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Pastor Andrew Brunson

Pastor Andrew Brunson, now known by many as the Forgotten American in Turkey, is a member of my family. I remember the first time I saw him as a tiny baby. At that time I was still in high school. I never expected to marry his uncle. His parents were on their way to the mission field and stopped to see the family and share what they would be doing. Andrew became the first of seven children. His parents came home about once a year to see the family and drum up support. In that respect I watched him grow up. He loved to ask questions about biblical things.

With the hustle and bustle of friends and relatives when they were home, I didn’t have opportunity to get to know him well then. As time went on, his grandparents died and his family stayed at my house when they came. He still liked to discuss the Bible and ask us questions about the new pastor at our church.

We saw the family in late summer after the coup. Looking back, everyone that came to be with them that summer wanted to say “Come back home,” but none did. I doubt Andrew and Norine would have left Turkey at that time. They were sold out to the people there and to sharing Jesus with them. Whatever you, the reader, believes about Christianity, please know Andrew never went to Turkey to destroy it. He went to make a positive difference. Ironically, he made a difference, but not the way he expected. If you are a Christian, please pray for Andrew and his family. If not, be aware that Andrew would never get involved in a terrorist organization. His one and only goal is to share Jesus with those who want to hear.

Parenting: Law vs. Grace. Which is Right?

For the most part, our sense of morality comes from our religion, or you could say our belief system. In general, for the western civilization the historical source for morality comes from the law given to Moses by God and the philosophy of grace, which comes from Jesus in the New Testament.

Christianity teaches grace. No other religion does that. Yet, even Christians need to obey the law. So how do you decide when to punish your child and when to allow grace?

Trying to develop a parenting strategy based on those two concepts can lead to confusion. Remember the good law protects us. So teach your children to stay away from fire and not cross the street alone to protect them. If they disobey, make the consequences severe enough to prevent any re-occurrence. Along with consequences give them love and teaching about the dangers of what they did. In those situations, law trumps grace.

On the other hand, children disobey by actions that don’t cause immediate harm, such as back talk, unkindness to a friend, or refusal to clean their rooms. In that kind of situation, don’t miss an occasional opportunity to show grace.

You can say something like this, “You have disobeyed me by your back talk. The way you talked to me showed disrespect. I should punish you, but this time I won’t. I will give you grace. Grace is a gift we don’t deserve. Even though you deserve to be in time out, I will give you love instead. Jesus does that. He took the punishment we deserve and gave us love and forgiveness. Next time it happens, you will go to time out. This time I am helping you understand more about Jesus.”

Teaching Children about God

What spiritual messages do you want your child to hear?

Infants                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              You need to answer that question almost as soon as the precious bundle of joy comes into the world. Why? Consider this. From birth to age two children learn more about the world than at any other age. They learn whether the world is safe or scary and hurtful. Right after birth they may think, What is that bright light and why am I hanging upside down?  They need tender touch and soft words to feel secure. Infants who don’t feel loved will have a difficult time learning to trust.

Age Two                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Around the age of two their world view takes a quantum leap. They seem to change overnight. They may think, My mommy will give me an apple when I ask for one. Two-year-old children believe everything they hear and see. They have no way to know if the messages they receive are true.  They begin to understand they have choices. The word “No” sometimes gets them in trouble and sometimes helps them feel as if they have some power. They think concretely, so be sure you explain spiritual words, such as God and heaven. My two and a half-year-old son came into the room one Sunday morning as I was getting his sister ready for church. He said, “That man on TV said God is a Holy Ghost. God isn’t a ghost, is He?”

Preschool                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        As children approach the preschool years, they think for themselves more and more. They open their hearts to new ideas about spiritual issues as their spongy minds seek to understand the world they live in. They learn from many sources: their families, their friends, their teachers, and even television. Truth and lies vie for their attention. They still think concretely, yet they start to learn and love the traditions of the religion practiced by their parents. Preschoolers may not remember exact things that happened to them, but parents can help till the fallow ground of their spiritual beliefs, thoughts, and emotions. At age four, my son said, “I am going to dig a big hole and push the devil into it.”

Elementary Children                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Children as young as six can make religious decisions that will impact their entire lives, including where they will spend eternity. Spiritual beliefs and decisions made in the early elementary years tend to stand firm. Josh McDowell said on Point of View radio, “If you don’t reach a child for Jesus before the age of twelve, you have only a four percent chance of reaching him (her.)” My children both accepted Jesus as their Savior at age six.

What spiritual messages do you want your child to hear? What are you doing to make sure your children are hearing the truth?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Tidings of Convicting Rain

Mom B's 96 birthday with Eddie 010It started out as a short morning walk down the green belt near my house. I didn’t know deep conviction was going to rain on my heart before I got home. I walk on this green belt several times a week and usually speak to the neighbors I pass. Sometimes it is a simple hello to a runner and sometimes I stop to admire an adorable child or a cute puppy. I might warn those I pass if I see a snake on the trail. That day I saw a rabbit and told the person behind me to look for it. I like to start a conversation if I am not in hurry.

At the end of the tree-lined trail I could see the black western sky. It reminded me of the color of the sky in Memphis the day the so-called Hurricane Elvis came out of nowhere. Even the local news stations missed the warnings. It tore a path of trees and power lines down the center of Memphis and many homes were without electricity for weeks. The wind was so strong the window panes in our house rattled. No one should be out in that kind of weather, so I warned the  people I passed on my way back home.

As I rounded the corner and passed the little playground by the lake, a guilt storm hit me. I find it so easy to tell others to look for a cute rabbit or a half-hidden deer, but not so easy to tell them to look for Jesus. I find it so easy to warn them about a coming storm, but not so easy to tell them accepting Jesus protects from the storms ahead. These thoughts convicted me, but I still fall back into old habits. I need to form new habits of sharing the good news every chance I get.

How about you? What convicts you?

Mom B's 96 birthday with Eddie 006

Dreams of My Uncle Sam

There are two videos out, one in the theaters and one available on Amazon. The first is entitled, 2012 Obama’s America. The other is Dreams from My Father. Both include videos and other materials that make it appear that Obama is either a Colonialist or a lying Communist. Many of us have no idea what to believe at this jucture of the political scene. In my opinion, that doesn’t matter at all. The words we know straight from his own mouth are enough to send people running to Canada. He shows no interest in God or encouraging others to practice godly behavior. In fact, some of his policies smack God in the face.                                                                           

If you don’t believe me, read from the Old Testament prophets. God used them to warn the Israelites of the coming doom if they didn’t stop worshiping false idols. HMMM! Does America have a false idol? Yes and yes. Some Americans seem to have a blindness to the problems the last four years have created and the changes yet to come if we aren’t careful and prayerful when we vote. I pray for God to remove the scales from their eyes.

There is another yes. Many worship the government. They see the government as their rescuer, their god, to the point they become unable to think or do for themselves. The government doesn’t spend its own money to help others. It steals from other people in the form of taxes. They believe the Robin Hood philosophy that says it is OK to “take from the rich and give to the poor.” It is never OK to steal.

I agree the poor need help. The truly disabled need money, but the able-bodied need help getting a job. Two years of free unemployment handicaps people. They believe they are entitled to support from the government without ever having any responsibility themselves. They would be better off flipping burgers, working hard to rise to a management. Instead they sit at home and complain because the government isn’t giving them enough for a better lifestyle. At the end of two years, where are they? They are less employable than they were when they first lost their jobs.

George Washington, the father of our country, would cringe if he were alive. “Uncle Sam,” if he were a real person, would cry. The dreams of our forefathers were for a country where everyone had equal opportunity to work hard in their chosen profession. They dreamed of a place where family meant a mother and father who loved their children the moment they found out they were expecting.  They dreamed of a place where religion was protected, not attacked. A place where churches worked together to help the down and out. I dream that day will come again.

“Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, who you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, that you have slain My children and offered them up …by causing them to pass through the fire.”  Ezekiel 16:21-22

Do your own research. THINK, PRAY, VOTE. If you haven’t done the first two, don’t do the last. Don’t vote blindly! God is giving us a chance to repent, please know that the whole country, maybe even the world, depends on your vote.

Helping Grieving Kids from America to Zimbabwe, Africa

Do the children in Zimbabwe have anything in common with the children in your church? The answer is “Yes.”

Children all over the world grieve and children all over the world need Jesus. Read the following letter from a woman who works in an orphanage in Africa. If Growing Seasons helps children in a Zimbabwe orphanage, don’t you think it could help those children in your congregation, too. Divorce and the death of a parent devastates children all over the world and the love of Jesus introduced to children through the Growing Seasons curriculum can help these children to heal. Read on:

Hi Jean

I hope you are well.

I wanted to give you an update on Growing Seasons in Zimbabwe. I

contacted you at the end of last year for some advice on how to begin

Growing Seasons here.

God has really blessed this ministry and we are now running the second

term with about thirty children.

It was difficult to get the Coordinator’s Guides and Parents Guides

here but we eventually had the books sent to the United Kingdom and

some people who were coming here, brought them back with them.

I was a facilitator myself in the first term and already saw a change

in some of the children by the end of the course. Growing Seasons has

really helped these children and we would like to reach many children

in Zimbabwe.

I went and did a talk for three boarding shools last week and they are

really keen to get Growing Seasons into their schools but asked if we

could possibly train some of their teachers so that they can run it. I

am now feeling led to branch out to the schools and I wanted to ask

you how I could go about this.

You said that you had Workshops there. Would you be able to provide

some material to do Workshops here. There is such a need in the

schools.

I Finally “God” It. You Can, Too

I  accepted Jesus when I was twelve years old, but I didn’t understand what He did for me. In my forties I finally understood the words “grace” and “mercy.” I wonder how many people who have been in church all their lives without seeing the whole picture.Let’s start with creation. Adam and Eve listened to the serpent, Satan, and sinned by disobeying God’s command not to eat the forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:16-17, NKJ). They sewed together fig leaves to cover their shameful nakedness. People today still keep trying to solve their problems without God. God killed an animal to make the skins to cover them(Genesis 3:6-7, NKJ), so He had to shed the blood of the animals. God told the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed, He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”  This was a prophesy. The seed of woman is Jesus, the Son of God. When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, he set up the sacrificial system using the blood of unblemished animals instead of  people to satisfy God’s requirement for justice. This points us to Jesus.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his death, I believe He felt the shame of the sins of the  entire world. Can you imagine how emotionally painful that must have been? The next day the soldiers pierced Him with a sword, whipped Him, and nailed Him to a cross until He died.  His blood, the blood of the only perfect One, was shed for the forgiveness of our sins. “Without shedding of blood there is no remission.”   (Hebrews 9:22b NKJ) But Jesus did not stay dead. He rose and many people saw Him alive. For those who accept the gift of His forgiveness, He gives us grace, a gift we sinners do not deserve,  and He gives us mercy instead of the eternal punishment we do deserve. He died for us because He loves us enough to pay for our sins. (John 3:16 NJV)Have you told God you believe this? Have you asked Him to forgive you of your sin sand make you His child? If not, now could be the time. Talk to God and tell Him you are sorry for your sins and believe Jesus died for you and will forgive you and make you His child.

You can pray right now to become a member of God’s family.

 

Finding Hope in the Heat

On July 30, blessings came to the City of Memphis, TennesseeConvoy of  Hope rolled their trucks into town and residents of this city known for crime, poverty, and racial strife joined together to feed and pray for the hurting. While the thermostat read 102 degrees, fourteen hundred volunteers representing eighty different churches swooped down on the practically abandoned fairgrounds to hand out food and hope to more than five thousand people. No one saw color or class. No one judged others by their clothes. Everyone just shared the love.

                                                                       

Volunteers arrived early in the morning to set up tents for the different activities. Children enjoyed games, puppet shows, and jumping toys; such as such as blow-up slides and moon walks. Families received bags of groceries while volunteers gave free haircuts and created family portraits. Prayer warriors sent prayer requests to heaven. A job fair and health fair gave hope of a better day to participants.

The workers in the community services tent told families about places in town where they can receive help in their areas of need. I worked in that tent but with  a different slant. We showed church members ways their churches can help children and adults through small issue-focused Bible study groups and we invited familes to participate in these groups at our church.

Let me tell you about Living Free’s children’s ministry and how it can help families. Many of those attending were single-parents or grandmothers raising children. They wanted to learn about Growing Seasons, small group Bible studies that help single-parent children; whether due to divorce, death, imprisonment, or abandonment by a parent. They also teach parents how to listen and respond to their children’s feelings.

Others wanted to know how to prepare their preteen children for the peer pressure of adolescence. We told them about Empowering Kids for Life, a program that helps kids turn to God instead of addictions. I encourage you to go to LivingFree.org yourself and see how their small group Bible study ministry is helping adults and children. Maybe your church would like to include some Living Free groups along with your other programs.

I want to thank Convoy of Hope for visiting Memphis. I hope the love and understanding shared in this city yesterday will last and grow. I also hope God will answer the sincere prayers lifted up for families. Thanks you Convoy of Hope.