Thursday, May 31, 2018


Generosity is unselfishly sharing with others, especially with those in need. Generosity creates a magnanimous heart—people who are big-hearted and not petty.

My exposure to generosity comes first from the influence of my father and mother who were both generous people. They were methodical in their giving of their tithes to their church. My father made out his tithes check early every Sunday morning. It was an important event for him, and he cheerfully gave it each week. My dad loved to help people in need, especially with his skills and equipment. He would do this with regularity but never broadcast what he did.

Generosity has to be experienced to know its benefits, as Solomon tells us, “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Prov 11:25). In giving, there is a sense of substance, that you have done something that has meaning.

Our giving is a thermometer of what is going on in our soul. It is a response to God’s grace in our lives. If we have experienced redemption, then we will be moved from our former selfish living to generous giving. Look what happened to Zacchaeus when he experienced redemption. He gave half of all he owned to the poor and paid back the people he had defrauded four times over.

The Apostle Paul demonstrated generous giving this way, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Cor 9:6-7). If we give with a generous heart, the same way a farmer sows who wants a bountiful crop, then we will experience the results in so many different ways. Giving is not a get-rich-quick scheme, but a way of life. Paul says you give because you want to and not because you feel compelled.

When it comes to sharing what God has given us, the challenge for us is not how much we have or do not have, but our obedience to the Spirit who prompts us. The generous, giving heart is enabled to give with cheerfulness and gratitude. When you accept the challenge to give, God provides in ways you cannot even imagine. Generosity is a character trait that is a process in which we are always learning and living. Giving always involves some risk—the risk of what will be the reception, what will happen with our gift, and will I run out if I give this? You will not run out! You may have to trust God in tight places, but you will not run out.

Moses taught the people of Israel that God wanted them to be generous in their giving and to be opened-handed toward people in need (Deut 15:10-11). I once heard Corrie Ten Boon speak, and she had us all make fists. Then she had us open our hands, as she said this is how God wants us to live. If you do not open your hands, it will hurt while God pries your fingers open.

Generosity makes us tenderhearted. This tenderness is precisely what Paul says happens to those who give, “And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you” (2 Cor 9:14). The best way to keep the green monster of envy at bay is to give, and each time you do, you soften your heart to those around you.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Recently I stood on the battlefield of Fredericksburg, Virginia where nearly 20,000 soldiers from the North and South died. Just 4 months later and only 10 miles away, another 30,000 were killed at Chancellorsville. For those of us who value freedom, you appreciate the sacrifice of these men who died to preserve our liberty. Over 620,000 soldiers died in the Civil War, by far the most significant losses we ever suffered in any fight.

There are differences of opinion as to the causes of the war. Two reasons do emerge without much difficulty, and that is the preservation of the Union and the abolition of slavery. Abraham Lincoln had long advocated for a plan to abolish slavery over a period of years, thus avoiding military conflict. Upon being sworn into office as the sixteenth president, the succession had already begun. Once the war had begun, it appeared there was no way to stop it short of victory for one side and defeat for the other. Over four years, President Lincoln reviewed the losses, such as those at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, with overwhelming agony. A weaker and less committed man would never have stood the test and weathered the storm for a final victory. The South hoped that the losses the North suffered, which were much higher than the South’s, would produce political pressure on the president, causing him to accept a negotiated peace. If he had done that, and many people wanted him to do that, we would have two countries instead of one. The barbaric practice of slavery would have continued for many more years.

The cemeteries of the Civil War, scattered all over this country, are a testimony to the cost of freedom. Today, our politically correct society, which is so quick to attack with the label of racist anyone who does not agree with their point of view, would do well to visit some of those cemeteries. This was a war that preserved our nation and won the right for all men and women to be free, and for this we give thanks. With all the problems we have in this country, we still have so much for which to be thankful. We also have every reason to do everything within our power to be vigilant to preserve the freedom these brave soldiers died to defend.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What Happens When We Can’t Connect

One of my favorite subjects to write about is connection with other people. Today I just finished another parenting seminar, and my mind is full of questions and conversations I just had with people. One of the things that often comes up is connection. As a parent, one of the most important things we want is a relationship with our children, and we want that connection to remain unbroken. As I meet people in the seminars or counseling, it becomes apparent that many people lost their connection to either one or both of their parents at some critical stage. When any person at any age loses the connection, the result is loneliness. Often people who have trouble connecting emotionally to others can trace their difficulty back to their childhood. In marriage, they will struggle with creating and maintaining an emotional connection with their spouse. Their husband or wife will complain that they are distant and detached. The disconnected person will long for connection but not know how to find it. Often they will look for connection in finding an emotional attachment to someone other than their spouse. Of course, it will not endure, and any satisfaction will be short-lived. Others will look toward an illicit affair and the fulfillment of sexual intimacy with someone other than their spouse, who most often is very much like them. After the short-lived relationship, they both feel empty because the affair could not produce what they wanted.

They long for connection, and they do not know how to find it. Couples who struggle with finding and maintaining an emotional connection need help. Seeing a counselor on a weekly basis and being willing to learn about the problem and face it squarely is the best solution for many couples. There is no way to magically find connection for someone who does not know how to connect. They have to first understand this is what they need in their life. Secondly, they have to commit to pursuing it. Thirdly, they have to be willing to invest in faithfulness and commitment in the relationship. At first, it will just be like planting seeds, but if they are willing to wait for the fruit, it will arrive.

God made the most intimate relationship on earth, and he placed it within the confines of marriage. If we are willing to live within the confines of love and fidelity, we will enjoy the fruits of emotional and physical intimacy. We find it by keeping our promises. We see it by showing kindness; we find it by loving each other. We find it by apologizing and forgiving each other. We find it by living out our days in our family. If you have a connection with your wife, husband, and children, thank God for it and fight to keep it. If you do not, fight for it until you have it. It is what we all want more than anything in this life.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Influence of a Mother

When I was just a boy around 8 years of age, I noticed that my mom’s potato peeler was broken. Her birthday was coming up, and I decided to buy her a new one. We lived about a mile and a half from the nearest store, so I rode my bike on a mission and bought the peeler. When I was returning, the peeler slipped out of my hand and caught in the spokes of the front wheel, throwing me off the bike and skinning me up. I came home a little banged up, but I had a birthday gift for my mom. Even though the package was chewed up by the spokes and the peeler was a little bent, it still worked. My mother was grateful for the gift and moved to tears. She kept that potato peeler for years. Years later she would say that is the potato peeler you bought and paid for with your own blood.

Most of us don’t realize the sacrifice and commitment of our mothers until we have children of our own. Not until we start making some of those same sacrifices do we see what she really gave to us. The influence of a loving and godly mother on her children is powerful. God gave the mother a special place to nurture and guide her children in those very early years, which builds a foundation for life.

My mother was born in Lula, Oklahoma on October 2, 1929. Her mother died when she was still very little and extended family stepped in to help raise her and her sister until her father remarried a few years later. While still just a teenager, her family moved to California in search of a better life. My maternal grandpa never found that good life in the Golden State, but my mother did. She was just 17 when she married my father who was 24, and they began their life together. Their education was incomplete, having only completed the eighth grade and the fifth grade, respectively. My father had, however, just come home from several years of combat in World War II. They became dairy farmers and later entrepreneurs in business. They brought three children into this world, and she was a devoted mother to all three of them.

As I look back over her influence in my life, it is apparent to me in how many ways she influenced me. She was tender-hearted and was an encourager. In many ways she prepared my life for what God wanted to do with me. A mother’s affirmation to a child is so powerful, preparing them for their future life. I am very grateful to God for the mother he gave me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Pivotal Moments

There are pivotal moments in life that are so important that they help us realign our priorities and readjust our direction in life. One such decisive moment came for me in my mid-twenties. I had been attending a very large annual conference for pastors for several years. The mega-church that hosted the event was impressive, and there were thousands of pastors in attendance. The pastor was a very charismatic person and a powerful speaker. The church had a remarkable array of different ministries to the community. Certainly, if the number of people who were interested in what this pastor had to say meant anything, then this was an important event.

During one of the events, the pastor shared a sermon that was very honed, entitled “The Carbon Copy Principle.” He said that for many years he believed that every person should try to be who they were meant to be, but that he had come to believe that was wrong. With observation, he realized that many people were floundering in life and they needed help. What they needed was to pattern their life after someone who was successful. Therefore, he had come to the important conclusion that every person who was struggling in life should find a good model and carbon copy their life to that model. Obviously, it seemed to be working for this man because he had a church of over 10,000, and in addition, there were thousands of pastors trying to copy everything about him.

The pastor emphasized his uncompromising commitment to preach the gospel and reach as many people as possible using a very dramatic story. He told about a talk he had with his young son, “Son, you know we have been to a lot of baseball games together, and we have had a lot of great times. Son, it hurts me to have to tell you that daddy has been to the last one because daddy now has to do what God wants him to do. God wants your daddy to win souls for Jesus.”

Although the speaker was very articulate and the illustration very dramatic (overly dramatic), it hit me the wrong way. The more I thought about it, the more I did not like it. The conference and the church were all very impressive—the numbers, the people, the ministries, the sermons, but this wasn’t for me. My pivotal moment came when I rejected the “Carbon Copy Sermon.” I determined I wanted to be at every event possible for my kids. The greater my commitment to God, the more available to them I wanted to be. That same day I determined to make my priority on being rather than doing. I would let what I did in life flow out of who I was. I wanted my marriage and family to be the number one priority in my life and ministry. Secondly, I didn’t want to be a copy of anyone else no matter how impressive they were. Furthermore, I did not want anyone to be a copy of me. Like Robert Frost many years ago, I chose the road less traveled, and I am grateful for where the journey has led.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Antidote for Grumbling

Grumbling is one of the fastest ways to distort your vision and let in crippling discouragement. Complaining is really blaming someone else for what we don’t like about our own life. Instead of looking for what we appreciate, we focus on what we despise. Grumbling will sabotage a workplace, a church, a family, or any community because it is deadly and destructive.

When Moses led the people of Israel through the wilderness on their journey to the Promised Land, they had a very bad habit of grumbling. When things did not work out the way they hoped they would, they grumbled. If they were hungry or thirsty or tired or even if they wanted something different to eat, they would grumble. In Numbers chapter 11, the people began to crave other food than what they had to eat. They said, “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost — also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!" (Numbers 11:5-6). It is amazing how selective their memory was of Egypt. They remember the abundance of fish at no cost, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. One wonders if Egypt was so wonderful, why did they ever leave it in the first place. Do they even remember the slavery, the harsh taskmasters, the endless brickmaking, and the construction of pharaoh’s slave cities? Their memory of the past was very faulty.

Not only do they remember Egypt in a way it never was, but they are also bored to death of eating manna every day. The manna was free and could be prepared many different ways, but that didn’t matter. Grumbling is contagious and easily passed on to others. Their distorted view of the past prevented them from seeing and appreciating the present, and it also completely robbed their future.

This habit of being completely discontented with what God has given to us is a persistent bad habit in our lives today. It is a refusal to recognize God’s gifts, whether they are the leaders, the gifts and talents of others, our own gifts, or the heritage and the whole lot we have been given in life. When we think more highly of the past than the present, more highly of where we came from than where we are, more highly of past companions than the ones we have now, it is a rejection of God’s provision for our lives.

Moses was so overcome with hearing the grumbling of the people. He also began to grumble to God about the grumbling. What he had done before in this instance was to pray for the people. As an intercessor, God responded to his prayers and intervened on behalf of the people. Grumbling is hard to listen to, and sometimes it infects all of us, as it did Moses.

The antidote for grumbling is found in seeing our God-given purpose. Only then can we look back and see the past in a way that benefits the present. Only then will we appreciate our present circumstances, the people around us, and yes, even our present challenges. Only then will we keep moving toward our God-given destiny. Instead of grumbling, let’s trying praying for the people and things we don’t like and allow God to help us see things his way.