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Five Ways To Bless Your Neighbors

Dave Ferguson shares five ways to bless your neighbors.

He says, “From the very beginning, God’s way of reaching and restoring the world has always been through what I would call a blessing strategy…how do we in a very practical way that’s theologically grounded explain to people how they could bless people in places they are incarnating? We came up with this…

  • B- Begin with prayer. We want you to ask, ‘God how do you want me to bless the people in the places you’ve sent me to?’
  • L- Listen. Don’t talk, but listen to people, their struggles, their pains, in the places God sent you.
  • E- Eat. You can’t just check this off. It’s not quick. You have to have a meal with people or a cup of coffee. It builds relationships.
  • S- Serve. If you listen with people and you eat with people they will tell you how to love them and you’ll know how to serve them.
  • S- Story. When the time is right, now we talk and we share the story of how Jesus changed our life.

Genesis 12:2-3 says, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

 

Christmas In A Cold Prison

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer awoke December 25, 1943 on a hard wooden bed. It was the first of two Christmases he would spend sequestered in a Nazi prison.

This first Christmas would be celebrated in a lonely prison cell in a place called Tegel. He had been there for nine months, and he would be there for nine more until he was transferred to his final home, a Nazi concentration camp.

Bonhoeffer had hoped to be released for the holiday, but that was contingent on his personal lawyer who proved unreliable. His hope of spending Christmas with his family quickly evaporated into the cold silence, and his only connection with his parents would come through letters.

Inside Tegel

In the Tegel prison, Bonhoeffer and his 700 fellow inmates were treated as criminals irrespective of trials and verdicts. The men were underfed and verbally harassed, and frequently the warden refused to turn the lights on, adding to the dark and depressive spirit of the place. Bonhoeffer was assigned to a cell surrounded by prisoners awaiting execution. He writes about often being kept awake at night by the clanking chains of the cots as the unsettled, condemned men tossed and turned.1

But it was within this suffocating suffering that Christmas seemed to take a deeper meaning for the 37-year-old pastor-scholar. “A prison cell like this is a good analogy for Advent,” he wrote to a friend. “One waits, hopes, does this or that — ultimately negligible things — the door is locked and can only be opened from the outside.”2

Two Sides to Christmas

For Bonhoeffer, there are two sides to Christmas. There is a hopeless precursor side to Advent. Until God arrives, we have no hope for release from this imprisonment of our own sin. We are stuck and condemned, and the door is locked from the outside. We depend completely on Someone from the outside to free us.

And yet on the other side of Christmas, on the other side of the birth of Christ the King, we find suffering remains. We find freedom and hope, but the suffering is not washed away. As Martin Luther says, “God can be found only in suffering and the cross.”3 It is in the suffering of the Son of God that we find God.

From his birth in a despised manger, to his death on the cross, the Son of God suffered. Christ was acquainted with pain (Isaiah 53:3). And because Christ was familiar with it, we too are made familiar with suffering (2 Corinthians 1:5, 1 Peter 4:13).

The wisdom of God in the suffering of his Son baffles us. Christ became weak and vulnerable in order to suffer for us in his full payment of our sin (Philippians 3:9). What this means is that the child of God suffers, but not because God has withdrawn from him, but because God has drawn close. We are united to Christ and we share in his sufferings (Philippians 3:10).

A Christmas More Meaningful and Authentic

Which brings me to Bonheoffer’s Christmas letter from the Tegel prison to his parents Karl and Paula Bonhoeffer on December 17, 1943. In it he asks that they not worry or fret about their separation. He will find joy in their enjoyment of the holiday. They will feast together, and he will feast on the memories of precious Christmases past.

At one point, Bonhoeffer writes this:

Viewed from a Christian perspective, Christmas in a prison cell can, of course, hardly be considered particularly problematic. Most likely many of those here in this building will celebrate a more meaningful and authentic Christmas than in places where it is celebrated in name only.

That misery, sorrow, poverty, loneliness, helplessness, and guilt mean something quite different in the eyes of God than according to human judgment; that God turns toward the very places from which humans turn away; that Christ was born in a stable because there was no room for him in the inn — a prisoner grasps this better than others, and for him this is truly good news.

And to the extent he believes it, he knows that he has been placed within the Christian community that goes beyond the scope of all spatial and temporal limits, and the prison walls lose their significance. . . .

With great gratitude and love,

Your Dietrich4

Suffering Brings Meaning to Christmas

Ironically, we can miss this meaning of Christmas if our celebration is only wrapped up in comfortable warm fires and the fellowship of friends and family. We can miss the memory of our desperation that required the Son of God to suffer for us. We can miss the personal desperation met in the manger. And we can miss out on the fellowship of his sufferings.

As we have recently explored, Christmas and suffering are deeply interwoven themes in Scripture. Personal suffering brings deeper meaning to Christmas. And in a season of suffering, the child of God discovers that he suffers not because God has drawn away, but because God has drawn close to us convicts, drawn close through a manger, drawn closer to us than the hard prison cell walls of a cold Nazi prison.

by Tony Reinke | December 20, 2012


1 Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 8, Letters and Papers from Prison (Fortress, 2010), 343–347.
2 Ibid., 188.
3 Luther’s Works (Fortress, 1957), 31:53.
4 Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 8, Letters and Papers from Prison (Fortress, 2010), 224–226.


Skipping Adolescence: An Alternative to Self Indulgence

Skipping Adolescence

To kick things off, we need a pinpointed definition to frame our discussion. Let me give you one …

Adolescent: a person who has an adult’s body, wants all of the freedoms of an adult, but doesn’t want any of the responsibilities that go with being an adult.

Like … the teenager son who wants access to the family’s best car, with a full tank of gas, a parent’s debit card in their wallet, their personal smart phone in their back pocket (paid for by you), but considers it unfair that you expect him to get up at a reasonable hour on Saturday morning and spend a good part of that day doing various chores for you around your house.

… or the college student daughter who wants you to cover her tuition, room, books, and give her a weekly mad money allowance, but believes that her personal drinking habits and boyfriend sleeping arrangements are none of your business.

… or the 35-year-old son who’s living in your basement, hasn’t paid rent for years, hasn’t applied for a job in months and doesn’t understand why you’re frustrated that he spends all of his waking hours in his Star Wars pajamas playing video games.

We skipped all of that with our kids. Obviously they had momentary pockets of adolescent behavior (just like their dad still does), but for the most part they moved from being children, to young men and women, to adults fairly seamlessly.

It wasn’t hard. In fact, helping our kids skip adolescence was a lot easier than what it would have cost us in emotional agony had we let them give adolescence their best shot. We just followed a few basic steps that incline a kid to transition from childhood to responsible adulthood without feeling they need to wade into the swamp of self-absorbed irresponsibility along the way.

Step 1. Understand EXACTLY what forward thinking love for a child requires.

If love is the commitment of a parent’s will to their child’s needs and best interests, regardless of the cost, then it is NOT in a child’s best interests to accommodate their laziness, disrespect, self-indulgence, or irresponsibility. If we put up with or encourage these kinds of bad behaviors, it’s usually because we love ourselves more than we love them. We love our comfort, our public image and our artificial peace more than them. Obviously, they’re going to want to give adolescence a try. Just don’t make it easy for them to achieve. The first time and every time you see adolescent attitudes or behaviors respond with strong, deliberate, and memorable pushback to it. We’ve got to make it far more personally costly for our kids to take the adolescent path than the responsible one. Disadvantage, discomfort, and discipline have a way of making the correct path much more attractive to them.

Step 2. Don’t allow anyone or anything to rob your children of their years of childhood.

Kids who aren’t allowed to be kids when they’re kids, often grow up to be adults who feel cheated (think: a typical childhood starlet’s adult track record) How does this dilemma show up in a rank-n-file family? Regardless of how the Kool-Aid of public opinion tastes, having a kid so one-dimensionally focused on academic or athletic success that they never get to actually record a balanced childhood often sets them up to act childish once they’re supposed to be taking on the mantle of responsibility. (Think: the number of professional athletes and entertainers who make enormous amounts of money but end up broke once their star power fades).

Step 3. Adult freedoms are earned; not assumed.

Freedom has always had a quid pro quo arrangement with personal responsibility. You want the use of a car, a smart phone, a debit card, a college classroom, dormitory accommodations, and a meal plan at the university? Simple; demonstrate the respect, responsibility, and gratefulness that goes with them. Otherwise, buy your own car, gasoline, smart phone, tuition, dorm room, and meal plan. When we supply these things to irresponsible or disrespectful kids, it’s not giving them freedom to mature but license to self-destruct. Proverbs 17:16 says, “It is senseless to pay tuition to educate a fool, since he has no heart for learning.”

Step 4. Raise them focused upward and serving outward.

When kids are raised in an environment that encourages them to assume they’re the axis of their universe and the center of the world’s attention, we shouldn’t be surprised when they behave childishly as adults. On the other hand, when kids are raised in an environment that is focused on God and where serving others isn’t an occasional event of the family but rather its default mode, these kids are far more apt to move into an adult’s body ready to handle the privileges and potentials that go with it.

It’s really simple math. Whether you raise your kid in a way that makes it easy for them to pull off-road onto the treacherous terrain of adolescence or move them directly onto the respectful, responsible and reliable thoroughfare towards adulthood, the fact is that both options will require a lot of effort on your part. But when you factor in the human toll, the lost years, and the relational regret that goes with that adolescent journey, the sweat-hard work of raising kids who skip adolescence looks more like a cake-walk.

 

 

Tim Kimmel

Dr. Tim Kimmel is one of America’s top advocates speaking for the family today. Over the past three decades, Tim has spoken to millions of people throughout the country through the Raising Truly Great Kids Conference, Family Life Weekend to Remember Conferences, radio and TV. In addition to speaking, he has authored several books including best seller Little House On The Freeway and award winning Grace Based Parenting.

 

 

 

 

Daddy Dates

I take Charisse, my three year old little girl, on a date just about every Saturday morning with few exceptions. I’ve been doing this since she was about five months old and plan on doing it until Jesus takes me off of this planet.

WHY DID I START DOING IT? Two main reasons…

I desire to be a major influence in my daughter’s life.

I want her to feel like she can talk with me, even though I know there are times she will choose not to. I want for her to feel connected, loved, and special to me and the only way I can do that is by investing as much time into her as I can right now. I want her to reach her teenage years and be able to look back and see that I’ve always desired to spend quality time with her and no matter how crazy/hectic our lives were, I always made time to spend with just her.

I want to serve my wife.

Let me be very clear about this. Being a full time mother is exhausting! One of the things I see in full time mothers is that they’re almost always tired. Their job never ends, they don’t get to punch a clock and go home, they hardly ever have time to themselves, they hardly ever get to sleep in, and they hardly ever have any time to relax. Lucretia, my wife, has told me on numerous occasions that me making “daddy date day” a priority communicates to her that I love her and I value our family. Saturday morning is her morning to sleep in and to relax, read, and go to the gym.

HOW DO YOU DO IT? Before I share my hows, let me be clear that this is something that has been in the process of developing over three years. You may learn from this list, but you really need to dive in and see what works best for you and your son/daughter.

I make the time a priority. I alluded to this earlier, but dads, if you are not intentional about it then it will never happen. No father accidentally spends time with their kids. Charisse is three and a half years old right now and it is just now getting to where it isn’t really weird. Seriously dads, it is awkward to sit with a one year old at Chick-Fil-A and watch them eat. You have no idea what to talk about, you have no idea what is going on in their minds, you can’t discuss current events with them. It’s weird. But it’s really worth pushing through it because one day, when they are able to have conversations, you won’t be a stranger because you’ve always been there. I do not allow ministry conversations with others to take place. When Charisse and I are out and about and spending time together I do not allow people to corner me and begin to talk to me about the church. Let me be very clear: I am a soldier when it comes to protecting the time with my daughter and I do not ever want her to feel second place to the church (that is how pastor’s kids wind up resenting the church). I have literally had to tell people that I would love to chat with them about their question, but that this isn’t the time because I am spending time with my little girl. Does that seem rude? I’m sure it does, but I’m either going to appear rude to the people with questions or rude to my daughter. I’m way more willing to offend others than offend her! One more thing on this…we always speak to people on our date if they chat with us. Charisse loves meeting new people and even loves hearing stories about what Jesus is doing in their lives.

I do not talk on my cell phone. Dads, sitting in a restaurant booth with your kid and talking on a cell phone with someone else is not spending time with them! I let her pick the place (and the people). I will ask her where she wants to eat and if she picks it, at least 90% of the time we eat there. Sometimes we ask people to come along, but that is her decision as well. Usually, it is one of her friends with their daddy, or it is some friends of the family whom she absolutely loves. Once again, I do not schedule ministry meetings and somehow believe because I had her trapped at a restaurant while I discuss an upcoming event for two hours qualifies as time well spent. I do not play DVD’s in the car while we are on the way to our destination…we listen to the radio and sing together or we just talk.We do use the DVD player on long trips, but never to medicate ourselves by producing silence in our kid so we don’t have to strive to fulfill Deuteronomy 6:4-7! Those are just a few of the why’s and how’s that have worked for me.

I am no where near being the perfect dad; on most days I struggle in my mind with whether or not I am doing a good job. But God’s call on my life is to be a follower of him, Lucretia’s husband, Charisse’s dad, and the senior pastor of NewSpring Church – in that order. Dads – don’t waste those early years with your kids – sieze them!

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