From Selling Life Insurance to Offering Full Assurance

(I am currently in Hungary preaching of the annual conference of IMB missionaries from Eastern Europe—blogging in the beauty of a spring like day)

Every time that I among missionaries, I am deeply challenged and encouraged. The stories, of how they came to the mission field and how the Lord is using them, cause my heart to be filled with expressions of joy.

Today the story of Larry and Melinda Ewing has put a smile on my face. They are from the great state of Texas. Trained and prepared in the local church—First Baptist Lubbock. They have given a large portion of their life and ministry to working with students as Sunday School teachers. Several years ago, their son offered them a challenge. He was headed off to backpack through the depths of China with the Gospel. He challenged his parents to take the Gospel to students somewhere else in the world. He told them to take the first step of faith and God would open the door. They responded by going as ISC Missionaries for two years to a college town in Hungary. The Lord blessed and they returned home at the end of their term. The call of God lingered. They could ignore it no longer. As Larry put it, “We sold the business of 34 years, the house of 30 years, the cars, gave our daughter the dog, kissed the kids and grandkids goodbye and returned to Hungary to serve long term, where the LORD is blessing their ministry of sharing the Gospel.

As they were sharing with me, Melinda pulled out a small photo album. I was expecting pictures of the grandkids. Instead I saw pictures of her brothers and sisters—new ones. She showed me picture after picture of young people who have embraced the faith and followed the Lord in baptism. They were so excited to share how the Lord is using them to impart the glorious Gospel.

As his joy overflowed, Larry said, “We go forward by faith…if we look back we will go back.”

The joy of the Lord splashed off of them and on to me.

Dripping and smiling…

Parenting and My Own Heart

A few days ago, Celeste and I had the privilege to participate in the NC Homeschool Conference. We went to get some help and encouragement to stay the course for what we believe that God has called us to with our children. I was looking for wisdom from those who have walked ahead of us on how they have navigated the waters of raising children and teaching them in their home. I received more than I bargained for. Let me share a few insights…

My heart is revealed when my children disobey and interrupt my plans. I was struck to the core to come to terms with the reality that my anger with my children is seldom the result of righteous anger over their sin. James 4:1 “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” Most of my anger and conflict with my kids is because of my own desire for pleasure and comfort. Let me break it down.

Why do I get upset at 10 p.m. when a child comes into my room and says, “Dad, I need to ask you something.”? Do I think, this child has been lying in their bed thinking and decided that they would like to share their thoughts with me? No, I think this child is trying to avoid sleep and is trying to rob me of the joy of rest and sleep. I see the child as my adversary toward what I want and I respond in anger and frustration, “I told you to get in the bed 1 hour ago!!”

Why do I get upset when my child publically disobeys? This one is easy. Image is everything. We derive great pleasure from looking good. When our kids make us look bad—we respond with anger. We are not saddened over their sin. We are mad because they make us look like a bad parent.

Why share these things with you? Deep down I knew these things but I did not want to fully admit them. The Lord gave us children for many reasons. One of them is becoming increasingly clearer to me. He gave us children to reveal who we really are. He is using our kids as a part of our sanctification. I confess for the most part, I have treated parenting as a one sided endeavor. I thought that I was here to raise them in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord. I am humbled to understand that in many ways the Lord is using them to grow me up as well.

Raising children has so many joys. I am grateful that the Lord has blessed us with 4 wonderful and unique children. As wonderful and unique as each one of them is, they are all uniquely challenging. Parenting is hard work full of opportunity. Paul Tripp said it this way, “The opportunity is in the struggle”

Digging In The Dirt

Celeste and I purchased the particular home that we live in for several reasons. One of which is that we like to garden. Digging in the dirt brings great satisfaction to both of us. We get as excited about thinking about a calm weekend at home where we can get up early in the morning and work outside as a weekend away somewhere. I guess we are just that simple.

I like to take an area that has been affected by the fall and subdue it. Let me translate. I like to take an area that has been overtaken by weeds and neglect and transform it into an area of order. I must mention that along the way, I get to use things like a tractor and other power tools. I will often stare at areas around the property and imagine what they would look like if they were subdued.

Celeste likes to plant flowers and other plants to make an area particularly beautiful. For Mother’s Day, she simply wants a trip to Stacy’s or some other nursery to buy perennials, annuals, and other plants. She will then spend hours arranging and planting. I am the transplanter. Each year as we purchase new plants and flowers, I get the job of transplanting some of what we already own to make the canvas of the land more colorful and balanced. (I must confess that I can get an attitude about moving a plant that I have moved before—5 or 6 times…in the end she is always right.

We involve the children in our time outside. They all enjoy planting, particularly the garden. Everyone pitches in to mulch and weed—jobs that sometimes are forced upon unwilling souls. Often they simply hang around near to what we are doing, occasionally offering to help out if needed.

Each of them have a particular outdoor enjoyment. Jacob loves to raise and take care of animals. Anna likes to climb a tree and read a book. Mary Claire dresses up like Laura Ingles and wanders around outside pretending to be in a place far away. Andrew stays busy by working with tools, going on safari, and his favorite pastime…getting dirty.

Genesis 2:28a “God blessed them; and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it…’” I encourage you to get outside (without your cell phone, I-pod, or any other electronic device) and enjoy and subdue the wonderful creation of God.

Big Chunks

As I looked across the table at him, I was rejoicing inside. As the conversation unfolded and he shared his heart and passion for the Word of God and those that he was responsible to teach, I heard a heart for discipleship beating in my ears. He often referred to his own life. He knows the power of the Gospel.

I remember the first time that we met and the content of our conversation. He is an honest guy, likely too honest for some. I appreciated his honesty that first conversation. What I really appreciated is that he does not stop with honesty. It is one thing to admit something and yet another to repent and return. I could see the Lord at work through his struggles and circumstances.

Today was different than the first time. The conversation was deeper and his concern wider. He is not there yet and neither am I. He even corrected me with a smile today when I said, “He is continuing to refine you.” “No,” he said, “He is still knocking off some big chunks. The good thing is that they are no longer the size of my truck just the size of a Volkswagen.” I like his word picture.

It is so refreshing as a Christian and as a pastor to get a glimpse of the work of the Gospel in the lives of those you love and teach. I have been reminded in a fresh way that “He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) I was looking into an unveiled face that is being transformed into the image of Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:18) I was hearing the heart of a brother in Christ who is not just concerned with himself but is seeking to be used of God in the lives of others for His sake and for His glory.

I am glad that I am a pastor. The work of the Gospel is not in vain.