Archive for March 26, 2012

Christianity’s PR Problem–Part 4: PRovide

PROVIDE

 

Generally, the first thing that comes to our minds when we think of PRoviding for our families is our jobs.  But there is so much more to PRoviding than bringing home a paycheck. 

Children are more concerned with being loved and being led than they are with whether or not the bills are getting paid.  The family’s finances aren’t their concern, so they don’t think about it. 

What children need to know is that their dad is in control.  They need to know he’s the Man with the Plan and he cares for them deeply. 

Let me be clear on what I mean by “in control.”  This does not mean, “controlling.”  Dads, how do you know when you’ve crossed the line?  If you have to tell your children that you’re in charge, that’s a pretty good indicator that you aren’t.

Dads, if you want your sons to grow into men of character, then your first PRiority as fathers is to show them what that looks like. 

Be a man of integrity.  Say what you mean, mean what you say and do what you say you are going to do.  Do not be wishy-washy with your sons, or they will not have confidence in your promises.  Do not be lax with your discipline, or they will think they can get away with anything.  And most importantly, FOLLOW THROUGH with whatever you say you are going to do. 

One of the most vital things that we must do as fathers is to throw off EVERYTHING in our lives that hinders us from following through on our words.  Children are experts at making it look like they are ignoring us, but they are always watching.  .  Not only are they more likely to do what you do rather than what you say, but they are more likely still to NOT do what you DON’T do. 

But it’s not all about discipline, of course.  Children do need to be led, but they also want to be loved.  This is especially true for the girls.

Face it dad, your little princess is going to grow up someday.  Chances are she’s going to look for somebody just like you to marry.  So ask yourself—are you the kind of guy you want your daughter to bring home? 

If that doesn’t get your attention, how about this?  There are few things in this life a daughter wants more than her daddy’s approval.  If she gets that, she will grow up secure and confident, knowing that she can be loved for who she is.  If she doesn’t, she will do whatever she can to create an artificial feeling of being loved.  (Guys, if you’re not catching my drift, I’ve got two words for you: back seat.)

Finally, as the spiritual leaders of our home, the most important thing we can PRovide for our children is knowledge of our faith.  The reality is that if children aren’t learning about God, the Bible or the Christian life from you, dads, there’s a good chance they’re not learning it at all. 

Fathers, the reputation of your family and the integrity of your children will be determined by what you PRovide and how you PRovide it.

(Next, Part 5—PRactice Grace)

 

Christianity’s PR Problem–Part 3: PRotect

PROTECT

 

Men, short of your relationship with God, your marriage is the most important thing in your life.  If you disagree with that statement, stop right now and make a list of everything you can think of that’s more important. 

OK, now take that list to your wife and say, “Honey, I love you, but I love these things more.”  Then read the list to her. 

(What?  That’s a bad idea?  I agree.  Read on.)

The reason marriage is so important is that a marriage is the closest that a man and a woman ever come on this earth to being like God.  God is one, yet exists in three distinct persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Each personality in this Holy Trinity is unique, distinct, and has His own function, yet they are one, completely unified in purpose.

Likewise, in a Christian marriage, the man and woman remain a man and woman, with their distinct personalities and functions, yet they no longer serve themselves, but each other.  With their shared faith as the bond that holds the marriage together, the trinity of husband, wife and Holy Spirit echoes the unity of the Holy Trinity.

Also, as the Holy Trinity is responsible for the creation of all life, so the trinity of husband, wife and Holy Spirit bring forth new life with the birth of their children. 

This is the closest we will ever come to appropriating the creative power of God.  As such, this is why both life and the marriage through which it is created are sacred.

The primary role for a husband toward his wife is that of Protector.  That notion frequently rubs the womenfolk the wrong way these days, as our culture supports the notion of independent women who “don’t need a man.” 

Nevertheless, every strong independent woman started out as a frightened little girl, looking to her daddy for protection.  When a father makes clear to his daughter that he is there to protect her and take care of her, she grows up secure and confident (more on that in the next post).

The main purpose of the husband is to take over the protective role of the father when the woman no longer has need of it.  This is the meaning behind the father giving the bride away at a wedding.  He is saying, “It’s your turn now.  Take care of my daughter.”

The protective role is now different, however.  Rather, a husband is charged with protecting his wife’s heart.  She has put her trust in him to love her, to be faithful to her, to lead her and to lift her up in her time of need. 

Men, there is no job we have that is more important than this.  We need to make PRotection our PRiority.

(Next–Part 4–PRovide)

 

Christianity’s PR Problem–Part 2: PRaise and PRayer

 

 

 

PRAISE AND PRAYER

 

God must come first, because He is first.  When you put God first in your life, you are not doing Him a favor; you are doing yourself one.  As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:

 

 “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33 NIV)

 

So what is the best way to keep God on top of the list?  Well, the obvious answer is to pray.  But how?

 

Too often, our prayers sound like we are making God into our own personal vending machine.  We need or want something, so we push our prayer button and expect that we will receive an immediate answer to our prayers, all wrapped up like a Three Musketeers. 

 

Since we wouldn’t be asking God for something if we didn’t believe he was capable, and willing, to provide it,  why not start our prayer by praising Him for being that kind of a God? 

If we need His help, He is obviously greater than we are.  Starting our prayer time by meditating on just how much greater He is puts us in an appropriate posture for prayer.

 

Of course, once we’re there, standing in the glory of His greatness, we realize how unworthy we are.  This is a good opportunity for confession. 

You can’t help but call to mind where you’ve missed the mark when you have entered the presence of the Most Holy One.  But that’s just it.  Even though we have missed the mark, and will do so again, He still welcomes us into His presence. 

 

Once we begin thanking Him just for paying attention to us at all, we become more aware of all the ways, great and small, that He is acting in our lives.  Thank Him for all of those things, because He didn’t have to do any of them. 

I have found that the joy of the Lord comes to me in the course of my thanksgiving.  As David wrote:

 

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.  My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” (Psalm 28:7 NIV)

 

It is through this strength that we finally get around to presenting our requests to the Lord.  Because now, instead of feeling confused and helpless and needy, we are renewed and refueled. 

(Next–Part 3–PRotect)

Christianity’s PR Problem–Part 1: PRiorities

 

Many folks today say that Christianity has a P. R. problem. Like it or not, they have a point.

Whether the P. R. problem comes from people outside the church speaking from ignorance, or denominations within the church at each other’s throats over doctrinal issues and such, pretty much anyone disposed to do so can find something about the church with which to take issue. 

Why bother with that drama?

No, dear readers, instead of blathering on about the P. R. problem, I am here instead to propose some PR solutions, though not perhaps in the way you are thinking. 

I believe that the Church’s image problem is best addressed from the top down.  Just as the head directs the body, so the heads of churches set the tone for their congregations. 

Likewise, as the heads of their families, fathers set the tone for their wives and children.   When the leaders of both churches and Christian families have their houses in order, the world can not help but notice.  It is my position that the most effective way to fix the church’s  P. R. problem is by living out these “PR” solutions.

(I am going to be speaking primarily to the men here, seeing as how I am one.  Ladies, especially single moms, feel free to listen in too though, as I expect you’ll find something useful here as well.)

 

PRIORITIES

Guys, your main thing is keeping your main thing the main thing.  Too many of us men have lives that are out of balance.  We have so many responsibilities that sometimes our priorities get confused.

Here is a simple way that I have found to keep my priorities in their proper order.  When you find yourself overwhelmed, overbooked or overcommitted, this is a good way to sort out your to-do list, whether you actually have a list or just keep one in your head. 

I call this the Hierarchy of Service Priority (mostly because I couldn’t think of anything else to call it–please feel free to come up with a better name for it if you like).  It goes like this:

  1.       God
  2.       Spouse
  3.       Kids
  4.       Extended Family
  5.       The World (friends, acquaintances and basically everybody else)
  6.       Yourself

The point of this hierarchy is to keep in mind that if you are spending energy serving someone on this list without having first given priority  everyone else ABOVE that level, that is a good sign that you are out of balance.  For each level of PRiority on the list, I have a PRactical solution to help you remember.

(for more on that, tune in for Part 2–PRaise and PRayer)

The Nature of Truth–Part 4: Offense

 

TRUTH IS NOT CONCERNED WITH WHOM IT OFFENDS

In our politically correct society, people are growing increasingly leery of saying what’s on their mind for fear of offending someone.

But every now and then, a person encounters the truth in some fashion that fundamentally alters their belief system.  There is a part of them that feels compelled to share the truth they have found.  After all, if truth is universal, then it would apply to all of one’s friends as well, right?

However, what we all too frequently do instead is to take the path of least resistance and keep the truth to ourselves rather than rock anybody’s world by challenging their belief patterns and thereby offending them.

But still, the truth remains.  Because it is eternal, it will not change.  Because it is universal, it will apply equally to anyone with whom you share it.  Because it is indisputable, it could not possibly offend anyone who receives it with an open mind and heart.

Ah, but there we have hit upon the problem, haven’t we?  Receiving.

We would rather hear 100 lies that back up what we have already chosen to believe than to receive a single word of truth that could permanently change our lives for the better.

What is it that blocks us from receiving the truth?  Pride.

Pride is the mother of offense.  Pride is what makes us think we are better, smarter, more worthy than everyone else.  Pride is what makes us not want to associate with people who don’t live up to our standards.  Pride is what makes us not hear what we need to hear, because we have already made a judgment about the person bearing the message.

The most important thing that I can possibly tell you about pride is this: you will NEVER find the truth until you lay your pride aside.

The minute you believe that you have a right to be offended by a person or situation, you have slammed the door in the face of truth, becuase you have lost sight of the reality that how you live and what you believe is just as offensive to someone else’s sensibilities.

So it is not the truth itself that is offensive.  Rather, the offense comes from our own pride preventing us from challenging our own beliefs, perceptions and attitudes.

Again, the truth is what’s left at the end of the argument.  It’s also what’s left when you get over yourself and begin receiving.

Two plus two equals four, and there’s nothing you can do about it, so you might as well accept it.