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Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Home - The Truth As Far As I Can Tell...

The Truth As Far As I Can Tell…
Hebrews 13:14 – For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.
My Uncle, Gilbert Bigham
Recently, I had the privilege of traveling to Clinton, SC with Mom to visit some relatives.  My 97-year-old uncle, Gilbert Bigham (my Grandma Wingo’s brother and last living sibling), has lung cancer. So Mom and I went to see him.  While there, we visited several other relatives and heard many stories about our family history.  I saw where my Grandpa Wingo grew up and stopped by Bellview Baptist church (the church my ancestors helped found by donating land).

Relatives on my Grandma Wingo's side, (Going Clockwise):
Ann Campbell (Grandma's sister Daisy's daughter),
Kenneth Hamilton (Grandma's sister Hannah's son) and his wife,
Elizabeth Beaty's husband and Elizabeth (Grandma's sister Hannah's daughter),
Harold and Joan Smith (Grandma's sister Ruby's daughter),
and Georgia Mae Brewer (Grandma's sister Hannah's daughter)

I have a rather large family.  Grandma was one of eleven siblings and one adopted child.  (So you can imagine how many cousins and aunts and uncles we have.)  Unfortunately, I didn’t see many of my relatives as I was growing up.  While most of my extended family lived in the Clinton and Laurens, SC area—and many still do—my grandparents were more like Abraham and Sara from the Bible; they moved away from home to make a new life. 

My Grandpa's Childhood Home
Bellview Baptist Church - Laurens, SC
First, my grandparents moved to Savannah, GA where my mom was born while Grandpa built ships for World War II.  Then, Grandpa went to Europe to fight the War.  Afterwards, my grandparents moved to Ohio and lived in a few different towns before settling down in Marengo.  Mom persisted in her parents’
migratory methods.  She graduated high school and moved to Washington DC where she worked for the FBI and met my dad.
I was born in Maryland and lived in two different towns in that state—North Beach until I was 6 and then Silver Springs.  The school kids in Maryland joked about the “southern” accent I inherited from my parents until I was 8 and my family move to Macon, GA.  It was closer to my Dad’s family, but miles from anything I was used to.  Now, the school kids said I sounded like a “Yankee”.  We moved one more time, just far enough that I had to change schools.
Now, I’m not whining.  I was used to all this moving.  It was sad to leave friends and homes behind, but it’s just who we were.  Looking back know, I realize this was a legacy that went back a long way in my family—at least to my Grandma and Grandpa Wingo.  What urged Grandma and Grandpa to wander away from Clinton, SC when everyone else stayed?  Was God leading them to find a new “Promised Land” like Abraham and Sara of the Bible?  I don’t know, but I realize it prepared me for the life I live as an itinerant Methodist preacher.  Since Kelly and I married 23 years ago, we have moved from Macon to Marietta to Lithia Springs to Griffin to Forsyth and now we live in Dalton.  And if the Lord is willing, we will have many more cities and towns to call our “home” over the next 40+ years. 
            People often ask, “Where’re you from?”  Well, you tell me.  Where am I from?  Where is my “home”?  Is it where I was born or where I first went to school?  Is my home where I met my wife and got married?  Is it where I graduated from high school or college or seminary?  Is my home where I live now or where I’m going next?  Or is “home” in Clinton, SC where my ancestors came from or Ireland or France where their ancestors came from?  Well, my life and my faith have taught me this: “Home” is not some place you go back to; “Home”—our real Home—is where we are going.  With Jesus help, we shall get there one day.  Of course, I’m no expert and I certainly don’t claim to know everything, but that’s the Truth as far as I can tell…
Remember, God loves you and so do I!
The Wingo Brothers - Robert (my Grandpa) is second from the left

Monday, May 23, 2016

Jesus, the Name Above All Names

Philippians 2:5-11
I’m terrible with names, but after six years I’m finally starting to learn everyone’s names at my church.  For me, that’s an incredible miracle and I give glory to God for it.  Names still slip my mind, but it’s not that I don’t know them.  It’s just absent mindedness I think.  I will look right at someone I know very well and the name just won’t come to me.  I think it’s a disorder! 
I even started pronouncing Andrea Denson’s name right; but the only problem is now I call all Andreas, Undrea!  I finally figured out Barbara (older) and Becky (younger) Haley.  I knew your names were Barbara and Becky Haley for years, but I couldn’t keep straight which one was which!  And I’ve even had fun meeting new people coming to our church like DJ Seifert who joined Pleasant Grove last Sunday and his mother, Susan Stone (who by the way in my head I keep wanting to call Sharon Stone!  So Susan, please forgive me if I ever call you Sharon.  I know who you are, but I’m also an absent minded duffus sometimes!)
And I’ve finally figured out all the Brookers—at least the ones that attend Pleasant Grove.  I think I know who all belongs to who—even the ones who don’t have the last name Brooker anymore.  Of course, I still meet people out in the community sometimes who say they are part of the Brooker family and it catches me off guard because I wasn’t as familiar with them.
            It seems like every church I’ve gone to there are families and names that stand out.  In my last church, it was the Woodwards.  At the one before that, it was the Busbins.  In Lithia Springs, it was the Andrews family.  At East Cobb, it was the Dobbins family and the Ragsdales and others.  These have all been strong, proud families with a rich heritage in their communities.  We all have pride in our family names, but the families that have made the best impact on their church and community for God have been the ones who recognized the Name above all names—Jesus Christ.  The best families pattern themselves after Jesus’ example.
Philippians 2:5-11
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
            Philippians 2:5-11, is one of my favorite passages in the Bible.  We ought to commit it to memory because it teaches us the attitude of Christ we should imitate.  Though he was the Son of God—deserving respect and admiration, the only person who ever lived who was actually worthy of straight out worship—Jesus was not at all presumptuous.  He was just the opposite.  The Scripture says he was, “humble” and “obedient” and that he served as a slave and even died like a criminal taking our place.  So we who call ourselves Christians should have an attitude like his.
Philippians 2:3-4 says, Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”  That’s pretty straightforward.  It’s hard to do, but not because it doesn’t make sense.  It makes perfect sense; it’s just hard to do. 

Don’t be selfish.
Jesus was very clear that his followers were not to be selfish.  He put it plainly and even took it to its ultimate conclusion saying it like this, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”  This saying of Jesus is listed at least five times in the Gospels; I think that proves Jesus was serious about it.  I know he was, because he lived it.  Jesus didn’t ask his followers to do something he wasn’t willing to do himself.  For his entire earthly ministry, Jesus gave unselfishly.  In the end, he literally gave his own life for our sake.
Giving up your life in order to save it seems contradictory, but Jesus spoke the Truth.  I have seen this Truth played out again and again.  People who surrender their life to God and serve sacrificially are blessed and fulfilled in ways that selfish people never experience. 
What applies to individuals is also true for churches.  I see it all the time, because fewer people are going to church these days.  When a church starts shrinking, the church folks get worried.  They think, “If we don’t do something, our church isn’t going to survive.”  So they try a couple things to save the church’s life.  Some try to increase attendance—invite more people to come.   Some try to “stop the bleeding” of people leaving the church. 
At first glance, that seems like the thing to do, but take a closer look.  Isn’t that “survival” attitude really just a selfish motive in disguise?  Isn’t that just the church trying to “cling to its life?”  What does that have to do with sharing the Gospel?  What does that have to do with showing the sacrificial love of Jesus to others? 
Churches in survival mode try to walk softly and make everyone happy so they will stay.  They are less likely to speak the Truth, because it might offend someone and drive them away.  The irony is people leave “survival mode” churches anyway, because people can tell when the church really isn’t genuinely interested in them and how the church can serve them.  People can tell that churches in “survival mode” are really just interested in the butts and the bucks—getting more butts in the pews and more bucks in the offering plates.  That’s not the Church Jesus calls us to be.  If we want to be the “Church” Jesus wishes us to be and if we want to be the people Jesus calls us to be, we need to let go of our life in service of others. 
The Truth is people (and churches) who care enough to set aside their own personal interests for the sake of others find true life just like Jesus promised.  These are the people who grow in the faith.  These are the churches that flourish.  It seems like an incredible contradiction, but it is a Promise given to us by the Son of God in Holy Scripture. 

Don’t try to impress people.  Be humble.
Jesus wasn’t trying to impress people, but people were impressed by him.  It was just a natural side effect.  You can’t help but take note of someone who willingly gives up everything in order to serve others.  The people who impress me the least seem to be the ones who brag about themselves the most. 
When I was at my last church, we were auditioning drummers for our praise band.  This one guy came in and started talking about how good he was.  He said he got his drum set for free because he was sponsored by Ludwig, a company that makes drum sets.  I was really excited, thinking, “Wow this guy must really be good.  We’d be lucky to have him in our band.”  But when he stopped talking and started playing it was awful!  He played way too loud and he couldn’t keep a steady tempo—he kept speeding up and slowing down at random times. Needless to say, he didn’t get the job as our drummer! I’d rather not have a drummer than have a bad one!
                 On the other hand, the Christians I have known that impressed me the most, weren’t even trying.  There was a guy at my last church who anonymously gave $50,000 to the church.  He didn't want any recognition or for anyone to know who he was.  He also said the church could use the funds anyway they wanted.
                 It’s not about money.  I know a lady who ate lunch with her elderly mother in the nursing everyday for years before she passed away.  She didn't do it for recognition, but for love.  There are others I know that deliver cookies to people who can’t get out of their homes much  and others who faithfully check on their neighbors everyday.  There are people who kneel in prayer for others when no one else sees.
No one knows all the things sacrificial Christians do.  People may not even know their names, because they don’t go around telling everyone about their good deeds.  There are no plaques hanging in the church in their honor.  They’re not seeking glory.  They’re just giving out of genuine love.  And that’s impressive, because that’s the same attitude Christ had.  One Day, God will elevate people with that attitude to a place of honor the same way Philippians 2 says God elevated Jesus to the place of highest honor because he laid down his life for a world of lost sinners on the cross. 

In this life, we are proud of our families.  We are proud of our children. We are proud of our parents and grandparents.  We are proud of our church.  We may even be proud of our names.  But One Day, all these things will pass away.  Do you realize that in heaven it won’t matter if you’re a Brooker or a Mullis or a Denson or a Caylor?  In Heaven, the only name that will matter is Jesus.  Jesus is the Name above all other names.  He is the Lord and Savior of the world.  And One Day, the Word of God says, “at the name of Jesus every knee [will] bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 
Why wait?  Why not start now?  Why not give your full allegiance to Jesus from this day forward?  I challenge you today to lay down your life before Christ.  Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.  Make Jesus truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.  Then you will truly know the blessings of God in your life, in your family, in your church, and in your community.
            If you’d like to accept the challenge, then say a simple prayer.  Say, “Jesus, I give you my life.  I am yours.”  Would you say that prayer today? 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Deep Family Relationships

Ephesians 6:1-4

We were made for deep relationships.  A deep relationship is a profound, caring connection of mutual support, cooperation, and trust.  Deep relationships can be with family, friends, someone we date, a spouse, or a co-worker.  However we find them, our souls yearn for deep relationships.  Today, I want to offer some advice to deepen family relationships. 

Ephesians 6:1-4
Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

Advice for Children
Writing about how deep family relationships should function, the Apostle Paul offers his advice in two parts.  The first part is for children and the second part is for parents.  Let’s look at Paul's advice for children first.
Recalling the Ten Commandments all the way back from the Old Testament, the Apostle Paul said, “Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. Honor your father and mother.””
What does it mean to honor your parents?  To honor them means to treat them as very important people.  When we are young, we sometime start to think nothing important happened before we came along. We might think we are younger, smarter, and more in touch with what is going on in the world.  How can our parents know more than we do?  It can give us a careless attitude about those who are older.  We feel they just don’t understand.
But God says it is not good to have an attitude like that. He knows our parents have earned a lot of wisdom through their life experience. It is in our own interest to listen to them, to respect their opinions and wisdom, to honor them as important people who have helped us very much and who still have a lot to offer. We must fight the tendency to think our parents are too old and out of touch.  We must honor them, because they deserve it and it is in our own best interest.  God promised to give us a long life if we honor our parents.

Here are five practical ways you can honor your parents:
First of all, spend time with your parents.  Time is one of the most precious gifts you can give.  Your parents gave a tremendous amount of time to raise you.  Now it’s your turn to honor them with your time.

Second, be patient with your parents.  Do you realize your parents needed great patience to care for you?  When you were teenager, you sometime broke their hearts with mean words.  When you were a toddler, you threw temper tantrums and embarrassed them.  When you were an infant, they changed your dirty diapers.  (Once I took my son to a movie and he got sick and vomited on me in the theater.  I didn’t have any clothes to change into.  It took 20 minutes to drive home before I could change.  Then I had to take care of him all night.)
Your parents have done many things like this for you. With God’s help, mothers and fathers do it with patience because we love our children.  They have been patient with you.  Now you can honor them by being patient with them even if you feel they don’t deserve it.

Third, be respectful.  When you disagree with your parents, do it respectfully.  If they make you mad, be gentle.  Refuse to look down on them.  Don’t speak negatively of them.  Don’t do anything that would shame them.  Deliberate speak well of them to others. Protect their dignity and defend their honor.

Fourth, help your parents.  Go with them to the doctor or to get groceries.  Help them clean the house or cook dinner for them.  As you get older, you might even help pay some of their bills.  There are many ways you can help your parents.  Look for ways to do favors for them as an expression of your honor for them.

Fifth, celebrate your parents.  As a pastor, I often go to funerals.  And people pay tribute to all the best qualities of their parents.  Why wait until the funeral to pay tribute to your parents?  You can do it now.   

Advice for Parents
         Paul said, “Fathers, [and what he says applies to mothers as well as fathers] do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”
As a parent, I can tell you it is quite impossible to never provoke your children to anger.  Sometimes kids are just going to be angry with their parents.  But what I think Paul means here is: don't let anger be the prevailing attitude in your home.  Instead, create a healthy home where your children can thrive and become all God wants them to be.  

Here are five practical ways to raise your kids well:
First, spend a lot more time appreciating your kids than you do criticizing or disciplining them.  Of course, parents have to set rules and discipline their kids when they go astray (and all kids do).  However, don’t let that be the only interaction you have with your children.  Encourage them.  Let them know you love them.  Let them know how proud you are of them.  And since we know we will have to discipline our kids, we should make sure we spend lots and lots of time appreciating them. Hear are seven things every kid needs to hear:   
   1.  I Love You
   2.  I’m Proud of You
   3.  I’m Sorry
   4.  I Forgive You
   5.  I’m Listening
   6.  This is Your Responsibility
   7.  You’ve Got What It Takes
Second, talk to your kids.  Practice by talking about the little things--like what they did at school, what they like, etc.  Abigail and I went to Red Lobster on Friday and she had a great idea for conversation.  Maybe it will work for you.  We had a personal life quiz.  She would ask me one question about her life and then I would ask her one question about mine.  So she would ask me something like:  What are the names of her closest friends?  And then I would ask her a question like:  What is my favorite hobby? Sometimes I would ask her questions about herself:  what was her earliest memory?  We had a great time going back and forth and we learned a lot about each other.  When you practice talking about the little things, your children will feel more comfortable talking to you about the big things like the struggles they are having at school or with their friends, etc.

Third, your kids need to know you are 100% committed to them.  You let them know you are committed by your actions.  You need to be there for them.  Spend time with your kids.  Find ways to play and have fun together.  Pray together.  Eat together.  Go to church together.  Take a family vacation.  If you can’t afford a vacation or can’t take the time off work, then take a short trip or outing together.  It can be as simple as hiking at Fort Mountain or taking a walk in your neighborhood.  The point is to do stuff together--just you and your kids.  There is nothing more precious that you can give you kids than your time.  And nothing shows you are committed to them better than when you share your time with them.

Fourth, discipline your children and hold them accountable.  This is very important.  Remember, your primary job is not to be your child’s best friend.  A parent's primary job is to train their child to be a well adjusted adult.  This includes teaching them integrity, responsibility, self-discipline, and good morals.  Believe it or not, children are happier when they have clear rules to follow and consistent consequences when they violate the rules.  By holding your children accountable to right behavior, you are training them the be happy, successful human beings.

Fifth, love your spouse.  That might seem counterintuitive, but it’s very true.  Your kids need stability and nothing reinforces their sense of stability than when they know their mom and dad’s marriage is rock solid.  Furthermore, you will be a better parent if your marriage is strong.  I see marriages get into trouble a lot because parents make the mistake of focusing too much time, energy, and resources on their kids at the expense of the marriage relationship.  I understand why it happens.  At an immediate level, your kid’s needs often must come first.  But in the long run, you will soon find your marriage in trouble if you always put your kids before your marriage; consequently, your kids will suffer too.  Remember, your kids will be in the home only 18 or so years, but your husband or wife is for life.  If you truly love your kids, you better love your spouse more.  If you want more advice on how to strengthen yourmarriage, you can look back at my blog from last Sunday.  Or, perhaps you would like to make an appointment to come talk with me.

God created you to have deep relationships.  The most natural of these relationships is with the people in your own family.  However, that doesn’t mean having deep relationships with your family comes naturally.  It takes effort and I encourage you to put in the effort; it is worth it.  What our world needs is strong, godly families.  That could change our nation.
As with all the other types of deep relationships in your life, your deep family relationships will suffer if your relationship with God is not right.  The sin in our life impairs our relationship with God, but the Good News is there is forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  When we we ask forgiveness and let Jesus take control of our lives, we will find our relationship with God growing stronger and all our other relationships--including with our family--begins to grow stronger too.  I invite you to get your heart right with God today.