Tag Archives: children

Priorities Askew

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When I was a boy I had a hard time saving money for things. I would get a few dollars for some work I did, and it was like there was some strange, unseen force that compelled me to “need” everything I saw that cost less than the amount I had earned. Forget the magnificent toy I would need to save up for, my sights were on the quick, easy, immediate gratification prizes.

I didn’t understand it at the time, but that lack of ability to save for the future was a symptom of a greater cultural problem of my day that persists today as well.

What was the greater cultural problem? Skewed priorities.

I was putting my selfish need for immediate gratification above the needed experience of saving or even of giving to others. I was the most important person on the planet.

In many marriages today we see struggles and often divorce because of this skewed hierarchy of priorities. In many marriages today it seems that the kids come first, and everything else come somewhere behind the children. In many relationships, the husband/wife relationship is put somewhere far down on the list if there’s room.

No wonder there are so many struggling families today!

This doesn’t have to be the way of every marriage, however. You can have a happy, healthy marriage if you will, as a couple, decide to rearrange your priorities.

First priority needs to be your relationship with God. You claimed Jesus as “Lord” when you gave your life to Christ. Jesus said you need to seek his Kingdom first. When you focus on growing in your relationship with God and helping your spouse do the same many great things will happen. First, you will begin to change into the person God created you to be. Second, you will grow closer to your spouse as you pursue the Kingdom of God together. Third, you will lead our children by example in a way that will hopefully create a lasting legacy of faith in them.

The second priority in your marriage needs to be…wait for it…your marriage. No! The kids don’t come first!! As a husband or wife, your devotion is first to God and then to your spouse. When you focus on the kids before your mate you neglect the covenant you vowed to uphold at your wedding. You must find time for each other to rekindle the relationship that started your family. Do things you both love to do together. Show the children how to honor one another above yourself, and you will model for them the kind of relationship you hope they will have.

The third priority in your marriage is kids and everyone else. Yes, I lumped them all together. Your kids need to be raised by you, but they don’t need to be the sole focus of your life. They need to see you model interactions with others as you serve and communicate with other people. They need to see your devotion to God and your spouse. A society that focuses primarily on the children is a relatively new concept that really took flight once television was invented. When commercials started targeting children, the culture followed in its focus. You don’t have to make your children the center of your universe for them to be healthy, and doing so keeps you from being healthy in your relationship with God and your spouse.

When marriages rearrange their priorities in this way they see growth and change for the good. They become a stronger family. Thoughts of divorce fade away.

How are your priorities? Do you need to re-evaluate?


Wearing a T-shirt to a Black Tie Affair



Respect is an idea that is becoming more uncommon in our world. As parents behave like teenagers and raise their children to be even less mature it is a struggle to teach kids basic manners of respecting their elders or even respecting the atmosphere to which they have been invited. 

What would happen if you were invited to have dinner with the governor? Imagine you showed up to this formal event wearing your most comfortable shorts and t-shirt. Would that not give an air of disrespect to the sanctity of the event? Then, when greeted by the governor you refused to shake his or her hand or even acknowledge his or her presence. How long would you expect to be allowed to remain at that dinner?

This concept is not hard.  It is not a foreign concept that has to be militaristicly taught to the upcoming generations. It merely needs to be modeled and then expected. 

Within our churches many have created a much more relaxed atmosphere. God looks at the heart and not the outward appearance.  I believe this is good and creates the inviting atmosphere needed for people to feel comfortable coming and learning about and experiencing Jesus. 

One of the concepts that we trend toward losing in our desire to be colloquial is that of reverence and honor before the Lord. 

When we sing, we are singing to Jehovah, the Creator, in His presence. When we study, we are studying the very words of God. When we see our brothers and sisters, we are encountering those who have been clothed with Christ and in whom lives the Spirit. When we partake of communion, we are partaking of the body and blood that was shed for our sins by the One who Created us. 

Malachi 1:6 says this:

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty. (NIV)

When we come together we should be showing our children what reverence looks like. If they do not understand it, then we should be instructing them in the ways of honoring the Lord. 

God accepts us where we are, but He doesn’t leave us there. He wants us to grow in our understanding. He wants us to grow into the image of His Son. “Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10 ESV).”

Next time you’re in worship with your brothers and sisters pour out your heart. Worship the Lord with all of your might. Remember what He  has done and is doing for you every day, and show your children what it means to honor the Lord. God isn’t looking for your suit and tie, but He is looking for your heart of reverence toward Him, and He’s looking to us to instill that mindset and heart of reverence in our children as well. 


Growing in the Desert

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Living in the desert has it’s pros and cons. I love the scenery and the open spaces. I love the sunsets and the monsoon storms. I love the variety of colors in the terrain all around us. I used to think that the desert meant sand dunes and lifeless barrenness, but I now know how wrong that assumption truly is.

One of the things that is hard about living in the desert is the immense amount of sand. People talk about dirt of varying types and textures, but my yard is just primarily sand. When the wind blows hard there is dust everywhere – sand. Even the rock isn’t truly rock here but solidified sand.

Have you ever tried to grow things in sand. My yard is sand with a little clay and not much of any kind of nutrients. There is very little that grows here without being super-hearty.

It is possible to grow things here, but in order to do so we have to add nutrient-rich soil to the mix and provide plenty of water. Even our air is super-dry, so water is an absolute must in the desert in order to make things grow.

But things can grow here. We are successfully growing strawberries and tomatoes and mint and chives and pole beans. If you drive around you’ll find people growing all sorts of wonderful things in the middle of the desert.

This morning as I was watering our plants I couldn’t help but think of the desert of the world in which we live. Jesus provides sustenance and living water but so many people are trying to grow and live without that living water. You can see it in their lives that they are thirsty for something different, something more.

Our children are especially thirsty for this. When you have a young plant it needs even more water to survive than when it is mature. The same is true for our children. If we aren’t feeding them this life-giving water then the world will fill them with the poison of selfishness.

How will we grow without Jesus? How will the kingdom grow without our children growing up in the knowledge of the One who gives life to all mankind? The world is focused on our children. It wants to win them over to its purposes and pleasures. If we want our children to have true life we are going to need to be stronger and more intentional than the world around us.

This doesn’t mean taking them out of the world, but it does mean modeling to them a lifestyle that is healthy from a constant diet of the word of God and the water of life.

If you’re not feeding on the word of God (the bible) and soaking in the water of life (the Holy Spirit) then you’re malnourished yourself. Your life is a desert. Jesus wants you to be a healthy garden filled with the fruit of His Spirit. As you grow into that beautiful garden, your children and other children you’re around will want to grow into little gardens themselves.

We can grow in the desert, but it has to be intentional. His Word is real food, and His Spirit is life-giving water. Let’s feast together and become a garden that transforms this desert back into the garden God originally intended it to be.


It’s not Weakness; It’s Strength

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Philippians 2:5-8
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

We live in an arrogant age. The race of men have deemed themselves worthy of all that is around them. They continually speak of all that is their right or what they are entitled to. When they are treated harshly, then they are consoled by others who explain that they don’t deserve such treatment.

I cannot simply refer to society as “they”; it is “we” and me as well.

Our children get everything they desire and aren’t taught how to do without. They don’t see what they are being given as being a privilege. They see it as a necessity or right. They deserve it.

I think of times when people drive down the road – if someone cuts them off or drives too slowly they get angry. In fact, people get angry for a lot of things these days. We don’t seem to know how to take it easy anymore – our society is a high stress society.

We are arrogant people who say we are right and everyone else is wrong. We condemn more than the lifestyles that others live, we condemn the people that live them. We get angry and make sure we have the “right” to say our piece or to get them back for what they said or did. This is all arrogance.

Arrogance and selfishness go hand in hand. Every sin ever committed had its roots in selfishness. I can’t think of a single sin that you can’t boil down to selfishness.

Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not pointing fingers at a lot that I’m not involved in. I’m just as guilty, though I’m learning to be more aware each day.

Through our arrogance we bicker and quarrel. We see humility as weakness, or at best we say we desire humility but keep acting in our arrogance. We have a hard time considering others as our equals or even as our superiors, though this is exactly what Jesus did. He put our needs before his own as he went to the cross for us.

Humility, I find, is not weakness. In fact, it takes a strong person to be humble, but those who are truly humble don’t find strength in themselves for we are all frail humans. True strength that sustains humility is found in the confidence that God is sovereign and cares for each of us.

It is because of Jesus that I can take the insult without retaliation. It is through his strength that I feel no need to put myself first. It is only through his wisdom that I can put my wants aside for the sake of others’ needs.

I have a long way to go as I seek the humility of Christ in me, but I desperately want it. Unfortunately, in order for anyone to learn humility God will put them in situations where they must practice it among people who aren’t.

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. In fact, there has been a recent study of the most successful businesses in America that showed that the vast majority of those business’s leaders are successful because they are humble people who seek quality in their work without need for praise of others.

Even more so, however, the scripture reminds us over and over that God brings down the arrogant but exalts and gives grace to the humble.

May we become more like Christ as we seek true humility in our lives. May we do more than just say words that sound like humility – may we truly be humble. Then, may we be the catalysts for change in our communities as people see the nature of Christ in us, for if we continue in our arrogance we will only see decline and contempt for the church.

I hope this impacts you like it does me. I want this badly, and I’m going to be pursuing this. I don’t expect it will happen overnight, but I want the nature of Christ to be event in me – Philippians 2 calls me to that.

 


When is Kid’s Day?

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I remember as a child taking note of all the special days for the adults. There are the holidays that they get off work, but even more important to me as a kid were the holidays that allowed the parents to get gifts. There’s grandparents day and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

One day I remember asking, “When is Kid’s Day?”

My mom was quick to let me know that every day was Kid’s Day. I was constantly getting snacks and prizes and having everyone focused on me and what I was doing.

Every day IS Kid’s Day, right?

We focus on our children in all areas of life. We support them in their schooling. We attend their sports activities and ooh and aah over their accomplishments in other areas of life. We encourage their friendships and work to help them to choose wisely. How about their relationship with God?

Churches all over the place are spending more and more energy and resources on children’s programs. They understand that parents are looking to train their children well in the knowledge of the truth of God’s word. These things are good and signs of a healthy church. It is right for us to focus on not just our past or our present but especially on our future.

What people all over are finding, however, is that children – once they graduate high school – are leaving the faith at an alarming rate. These kids were taken to all the bible classes. They did all the activities, but yet they leave anyway.

There are a few things we can do to keep that from happening with our children.

First: Parents, you need to step up your game. Statistics are showing that your children won’t be as involved as you. Especially at the college level. While your children are young you need to be modeling a passion for the Word of God and His church. Otherwise your children will see through the classes you forced them to attend and notice that you didn’t emphasize it in your life and only attended to do your duty. This is not appealing to them. That may not be your motivation for attending, but they see what you do more than what you say. If you are a Sunday Morning Only attendee, then chances are your kids will be non-attendees. It’s time to get involved in a meaningful relationship with your church and the members therein in order to provide the community needed to grow spiritually healthy.

Second: Parents, you need to be teaching your children. Church attendance won’t teach your children. Bible classes, while they help, are often thin on the meatier parts that your kids are hungry for. They need to know that you study the scripture. They need to learn from you. They need to see that their understanding of the scripture is important to you. And they need to see the scripture without all the sunshine and rainbows that we sometimes put in it. The scriptures portray reality and how to live in that reality. Don’t sterilize it to protect your kids. Teach them the honest truth.

Third: As a family spend meaningful time with other Christians in your congregation. One of the reasons that teens leave when they get to the college age is that they have no connections with anyone other than the kids their age. This makes the transition awkward at best and helps to influence them to leave. Invite your older children to spend time with you and your adult church friends. Participate in classes where many ages are present so they can see how to interact among the generations.

Lastly: Don’t wait until they are in Jr. High or High School to expect them to participate and pay attention during worship services. If they can talk, then they can learn to sing. This is a process, and the timing is different for everyone, but I often see older elementary age children playing video games and coloring during worship services. They are old enough to listen, but you are showing them that it is not important for them to do so. Train them. They are ready.

Parents, we have a great responsibility to our children. You may be doing these things already. If so, great! If you aren’t, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just make a decision to change today. As we change so will our kids. Let’s stop the exodus. Let’s begin a spiritual renewal in our children.


No More Absent-Minded Parenting

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Since I was a teenager I’ve wanted to be a dad. I didn’t want to just produce offspring, I wanted to be a daddy who spends time with his children and loves them and teaches them.

In our world today the species of daddy is becoming more and more scarce. Our children are having increasingly difficult problems developing into healthy adults because of the lack of a father. It is an epidemic. I don’t want to be a part of that epidemic.

When each of my children was born I was overjoyed. When my oldest was born, I cried the moment I heard her sweet voice. Through the years those sweet innocent cries have turned into a beautiful singing voice. She is now 14 going on 25 and I can not be more proud of the young lady she is becoming.

This coming weekend the culmination of 14 years of teaching and caring will finally come to a time of celebration. My daughter is about to begin a new phase of life that will change her forever. She is making the biggest decision of her life, and I couldn’t be more proud. No, she’s not getting married, she’s getting baptized.

If I am a good dad and spend all my time with my children, if I love and dote on them and teach them all the morality I can, and if I show them how to be good people but don’t show them the way of salvation through Jesus of Galilee then I have been an utter failure as a dad.

My goal in life for my children is not to help them get the best job that pays lots of money or marry the right person to spend the rest of their life with. My goal is to help them find Jesus so that no matter the outcome of their life they will have peace and joy and eternal life through Him.

It’s as Jesus said, “what good is it if a man gains the whole world yet loses his soul?”

If you are a parent, then you have a responsibility to your children. Let’s stop this epidemic of absent-minded parenting. Let’s re-evaluate our goals for our kids.

If you haven’t given your life to Jesus, then that’s the place you need to begin. It’s ineffective to say “do as I say but not as I do”. You want your kids to have the best life ever? Then bring them to Christ who has promised to work all things out for the good of those who love Him.

If you want to know more about giving your life to Christ, then I’d love to visit with you. God bless you as you lead your Children in the Way of Life everlasting.


Peaceful Easy Feeling

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The days ahead are uncertain. Our world is changing. Our climate is changing. Our country is changing. Or children are changing. There is much to be unsure about.

Does it make you nervous? Are you worried about your ability to provide for yourself or your family? Are you the least bit nervous about what your children will have to deal with as they grow into the new world being created by the leaders of today?

I deal with thoughts of this continually. I have been charged by God to provide for my family, but as each year goes by it becomes harder and more uncertain. Frustrations rise and worry clouds judgment as we focus on what might happen in the future.

When I get caught up in that place, however, I have to remember a couple of things:
First, the future hasn’t happened yet. I can only control a certain amount of what may or may not happen in the future, but the vast majority of the future is beyond my control. This may seem disconcerting to some, but it can be a relief when you understand your role in this. You are not meant to change the future. You are meant to change today. All you need be concerned with is how you live today. Allow the concerns about tomorrow to cease and you’ll be free to live today to its fullest.

Second, in times of uncertainty, there is a God who does not change. Jehovah is not wishy-washy. His promises are not “pie crust promises”. His promises endure through the ages. He promises to take care of us today (Matthew 6:33). He promises that he has a great plan for our future (Jeremiah 29:11). And He promises that when things don’t work out the way we had hoped or expected He is still working all things out for our good (Romans 8:28).

He is the God who brings comfort to the troubled. He wants to bring you peace in uncertainty.

When you focus on Him and live for today you find that you don’t have much time for worrying about tomorrow. Sure, I will still prepare my children for whatever life they will have to endure, but in the meantime I will enjoy them and love them. I will trust that those promises I rely on are also relevant for them.

May you find peace this year. May you be able to overcome the uncertainty in your life by trusting in the One who does not change. He is a rock, a foundation that cannot be shaken. Your trust is secure there.

If you’d like to know more about having a closer relationship with Jesus I’d love to visit with you. I am now the minister at the Aztec church of Christ in Aztec, NM. You can reach me in the office at 334-6626 or via email at jddobbs@verizon.net. You can also comment on this or any other of my articles at http://www.mrdobbs.org.

God bless you as you find your peace in Him.


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