More From Les

More From Les - Good-byes

How do you write your final article for the church where you have shared twenty-eight years—almost half of your entire life? How do you say “good bye” when nothing but tears are availa-ble? If I try to begin naming names, the bulletin is simply not big enough. If I try to thank everyone who has shared in and blessed our lives, there are not enough words to express our appreciation. 

As I reflected over the years, my mind went back to the first article I ever wrote for our newsletter. It was dated May 7, 1990 and it was entitled “What A Wonderful Beginning!” June, Robert, Kyle and I had moved (with the help of Charles Bearden and Mike Cox) to Nashville and my first day at Northside was April 15th of that year. 

The article began Words cannot describe the sincere apprecia-tion my family feels for the reception we have received from the Northside family. I was told by several that the Northside congrega-tion was just like family and now I understand why. While moving is always a distressful time, your acts of kindness have made our move very pleasant and, more importantly, encouraging in regards to our hopes, dreams and prayers for what lies ahead.” 

Initial impressions are not always accurate, but they do tell us much about ourselves and our relationships with others. While you have been trying to figure out just who and what this young man from Mississippi is all about (and good luck), I have been ‘sizing up’ the Northside church… 

Perhaps more than anything, I have been impressed by the po-tential for good which is evident in the Northside congregation. There is no doubt that God has great things in store for His family here. I just pray that we can pull together to make His dreams and plans for us a reality.” 

Twenty-eight years later, I still believe every word I wrote on May 7, 1990—except the part about a YOUNG man from Mississippi. I’m not quite that young any more. Black hair has been replaced with grey hair and in some places no hair at all. Small children have been replaced with grand-children (and the incredible joy that brings). Eleven years of marriage have been replaced with 39 years of marriage and the depth of love for June that only time and God can bring. A large building has been replaced by an even larger building and families with deep roots at Northside have been replaced with families with brand new roots. 

I have conducted over 210 funerals of Northside members, visited the hospital to welcome countless new babies to our church family, baptized so many into Christ and pronounced many of you as “husband and wife!” And while all of these moments were filled with incredible emotions from great joy to incredible sadness—I was honored to be a part of each one. 

I finished that first article so long ago with these words, I look forward to closer friendships and greater service together as we work side by side at this place to bring glory, honor and praise to Him for whom we live, work and serve.June and I thank God for the wonderful opportunity to do just that. May God bless each of you richly. 

More From Les

Everyone’s experiences were unique. From walking up Mt. Sinai to sailing across the Sea of Galilee to standing on the Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended back to heaven, it is hard to explain the surreal moments and emotions you feel when you actually SEE what you’ve always only READ in the past! As Phil was fond of saying, “What you’ve always seen in black and white, you now see in color!” 

This past week, approximately thirty Northside members returned from a tour of Egypt and Israel (Ray Fuson, my son Robert and I joined the group in Israel). Awesome! Fantastic! Overwhelm-ing! Wonderful! Unfortunately, there are not enough words to describe the time we spent where people like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Debra, Ruth, David, Elijah, (I think you get the point) all lived, walked, talked, died and were buried. Of course, the highlight of the week were the places where Jesus lived, walked, talked, died and was buried—oh yeah, he also arose again and ascended back into heaven where he sits at the right hand of God Most High. 

The very first evening in Tel Aviv, I couldn’t help but think of the Apostle Peter as he stayed at the house of Simon the Tanner which Luke says was “by the sea” (Acts 10:32). Our hotel was literally just up the shore from where Simon’s house would have been. 

2018 - Sea of Galilee - Les.jpg

The second morning, I woke up in Tiberius, a city just south of Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. Remem-bering that Jesus got up early in the morning to go out to a solitary place to pray, I found a spot on the rocks along the shore of the Sea of Galilee where I could pray. I couldn’t hold back the tears as I thought of praying not far from where Jesus talked with his Heavenly Father. It was emotionally overwhelming. Most of us experienced moments like that. 

We explored the area where Peter made the good confession. We walked in the courts of the Temple where Jesus taught the people. We stood in the garden where Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. 

Perhaps the most moving time was when we gazed upon a hill that looked like a skull—Golgotha/Calvary. We then waited silently to enter the garden tomb where it is believed Jesus was buried and raised again the third day. Gathering nearby in a circle, we were led by Reed Richardson in singing “Up From The Grave He Arose.” That song immediately took on a new mean-ing. 

Special appreciation goes to Phil Kinzer for organizing and leading the tour. Phil did an awesome job of placing each place we visited within its histori-cal setting. I think I speak for all who joined in this spiritual pilgrimage—thank you Phil! 

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 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.")