I’m sitting in the airport as I write this. Camille and I are returning home to Texas after three days in Alabama for a family wedding. This is where I grew up, but I haven’t lived here since I graduated from college. I do have additional “deep south” years invested in Atlanta, Georgia and South Carolina. However, with two stints in Texas – the last one has been for 20 years now – I’ve lost that Southern drawl that came with life in Alabama and across those southern states. But after a very brief time, it all comes back. I find myself giving three syllables to one-syllable words and unintentionally blending in with those Alabama accents. If you’ve never lived there, don’t be fooled b y the poor attempts of TV and movie producers to make actors sound like southerners. They think that “y’all” should be used after about every three words and the drawl is always exaggerated. It sounds hokey, not southern. So, as I return home to Texas, I’ll probably be bringing some extra syllables with me, but it won’t take long to lose it all again. As I listened to the voices of family and friends over these days, and found myself picking it up in my speech as well, I thought about how easy it is to fall back into the past. Accents and southern drawls are one thing. They’re pretty harmless falls. But I thought about the fact that it’s also easy to get around people, places and cultural influences from the past that encourage us to slide back into a place spiritually where we don’t need to go. Because, just like that subtle return in the way we speak and blend into long forgotten patterns, we can also slide back into thoughts, conversations, and actions from our past which need to remain in the past. It’s easy to blend in and take up the old patterns of life, even when we don’t deliberately set out to do so. Those old ways can feel comfortable, and before we know it, we’ve begun to live like we used to live. Paul says, in Colossians 3:3, “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Then he identifies some of the old attitudes and ways that are to be put to death and left behind. And in verses 9-10, he reminds us that, as a believer, “you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” With roots in the deep south, I think a southern drawl is a beautiful thing, and I don’t mind its return. But I need to remember that my past holds some things that can easily and quickly return, but bring death, not life. And to that, I don’t want to go back.
At Anderson Mill Baptist, we’re committed to families. We know they come in different forms: two-parent homes, blended families, single parent families, and singles. But whichever the case, we believe God has charged the church with the responsibility of encouraging, equipping and resourcing the family to be the primary faith-training center for believers. The church comes alongside the family for teaching and help in the process. The church can also provide ministries that will allow us to have a greater impact together on our community and the world than we can have as individual families. But all of us spend more time in our home or with our family than we do at church. And home is where the greatest opportunity for faith-training lies.
Deuteronomy 6:5-9 says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Discipleship and family ministry are at the heart of the mission of our church. This weekend we will have a great opportunity to learn more about some exciting steps we’re taking in family ministry. “Disciple Now” for our students begins Friday night and concludes with worship on Sunday morning, and that worship time will be led by Jim Allen, our Student Pastor, and Dr. Jim Dempsey, our Associate Pastor for Families. They will be sharing with us a challenge from God’s Word along with some specifics of an exciting plan for resourcing parents to be all that God wants them to be for the children in their homes. Without a plan for building godly homes, parents will struggle and lack markers to guide them on the path to success. We want to help create that plan and provide some practical resources to help make it a reality for every home.
Whether you are a parent, grandparent or unmarried, there’s a place for you in family ministry. So I hope you will listen prayerfully on Sunday and ask God to show you what He wants to do in your life and home as we build Deuteronomy Six homes together.
Paul Washer wrote, “This morning I came to the Word greatly discouraged. I left greatly encouraged.” Maybe you’ve been there. I certainly have. Though I’ve always been a positive person and not prone to discouragement, like most people, I’ve had those moments when I find myself under the weight of circumstances that appear to be less than bright and promising. But inevitably, like Washer, I find that the life-changing power of God’s Word can push back the dark clouds and allow me to gain a fresh perspective. Time spent reading God’s Word helps me to see my life and circumstances more from His perspective instead of my own.
Discouragement can be the result of failure or disappointment. In Luke 5, some of the disciples had been fishing all night but had caught nothing. These were professionals. Fishing was not a hobby, but a way of life. It was what they had done all of their lives. They knew how to catch fish. But after a long and exhausting night of work, Jesus climbed into the boat and told Peter to push out into the deep and let down his nets. Peter’s discouraged reply: “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!” Then he said, (and you can imagine the discouragement and the “I-told-you-so” tone in his voice), “But at your word I will let down the nets.” The result? The nets began to break under the strain of a huge number of fish. The difference? Listening to the words and encouragement of Jesus instead of focusing on the failure and disappointment experienced by working in their own power and their own plan.
Discouragement can also follow a time of success. 1 Kings 19 describes the experience of Elijah, who became discouraged after a great victory at Mount Carmel, where he stood as a lone representative of God against the evil Queen Jezebel and 400 prophets of Baal. It was an amazing victory, but when it was all over, Elijah was emotionally and physically spent. When Jezebel threatened him, he fell into dark discouragement and ran from Mount Carmel in fear. Finding a broom tree in the wilderness, he sat down to feel sorry for himself and languish in his discouragement. He convinced himself that he was all alone and was ready for his life to end. But God whispered to Elijah and gave him a different perspective. God assured him that there were others who were walking with Him as well. He was not alone and had not been abandoned. But God delivered his message of encouragement to Elijah in “a low whisper” (v. 12). It was a word that Elijah could have missed had he not withdrawn from some ominous noises that surrounded him. But the life-changing word was there when he paused to listen.
The voices of discouragement are everywhere. “You can’t…” “You’re a failure…” “You’re without help or support…” But we will not give in to discouragement if we will stay in God’s Word each day and listen to the voice of the One who has said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
One Wednesday evening, as people were gathering for our Fellowship Meal time, I put my plate on a table and went to get my drink and salad. When I returned I discovered that two young brothers from one of our families were preparing to find a seat for their family meal. One had placed his dinner at the same table I had chosen, but his younger brother was very concerned about his selection. “No! We can’t sit here!”, he was saying to his brother. “Why not?”, asked the older? “Because,” he responded, “we can’t sit by the man who talks!” I loved it! Sounds like a Native American Indian name, doesn’t it? “The Man Who Talks”.
But I’ve been thinking about that issue of talking versus listening lately and have wondered if God hasn’t said the same thing to me at times. He wants me to take time to listen to Him, but I’m often rushing into His presence, doing all of the talking, then rushing out again, leaving Him to say, “I can’t sit with the man who talks.” Or at least, the man who does all of the talking.
We live under media and information overload. There’s always a list of emails, tweets, phone calls, text messages and media voices lining up throughout the day to push information our way. Some, maybe most of it, is good. But lately I’ve been feeling like I’m inundated with so much information that I can’t keep up with it all. There’s always something waiting – a must-read article, an urgent email or text, or a blinking light on the phone which says I have messages awaiting my attention. Many of those communications are important because they represent people. But others don’t rise to the same level of importance, and I must be careful that I don’t treat them as such. If I’m not careful and discerning, I will end up giving my time, energy and attention to every voice that comes my way while allowing them to crowd out the time needed to hear the voice of the One who has the most important things to say.
I’m asking God for that discernment as I delete emails and unsubscribe from some “voices” that I don’t ever remember subscribing to. Sure, I’m keeping a lot of good stuff, such as blogs that I find encouraging and challenging, along with the connections to people and ministries that are always important. But I want to make sure that I’m not giving my best time and attention to everyone and everything else while failing to have un-rushed time to sit quietly in the presence of God, not doing all the talking, but listening to Him in prayer, in His Word, and through the quiet but clear voice of the Holy Spirit.
God, please keep me from being “the man who always talks“.