practices we can exercise is the development of OUR OWN character. Yep, we actually get to focus on ourselves. The reason we get to focus on ourselves is, it is out of the content and depth of our character that will need to respond from to an insolent, disrespectful child. It is out of the content and depth of our character that we will need to respond to the raging hormonal class-five rapids they must navigate and it is up to us, no matter how dangerous the delivery of the "you are beautiful" messages may be. We must take our cues from the many lessons contained in the parable of the Prodigal Son that Jesus gifts us with. One such lesson and huge nugget of wisdom is to employ the same kind of care and love He shows us, to our own children. It would have been so easy for the Father in Luke 15 to flip out and come unloaded on these two sons of his on at least two occasions. But he does quite the opposite, digs deep into his love tank, and responds in such a wise and loving fashion.
During this season as we celebrate and honor Dad’s, the Bible tells us one of the greatest yet budget-friendly gifts we can give each other are our words.
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but words of the wise brings healing”
The healing of a Father’s loving words is immeasurable. This Father’s day, let’s extend words of life and love to those around us we call “Dad".
by Paul Stone | February 18, 2016
Recently I found myself watching a reality show revolving people in remote areas simply trying to survive. I wasn’t watching all that closely but I was struck by their sleeping arrangements. All day long they toiled for basic aspects of survival; water, food, avoidance of deadly snakes and inclement weather. With nowhere soft to rest during the day, when it was time to lay down and go to sleep, their long-awaited icon of rest was a handmade mat constructed out of woven leaves and branches. I don't know about you but when I travel and don't get a mattress similar to my pillow top with memory foam at home, it's a bad morning. I remember thinking as I watched, "those poor people…wait, they volunteered for this!”
Mark 2:1-12 chronicles a man who did not volunteer to call a mat his mattress. As a paralytic suffering from a palsy, that mat was most likely his companion all day and night. I can only imagine how that mat must have seemed more like a prison. His life was confined to the dimensions of that mat. If he needed to go anyway for food or other basic human functions, he had to rely on the availability and generosity of friends and neighbors. They even went so far as to vandalize someone's roof to lower him through just so he could get close to this guy named Jesus who was rumored to have the ability to perform physical miracles of healing. Those friends who carted this desperate soul around were convinced enough of Jesus' abilities and willingness to be kind to people, they risked tearing apart a neighbor's roof; bold move!
What’s so interesting about this account of God’s physical kindness extended to one of his kids is how the transactions goes down. Look at this,
“And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they (the four friends) removed the roof above him (Jesus), and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven…I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all..” Mark 2:4-12
Did you see it? This is quite amazing. Scripture says, “when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven…rise, pick up your bed, and go home’ “. I love this. Jesus took notice of yes, the paralytic man’s plight, but was struck and moved apparently by the faith he witnessed of his friends.
Friends and neighbors; it’s what we are to each other. I would suggest that most, if not all of us, have, at times, “mats” in our life. Some form of need, ailment, or calamity confronts all of us from time to time. We all have to deal with the “mats” that life forces us to contendwith. It seems there is a big life lesson to be learned in this passage. Yes, it reveals many aspects of God's nature but what seems most striking to me is the role of friends and neighbors and how Jesus punctuates his own acknowledgment of the faith, effort, and kindness those friends showed this man.
It seems one major message here is God’s compassion of thecircumstantial mats in your life. Equally pointed is the message of how God would move in people’s lives, through the kindness and initiative of caring friends and neighbors around them. Is there anyone in your sphere or neighborhood that could use a little help tearing through a roof to get to some help? When someone is confined by a mat of circumstance, a little help getting over barriers can make a substantial difference.
Would you be willing to help someone with their mat? Let us be a community of friends and neighbors!
by Paul Stone | December 15, 2015
Christmas; the perfect holiday and season. There's pressure to create perfect environments, perfect meals, buy the perfect gift, and host gatherings that are perfectly harmonious. Why do we do this to ourselves and each other? It's not as if we really believe human perfection is possible, right? Even THIS time of the year. Or do we secretly believe it is possible and within our grasp?
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Romans 3:23-24
Romans reminds us it (perfection) is NOT possible on our own power or under our manipulation. While this truth levels the playing field, we are reminded that the perfect gift has already been given; Jesus Christ's birth, death on the cross, and resurrection from the grave. Death and sin ultimately defeated, gifting us our eternal freedom!
While hosting a perfect holiday is not possible, celebrating the impossibly perfect gift from God IS!!
by Scott James | December 9, 2015
A Christmas Guide To Family Worship
Gathering together as a family to spend focused time worshiping God is a wonderful way to center your home on Him. Family worship is a visible reminder to our children that God is worthy of our time, our attention, and our affection. In the hectic ebb and flow of life, it can be difficult for a family to settle in to a sustainable rhythm of regular family worship. The buzz of activity around Christmastime doesn’t do anything to make life easier, but, if you let them, the biblical themes that permeate the holiday season can also serve as a center of gravity that helps pull a family into beautiful habits of worship.
For those who have never experienced it, getting started with family worship can seem quite daunting. If the whole thing is a foreign concept to your family, consider leveraging the holiday spirit by simply starting off with a nightly family Christmas devotional. As you start, there’s often a noticeable difference between how you think it’s supposed to go and how it’s actually going. Don’t let the gap between the ideal and the reality stop you! Keep it simple, engaging, and enjoyable. Consider including the following basic elements:
Read a portion of the Word together, either chapter-by-chapter or as a selection provided in a devotional guide. Christmas is a great time to focus on the themes of redemption, incarnation, and God’s faithfulness in keeping promises. You may even find that usually unengaged children are primed and ready to dive into these discussions because the Christmas story is so familiar to them. Capitalize on that and help them appreciate how the manger scene is a part of a bigger story about God’s glorious plan to rescue His people. After reading the text, work through a simple process of exploring what you’ve just read, discussing and applying key themes as you discover them. Ask: What did the passage say to the original readers? What does the passage mean for all time? How does the passage apply to our lives? Hide God’s Word in your hearts by memorizing Scripture together. Repeat verses throughout the week and review them as you continue to worship together throughout the month, perhaps challenging one another to see who can memorize the most by Christmas day.
Try to include all family members as you pray, even if this is on a rotating basis. Avoid getting stuck in a prayer rut by modeling and encouraging well-rounded prayers. For example, you may consider using the acronym PRAY (Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield) to guide your prayer time. Additionally, you may want to maintain a family prayer journal that helps you keep track of prayer requests and God’s answers to those requests. Let your prayers flow from the Scripture you’ve read together, praising God for sending His Son to save us and asking Him to give your family a heightened anticipation of His second coming.
Sing together as a family. Kids songs, carols, hymns, praise songs—whatever, just sing to God! Many Christmas carols contain rich expressions of the biblical themes you’ll be highlighting throughout the holidays, and they have the added benefit of being familiar and easy to sing. Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus and Go Tell it on the Mountain are family favorites that we end up singing year round. A newer song that my kids are sure to request this time of year is Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God. If someone in the family has a musical gift, utilize it. If not, use a recording or simply sing a cappella. Consider using songs that your church will be singing during the weeks leading up to Christmas so your children will be familiar with them during corporate worship.
Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “You shall teach [God’s words] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” As you seek to engage your children with the focused discipleship that occurs during regular family worship, you’ll also find that it is a powerful catalyst for “as you go” discipleship throughout the season. The great truths you read, pray over, and sing about during family worship will overflow into the rest of your family life and are sure to enrich your appreciation of the true meaning of the holiday season. Merry Christmas, and may Christ reign brightly in your homes this year!
by by Craig Groeschel, from #Struggles: Following Jesus in a Selfie-Centered World | November 17, 2015
#Struggles: Our Battle With Technology
- Luke 10:27
- Matthew 6:19-21
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. - Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)Most everyone seems to agree that life is getting busier, crazier, and more frantic with each passing day. We’re bombarded by more information than we know how to process — news, ads, commercials, blogs, tweets, music, pics, and more ads. Crazier still is that we have more devices, programs, and apps than ever before to make life easier.
And unquestionably these new innovations help make our lives better. We can text with close friends halfway around the world and let them know we’re praying for them. We can share pictures of our daughter’s birthday party with relatives thousands of miles away. We can check our 401k, order a pizza, or book a hotel at the beach. And yet with all the upsides, these conveniences we “can’t live without” create many unintended problems.
We love technology and all it offers. But we also hate it. We hate our dependence on it and how it causes us to get out of balance with what matters most to us.
Although many factors contribute to why we hate it, I’m convinced it’s mostly because social media makes everything all about us. We’re sucked into measuring our lives by who follows us and how many online friends we have. We want to believe we’re more than the total number of clicks on our last post, but we still check to see how many we have.
Oddly enough, however, the more we focus on ourselves, the less satisfied we feel. And the more we’re consumed with the things of this earth, the more we feel empty on the inside.
The reason is simple.
We were created for more — way more. We were not created for earth — but for eternity. We were not created to be liked but to show love. We were not created to draw attention to ourselves but to give glory to God. We were not created to collect followers but to follow Christ.
Social media and technology are great. But it’s time to be honest about our #Struggles. And to regain control of the amazing tools that technology provides us.
It’s time to put technology back in its place.
It’s time to love God with our whole hearts