As a minister, I often deal with relationships struggles. People come to me for counseling and a word of encouragement. The truth is I get myself into so many problems with my own mouth!

When you are dealing with a difficult situation or person, there are a number of responses you can have: You can clam up and like a child refuse to speak to them, you can forgive that person and pray that God will help you let it go, if the problem is serious enough you can go and talk to that person.

I’m reminded of Jesus prayer for unity in John 17. Jesus finishes that prayer by saying, “And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:26

A few chapters prior to this statement and prayer, Jesus told His followers: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

Difficult situations WILL come. Satan will make sure to put in your path (if he hasn’t currently) someone who has a personality or way of doing things that will clash with you. The question then is how will you deal with that?

Paul gives us several principles to work from when He discusses what love is: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”1 Cor. 13:4-8

Next time you are dealing with a difficult situation or personality consider Paul’s words to a church struggling with a lot of division. Jesus is the perfect healer and that includes relationships. Through time, forgiveness and love, Jesus has healed many of the relationships I messed up. Keep praying and trusting in His power to heal.

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Some parents try to be a friend with their children. They are under the assumption that if they act cool enough, whatever they say will be heard and respected. But kids don’t really need more friends.

Some parents don’t believe in spanking their children. They believe that this will cause a division between themselves and their children. They are fearful their child won’t love them or somehow talk bad about them as an adult. But kids need discipline, the prisons of this country are full enough!

Some parents let their kids run wild. They feel that the “freedom” will allow their children to make wise choices on their own rather than being told what to do. But kids need structure to make it in this life.

Some parents push their children in sports, music and other activities. They feel that by keeping them busy this keeps them out of trouble. Some parents live vicariously through the successes of their children as if that finally makes the parents a “somebody”. But kids don’t need to be kept busy, they need quality in life more than they need quantity.

Some parents create savings accounts for their kids or work their life away, so that “my kids can have it better than I did.” The parents believe if they leave large sums of money, the kids will some how love them more or finally understand “why mommy or daddy worked such long hours.” But kids don’t need money like they need time with their parents.

Some parents expose their children to scary movies, dirty language, alcohol and drugs. They feel if the child experiences it with them the parent can some how control the experience or control the eventual outcome. But kids don’t need exposure to worldly things, they need to be exposed to Jesus!

I decided that God gave my children to me for a reason. I decided to prepare my children for life by showing them discipline. I decided to shower my children with love, by saying it, living and showing it every chance I get. I decided to prove “it can be done” by going back to school, changing, learning and growing. I decided to give my children security by loving only one woman…their mother. I decided to teach my children respect, by saying no maam and yes sir to everyone…including them! I decided to pray with my children and talk about Jesus as often as I can, so they will meet Him one day and be welcomed home!

I decided to be a parent to Mason, Madison and Kayson! Someday they might even thank me.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deut. 6:1-8

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On August 26, 2013 I began a journey to attain an M. S. in Leadership from LCU. I’m just now into my second week and I have already felt “in over my head”! It all started many, many years ago when we lived in Mexico. My wife was concerned about my future! At the time I had gone through the A.I.M. program (http://www.aimsunset.org/) and SIBI (http://www.sibi.cc/), so I knew a lot of Bible but no “real” degree. I made a promise to her that when we returned from Mexico, I would get a degree. I didn’t promise exactly when, where or how, but I said I would do it.

In July 2010, the Gary 5 returned to the states from Leon, GTO. Mexico after 6 years of mission work. I started Amridge U (http://www.amridgeuniversity.edu/) in August 2010 and graduated with a B. S. in Management Communications on June 8, 2013. I loved the school and I’ll probably go back latter to get my MDiv, but I decided that LCU was closer and better known in “our neck of the woods”. Since I had such a great experience with Amridge and online schooling was manageable, I decided to start my masters at LCU. That brings me back to where I started.

Here’s my point, formal education is important! It seems to be growing more and more important as time rolls along, but there’s nothing like self education. You don’t have to pay the big bucks to go to a formal university and have a title to be able to grow! Continued education isn’t necessarily about going back to college or continuing further studies in college. Stephen R. Covey says something along the lines of, assume all your skills and knowledge will be obsolete in two years. If that were true, how would that effect your current life?

I’m a preacher, so naturally I’m going to tell you to grab THE BOOK! I would also encourage you to go to the library and check out a book. Fiction is fine and has its time and place, but read something that will inspire you, spend time learning from men or women that have achieved in this life! Take the time to invest in your greatest asset…YOURSELF!!! Do it for your spouse, your children or even your grandchildren, but most importantly do it for YOU! Someday you’ll think.

Perhaps a sign of maturity is having convictions, but still willing to listen and learn new things!

IMG_7786How many times have you met the preacher and then weeks, months later you finally meet his wife…or perhaps you’re still waiting to meet his wife? I’ve come to realize that in so many cases, the wife can make or break a preacher!

On that note, I want to take a moment to once again acknowledge how blessed I truly am! Barb is the PERFECT minister’s wife!! She’s the perfect anything for that matter!!! As I go through life, I’m more and more convicted that ministry is a team effort and I frequently praise God that He gave me the best team mate I could ask for in my wife. If you are blessed with a good spouse take the time today to tell them how special they are and how much they mean to you! You never know when it will be the last time to tell them.

time-management-matrix2I have officially completed my first week of graduate school! I finally understand the reason why people hold in such great esteem people with higher education and I also understand why some people get a big head when they get their masters. This has been one of the hardest and most stressful weeks of my life!!! I don’t even think the week we moved to Mexico was this stressful.

Perhaps one of the great challenges is work on the BIG things in life bit by bit. Reading through the syllabus was very overwhelming. Writing masters level papers is still overwhelming, but it is a little more doable.

I mention that, because I doubt I will have time to write on here very often. My honest desire is to scratch out my thoughts and challenges here as frequently as possible, but at the moment, I’m thinking that won’t be too frequent 🙂 Every now and again a thought occurs to me and I write it down in my phone. I later expand the thought here. I don’t want to lose that “journaling” time, but my current schedule demands otherwise. Stephen R. Covey talks about a time matrix where life is lived in one of four quadrants. I’m trying to live in quadrant II and this blog is more than likely NOT in quadrant II!

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Now before you get too angry, I want to clarify that I love VBS and I pose this as a sincere question, rather than some kind of gimmick to get you to read the article!

Growing up VBS was always a magical wonderland of amazing Bible stories, cool AC and cookies. I loved VBS and often went to more than one. Looking back I’m sure I learned a lot, but I don’t really remember any specific stories or decorations. Honestly, the only real memory I have of VBS was actually at a local Baptist church called Redfork Baptist (I believe). The reason I remember it is because I was scared to death to go to a place I had never been, but then they gave us snow cones after class and all was better.

As an adult, I now realize the value and importance of VBS. I’ve often commented to the church that there are a number of things I would change if we did things “Shawn’s way”, but VBS is one of those things I wouldn’t get rid of and here’s why. VBS is a way of planting seeds for the kingdom! It shows trust in God’s word to work in hearts, it shows our love for kids and it’s just one more way to open our doors to the community.

By now you are thinking, “where’s the rub Shawn? I thought you had some kind of problem with VBS?” Well here it is, VBS is fake! We sale it as “the greatest show on earth” and come Sunday morning, the circus has definitely left town! I mean “Real church” is NOTHING LIKE VBS! We clap at VBS, the kids are the center of attention at VBS, we laugh and go with the flow at VBS. Compared to “real church” it’s almost like night and day!

Maybe what I would like to see is “real church” and VBS a little more consistent. Maybe we could keep some of the fun and excitement of VBS while keeping the focus of “real church”. I’m not suggesting we bring in clowns every Sunday morning, but I do believe it wouldn’t hurt to smile on Sunday morning. I know it would be powerful for our souls if we acted like we were at a wedding rather than a funeral!

I realize our intension in VBS is far from lying or even deceit, but I wonder what the visiting kids say to their parents on the way home when asked, “How did it go?” Do the children tell their parents about the songs and about clapping and spinning? Do they tell them about the skits and pictures on the wall? Do they tell them how much fun they had and how they love God, because He died for them? Do the parents ever wonder if it’s a whole different group of people that come on Sunday after VBS? Just something to think about.

Most of us probably won’t be a Billy Graham, Joel Osteen or Oprah Winfrey. My influence will never have as great an impact on culture and society. Millions won’t know my name and follow my ever move throughout life. I won’t be placed under a microscope or even have all the privilege of a life lived in the public eye. I haven’t been given a podium to the world. But in many ways I have.

 

Jesus called me salt and light. Paul said I’m supposed to be a culture transformer, not a culture normer. I’m an alien and I’m a stranger, but I’m also a friend of God. Jesus said with man things are impossible, but with God all things are possible!

 

Tonight in our devo with the kids, we studied the end of Matthew chapter 13. Jesus returns home and people essentially call him a nobody from nowheresville. Barb pointed out the very last verse and how important it is. The verse says Jesus didn’t perform a lot of miracles, because there was a lack of faith. The obvious implication is that when people don’t expect or believe in God, He doesn’t do much. The opposite is true as well, because where God is expected, He shows up and He shows up in a mighty way.

 

I don’t believe it’s a lack of faith that brings me to the realization that I will more than likely never preach to thousands, but I do believe God will help me potentially reach thousands if not millions and here’s how. I will be faithful in telling my wife and children about the power of God. I will share God’s word with any and all I come into contact with over my life time, trusting God to produce 30, 60 or a 100 fold. You see, you don’t have to be a Paul, but you can be a Barnabas that helps a Paul. You can be an Ananias that is obedient to the commands of God and baptizes Paul.

 

I don’t claim to know the future. I have no idea what God’s plan is for my life tomorrow. But I do know this, when I’m faithful with little, He trusts me to be faithful with much! When I believe He will work through my small efforts, He will accomplish big things! He enables, He gives the growth, He makes all things possible! Will I reach the masses? Probably not, it might go to my head! Will I make an impact in this world? By His grace I will do my best for His glory and honor!