Much of my life, I have prayed for children.

I have long prayed for our own children, two daughters, who are now grown. (Along with them I have prayed for our son-in-law, who now is like a son to me.)

I now pray also for the children of our children. Brody, Lincoln, Sully, and a child (Sully’s brother or sister) who will be born in a matter of weeks.

I pray for our children and their children that they will love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

I pray that they might be hungry for his Word — for Scripture.

I pray that they might always treasure who they are in Christ.

I pray for their future mates. I pray that these four grandchildren will one day marry people who love the Lord, love Scripture, and love the church.

I pray that they might marry spouses who will have such a heart for God and for his mission in this world that this would shape everything else about their lives.

I pray that the Father will protect them from the evil one. I pray that the Father would shield them from the attacks of Satan.

I pray that these children would grow up refusing to focus on themselves but on the one who died for them and who now reigns as Lord!

I pray that these children, above all else, would trust God and surrender themselves to him and one day live in eternity with him forever.

I will keep praying — and plan to keep praying as long as I live — for these children.

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Sometimes life is just hard.

Does this describe your life today? If it does, let me encourage you to hang on. You are not alone.

1. Maybe you don’t know what to do with that child (doesn’t really matter how old that child is). You love your child. Of course you do. However, sometimes you feel like you are losing your mind. You may feel so discouraged. Some days you may feel like a complete failure as a parent.

2. Maybe you don’t know what to do with your marriage. You love your husband/wife. Yet, sometimes life together is very hard. Then you look at Facebook and it feels like everyone is having a great life with their family but you.

3. Maybe you don’t know what to do with your life as an individual. You want to live right. You love the Lord and attempt to make choices that please him. However, in this season of life, you really struggle at times.

Do you identify with any of the above three situations? All of these feelings simply mean that you are human. Even as a Christian, you are still human. To struggle does not mean that you are a bad person, a Christian who is lacking, or a person who is failing. You are human.

So as a fellow human, let me encourage you.

1. You are not alone. All of those smiling pictures on Facebook were take at one point in time. Just one point in time. The pictures do not show you what the rest of their lives are like. Many of these people (not all of course) will tell you that they struggle at times just like you.

2. God is with you. He will never leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5-6). He will stand by your side and give you strength (2 Tim. 4:17).

3. Know that what you just read is not an attempt to give you an easy answer.

Sometimes life is hard.

Yet, you and I are not alone. God is faithful and will be with you and me — through it all.

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Can you really fix these people?

Sometimes, a congregation can become a minister’s project. “The congregation is rough around the edges now but they promised that if we (this minister and family) will move there to be their minister, everything will work out.”

Sometimes, a man can be a woman’s project. “Sure he is rough around the edges now, but he is going to make some changes.”

Sometimes, a company can become a man or woman’s project. “Yes, they fired the last three people in this role but this time it is going to be different.”

Can you really fix a person, a congregation, or a company?

Yes, it could be that the congregation is making a few changes. But in time, people may become weary and even resentful of changes in the congregation that were made just so the new minister would agree to come work with them. (“None of us really wanted to do this but the new minister insisted.”)

Similarly, a young woman may become very weary and resentful of the changes she made to appease the one who is now her husband.

Of course, anyone can change. The gospel is so powerful! However, change needs to come from within. We can get into trouble when others feel as if it was imposed upon them.

We are not in the business of fixing people. Nor are people or congregations our “projects” that we will clean up.

Many years ago, I was being interviewed by a congregation that had experienced severe trouble and conflict. At the time, I was very discouraged with another congregation, the one in which I was serving. During the interview, I heard things that made me very uneasy. There were several red flags. Yet, I minimized these and dismissed several instead of looking at reality squarely in the eye and naming this situation for what it was.

Fortunately, it is not our job to fix an individual or a congregation full of people. Instead, we look at the reality of a situation for what it really is. We trust in God. We pray for wisdom.

Fixing another person is not our task. Rather, we are called to bear witness to the power, love, and grace of God.

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The window is getting smaller. I thought about this as I watched our grandson, Brody, play basketball on Saturday. He will be in the fourth grade this calendar year. That is only nine years away from high school graduation.

9 Years!

Nine years before he finishes high school. That is really not much — at all. If it sounds like a lot of time, you might ask the parents of this year’s high school graduating class (2020). Many of them will tell you, “I just don’t know where the time went.”

This week I was reading journal entries that I wrote to our daughters the first few years of their lives. Charlotte and I deeply loved these two little girls. We wanted, more than anything, for them to love the Lord, for them to surrender their lives to him, and for them to be deeply connected to the church. Yet, rearing children in the Lord may be the hardest work that I have ever done.

Now we have grandchildren. Sully (4), Lincoln (5), and Brody (9). Sully has a brother or sister who is due in a matter of weeks. Charlotte and I pray for these little boys regularly. We pray much the same as we did for our own children. We pray that they will love the Lord, that they will surrender their lives to him, and that they will be deeply connected to the church.

In many ways, this is an ongoing spiritual battle as it was with our own children. After all, the evil one would like to influence them to disregard the Father and his desires. The evil one is in a battle for their souls and desires to have them as his own.

In the meantime, we pray for them and for their parents. We pray for those who teach them. We pray for their friends and the friends of their parents. We pray.

As I read these journal entries, I remember that we were young parents and certainly didn’t know what to do much of the time. I am so thankful for every single person who was a godly influence in the lives of our girls. We are so indebted to so many, many people.

One one occasion, I went to a couple in our church. Charlotte and I needed help with our teenage children. I remember sitting at their kitchen table asking questions and listening. I will always be grateful to Bob and Laura.

Being a parent has taught me so much about humility and my own need for God. More than anything, I have learned to pray on more than one occasion, “God, I don’t know what to do.”

May God help us all.

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It was in the middle of the night, about this time of the year. I was a very young guy, not yet married. I was wrestling with what to do next – with my life. I did not know. Inside, I was wrestling with anxiety, worry, and fear about the future. “What am I going to do” was the question that I kept asking. Then one day I heard someone ask this question:

Where will you be when you get where you are going?

In other words, if I keep making the same kind of decisions that I normally do (often with little thought), if I keep the same habits, if I keep the same attitude, where will my life ultimately be?

I knew I had a lot of changes to make. All of these changes would take place slowly (with many false starts and moments of failure). However, my life began to move in a different direction because, by the grace of God, the seemingly small decisions and habits that I made daily began to change.

Where will you be when you get where you you are going?

Where will your life be, if you continue to have the same attitude?

Where will your life be, if you continue to spend money the way you are now?

Where will your life be, if you continue to have the same old habits?

Where will your life be, if you continue that particular friendship?

Where will your life be, if you stay just the way you are while focusing on others and how they need to change?

I find this useful. Perhaps you will as well. This is what I have been thinking about the last few weeks. You might find that this is worth thinking about. Because of this, I am making some adjustments — some much needed adjustments.

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It is awfully difficult for children to rise above the emotional and spiritual maturity of their father and mother. Impossible? No. Hard? It often is.

So many married men and women feel very much alone spiritually. Many single dads and moms are in church each Sunday, all too aware

Years ago, she married a great guy. Yet, he is not a part of the congregation that his wife and children call “home.” He has many good qualities but the kids grow up without ever seeing their dad deeply connected in the life of the church.

Long before there is an engagement, it is important for a man or woman to think about what the future might be like if this person never changes.

1. What if this person never grows up?
2. What if this person never becomes a part of a congregation? What if this person, “never goes to church”?
3. What if this person never becomes any more financially responsible than she or he is right now?
4. What if the things I had hoped would change never change at all?
5. What if this person remains just as immature as she has been since I met her?
6. Do I really think this person will treat me better once we are married?
7. Do I really think this person will suddenly have different priorities in her/his life once we are married?

So often a man will become infatuated by a woman and begin to rationalize about the future.

In his mind — it will all work out, somehow.

Really?

This can be very risky and dangerous thinking.

If my purpose and mission in life are clear, this will help determine the kind of person I will date or not date. If you are absolutely serious about the Lord Jesus and raising children in the Lord, you will want to partner with someone who will be by your side carrying out that mission.

You might well respond, “Well that sounds like someone who is perfect.” No, there is no perfect person. However, there are people whose daily decisions reflect a commitment to the Lord Jesus.

The time to start thinking and praying about this is when you are very young. Far too much is at stake.

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One of the most important decisions you will ever make is deciding who you might marry.

It really is very important.

I don’t mean to imply that you must marry. I’m just saying that before you marry, know that who you marry is critical.

A few weeks ago, I was on Facebook and noticed that several couples were celebrating their anniversaries. I had performed the wedding for each one of these couples. In some cases, a lot of years have passed since these weddings.

I started thinking about my three grandsons (ages 3-9). What would I tell them if they were to one day ask me about marriage? I do think I might tell them the following:

*Marry someone who can be your spiritual companion. Far too many people marry potential instead of history. They think that one day he will be just what she hopes and dreams even though he is not there right now. So, some move ahead thinking it will all change once they marry.

*Marry someone for whom you do not need to make a lengthy explanation to justify your decision. Sometimes we make lengthy explanations in order to justify what might otherwise be a point of concern. Also, beware if you are hiding information about this person from the most godly and significant people in your life. Why would you not want these godly friends or mentors to know this or that about this person? Could it be that they might tell you what you don’t want to hear? Perhaps.

*Marry someone who will allow you to be transparent about him/her and about the relationship. Dysfunction often begins when a person wants you to hide truth from your parents, your friends, and from the most godly people in your life. Such people are sometimes more concerned about the way things appear rather than bringing out into the open the way things really are.

*Marry someone who (if you are blessed with children) will provide real spiritual leadership to your children. Will this person share in conversations with the most godly people you know about what it means to raise children who will love God, know Scripture, and serve others?

It will probably be a long time before these little boys marry. (We still have a lot of wrestling to do!) In the meantime, I think I will continue to enjoy the occasional “Happy Anniversary” Facebook posts from those whom I have known in the past. I will enjoy sweet and pleasant memories of talking with these couples in my office before they got married.

There are other important decisions in life. But choosing who you will marry is certainly near their the top.

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For many ministers, Sunday evenings are hard.

You finally go home after an exhausting day. If you are not careful, your mind and emotions can take you places that are not good.

You wonder, am I really making a difference? What’s the use?

You think about those biting words of criticism. At the time, the words and tone stung. Now, hours later you find yourself rehearsing these words over and over in your mind.

You may be focused on a sermon that just didn’t go well. You butchered a name. You mangled a sentence. You forgot to tell an important story.

Tonight, it seems that everyone else in the congregation has gone about their business. Getting ready for work tomorrow. Leaving for vacation later this week. For many, it is business as usual. Life just goes on.

For you Sunday evenings may be a time when you question your purpose, your self-worth, and the effectiveness of your ministry.

Yet, the following may be helpful to many of us.

1. Know that your life really matters. Your work matters. It doesn’t matter what you are doing and how you are serving, God will work through you.

2. Know that you really have no idea just how much good you are going. This is true for all of us. When you allow God to use you, know that this work goes way beyond what any of us might be able to see.

3. Know that the evil one would love to create self-doubt, discouragement, and ultimately defeat.

Trust God with your life, whatever you do. You matter. Your work matters. God is alive.

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Far too many men are actually boys who have never grown up. The following are characteristics of men who seem to display an immaturity that ultimately impacts those around them.

1. A man who is a bully (toward women or men) is still an immature boy. 
2. A man who perpetually lies to his girlfriend or wife is still a boy. The words of real men mean something.
3. A man who is rude, crude, and doesn’t show a bit of courtesy toward others is still a boy.
4. A man who is more concerned about his appearance and image than reality hasn’t grown up. He is still a boy.
5. A man who knows nothing about promise keeping, honoring a commitment, or loyalty to another, is still a boy.
6. A man who thinks it is funny when another is embarrassed, humiliated, or shamed is no man — just a boy who needs to grow up.
7. A man who belittles women, other men, those of other races and others unlike himself, is no real man. He is a boy who needs to grow up.
8. A man who manipulates and schemes in order to get his way is not displaying maturity. Such a man is small, self-centered, and often promises far more than he can deliver. He is someone who needs to grow up.
9. A man who thinks he is the smartest person in the room usually is not. Such a man may think he is one of the few who really “gets it.” He probably needs to grow up.

Far too many women settle for such men. Some men become someone’s project. “He really has a good heart. He’s going to change. He told me so.” Yet, never put your life in the hands of someone’s potential. Instead, pay close attention to their history. Potential may be what is in front of them. Their history, however, will tell you much about their decision making, their character, and the way they treat others.

The good news is that many, many men are passionately pursuing integrity, authenticity, and character. These are men who treat others right — even when no one else seems to be looking.

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Charlotte and I made a very important decision many years ago. We made this decision when we married and then repeated it a number of times. The decision we made was that we would enjoy wherever we lived.

In our married life, we have lived in a number of places.

  • Florence, Alabama
  • Pulaski, Tennessee
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Hawley, Texas
  • Florence, Alabama
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Waco, Texas
  • Memphis, Tennessee

These places are very different from one another. In one place we lived for a few months (our first stint in Florence, Alabama) and then returned to live almost eight years. We lived in Waco, Texas for twenty years! We lived in cities known for barbecue such as Kansas City and Memphis. We also lived in Texas known for Tex-Mex and barbecue beef. We lived in Hawley, Texas which is just outside of Abilene.

Before we moved to each place, we decided prior to moving that we would enjoy living in that city and that we would look for the good in that place. I have seen far too many people move to a new place and then spend the entire time there comparing it negatively with their last home. Often they would compare congregations, sports events, etc. The city where they presently lived would typically be lacking in something.

After years of moving with a more positive mindset, I can honestly tell you that we have found moments of great joy in every place where we have lived. Yes, there were aspects of previous towns/cities that we did not especially enjoy. However, we were looking for the good in each place instead of becoming obsessed with what was lacking. We miss aspects of almost every place we have lived. However, there are also wonderful benefits of being right where we are.

So when someone asks me, “How do you like Memphis?” My answer is, “We like Memphis a lot! There is so much about Memphis that we enjoy.” This answer is rooted in a decision we made a long time ago and has brought us much joy.

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