Encouragement From The Word

Embrace and Nurture

Earlier this month, my wife and I did some camping in northern Ontario.  On the first evening, we were late arriving because we were detoured away from an accident on Highway 400.  (Unlike Highway 11, some of the interchanges on the 400 extension are just for dead-end cottage roads, so we ended up adding about 3 hours to our trip.)

I was setting up the camper van, plugging into the electricity and water, and the chap at the adjoining campsite was inspecting the front of his trailer.  Just trying to be a friendly camper, I made a compliment about his trailer, and he started telling me quite a bit of his life story.

I’ll spare you the details, but one part of his story struck me.  He was telling me about the business he is going to start when he moves, and said, “I was raised an evangelical Christian…” and proceeded to disparage his upbringing.

My heart ached as I completed that conversation so I could cook supper, not only for him, but because I know there are others who have a similar story to tell.

In some ways, in recent years, it has become trendy to walk away from one’s spiritual roots, but it is especially poignant when those spiritual roots are in the historic, apostolic, biblically-based expressions of Christianity.

The reality is that no church is perfect, and most churches have made assumptions about how well-equipped parents are to raise their children to know and love and serve Jesus.  They’ve let down their families.  But every church that roots itself in the basics of Christian faith seeks to do its best to see its children grow in Christ.  And when that doesn’t happen, the church mourns.  It should mourn.  And God’s heart breaks.

My fellow camper ideally would have held on to his faith roots, but he didn’t.  I don’t know the reasons.  But whatever your role in your local church, do all you can to disciple the children in your midst, starting with your own.  Equip them, and their parents, to embrace and nurture faith in Jesus in a world that is doing its best to do the opposite.  And leave the rest to God.

[Y]ou must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.  Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up” (Deuteronomy 6.6-7, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

One More Time

“Your father has a proposal to share with you,” said my mother, sheepishly, one day last month when my parents, my wife and I met together in a coffee shop.

“We’d like to go camping with you,” said Dad.

He had given this considerable thought, obviously, and was going to look into renting a motor home.  My wife suggested that it might be cheaper to rent a Kamping Kabin at a KOA campground.

After some research, the combination of available dates for us, my parents, and the various campgrounds I called left us with the opportunity to spend two nights at the KOA near Barrie, Ontario, where Mom and Dad would have a Kamping Kabin that was suitably air-conditioned.  (It even had satellite TV, which borders on ‘glamping’!)

The accommodations were secondary, though, to the time spent together, which we all enjoyed most.  My wife and I are used to camping in our little camper van with just the two of us, so sharing meals, conversations, and campfires with my parents was different, but reminiscent of my childhood, when we took our 16-foot Holiday trailer to all sorts of Ontario campgrounds, often with family or friends.

Those were fun times.  We are all older now, and health concerns challenge my parents on a daily basis.  Despite that, or maybe because of it, I was very touched that they wanted to participate in the camping ritual one more time.  Rather than relive old memories, though, what we did was more important:  we created new memories.

It’s never too late to create new memories with your loved ones.  Those memories last a lifetime.

Honour your father and mother.  Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20.12, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Language check

While my wife and I were camping at Bonnechere Provincial Park last month (after our visit to Fort-Coulonge, noted in last week’s Encouragement), we sat outside enjoying the campfire one evening, and couldn’t help but overhear a family’s engagement at a nearby campsite.  They weren’t super loud; the sound just carried naturally.

Sometimes, when we hear other people’s business going on at a campsite, it is unnerving, annoying, and often embarrassing.  But not this time.

This young family had some of the usual interlocutions over the course of the day, talking about going swimming or canoeing or the like.  And in the evening, the mom, dad and three kids sat around the campfire playing a conversational game (the rules of which we never quite caught on to, but which we enjoyed overhearing nonetheless).

What made it so astounding – and gratifying – for us is that each member of the family interacted with the other with the utmost care and respect.  Not in a weird way, just in what we all would hope to be a normal way.  We never laid eyes on any of them, but we would guess the parents to be in their late 30s or early 40s, and the kids to be mid-teen, early-teen and pre-teen (two girls and a boy respectively).  It was obvious that they were ‘normal’ people, but that they truly loved each other.

I suspect, too, that they may have been Christians.  I don’t know that for a fact, of course, but their conversation was so kind that it seemed like a wholesome Christian family.

What most astounded us was that even when exclamatory remarks were made, not once did God’s name get misused.  Not once.

We never heard an “Oh my God!” even one time, which is rare – dare I say, even rare among Christians!

This got me thinking:  how often do we blurt out an “OMG” without really realizing it?  If you watch television, you know that tossing God’s name around has become common sport; people don’t even think about it anymore.  While my instinct may be incorrect, I think the social acceptability of this may have begun with Bonnie Franklin’s character in One Day At A Time, an evening sitcom that was popular in the 1970s, who blurted out a prolonged “Oh my God” at least once or twice a show, with the laugh track ensuing.

The third commandment makes it pretty plain that such cavalier use of God’s name is not something his people should be making:  “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name” (Exodus 20.7, NLT).

Many of God’s people don’t intentionally do this; for most who do, it’s reflexive, and not thought out.  Still, it is disturbing when followers of Jesus do this.  We should be careful with our choice of words, even when we’re frustrated or angry!

I want to encourage you today to do a language check:  if you’re spitting out even the occasional “OMG”, consider rephrasing your exclamations to honour the Lord you serve.  Be that family at the campsite near ours.  Be the person to whom people look appreciatively when you speak.  It honours the God you serve.

Encouragement From The Word

Get out of your rut!

Last week, my wife and I went camping around the west side of Lake Michigan, an area we’d never visited before.   I fear we missed most of Wisconsin due to rain!  It rained very heavily in that area before and during our time there.

We stopped in one campground for the evening, and in my attempts to get the van levelled, managed to get it stuck!  The ground was very soft from all the rain, and we were driving on grass alone.  The more we tried to get out, the deeper our ruts got.  We knew we needed to do something different.

Along came one of the campground’s workers, and she suggested taking my levelling blocks – picture big, square LEGO™ blocks – and lay them flat in the base of the ruts so we would have some traction to back over them, and out of the ruts.

It was a good idea.  It worked.  We got out, stayed the night, and made it home!

This got me thinking, though, about how we get into ruts in our lives.  Whether it’s in the routines of marriage and family life, or the way we ‘do’ church, or even the way we drive to work each day, we tend to create comfortable ruts for ourselves.  Yet someone has defined a rut as a grave that’s open on both ends – not such a good thing!

We do well to be challenged to get out of the ruts we make for ourselves.  God longs to give us new opportunities to serve him, yet we often find it easier to stay in the places where we’ve “always been”.

I knew someone once who lived in a very small community, and only left that very small community to go to a nearby slightly larger community about once a year.  Change, for that person, was not welcome.  Yet there are so many possibilities God can help us explore if we will find some creative way to get us out of our life’s ruts and onto solid ground that will let us travel – emotionally, if not physically – to new places.

Change can be overwhelming for some, so start with baby steps.  Try having something different from “the usual” when you go out for dinner.  Try watching a different newscast on TV.  Try reading a different translation of the Bible.  Try a new brand of coffee.  These are all little things, but they can lead to bigger things that can really make a difference in life.

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10.10, NIV).  When we came to faith in Jesus, that was a big change – and look at the difference it made in our lives!  Consider how other changes could make a positive difference for you.  Find something to give you traction, and get out of your ruts today!