I had the opportunity to teach Sunday School class at a church near an Army base. As I spoke about Christ's example of helping those in need, I commented on the fact that we all have needs. People everywhere are hurting. You know them, though you may not even know of their pain.
The ice broke. It was a blessing to see that people were getting the fact that each person around us has needs. Sometimes the needs are blatant. Often the needs are covered over by the smokescreen of pride. Because the needs are masked over, the needs go unmet and the pain goes on day after day. I recently sat in a class at church where a man revealed some of the day-in day-out, real pain that was going on in his marriage and with his children. Many of us in the class didn't even know what to say, not because we were shocked at the greatness of his need, but because he had boldly stated that he needed our prayers and help. We just don't do that! What a shame that our pride so hinders God's plan of using others to minister to our needs. God speaks of His desire for us in our ministry to one another in Hebrews 10:24 when He writes "let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works."
Notice first that the writer is telling each of us to "consider." It is not just the pastor's job to do the considering. This isn't a professional's task. It is each person's responsibility to understand what is going on in the lives of the people around them.
Second, this issue is dealt with on a linear basis. We are all equals. As people we all need others looking out for us and helping us with our needs and problems. It is normal to need counsel. God tells us in Proverbs (1:5, 7; 11:14; 19:20; etc.) that only a fool tries to live life on his own understanding, with no outside counsel. Beginning in the garden in Genesis we see that people need wise counsel so they don't "lean on their own understanding" and fall.
Third, this command requires action to complete. Each of us must be provoking (prodding) others. As a child I learned that a cattle prod (an electrical gadget that produces a high voltage shock) provides enough impetus to move an 1800 pound bull into the corral. (I might add that it can really make an armadillo move also!) I am not saying that we need to go out and buy a cattle prod, but we must have the guts and humility, and time to approach a person and prod them, provoking (encouraging) them toward God's answers for life. Finally, when it comes to helping a person with their needs, your opinions may have a place, but people always need God's opinion. Though we should certainly use our own life experiences as a testimony of God's work in our lives, the best prod we could use is Scripture. We must be prepared by knowing how to point them to God's way of life and Biblical principles that will help them answer their problems and needs. As God says in verse 24, "provoke unto love and good works."
God gives us Christ as the greatest example of how He wants us to reach out and help others with their needs. We are to focus our time on showing people that we care, and focus our minds on understanding one another so that we are able to help one another through daily life. The command is to learn about (consider) the person so that you can prod (encourage) them on to love (giving) and good works (glorifying God by obedience to His commands). Whether at home, at work, at school or church--wherever you are with people--reach out. Search for opportunities to bring the hope of God to the needy people all around us.
I believe we need to answer the above two questions (Click Here to read Part 1) by first focusing our hearts on God. Deuteronomy 6:4-6 are very clear that we must not just consider that God is important. “God is great, God is good, now we thank him for our food” (our normal, daily acknowledgement of God) is not an end, it is a beginning! The verses clearly say that we are to “love the Lord our God with all [our] heart, and with all [our] soul, and with all [our] might.”
I would love a big HD TV (bigger is better!). I would also love a Convertible Vette (’72, black). My idol of choice is comfort. As Paul Tripp outlines in his book Age of Opportunity, it could just as well be control, success, respect, or appreciation. My point is that there are many choices that we make each day that move our hearts away from worshiping God and toward worshiping the creation (and ultimately self, see Romans 1:25). It isn’t that it is a sin to get, have, and enjoy, but is that our focus? If that is our focus then ultimately what we pass on to our children is a focus on self. What are you passing on?
Do we really love the Lord with all our might. Is my whole heart totally given to Him? If it is, my schedule often teaches differently. How about yours? As Luke 6:45 states that our behavior is a revealer of our hearts, what does our schedule reveal about where our hearts are focused? What should a person that is loving the Lord with all really look like? Back in Deuteronomy we see an answer. Chapter 6 verse 20 reveals that our lives should provoke our children to ask why we live so differently from everybody else, and what do all these things God has commanded really mean? A life that is “caught up” with God, isn’t “caught up” with houses, cars, electronics, vacations, retirement, clothes, and restaurants (Mt. 6:24. Deuteronomy 6:10-12 gives an eerily accurate warning to avoid this. Verse six of the same chapter says that we are to take the words that God has communicated to us about life (His commands, statutes, testimonies) and make them a part of our hearts (inner man—the real us!).
Secondly, we must free up the resources to enable us to communicate that focus to our spouse and children. I believe that in our society it takes money to live (in fact, more and more of it!). If I said otherwise I would lose all credibility as a (somewhat) sane person. Chapter 6, verses 11-14 warn that when we have houses full of stuff, and life is easy, beware of leaving your commitment to God and serving and worshipping what the others around you are serving and worshipping. Are these verses applicable in our culture? Are they applicable to you and me? Yea. We need a shift in thinking from, “how much can I get to live on,” to “how much do I need to live on.” We all have different incomes and expenses. Some expenses are, to a large degree fixed, some are discretionary. We have all heard the saying, “you either have time or money.” I fear that we have lost track of the fact that the pursuit of money takes time. Time is something we think a lot about, but perhaps we don’t think about just how valuable it is. When we are given the responsibility to diligently teach our children about our love for God and His instructions for life, verse 7 expresses the value of time. In verse 7 of Deuteronomy 6 God commands us to take the time all through the day to have proximity and purpose in our interaction with our children. A good summary of the teaching in these verses would be, “all throughout your day, diligently teach your children about the God that resides in your heart.” That takes time, making time immensely valuable. A new car, a bigger house, nice clothes, and eating out are fun luxuries, but because of the time investment required to get, have, and enjoy, their cost can be exponentially more than their value! Some of those things can hinder and even take away our ability to influence our children (and spouse) toward God.
If you need a new method of time management, books abound, read away. My hope here is that you will look closely at the two key thoughts. As you head toward the end of the year take time to reflect on the focus of your heart. What needs to change about your focus? After you evaluate, and adjust your heart’s focus, assess your time resources. With the correct focus you will find the time resources you are looking for. Make those adjustments that need to be made so you can free up your resources to have the time to reach your children’s hearts. A summary of the truths found in Deuteronomy 6: 20-25 reveals the fruit of living God’s commands for life:
So that, when your child asks you in time to come, saying, what is all this Bible and God stuff, you will hear their question, wrap your arms around them and tell them all that God has done for you and how much you love Him.
Americans live at a frantic pace. I'm an American. I'm not sure what the rest of the world is experiencing, but contemporary life here in the good ole’ U.S. of A. just doesn’t fit into Mark Twain’s lazy days of floatin’ down the Mississippi. That is a bygone era (if there ever was one). Most of us find ourselves immersed in our own very busy lives.
Have you had the same moments of reflection I've had that provoke me to wonder where it all went? What's more - how is this busy life impacting my family? What's it doing to my relationship with my wife? When am I finding time to influence my children and love them toward God? The example I am living, is it leading those I love to a stronger faith in God? As Christian parents, we have a lot of things to accomplish in this time-limited, time-pressured life. Though we often get the required tasks done, in my observations, few of us get the necessary tasks done.
After reading something like that, it's easy to walk away with a serious guilt trip. That's not my intention. As I look at my own wife and children and their multitude of needs, I become even more frustrated with the pressures of my own life. Sometimes it's like I'm watching a movie where it's plain to see something bad is going to happen. I want to yell out, “No, don’t do it, can’t you see what will happen?”
But no one listens.
The scene just keeps on rolling.
Have you ever felt this way? You can see something bad is going to happen, but you're helpless to change it? What do we do? Too often we simply plod along anyway. “The show must go on,” you know!
No, the show need not go on. If it must, perhaps it needs to without you! What must go on is much simpler than what's being pressed upon us by our culture (and well-meaning Christians). "What must go on" is that we must encourage our spouses to love and good works, to walk with God (Hebrews 10:24). We must dedicate time to our children so they can learn from us who God is and why we serve Him with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength (Deuteronomy 6).*
As a simple test of initial perceptions; have your spouse ask your children what you do and what you love. I'm humbled to think of what my children would say. They see me spend a lot of time and focus on my job and the daily details of life. I'm not sure they would initially say that I spend my time serving God. I'm afraid they would see me as a person that runs a boys' home. I hope they would say that I love God and mommy, but they might equally say that I love to take naps, watch TV, spend time at the office, hunt, fish, travel, golf, et. al.
I'm not questioning whether you or I love God. That's for another time. I'm assuming we love God. The question of the moment is two-fold.
1. Do we live like we love God more than the details, pleasures, and duties of our daily life (Deuteronomy 6:4-6)?
2. Do we take the time to communicate that to our spouses and children (Deuteronomy 6:7-9,20-25)?
If, by chance, they miss that, then they miss everything of real value, for eternity!
*For more on how to teach our children to love God with their whole being, check out the book Everyday Talk. ( www.amazon.com/Everyday-Talk-Talking-Naturally-Children/dp/097230469X )
As Victory Academy opens this school year, there is one thing that bothers me. For twenty five years it seems that Victory has been a secret.
Some things are so valuable they shouldn’t be kept secret. What makes Victory so valuable? Victory value isn't due to any one person, but found in the fact that God has done His work through literally hundreds of people to make Victory what it is today. Staff members, volunteers, and donors have sacrificially worked together to build a ministry that produces eternal fruit.
This should not be kept a secret.
What do you get when you put together a staff with decades of experience working with troubled teens, a program developed over twenty-three years, and an excellent 120 acre facility protected from many of our culture’s problems? That is Victory Academy for Boys! We have a fantastic program for reaching at-risk teen boys, and people need to know about it. Victory is not a band-aid for bad behavior. Victory is about heart surgery; real inner-man change.
Victory Academy is valuable because our program answers the needs of struggling teens and their parents. As I have looked over my 25 years here and considered the several hundred teens and families we have helped, I was able to name many whose lives were radically changed right here at Victory. Overwhelmingly, our alumni have graduated high school and some have gone on to serve in our military and law enforcement. Some have gone on to further their education at college. A few have studied at Bible colleges. One is finishing up graduate school this year to become a missionary pastor. Another is a youth pastor in Michigan. Dads have changed from passive to active leaders in their families. Families have seen the principles of God’s Word work in their homes. Relationships have been restored. Victory Academy works because God’s Spirit works through God’s Word to change hearts.
Foundationally we believe that parents are the key to long-term change and growth for a boy. If dad and mom are strengthened and encouraged in their parenting, our program’s impact will be family-wide and influential in the next generation (look at Psalm 78:1-8). Our parent program does the work of encouraging and strengthening parents, while helping them get back to the place of influence for God in the lives of their children.
There are families in every church and neighborhood that could benefit from our program. Many teens and their parents are struggling with all sorts of problems, and Victory is all about providing hope and biblical counsel to these families. Every time I poll an audience an overwhelming number of them know of teens that need our program. Think for a moment, whom do you know that would benefit from our program?
Victory Academy is open, ready, and able to help struggling teens and their parents, so, go tell the secret!
Let’s see what God will do!