The Dad Blog

Discipleship & Encouragement

What’s in your wallet?

A large banking company here in the U.S. runs a commercial advertisement to market their credit card to consumers. The advertisement has been running for several years now, so the marketing plan has clearly been successful in generating new business. The tag line that closes the advertising message is “what’s in your wallet?”

My regular wallet has numerous cards in it. So many that I tend to tilt to the left when driving in the car. A bit like sitting on an orange but not quite. In my wallet I have two credit cards, two debit cards, driver’s license, AAA card, health insurance cards, and numerous cards for the “reward programs” of retailers frequently visited. Occasionally, even “cash.” Most of the cards are related to the exchange of goods or value between myself and others. Those earthly treasures that are bought, sold, consumed and accumulated in life.

But I got to thinking about changing that tagline and adding a word. What if it said, “What’s in your spiritual wallet?”  What might my spiritual wallet hold? Treasures given by God perhaps. And what might those be? For one, He has given me His Son, Jesus Christ.[i]   Secondly, His Holy Spirit.[ii] Eternal life for all who believe.[iii] The gift of the Holy Scriptures. [iv] …..That’s a pretty big wallet.

Yet God in His abundance continues to fill my spiritual wallet with more. The wonderful gift of my wife, Marian.[v] Three precious gifts in my daughters.[vi] Gifts to minister to the fellowship of believers in Christ.[vii] Gifts for life: to work, to provide and to be generous.[viii] Yes, my cup runneth over…….

But what about that regular wallet? Where does that fit in? A couple of men stopped by earlier this month and provided some advice on a statement Jesus had spoken: “The eye is the lamp of the body. If then your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness.”[ix] What is the distinction between healthy or diseased eyes when it comes to earthly treasures? They proffered three recommendations in order for me keep my eyes healthy when working with earthly treasures. See them as 1) a tool; 2) a test given by God; and 3) a representation of my testimony for Christ. And being “wise men,” they provided support from God’s Word.[x] Wise men, indeed.

Living in a wealthy nation can challenge my eyes with respect to earthly treasures. Likely true wherever I may live. Will they stay healthy or become diseased? Jesus said that “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”[xi] May my eyes, my gratitude, my treasure remain focused on my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

What’s in your wallet?

[i] John 3:16

[ii] John 14:16-17

[iii] John 5:24

[iv] II Peter 1:20-21

[v] Proverbs 18:22

[vi] Psalm 127:3

[vii] Romans 12:3-8

[viii]Deuteronomy 8:17-18, Romans 8:32

[ix] Matthew 6:22-23 NB

[x] I Timothy 6:17-18, Matthew 25:14-30

[xi] Matthew 6:21 NB

Kirk Thomsen

Kirk Thomsen

Husband, Father and Disciplemaker

“And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

Hornets – 1, Dad – 0

It has been an unusually busy spring and summer this year. Several conventions along with several trips to visit family and friends kept me occupied through six weekends straight during one stretch of the calendar. All good, of course! In the midst of all that activity, however, choices must be made as to what gets done and what does not. Decisions, decisions…..indeed! What shall be the priority? Well, in the midst of all that travel activity this year choices needed to be made or perhaps I should say, “not made.” Specifically, the choice to take care of the yard work while I was away. It took a hit. Thus, when time was available for me to get active on the yard, it was mid-July. The grass cutting had been outsourced for the summer so things were fine there. But when it came to the weeds and the bushes, they were more than flourishing, they were moving in and taking over. Reminded me of the verse in Song of Solomon, chapter 1, …..”Alas, my own vineyard I could not keep!” NB When I’m busy elsewhere, something else will be neglected.

Better late than never, however, was my motto, so I dived into getting the yard back into shape. One of my tasks was to trim the bushes which were well overgrown by now. Armed with my trusty over 20 year old electric hedge trimmer, I began to hack away in swathes. A bit like harvesting wheat as you see the branches fall. I could clearly see the path where I had been. As I headed around the bend of the bushes however, I began to notice that there were some black things flying in the air. That seemed odd until several of them noticed me! It was recognition at first site shall we say by both parties. And it didn’t appear to be friendly, on either side. Needless-to-say, I quickly stopped using the hedge trimmer to “trim” and converted it into a “hornet hacker”. Not that it would do much good, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. As the hornets launched their attack, my measured retreat soon turned into a rout! But not before the hornets struck first blood. Thus, wounded and greatly outnumbered, my retreat was hastily made into the safety of the garage. The hornets soon gave up the attack exultant in their triumph.

After the episode, I was reminded of a similar occurrence several years back when a similar set of circumstances had taken place. My yardwork was delayed until mid-summer due to a busy schedule and the hornets had moved in. Only that time, I had avoided getting stung. I’m either getting older or slower……more than likely it’s both. I’ve now learned the lesson twice…….I’m purposing now not to learn it a third time. Next time, the hornets just might get more missiles through. But we’ll see…..time will tell. Life is like that……when we neglect things, the riff raff move in. Similarly, what is true in the physical life is also true in the spiritual. Must be why the Bible states that we are to “take time and trouble to keep yourself spiritually fit.” I Timothy 4:7 – JB Phillips Keeping our own vineyard spiritually fit requires diligence and effort with daily time in God’s Word and prayer. And our spiritual life is far more important than the physical. Allowing the busyness of life to keep me from my relationship with God is very dangerous territory. I don’t want to live there.

A friend of mine was sharing his testimony with me earlier this year. He told me that he used to think of God as a “god of the gaps”. When he had a gap in his day, he fit God in. When he didn’t have a gap, he didn’t. He was challenged at the end of a 2 year study with some other men to consider what, if anything, would be different in his life going forward. He was convicted that he needed to put God “first,” not second or last in his day. From that day on, God’s word and prayer came first each day before anything else. His life has dramatically changed. Jesus stated that I am to seek His kingdom first. He will take care of that other stuff that we need. Any other road is a dead end.

Postscript: The hornets won the first battle. They didn’t win the war.

Pray without Ceasing

Mission impossible comes to mind when I read the words of I Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing.” Reading that verse for the first time in my early days as a follower of Jesus, struck me as a mountain too big to climb. How does one do that? The question stayed with me. While the task appeared impossible to attain, yet I knew that God’s word was true. Jesus said, “What is impossible with men, is possible with God.” There must be a way.

A.W. Tozer made this observation in the first line of his book, The Knowledge of the Holy: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Meditate on that statement. Why would my thoughts of God be the most important thing about me? You may have heard the statement, “ideas have consequences.” Indeed. Our thoughts, of course, are the precursor to our actions. As such, my life will be representative of what I’m thinking, whom I’m thinking about and what information I’m processing. So, “Yes”, what I think about God is critically important. And what I think about God will directly impact my prayer life.

God calls us into a relationship with Him. How are we to respond? Jesus stated that we are to love God with all of our heart, all of our mind and all of our strength. Our response is not to be only one of duty, but one that is whole hearted. A passion that God commends in His servant David, whom he called “a man after His own heart” I Samuel 13:14.

The Lord spoke through His prophet Jeremiah when He said to the nation of Israel, “Am I a God near at hand, and not a God afar off?” In my beginning years as a Christian, I began to study the Bible to learn who God is. A study of His attributes led me to learn about His holiness, His power, His justice and His mercy and many more. To me, during this time of my new life in Christ, God seemed to be far away. So high above the heavens that He was not near at hand. The opposite of where Israel was living. The truth, however, is what He says in His word, He is both near and far.

In seeking to grow in my nearness to God in recent times, my studies ventured into the area of friendship; specifically friendship with Christ. A concept that has been challenging for me to grasp over the years. Likely due to my personal biases or perhaps the materials used for study did not go there. Friendship is not typically seen as an attribute of God, but is descriptive of a relationship. Recently Jesus’s words in John 15 were especially impactful.

The theme song from the TV show and later movie “Mission Impossible” comes to mind when I read the words of I Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing.” Reading that verse for the first time in my early days as a follower of Jesus, struck me as a mountain too big to climb. How does one do that? The question stayed with me. While the task appeared impossible to attain, yet I knew that God’s word was true. Jesus said, “What is impossible with men, is possible with God.” There must be a way.

A.W. Tozer made this observation in the first line of his book, The Knowledge of the Holy: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Meditate on that statement. Why would my thoughts of God be the most important thing about me? You may have heard the statement, “ideas have consequences.” Indeed. Our thoughts, of course, are the precursor to our actions. As such, my life will be representative of what I’m thinking, whom I’m thinking about and what information I’m processing. So, “Yes”, what I think about God is critically important. And what I think about God will directly impact my prayer life.

God calls us into a relationship with Him. How are we to respond? Jesus stated that we are to love God with all of our heart, all of our mind and all of our strength. Our response is not to be only one of duty, but one that is whole hearted. A passion that God commends in His servant David, whom he called “a man after His own heart” I Samuel 13:14.

The Lord spoke through His prophet Jeremiah when He said to the nation of Israel, “Am I a God near at hand, and not a God afar off?” In my beginning years as a Christian, I began to study the Bible to learn who God is. A study of His attributes led me to learn about His holiness, His power, His justice and His mercy and many more. To me, during this time of my new life in Christ, God seemed to be far away. So high above the heavens that He was not near at hand. The opposite of where Israel was living. The truth, however, is what He says in His word, He is both near and far.

In seeking to grow in my nearness to God in recent times, my studies ventured into the area of friendship; specifically friendship with Christ. A concept that has been challenging for me to grasp over the years. Likely due to my personal biases or perhaps the materials used for study did not go there. Friendship is not typically seen as an attribute of God, but is descriptive of a relationship. Recently Jesus’s words in John 15 were especially impactful.

John 15:15 (NKJV) No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.

Jesus called his disciples “friends” because they knew what he was about and what he was doing.  Friendship is about relationship. Not just in one direction, but in two. It requires engagement by both parties, it’s a mutual investment. Jesus had invested in those relationships with his disciples…making known to them what he had heard from his heavenly Father. That engagement took the better part of three years….an investment of life and time. But what about the disciples? How were they friends with Jesus? Jesus shares that insight in verse 14:

“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”

His “friends” live a life of obedience to the revealed will of God, a life following His Son Jesus Christ. My prayer life is a step of obedience on my part and it also one of friendship with my Lord and Savior.

A hymn that I grew up singing was entitled “What a friend we have in Jesus.” According to some sources, it’s ranked in the top ten list of the most popular hymns. Written initially in Canada in the 19th century, as a poem by Joseph Scriven, to encourage his mother in Ireland who was seriously ill. The poem was entitled “Pray without Ceasing”. Sometime later, Charles C. Converse put the poem to music and retitled it to the popular hymn we know today. Converse clearly recognized the theme of Scriven’s words with many of the refrains encouraging us to share our burdens and to “take it to the Lord in prayer.” There is no burden that we cannot share with the Lord. The hymn is an encouraging reminder that my love (obedience) begins by coming to Him in prayer. A trust, a dependence, a desire to spend time with Him. Perhaps Converse recognized one of the keys that Scriven discovered when he wrote the poem; making possible our ability to “pray without ceasing” when he titled the hymn. Indeed, what a friend we have in Jesus.

Prayer – The First Step of Obedience

First and foremost, prayer is a step of obedience. When Jesus began his preaching ministry, he began with a call for people to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Matthew 4:17 To repent means that we forsake our life of sin and we turn to God. Our first step of obedience in the Christian life is seeking God in prayer. We turn to him and acknowledge that we desire to leave our current way of life and live for him as Lord and Savior. God meets personally with each of his children in the beginning of their new life. A sanctuary of prayer between our heavenly Father and his child. A child who is welcomed into the kingdom of God.

The initial first step of obedience in prayer at the beginning of a new life, however, is not intended to be the last step of prayer. It’s only the beginning of our relationship with our heavenly Father. The first step of obedience in prayer is also one that we live each day. Jesus stated that we are to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.” Our life in Christ has a directional priority. God first, everything else comes after. My motivation, however, can fluctuate and stretch like a rubber band based on the pressures of my days. Life can be so “daily!” The continuum often runs from “duty” to “desire”. My wish is that my cup of desire, to spend time with my Lord, would runneth over every day. Those times are especially sweet. But on those days when desire wanes, my acknowledgement that duty is required keeps me turning to my Lord.

Obedience in prayer enables me to develop the habit of prayer. A poem learned many years ago affirms that a good habit takes time and practice.

 
“Sow a thought and you reap an action,
sow an act and you reap a habit,
sow a habit and you reap a character,
sow a character and you reap a destiny.”

Turning to God in prayer each day enables me to seek God’s wisdom and engagement as the events of the day unfold. He is with me wherever I go. My desire is that my turning to him becomes so ingrained in my life that it becomes axiomatic in how I live.

The Bible speaks to the impact of prayer in the lives of his people. In II Chronicles, chapter 20, we read a positive example about King Jehoshaphat and his battle with the Moabites and Ammonites when they declared war on the nation of Judah. In response to their invasion, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord. God answered. God fought the battle for them. The foreign armies were destroyed. Move forward to chapter 26 and we read a negative example about King Uzziah of Judah. A man who started out well. In v. 5 we read, “He (King Uzziah) sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God game him success.” Uzziah’s early years brought great success for the kingdom of Judah and he became very powerful. After he became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He decided that he could burn incense on the altar of incense in the temple. Something only the priests were allowed to do, not kings. God struck him with leprosy. Pride leads us away from turning to God. Prayerlessness has consequences.

Yes, there is power in prayer. E.M. Bounds stated that “The men who have most fully illustrated Christ in their characters, and have most powerfully affected the world for him, have been men who spend so much time with God as to make it a notable feature in their lives…..To be little with God is to be little for God.” May turning to God in prayer be your first step of obedience each day.

The Way of a Farmer

One of the oldest and noblest occupations on earth belongs to those who labor in the soil. We call them farmers. My heritage during my growing up years belongs to what is often referred to as the “Great Plains” of our country. Another description commonly refers to it as the “bread basket” for supplying agricultural abundance. Generally, the Great Plains comprise that area which is west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains. It’s huge! Beautiful country for raising grain. It attracted my grandfather to this country about a century ago. Emigrating from Denmark, he brought his bride and three children to this country during the great depression. He was a farmer in Denmark and he planned to be a farmer in America. America had more land and an opportunity to grow. More promise for a young man with a growing family. As a young man, my grandfather shared with me that his favorite song was “America, the Beautiful”. Those amber waves of grain were true….he found that here. My grandfather was a farmer and he was a noble man. Grateful for his courage, hard work and his sacrifice. Characteristics very becoming of farmers.

While never holding the official occupation of being a farmer, I was very fortunate to be associated with many who did. My grandfather, my father, my friend, my friend’s fathers and many more. You see farming permeates most of life and business in the Great Plains. It’s the main thing and much of life and business revolves around the seasons of the year. The spring brings a new season of planting. Moving into summer comprises fertilizing, cultivating and irrigation to help the crop prosper. And, of course, the autumn season turns into harvest where the crop is taken to market to be sold. Winter is a time of rest, repair and getting things ready for the next season when the whole process starts over again. And so goes life for the farmer year after year. An annual cycle that repeats during their life time. Repetitive? Yes. Boring? Not! Farming is anything but predictable with the weather being one of the greatest variables that will keep your anxiety and even your blood pressure rising. Another can be the unpredictability of the markets and commodity prices. Will there be a gain or a loss this year? A farmer’s life is filled with risk and reward. And yet, the farmer must carry on year after year. Sowing seed to plant a new crop with the hope that THIS year will be one of great abundance, great weather and great markets.

In one of his parables, found in the gospel of Mark, chapter four, Jesus uses the life of a farmer to illustrate a principle of the kingdom of God for his disciples. Jesus tells the story about the farmer who went out to sow his seed. Some falls on the path, and the birds ate it up. Some seed fell on the rocky places where there was little soil. It quickly sprouted with the sunshine but was soon scorched because it had no root. Other seed, fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants so they did not bear fruit. Still other seed fell on good soil and sprang up producing a crop thirty, sixty, a hundred times what was sown. The twelve disciples who were following Jesus, asked him to explain the parable for them. Jesus replied, “The farmer sows the word.” Jesus knew that they were going to experience many different types of “soil” in the hearts of men. The key for them was to keep on sowing the word of God. Season after season after season. Just as the farmer who plants a new crop each year. Faithful, hopeful and looking forward to the harvest.

The way of a Christian is like the way of a farmer. We are to sow the word of God, in season and out of season as the apostle Paul would say. We do not know when, how or if the seed we have sown will grow. For God is the one who makes the seed grow. We must be faithful to keep sowing the word. Not only in our own life but also in the lives of others. Just like the farmer. It’s a noble calling.

The Art of Listening

One item on my “to do list” at the beginning of each year is to work on a list of goals and objectives to help chart my course for the year. Generally, one of those goals is to spend time in the Bible during the year. Encouraged to do so by those who were faithfully helping me to grow as a disciple of Christ in my 20’s, the practice has stayed with me through the years. The principle of being saturated in the Word of God through hearing, reading, studying, memorizing and meditation has yielded a multitude of blessings. For example, one of my goals is to read through the Bible in one year. Another goal is to meet with others to study the Bible. The Word is the sword of the Spirit; God speaks to us through His Word. (Ephesians 6:17)  Indeed, it’s quite difficult to hear God’s voice when I’m not in the Word of God. The Bible is essential to my growth as a Christian.

In reflecting back on 2017, growing to be a better “listener” was not to be found on my list of goals and objectives. Not even a whisper in the back of my mind! But as the year progressed, the need to improve my listening capabilities became more and more apparent. In a meeting with a group of men in studying the book of Proverbs, a couple of Scripture verses were particularly impactful. A major theme in the book is the distinction between the wise man and the foolish man. A distinction that is made manifest in the choices one makes and the eventual consequences of those choices. Pride and humility, another theme, are contrasted throughout the book. One rests with the fool and one with the wise.  Proverbs 18:13 was especially poignant, “He who answers before listening, that is his folly and his shame.” As a person who greatly enjoys being with people, I have the tendency to also enjoy talking. Imagine that! A tendency that shows itself when I begin to think how I will answer someone while they are talking. Doing two things at once is not possible for me. So when I’m thinking about my answer, I’m obviously not listening. That’s where the fool lives and it is to his shame. I was convicted that I live there far too often. The second verse from Proverbs was also in chapter 18, verse two. “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.” Obviously, my desire to share my opinions comes at the expense of not truly understanding people when I am with them. Now I’m twice the fool!

Another reminder of the need for good listening skills occurred during the Bible study, “Every Man a Warrior” series, which another man and I studied last summer. Specifically, the second book which zeroed in on my role as a Husband and a Dad. It hit this area hard. It’s extremely difficult for me to know the deep issues going on in the lives of those closest to me, my wife and children, if I am not a good listener. And to be a good listener, I need to spend “time with them!” That requires an alteration in my agenda and my schedule to accommodate theirs. The time involved here is quantity, rather than quality. The time is also dedicated toward me “asking questions,” rather than telling others what “I’m doing” or what they should be doing! The study required us to put these skills into practice. In doing so, one becomes painfully aware that my skills are not anywhere near where they ought to be. Felt a bit like I was back in sixth grade instead of operating at the PhD. level which is where I should be by now! Gratefully, God never gives up on us, so there is still time for me to change.

As the year progressed, more hints came my way. Another Bible study called “The Way of the Alongsider” carried a chapter entitled the “Way of Depth”. In order to grow deeper in relationships, we need to be exceptional at listening. By this time in the year, I had received the message that this area needed a lot of focus. Good communication can only take place when I listen well. As Stephen Covey noted many years ago in his book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we must “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Toward the end of the year, a good friend asked for assistance in facilitating the “Deep Dive” coaching seminar with him. A seminar dedicated to help leaders turn their ministry dreams and life goals into practical and life-changing realities.  One of the sections that fell to me, (Yes, you guessed it!) was on developing “active listening” skills. Needless-to-say, the opportunity was welcomed as another venue to put these skills into practice.

Improving in this area of “listening” is indeed an art. It takes on going practice and diligence to truly seek to hear what others are seeking to communicate. In doing so, my understanding of others and my relationship with them will greatly deepen. I’ve found that it clearly takes focus to ask good questions instead of telling my stories and my experiences. My goal is to reach a high school diploma in this area of listening. And perhaps even grow further! Gratefully, God is answering prayer and enabling progress one step at a time. In the words of Familyman Todd Wilson, “It’s hard, but it’s good!”

The Best Defense is a Great Offense

Last month our family traveled to the great state of Texas to attend a convention in The Woodlands. Along the way, we made a stop in the Cincinnati area to visit Uncle Denny. He joined us as we spent a day to visit “The Ark Encounter” in Florence, Kentucky. Quite an experience and one we plan to enjoy again in the future. Our time with Uncle Denny is always a delight. With a heart fervent for the Lord, he is an encouragement to be around. He attends church twice on Sunday. Once in the morning at an apartment complex nearby and again in the afternoon at the nursing home care center which is also a short walk from his apartment. The morning session is held twice a month by an itinerant pastor in the Wesley tradition who stops by to share the word of God and sing hymns with the willing tenants. Recently, the pastor asked Uncle Denny to consider picking up his mantle to share the word of God on one of those two Sundays when the pastor is not able to be there.  It was not a surprise to hear that he had been asked. Uncle Denny has a passion for Christ and it shows. He delights in sharing the Word of God with those he meets; friends and strangers alike. Well, Uncle Denny accepted the mantle and began his first sharing of the Word in June. While we were with him, he was focused on preparing to share his next message on John 14:6, where Jesus stated that, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Those who hear will be blessed!  Uncle Denny just turned 85 earlier this month. 

At a breakfast this past month my dear friend, Steve, shared that his world as a grandfather was going to be expanding very soon. His second and third grandchild were to arrive during the third quarter this year. He was excited and I was excited with him. Or as a friend from Australia shared last year, “I was upcited!” With emphasis on the “up”! It provides a better mental picture! My friend had a prayer verse posted in his home that provided guidance for him in his role as a grandfather. It was Psalm 71:18 – “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”  Steve’s desire was to not only spend time with his grandchildren, but to invest in them spiritually.

Both Uncle Denny and Steve’s examples were encouraging. These men are making a difference. Investing in others. It reminded me of the phrase, “The best defense, is a great offense.” A term historically associated with military campaigns but used more frequently today in the world of sports. A good offense keeps the enemy off guard and less capable to attack. It also focuses on taking new ground.   Playing offense is something we should do our entire life. There may be times when limitations surface in our lives, but the Lord will be faithful to provide new opportunities to guide our steps. We need to remain faithful to follow His lead.

What is the Price of Your Integrity?

The story is told of “Honest Abe” Lincoln that as a young man he held a job as a clerk in a country general store. One day in selling goods to a woman, Mrs. Ducan, he charged her two dollars and six cents. In reconciling his accounts at the end of the day, Abe recognized that he had charged Mrs. Ducan, six cents too much. When he closed the store, he walked the two miles to her home to return the overpayment to her*. Other examples of Lincoln’s life have been noted that earned him the moniker of “Honest Abe”.   Nations today, as they did then, long for leaders with such integrity.

In attending a convention in North Carolina recently, I went to a presentation by Steve Scheibner. Scheibner is a pilot with American Airlines and he was giving a message to men on “Second Mile Leadership”. A good message that was based on Jesus statement in Matthew 5:41. One of the areas of leadership that he addressed was integrity. He asked the question, “What is the price of your integrity?” His answer to that question was that he believes for most men that their integrity is worth about a “buck seventy-five”, $1.75.   He had a simple test. See how you fare. He asked the audience, “What do you do when you are paying the bill at the restaurant and discover that your waiter failed to charge you for one of the beverages that you had ordered?” Do you, consider it their loss and your gain? Or do you immediately inform the waiter that they made a mistake and they need to add one more beverage to the bill? Scheibner’s conclusion is that most men take the money and run, rationalizing that the error belongs to the waiter and the restaurant.   For Christians, of course, that’s never an option. As the apostle Paul testified in his trial before Governor Felix, “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” Acts 24:16 NIV

Our integrity should not have a purchase price. Living a life of integrity brings its own rewards. Proverbs 10:9 states that “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” When our conscience is clear before God and before man, we can rest secure. Just like Honest Abe, our reputation remains intact. Integrity enables others to rely upon us and to trust us; our word and our actions represent our bond.   In the restaurant example above, informing the waiter of the error on the bill even has the opportunity to open doors to a conversation about God. A strong testimony accompanies a man of integrity. And when the waiter asks “why would you do this for me?” Make sure you are ready to give an answer for the hope that is within you!

 

*The Character Journal, A Ministry of Home Life Ministries……Taken from Gaining Favor with God and Man by William M. Thayer, 1893

Generational Dads

Earlier this month, I was reading in the first chapter of Luke, verse 17 where an angel was speaking to a Dad named “Zechariah” and proclaiming to him news about his future son. A son yet to be born. The angel said, “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” NIV   Zechariah’s future son would be “John the Baptist”, who would go before the coming of God’s Son, Jesus. And what would he do? Turn the hearts of Dads to their children……I do love that part! John’s mission was to get the attention of Dads to wake up and turn their focus to the most important needs of their children. And what were the most important needs for their children? Preparing their hearts to be ready to receive the Lord. Helping Dads to get back to their mission: teaching our children to love God, love our neighbors and love His Word. Psalm 78:1-7 outlines it clearly. A generational perspective. So our children can tell the next generation and their children the next generation.

It’s been a traveling journey for our family since late May with Christian Home Education Conventions in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. During those travels, I met many “Generational Dads”. Men who have a passion for their families and a desire to raise their children according to the Word of God.   They were an encouragement. Even saw some grandfathers who were supporting their children and grandchildren in the endeavor. Quite an example!

The absence of Dads in families today is reaching epidemic proportions in the U.S. According to U.S. government statistics, 41% of children today are born to unwed mothers. *   There are three major institutions in society that will primarily impact the spiritual development of our children: the family, education and the church. Dad’s absence will impact all three with severe consequences.

In June we celebrate Father’s Day. We need to celebrate Dad lest our nation forget their critical importance to our children, our families and indeed our country. Many thanks to all of you faithful Dads out there! You are greatly needed by your children, your children’s children and for all of those generations yet to come.

 

*The Benedict Option, p. 22

A Journey to the Cactus League

     In early March, Marian and I hitched up the wagon via American Airlines and headed to Arizona for time in the sun, a little baseball and some relaxation. A new experience for both of us. We’ve never vacationed in the land of the sun, but we came to enjoy the warm weather with temperatures reaching up into the 80’s and 90’s. Phoenix is quite a popular destination this time of year with considerable traffic at the airport as well as the freeways! People were very friendly, hospitable and tan. Guess that would be characteristic given the high volume of sunshine. Rather uncharacteristic for a couple of white washed northeast Ohioans where you get one day of sun per month from November through April and nearly everyone needs to consume 1000 mg of Vitamin D each day to keep your doctor happy. One element about the people in Arizona that was quite noticeable, however, was that the age range tended to be very highly populated by members of the half century club. That was a new experience for us!

The Cactus League plays baseball from late February until the end of March. Sixteen major league teams play their spring games in Arizona with two of my favorite teams, the Cleveland Indians and the Kansas City Royals participating. It was quite a treat to be able to see them play. Although the games don’t count, the games are competitive with most players competing to try and make the major league roster. The teams also house the players from their “farm teams”, the minor league teams that serve as their development program for the majors. Enjoyed visiting one of the morning practice sessions for the Cleveland minor league players. There were up to 200 players there that morning all dressed up in their polished uniforms; it was quite impressive. It brought back memories of playing baseball during my teenage years. You could see the excitement and hope in the faces of these young men as they wholeheartedly worked with all of their capability to make a good impression on the coaches. In a highly competitive league, most of these players will not make it to the majors. Yet, they were giving it their best shot; an effort to be applauded.

In attending many of the baseball games, several people associated with a particular team wore T-shirts that stated, “Train to Reign.” An appropriate theme for training camp obviously. Competitive sports serves as an example of the importance of “training.” The difference between those teams that are able to perform at the very highest level is ever so slight. The emphasis on the fundamentals of the sport and the time invested in training generally make the difference for the eventual “winners” who reign. The parallels of this principle to the Christian life were evident while reading through Romans 5:17 one morning. Those who receive the gift of righteousness will reign in life through our Lord Jesus Christ. In becoming a Christian, we begin our walk with Him as a “rookie” in camp. We are on the team but our training has just begun. Fortunately, the Lord has given us a playbook, the Bible. II Timothy 3:16 is a good verse to have memorized. It summarizes that God has given us His word to teach us, correct us, even rebuke us when needed, but also to “train” us. Transitioning from a rookie to a veteran in the Christian life doesn’t happen overnight. It generally takes considerable time; an investment in God’s word along with a desire to put it into practice in one’s life. In so doing, one moves from being a rookie to a veteran. And in the Christian life as well as in baseball, veterans help rookies in making the journey.

While on vacation unexpected encounters sometimes take place that can add a bit of encouragement along the way. During a trip to Camelback Ranch Stadium in Glendale to watch the Chicago White Sox and the Indians play, we needed to purchase tickets at the stadium since we had not done so in advance. The young lady at the ticket counter made my day when she asked for my identification to prove that I was old enough to qualify for the Senior Saver rate on the tickets!   No offense was taken, of course. Gifts sometimes come in small packages.  Another chance meeting took place at the hotel where we were staying. My regular routine, since my internal alarm clock goes off early in the morning, is to head to the lobby to grab a cup of coffee and have my Quiet Time. On occasion it’s not so quiet if it’s crowded, but sometimes it also brings along the opportunity to meet someone new. That happened on this trip as *Bill, a man in his 40’s, stopped by my table when he saw me reading the Bible to ask where I was reading. That morning I was in the book of Romans and as our conversation went further, he indicated that he was there that week to minister to one of the baseball teams. A former professional major league baseball player in his earlier days and now a pastor of a church, he takes about 3 to 5 days a month to minister to the team. Blessed with a supportive church, a team with a supportive executive leadership, and a supportive family, Bill has the opportunity to speak the love of God into the lives of these young men during perhaps one of the more challenging times in their lives. Amazing how God works to provide a godly man at the appropriate time and place.  As a former baseball player, he relates well with the players and knows the challenges they are facing being far from home. He shared a small piece of his own personal story of his early days as a baseball player and a new Christian. Like a “fish out of water” in a world without familiarity, Bill was looking for help from someone who could help him grow in his faith. At that time, God brought an unlikely man across his path. A man whose appearance would not lead you to believe he was a Christian. His visage would tell you that he had lived a hard life, having spent his time on those activities that take life away rather than build it up. This man whom God had redeemed from perdition, offered to help him. Having no other options at the time, he said “yes”. In the process, this man introduced Bill to the three R’s. Similar to the basics of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, Bill was trained in reading, researching and remembering the word of God. He got him into the word of God which is exactly what he needed. Reading it daily, researching (studying) the Scriptures to understand what they meant and how they applied to life, and remembering: learning to memorize the verses. After about 6 weeks Bill realized his life was changing and he was headed in the right direction. Gratitude is perhaps the best way to describe Bill’s countenance as he shared his story. Extremely grateful to God for this man, this veteran, who invested in him when he was a rookie in the Christian life.

The Journey to the Cactus League was a wonderful adventure. Lots of baseball, warm weather, beautiful country, and meeting some wonderful people. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” according to the book of Proverbs, and I experienced some sharpening during this trip. That’s always a good investment.

 

*Not his real name.

 

About Kirk

Kirk Thomsen grew up in a small agricultural community. Farming carried a significant impact on the early days of his life until he finished college and joined a manufacturing company in the field of human resources. An important detour took place in his mid-20’s when he discovered the true “King of Kings.” The adventure that began then still continues today with the world’s greatest wife, Marian and three wonderful daughters. He is a very blessed man!

About the Blog

While the jury is still out on whether Kirk can write or not, (still a work in progress!) he does have a passion for knowing Christ and for making Him known. The focus here will be consistent with the mission of Daughters of Decision, encouraging believers to grow as disciples of Christ. The perspective, however, will be from a man’s point of view. Think of it as being “fair and balanced.”

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