Peppers, Proverbs, and changing the world

mammoth-jalapeno-hot-pepperThis morning as I was making my lunch and preparing to start my “public” day, I had an incredible moment of reflection. When I was a small child, now more than forty years ago, I was spending the summer with my maternal grandparents. My grandfather (Papa Conner) often ate hot peppers with his dinner meal. One evening, he offered me one of his peppers (and if memory serves, may have even induced me to eat it with the offer to pay me a dollar if I did). I recall eating a bite (about half of the pepper and being less than impressed with the flavor. It was like a “bell pepper” taste. Then I went for the second bite. This one included the seed pod which, by the way, created a five-alarm fire in my mouth and caused me to never want peppers again (at least until much later in life). I remember as I was taking the second bite, that my granddad protested as I bit down. He knew what was going to happen, but I was clueless. He could have explained it a hundred times I would never have grasped the fact that the seedpod is hot; yet, one good bite of experience and I can go back to that moment after four decades like it was YESTERDAY! (My mouth is watering at the thought of it).

It was the DOING that caused the KNOWING to stick with me later.

DOING makes KNOWING STICK!

Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.     Proverbs 22:6.

This is the heart of the writer’s instruction in Proverbs. Train a child in the things of God early and God will bring them back to mind. Now this is a principle and not a universal formula. Not all children return to God but many do…and if the training is compelling, then so is the draw to remember later and return.

There is much evidence to support that the love of our hearts, our affections, follow our actions. We DO something and then we come to LOVE something. This is one of the reasons that God tells us to train up our children. (It is also why He gives us commands to obey even before we echo David’s words and declare that we love to obey the commands (Ps 119:47).

Mom and Dad, if you want to make a difference long-term with your children and shape a world in the process…teach them by training. Make bible reading an experience rather than an exhortation. Practice prayer rather than merely promote it. Show them how you seek the Lord’s wisdom rather than merely saying God is wise. Respond to your failures with repentance rather than merely reciting that repentance is required by God.

This type of training will take root in the heart and maybe…when they are old…they will remember it, like the taste of a pepper at dinner forty years ago.

Our Values on Display

Open Bible 1I was blessed this morning in my morning Scripture reading as I began the Gospel of Luke (after many, many months in the Old Testament Prophets). In the first chapter I was struck afresh by an observation from a passage in the Gospel of Luke.

In Luke 1:13-16, the angel Gabriel announces to Zacharias the priest that he will have a son in response to his prayers and according to the purpose of God (See Galatians 4:4-5 for a little perspective on God’s timing and purpose). These are the “broad strokes” of the announcement:

  • Your wife (against all odds and outside of what is expected to be physically possible Lk 1:18) will bear you a son.
  • You will give him the name John
  • Many people will rejoice at his birth
  • He will be great in the sight of the Lord
  • He will be consecrated to God by solemn vow (drink no wine)
  • He will be filled with the Holy Spirit
  • He will turn many of the sons of Israel back to God!
  • He has been chosen by God to be the forerunner to the Messiah.

I was struck by how this “father” must have valued the announcement of his son’s future life. Nothing was said of John’s success in business, academic achievement or how many trophies he would receive playing sports. Noting was spoken about his prom date or the beauty of the woman he would marry. These are things we tend to value, but they are (I suggest) not the most significant. John’s existence had everything to do with his relationship to the Messiah and his usefulness to the purpose of God as the forerunner of the Christ.

Here is the value question: If God announced to you that your child will be a great missionary and live in obscurity; or, your child will be greatly misunderstood and vehemently opposed by many because of His religious faith; or, your son will be a preacher whose stance on truth will cost him his life…do WE value the purpose of God in that announcement the same as we do the promise of academic, athletic, or business success? Are we as “stoked” about our child sharing his faith as we are his receiving a $1,000 scholarship for a high school essay?

Ultimately, the answer speaks more about our heart and our values and our view of God’s sovereign calling…than it does about anything our child achieves or has assigned.

Perhaps we should seek the answer from the One who looks deeply into our souls. Perhaps in so doing, we will recognize error in our values…or maybe we will be affirmed in them! There is no greater place to be than in the midst of the will of God. To this end, we should pray, and yield, and seek, and long.

Lord bless!

Dads, moms, and faith for generations to come

Bible glasses (2)Is Faith “Taught or Caught?” The Answer is YES! In this article in the Huffington Post, which may or may not be on your daily culture reading list, we find the conclusions drawn from a recent survey on the factors that most effectively contribute to faith practices in young adults. In short…parents who communicate and demonstrate the importance of faith in THEIR LIVES through their PROCLAMATION and their ACTIONS transmit the importance of faith to their children/teens…and it “sticks” through their young adult years when most studies claim that most people fall away from their faith.

Note:

“…sociologists Christopher Bader and Scott Desmond found that children of parents who believe that religion is very important and display their commitment by attending services are most likely to transmit religiosity to their children.

Of course it is anecdotal on my part, but I believe that my faith was directly communicated by my parents…both good and bad. I came to faith in Christ at a church service when my dad AND mom took me to church (age 9). When “mean people” in that church acted judgmentally toward my dad (age 10 for me), we stopped attending. I did not see the inside of another church until around age 14 or so. Then, dad took us to another church where he was committed and served and invited me to serve alongside him (as a Junior Usher no doubt). I even began wearing a slick little sport coat to church and everything.

In fact, dad taught me my early beliefs about “giving an offering” at church in those early days. I still remember the message he taught me (which was biblically wrong then and he would reject himself today). Later in my late 20s and 30s as I felt the calling to ministry and began to preach, Dad again shaped my faith. He went with me on most occasions that I preached in other churches. [This deserved the big award…since those were horrible sermons…but he went and offered great encouragement. He even called around to help me schedule additional opportunities.]

The point is, I learned much about the importance of faith through what my dad said and did. Honestly, I learned much of the substance of theology, hermeneutics, homiletics, apologetics, etc. from my pastor, Bible college, and Seminary…but my “heart” for “faith” was first transmitted to me by my dad. Many of the early anchor points (good and bad) were transmitted to me by my dad.

So, as a pastor and dad myself now, it often grieves me when I see moms and dads transmitting dangerous faith lessons to their kids: when they prioritize travel ball over church, or cheer practice over student ministry, or fishing over soul winning. I am grieved when they teach their kids to hold loosely to community allegiance by changing churches so that their kids can experience the latest “cool” thing in ministry (insert your flashiest new outreach or ministry program here). I am grieved when faith is rarely discussed in the home or when opportunities to demonstrate reliance on God are passed up in times of major decisions or planning.

In closing let me offer one last tidbit: moms and dads, you communicate more about the importance of depending on God when you speak of and live dependently. Actually PRAY before major decisions. Actually plan vacations around church events. Actually be “caught” reading your Bible and serving in your church. If you do or do not…you’ll be amazed at how your faith shapes the faith of your children throughout their lives.

NOTE: I spoke of my dad throughout this article. In no way am I diminishing my mom’s contribution. She was a woman of faith. She was there throughout the journey. I simply watched and emulated my dad more. I believe part of that is the fact that, well you know, I am a guy. The other part relates to the biblical reality that dads have amazing and God-ordained leadership roles in the lives of their children. Single moms have it tough. Married moms with husbands who are disinterested in practicing their faith have it TOUGHER since mom now has to counteract the influence of the father and attempt to win her children to a strong faith position even though her husband is ACTIVELY leading the children to another faith position, though not faith in God. THANK GOD my mom did not have to overcome my dad’s influence…and THANK GOD she too was influenced by it and communicated a consistent message to her children.