Listening = Loving 

It’s a special holiday today that is centered around love. All of the focus centers around red hearts, flowers, candy, dinners, but what does it mean to show true love. What does that look like? 

Recently, Josh and I took a Myers Briggs personality test. While we are similar in many areas, we couldn’t be more different when it comes to the area of being extroverted and introverted. I’ll let you decide who was who, but let’s just say that I love to be around people and I love to talk. While I thought about the upcoming holiday, I stumbled upon a quote. “When the two ears are put side by side, it forms a heart. Interestingly, the word ‘ear’ sits right in the middle of the word ‘heart’ (h-ear-t). The ear is the way to the heart, so if you want someone’s heart, learn to listen to them. If you want God’s heart, learn to listen to Him” 

Many times, we are quick to give our opinion, our excuses, our advice, when instead we should be listening. Listening to what the other person is struggling with. Listening to what the other person likes. Listening to how the other person feels. The bible tells us to be slow to speak and slow to anger. The bible also teaches us to watch our tongue. I’ve often regretted things that I have said because I didn’t listen and think before I spoke. 

Every relationship, not only your spouse, requires listening. We have recently noticed outbursts of frustration and bouts of screaming from our boys when they feel that no one is listening to them. They feel alone. They feel undervalued. They feel unimportant. One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what the other person has to say. There are few greater feelings than to feel loved by those that you respect the most. One of the ways that we feel loved is when we feel listened to and when we feel that our opinion and voice matters. 

There are many times where I know that God has tried to show me something or speak to me and I have simply talked my way around or out of it. I know that I matter to God. How do I show Him that He matters to me? How do I show love to God? We can show it through many ways, but many times I feel we should just listen. Simply be still. 

Josh and I will be celebrating 10 years of marriage this year, and while we still get frustrated, we have come a long way with this listening love. I would challenge you this week to look at your relationships and your relationship with God. Are you showing love? Are you showing respect? Are you truly listening?

Kids Who Grow Up to Follow Jesus Have Parents Who Do These 7 Things

(The following is a summery of an article entitled “Kids Who Grow Up To Follow Jesus Have Parents Who Do These 7 Things.” Kristen Hooper alerted me to it and I think it’s excellent, especially for our young families. I hope you enjoy it).

No one has more influence in a child's life than his or her parents. Kids who grow up to follow Jesus as adults normally have parents who influenced them to do so. Throughout Scripture, we see examples of children who were influenced by their par- ents to follow God—Abraham and Isaac, Hannah and Samuel, Eunice and Timothy, etc.

The National Study of Youth and Religion backs this up as well. The study shows that parents are far and away the major influence in kids keeping their faith into their adulthood. Just 1% of teens ages 15 to 17 raised by parents who attached little importance to religion were highly religious in their mid-to-late 20s. The study compared this to children who were raised by parents who talked about faith at home, attached great importance to their beliefs and were active in their congregations. 82% of these kids grew up to be religiously active as young adults. “No other conceivable causal influence ... comes remotely close to matching the influence of parents on the religious faith and practices of youth. Parents just dominate.” (Christian Smith, Yale University)

What are some of the key things that parents do whose kids grow up to follow Jesus as adults? Let's look at 7 of them.

Kids who grow up to follow Jesus as adults have parents who prayed with them at home. They prayed with them at meal time. They prayed with them at bed- time. They prayed with them before they left for school. They prayed with them in times of crisis. They prayed with them about important decisions.

Kids who grow up to follow Jesus as adults have parents who read God's word with them at home. The Bible didn't sit on the dashboard of the car all week collecting dust or it didn't remain an unopened app. It was used during the week. Eunice and Lois, who raised Timothy, infused Scripture into his life. Look what it says about this in the New Testament. “You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

Kids who grow up to follow Jesus as adults have parents who take them to church consistently. We live in a day when parents are taking their children to church less frequently. The average family who attends church only shows up once every three to four weeks. Sports, activities, weekend trips and the general busyness of life creeps in and crowds out many families' consistent church attendance. But this is not the case for families whose kids grow up to love Jesus. They make attending church the top priority of their weekend.

Kids who grow up to follow Jesus as adults have parents who create a place where questions are welcomed and encouraged. One of the strongest factors associated with kids keeping their faith as young adults is having parents who talk about religion and spirituality at home.

Kids who grow up to follow Jesus as adults have parents who emphasize relationship over rules. This doesn't mean they don't put boundaries and consequences in place. But what it does mean is they focus more on helping their kids fall in love with Jesus and having a personal, growing relationship with Him. As they do this, their kids begin to obey and "keep the rules" not out of fear or duty, but out of a heart of love and surrender to Jesus' will for their life.

Kids who grow up to follow Jesus as adults have parents who live authentically. Simply put. Their parents are the real deal. They practice what they preach. They live at home just like they live at church. This doesn't mean the parents are perfect. Yes, they make mistakes along the way. But when they do, they humbly admit it and seek forgiveness.

Kids who grow up to follow Jesus as adults have parents who actively serve and involve their children in serving. Research shows that kids who get involved in serving are much more likely to carry their faith into adulthood. There is some- thing about serving that activates a child's faith and increases their passion for the things of God. When a child understands that God has a purpose for their life and that they can be used of God to impact others for the kingdom, he/she engages wholeheartedly.

 

The Power of A Single Welcoming Word

My oldest brother, Rick Cunningham, received a letter in the mail the other day. It was from a friend who had once been a member of the church where Rick had served as minister.  This lady was now a member of a church in another Texas town, several hundred miles away.   In the letter she wrote this:

“Yesterday, our minister, John Knox, was telling about his baptism at Sunset in Lubbock, TX when he was 20 years old.  He was a student at Lubbock Christian University after flunking out of Texas Tech.  He had   never darkened the door of a church building until he met his LCU friends.  At some time in there, he had a girlfriend who was also a student at LCU, who lead him to Christ.  Anyway, when he was baptized, he came up out of the water, up the stairs to re-dress, and he was met by an older man with a towel who simply said ‘Welcome.’  John went on to say how much that one word meant to him then, and how it stayed with him through the years.  He said he had kept it in his heart to this very day.  He related instances of seeing this man, many times over the years, whenever he visited someone in a Lubbock Hospital… there this man was visiting people nearly every time.  John said that, because he had so many connections in Lubbock, he always checked the Lubbock obituaries.  There, he said, in last week’s obituary, was the name Joe Cunningham, the man who was first to welcome him into the Kingdom, and whose welcome had touched his heart for all these years.” 

Of course, this kind of witness to my dad’s life does not surprise my brothers or me.  This is the kind of man Pop was.  But I wanted to relay this story here to simply remind us of the power of a single word when it is uttered by someone whose heart is filled with love and welcome.  We  never know how un-welcome people feel around us, so when they are confronted by someone who is genuine in their welcome, it can have a powerful and lasting impact.  Pop likely never knew this story even though he was the central character.  And you may never know how your words of welcome impact someone else…. But that person knows.  And it may have a lasting impact on how they feel about life.  And, after all, isn’t this exactly how we think Jesus welcomes us into His Kingdom?  “Well done, good and faithful servant…. Come on into the joy of your Master.”

(The following is an article by Ray Fuson that challenges us on our spiritual walk with God during 2018. I hope you enjoy it).

It's a new year–did we grow personally in 2017, and how will we pursue 2018? Genesis 1:26 says, "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness..." Romans 8:29 says, "To be conformed to the image of His Son, the first-born of many brethren." First, let's understand that Romans 8 explores in depth the work of God. Moving a Christian from the carnal nature to the spiritual nature is the work of the Holy Spirit in a process the Bible calls "sanctification." It is important that we understand that the work of the Spirit is a life-long process com­pleted only at the Resurrection.

Question–Can the Christian reflect Christ's image perfectly all the time? I don't believe we can in this life. If we could, we would not have to fight this spiritu­al battle each of us fight every day. Instead, I believe that there are moments when Christ is more evident than others–and then there are other moments when self and the flesh get in the way.

Sometimes, we may reflect and see a milestone of growth in our walk with God; but more often it is the little steps–little ditto marks that point the way. For­tunately, the blood of Christ makes up the difference.

The litmus test for us is found in Galatians 5:22-23 which says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-Control ..." Can we truly say that we continually express agape, or storge (family love), or even phileo (friendship love)? Of course not! Is it joy (the glad expectation of God's deliverance), or is it our own happiness we seek? Is it peace (the calm assurance of God in control), or the world's peace (the cessation of conflict)? Is it patience or is it our hurry–our "want it now"–that drives us to reach our destination?

The Bible says in 1 John 4:8, "God is Love". How much of God is love? All of Him and all of Him is joy, peace, patience, etc. I think we need to return to the burning bush on the mountain of God, take off our shoes because we are on holy ground, and hear God say, "I AM is My Name!"

When we bring that into the context of Galatians 5:22–I AM  Love, I AM Joy, I AM Peace, and I AM Patience–we get the whole complete sense of who I AM is and our relationship to Him. Our walk with Him becomes more than just a stroll. He can take our little steps, our ditto marks and keep drawing us to Him; making and conforming us to His image. Not an easy task–rather it is His love and His pa­tience allowing us to take missteps like a parent with a child, guiding us the whole way.

May "I AM" strengthen us to do His will and may we continue to grow in the nurturing love of His Son this coming year!

 

(If you were blessed by his thoughts like I was, please tell Ray "thank you.")