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.

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#P5: The Unintentional Messages Linger Long

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.” Matthew 12:36, NASB.

Yesterday, Jodi and I had the opportunity to hang out with some friends in Destin, FL. It was a great time…both in the alone time commuting as well as seeing and talking with friends. One of the boys there is going into the 3d grade and was stuck like glue (if you will) to an older young man in college. What “college guy” did, the young boy did. What he said was repeated. The young boy studied and modeled everything he observed…good and bad.

That gave me reason to pause and reflect. There was nothing on the agenda for “college guy” to teach. He was not working through a Bible lesson or biblical doctrine or rules to live by. There was no classroom. No formal lecture material, study guides or tests; Yet, there was a lesson being taught and going deeper than any lecture I’ve ever given.

It is the unintentional messages that sink the deepest into our hearts. What we demonstrably value lasts. What we discount is discounted. What’s crazy is…there is no warning label on these unintentional messages. My dad taught me more about financial management (good and bad lessons) as a boy sitting at the dining room table than I ever learned in a financial class. Not more information but more controlling lessons. He taught me to pay the bills, pay them first, keep good records, and never be late. If you cannot afford anything after that, do something else. Get another job. Live on less. Ultimately, when you create a debt, you give your word so honor it. [POWERFUL MESSAGE]. He also did not “tithe” when I was young. He justified it verbally…so I carried his understanding into my adult years. He was wrong. He has since changed but his influence, though informal, was weighty at the time. My children tithe. They do so because that is what Jodi and I model for them. We live generously toward others even when we have minimal resources.

Parents that allow other things to take priority over church on Sunday teach similar lessons. They communicate that there are some things that are more important than church assembly. They allow children to choose to play sports that interfere with church. They choose “family days” at the beach over church. The intent is harmless but the results are long-lasting.

How do we NOT communicate wrong messages informally? Choose to do the right thing. What is it we would want our family to do? If it is a biblical truth, we should always do that. If our kids want to do something else, we should correct them. In my house, we don’t make school optional no matter how early in the day it starts or unfulfilling it seems. We don’t allow kids to break the law. We don’t allow our children to act immorally no matter how much they might want to. We don’t let them come to their own conclusions on matters of faith. One day they will. They will choose based on the values they’ve acquired and most of those through INFORMAL or UNINTENTIONAL messages. We choose then to intentionally communicate what we want them to learn through our “unintentional messages.” IOW…we are very intentional in this.

Does it matter? YES! They learn through our messages and God considers our influence a stewardship. This is why He holds us to account for every “careless word” or unintentional message we teach.

Shalom, CA