What We Can Learn from the Duggar Family Today

Danger!

My wife and I used to enjoy sitting down each week to watch the Duggar Family on their TLC show, 19 Kids and Counting.  Being a Christian family, we were thrilled to see that a good, wholesome, decent family with good morals was finally being portrayed on television.  It was so refreshing.  We watched the kids grow up like many of you did on television.

I was heartbroken to find out about the molestation charges on Josh Duggar, the oldest of the children.  The family did, in fact, admit that they had gone through a tough time, and that Josh had indeed molested several children.  There were many opinions, many thoughts, and many disagreements had by many people about the situation.

His wife forgave him.  She knew about it going into the marriage.  The family stood firm on how they handled it.  Would I have done things differently if it were my son?  Honestly – I don’t know how I would handle it.  But I can’t put myself in their shoes.  What a horrible thing to go through.

The Duggar family lost their show over a mistake their son made.  Pressure mounted on TLC to drop the show completely, and they did.

Fast forward to today.

A few days ago, hackers claimed they had hacked the Ashley Madison website.  This is an online site for people looking to have affairs (atrocious as it may sound) in a private, discreet way.  The hackers didn’t get what they wanted from the site, so they released information that is bound to destroy many, many families.

Last night, I saw that Josh Duggar’s name had popped up in the list.  All I could think of was “My goodness, someone logged in under Josh’s name so that he might one day get in trouble and they could smear the Duggar name.”  Then, I saw that the name was attached to Josh’s credit card, and his addresses in a previous and current home.

Even today, as I saw an article about it – I didn’t want to believe it.

But then, he admitted this afternoon that he had indeed been unfaithful to his wife, and was addicted to pornography.  Molestation charges, and now this.

A great family, one that has strong core beliefs, taken down again because of the mistakes of this young man.

So what are my thoughts?  I have several on this tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes.  Here are just a few:

  1. The internet is a wonderful tool, but when used the wrong way can destroy lives.  Sadly, the Duggar family is now a victim of the misuse of the internet.  There are so many sites out there in cyberspace that want nothing more than to prey on you.  They want to lure you in – to hack your computer, to steal your information, to steal your bank account, to get you involved in an inappropriate relationship.  While it’s great to be able to shop online, it’s far too easy to shop for the wrong thing.

  2. The internet is not safe.  You MUST take precautions to keep your family safe from the web.  Many people think an antivirus program is all they need.  However, filters need to be used, as well as communicating with your family about what’s out there in the internet world.   I was showing my wife the other night a music video to a popular song by a popular artist in which there are two versions – a rated and unrated version.  Any child can type in the name of this song, click on the unrated version, and see two popular music artists ogling topless women parading around.  It’s just that easy.  If you trust your children, that’s not enough – because a lot of time innocent searching can lead to terrible things.

  3. Don’t be absorbed.  The internet, your laptops, your smartphones, your tablets – can suck you in and not let go.  Click on this, go here, search here, and before you know it you’ve spent 3-4 hours on Facebook.  You see a link to a place that links to this place or that place – and you wind up seeing an advertisement for love, for intimacy, for something you’re searching for.  Get off your phones, give your thumb a break from scrolling through Facebook, and have a relationship with your family and friends, not a piece of technology.  I know people who spend more time on Facebook than they do anything else during the day.  Perhaps it is time to take a Facebook/Internet sabbatical if it’s absorbing all of your time.

  4. Communicate.  Sites like Ashley Madison, along with many other sites – prey on those who are seeking something they are not getting in their own relationships.  It might be something simple like conversation, or it could involve sexual intimacy.  If you are not getting something you are wanting out of your marriage – COMMUNICATE!  If sex isn’t occurring as frequent as you’d like – COMMUNICATE!  If you’re uncomfortable with something in the bedroom – COMMUNICATE!  You can not over-communicate in your marriage. Many extra-marital affairs occur because a husband or a wife is not providing something in the relationship.  Instead of thinking you can only get that something somewhere else – COMMUNICATE!

  5. It’s easy to judge from afar – but don’t.  I have tried my best in this post to steer clear of judging the Duggar family, but instead tried to look at what caused the most recent problem in the first place.  Sin is real, the struggle of pornography is real, the desire to run around and have fun is real for so many people.  I would dare say that most of us would not want our dirty laundry popping up on what’s trending on Twitter.  Instead of judging them, or anyone else – pray for them.  Pray that your family will avoid these kinds of situations.  Pray that you can be a light in a dark world.  Pray that Satan’s dart won’t pierce us all.

 

Bottom line – there is now a very broken family, a young man who will pay for his mistakes, a wife who is very much so heartbroken and shell-shocked, 4 young children who will always know the mistake their father made, a mother and father who are now wondering where they went wrong – ALL because of this mistake.

Temptation is one of the strongest things in the world.  May God give us all the power to look it eye to eye and say no.

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A Super, Huge, Ginormous Announcement

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Today, an official announcement was made by the elders of the Northwest Tampa Church of Christ to their membership that they have asked us to join their ministry team.  I will join their team in Tampa, Florida, as the preaching minister in March.

A few months ago, I had a phone interview with the elders there.  Throughout the course of that interview, I was blown away by the passion, the excitement, and the zeal behind their questions for me, as well as their answers to my questions.  I walked downstairs to my wife, Kristen, and told her – “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse – but I would love to work for this church.  It sounds amazing.”

After our first visit, we realized it didn’t just sound amazing, it IS amazing.  We fell in love with the family there during our first visit, and just as important, our daughter fell in love with them on our second visit to the point where she shed tears when we had to come home.  They have a ton of young children there, and the future is certainly bright.

We believe wholeheartedly that God has brought us together.  As Paul says in Romans 8:28 – “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  As we love God, I am excited about working together with the church family at Northwest Tampa, for the purpose of growing the Kingdom.

We believe that the church is a family, a family where anyone is welcome and everyone is loved. We believe in the mission of this church and we are excited about serving and growing alongside them. We look forward to dedicating many years of service to them. We look forward to working with a wonderful ministry team in place, under the oversight of some amazing elders.

May God bless us all as we move forward, as we all do our part to grow His Kingdom.  We solicit your prayers as we embark on this new and exciting adventure!

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I Don’t (just) Believe in Jesus

Just-Believe

Do you believe in Jesus?

Tonight, a simple thought that I hope will challenge you as a Christian:

Belief in Jesus just isn’t enough.  There has to be behavior that follows.

Do you remember what James 2:19 says?  It reminds us “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.”  Satan and his demons believe in God, believe in Jesus, and believe in the Spirit.

Believing is great.  I believe in Jesus.  But that is not enough.

There has to be action.  There has to be response.  How will you show you are a believer?  What will you do to show that you’re a follower of Jesus?  Belief is just a step.  Taking action is a big step – will you take it?

When God Slams the Door In Your Face

Stick - Slam Door

Mid South Youth Camp was my home away from home for 4 straight summers during college.  There were 6 guys and 7 gals serving as counselors at the camp each week.  We each had our own cabin we dealt with, and a different group of kids came in each and every week.

The counselors had a special place to “live” which was located on a screened-in porch.  Each of these porches was the main entryway into the cabin.  The only way into the cabin was a wooden screened door.

Each and every week, my first rule when I shared the cabin rules on Sunday night was this:  DO NOT LET THE DOOR SLAM WHEN YOU ENTER AND EXIT.  I know it sounds silly, but spend 9 weeks in a row listening to a door slam next to your face, and you’d make it a rule too!

Its a simple rule, but hard to to follow for 8-18 year old guys.  So, needless to say, I would constantly  hear the door slam as the guys would come and go.  The boys would run out of the cabin in a rush, and about 4 seconds later – WHAM!!  Pictures would fall off the wall of the porch, my ears would ring for a few seconds, and this happened countless times each day.

This rule, when broken, had consequences.  If you let the door slam, you had to come back, open and shut the door gently and quietly 20 times.  It was great fun watching these guys run out, forgetting the rule, hearing it slam, and hanging their head as they had to come back to open and shut the door 20 times quietly.

I hated that sound.  I never could understand why they couldn’t grasp the idea of not letting the door slam.

You know what else I don’t understand?  Why does it seem like God allows doors to slam in our face as well?  Have you ever felt like God opened up a door for you to walk through, only to have it slammed in your face?  A wonderful opportunity comes up, everything looks awesome, and WHAM!!!  The door is slammed in your face.

Why does this happen?  Could it be that maybe we conjure up our own idea of what God’s will should be, and when it doesn’t happen we are disappointed?  Maybe upset?

What I’ve learned is that when we feel like God slams a door in our face – He calls us back to assess the situation, and as we look back, we realize that God has put us where we need to be instead of where we want to be.  If we let Him, God will lead us where HE wants us to go, and will keep us out of the places we need to pass by.

Today – maybe we should praise God for slamming doors.

(I wrote this “article” for the church bulletin in Ashland City, TN, where I had my first Youth Ministry job.  It was printed on April 18, 2004.  My mom found a copy of it in a closet at home with some old pictures.)

I’ll Be Here For You. Sincerely, God.

GodsPerfectTiming

Today, I just couldn’t come up with anything better to post than the devotional from my wife’s daily devotional book she’s been reading.  I love how when she comes across one she things will impact me in a certain way, she sends it to me to read.

My family needed this today.

From the book “Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence” by Sarah Young

I AM WITH YOU AND FOR YOU . When you decide on a course of action that is in line with My will, nothing in heaven or on earth can stop you. You may encounter many obstacles as you move toward your goal, but don’t be discouraged— never give up! With My help, you can overcome any obstacle. Do not expect an easy path as you journey hand in hand with Me, but do remember that I, your very- present Helper , am omnipotent.

Much, much stress results from your wanting to make things happen before their times have come. One of the main ways I assert My sovereignty is in the timing of events. If you want to stay close to Me and do things My way, ask Me to show you the path forward moment by moment. Instead of dashing headlong toward your goal, let Me set the pace. Slow down, and enjoy the journey in My Presence. 

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? –ROMANS 8:31

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. PSALM 46:1–3 NKJV 

“For nothing is impossible with God.” LUKE 1:37

How Can I Keep Holding It All Together? A post about how you don’t have to!!

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Life happens, right? People mess up, people get sick, tragedy happens. There’s no stopping it in this fallen world we live in – so the question has to be asked: How do I hold it all together? How do I keep from falling apart? How do I keep on keeping on?

We were sitting in the upper section of Bridgestone Arena. Every time the Casting Crowns are nearby, we try to go hear them in concert. There’s something about this Christian band – its not that their songs are typical “worship” songs like Crowder and Tomlin sing. The songs they sing are lessons. They are stories. And if you have never heard Mark Hall crack jokes and teach – you are missing out.

We had just been through a rotten week. Our lives had been turned upside down in a few different ways. We were hurt, scared, anxious, and my mind was racing 8000 miles a minute.

Until about 5 songs in to their part of the concert – I hadn’t really been there. My mind was elsewhere. Sure, they sang a few of their popular songs to start with, and my heart felt joy listening. But then, off their newest album, they sang this song:

If you don’t want to watch the video, you’re missing out on the beautiful music that accompanies these words. But if you just want to read – read these words carefully:

“Just Be Held”

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands

Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who wont let go

There, about 45 rows from the floor of Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN – my heart burst, as well as my eyes. I have a feeling these words may be able to offer you a big helping of relief like it did for me.

Today may God hold you. May God encourage you. May God assure you that He has the answers, He holds the future, and He loves you. May you let go of the pressures, the stress, the problems, and let God take them over. May you let God rule your heart, instead of letting fear do so.

I walked out of the concert, emotionally broken, vulnerable, and fragile – but knowing that God had already started strengthening me. Be broken today, and let God paint beauty with the ashes. In time, we’ll understand.

I Don’t Understand, God

Pr3.5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Sometimes, we need to be reminded that God is our Creator, the giver of life, the Master of all things.

When we look for help in this world, we always try to go to someone or something that can give us an answer, whether it be a Youtube how-to video, or someone we know that has experience with the problem we’re having.

In all matters though, God knows more. Therefore, HE should be the first person we go to with our concerns, our problems, and our distress.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart – Don’t have part of your heart trusting in yourself, others, or something else. You have to give it all to God. Don’t let there be an ounce of doubt.

Do not lean on your own understanding – When I try to figure things out all on my own, I usually don’t figure them out. I can ask the question over and over again – Why God, why? – but that’s not for me to try to figure out.

In all your ways acknowledge Him – God has to be a part of your everything. Your joys, your sorrows, your good times and bad.

He will make your paths straight – its a lot easier to see what’s ahead when you’re going straight. I want my path to lead right toward Heaven. I want my path to lead right toward making an impact for Him.

I praise God today for still working on me.

The Keys: The Arrow Cluster

TheKeys_SeriesSlide

When you think about the arrow keys on the keyboard – their main function is to direct things to where you want them to go.  The cursor on a word document, your character on a video game, a text box on a powerpoint – the list goes on and on.

I don’t think i’m the only person here who needs direction in my life.

It used to be that settlers and explorers would go out into new lands and with the help of their cartography skills would draw maps so people would be able to find their way.

Road maps evolved – and recently, technology has taken over.  We can get directions to anywhere just by talking into our cell phones.

Except one direction – and that is the direction God wants us to go with our life.

Unfortunately – I often times like to give myself directions and pretend like I know exactly what to do and where to go.

But that’s not what Proverbs tells us.  In Proverbs 3:5-6 it tells us this:  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Is it possible we have become so self-sufficient that we think we don’t need God anymore?

I really hope this isn’t true – but I’m afraid that when things are going well, we act as if we don’t need God.  Sick?  We call the doc.  Car accident?  We call our insurance.  Visitors?  Run out to the store and get some food.  Run out of money?  Pull out the plastic.  Can’t make ends meet?  Loans. Relationship trouble?  Counselors.

Let me ask you if this sounds familiar:  Sit down with your family and lay out a plan – we will do this that and the other. We can take this step and that step and end up here doing this.

We plan everything out and then perhaps our best thought out plans fail.

Because we forgot to include God in them.  Instead of trusting in the Lord – we lean on our own understanding.  Instead of submitting to him we ask HIM to submit to us, and our paths don’t end up straight, but as crooked as humanly possible.

Look at Jonah.  He tried to tell God which way was best.  He was called to Ninevah to tell them how much God loved them and wanted to save them.  The message was to repent.  But Jonah went the opposite direction, and tried to tell God not to spare the city.  He took matters in his own hands, went his own direction, and He ended up being thrown off the ship he was on and being swallowed by a big fish.

But I want you to notice something:  In the last verse of Jonah 1, it says: “Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”

The fish was provided by God.  It was God rescuing Jonah.  And then in chapter 2:10 it says that God caused the fish to spit Jonah out on dry ground.

And then in chapter 3 –  to begin the chapter – it states “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’ Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.”

Do you see that?  How much hope does it give you that if you mess up and go the wrong way – God will re-route you.  Even when we head in the wrong direction, God re-routes us, shows us the way, and gets us back on track.

But notice something about Jonah – he was re-routed, but he did not repent.  Just because we’re redirected, or shown the right way, does not mean we change how we act or feel.  You see, its up to us to change.  That change is what the bible calls repentance.

When we enter into a relationship with God, there are many things, many obstacles, blocking our way.  These things keep us from having a true relationship with God.  And that’s why we need to repent.  Repentance is not just changing direction from one thing or even a few things – its a complete surrender.  Jesus tells us this in Matthew 16:24-26 as he says if you want to follow me, you’ll deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him.

So – which way do you need to go?  I read this story not too long ago and thought it fits so well here:

A father was walking through the woods with his young son one day and wanting the boy to start thinking about finding his way if he were lost paused and asked:

“Do you know where we are?”

The boy looked up, and with a sweet smile replied that he didn’t. A little farther along, the father TRIED to look puzzled. “Do you know how far we have come?” “No,” replied the boy.

A little later, the father pressed his son again, “don’t you think we’re lost?” The boy grinned an unconcerned grin and said “I can’t be lost – I’m with you.”

Understand this:  You can’t be lost if you stay with your Father.  Let God guide you today.

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What Are you Leaving Behind?

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Tomorrow at the Granny White Pike Church of Christ, my lesson will be on what we are leaving behind for future generations.  I will be using this poem at the end of my lesson – entitled “The Sculptor” – author unknown.

I took a piece of plastic clay
And idly fashioned it one day
And as my fingers pressed it still, 
It moved and yielded to my will

I came again when days were passed
The bit of clay was hard at last
The form I gave it, it still bore, 
But I could change the form no more.

I took a piece of living clay
And gently formed it day by day,
And molded with my power and art
A young child’s soft and yielding heart

I came again when years were gone
It was a man I looked upon;
He still that early impress wore
And I could change him nevermore.

 

The One Where I Say Its Okay To Send Your Child To School

SchoolHouse

EDIT:  Due to my inability to think through things and my lack of not properly proofreading and editing – I need to add a disclaimer – my church is a wonderful church, and pays me more than well enough to do all we need to do and more.  Some of you may misunderstand my purpose behind this post, so let me make it perfectly clear – this is a post that is trying to let you know its  okay to send your child to public school.  I know many who struggle with this decision, and its a hard one.

My parents sacrificed A LOT to send all three of us (my brother and sister) to a Christian school.  I’m better for it.  I hope in the future we will be able to send our child to a Christian school.  But for those of you who struggle with sending your child to a public school – I want you to know from this post – that its okay.

I have rewritten this post to emphasize my point  – which is, we should take every opportunity to share the message of Christ with people we come in contact with.  99% of the comments I have received on this post have been very, very positive.

I just did not want this post to reflect poorly on my wonderful church family or elders – who take care of us beyond imagination.  After re-reading this post, I felt like it might be best to say that, and to edit it.  Note to self … ALWAYS EDIT and PROOF!

Begin post:

On Thursday, August 1, 2013 my 5 year old daughter will start Kindergarten.

I don’t know if you all realize how big of a deal this is – Kindergarten!  It seems like she just learned how to say her first word, use the potty, sleep in a big girl bed, eat with a fork, and all the other simple things you learn in the first few years of life.

She’ll be dropped off on Thursday morning for a half day here in Davidson County, and I know when my wife drops her off, she’ll be bawling for the next few hours.  She is, after all, our little girl.  She’s the only one we have.  She means the world to us.

But I have to stop and tell you something.  I’m not scared at all.  We’ve done what we can in these first five years to prepare her for this moment.  And now, its time for her to grow some more.  The hardest time I’m going to have over the next few weeks/months/years is reading about whether or not we should have put her in public schools.

You have to understand, we are a blended family.  Not only am I an Alabama fan and my father in law is an Auburn Alumnus, but I grew up in Christian education, and my wife didn’t have that until she went to college.  From Kindergarten till the day I walked across the stage at Friendship Christian School in May of 1996, I went to the same Christian School, followed immediately by 5 years at a Christian college.

When we moved to Nashville, people told us that Davidson County schools were awful.  We were told to live in Williamson County, but it is getting further away from our church family, and we don’t want that.

So we’re happily sending our child to the public school near our home.  (For security’s sake, I will not disclose what school our child will be attending.)

I simply don’t know what to expect.

Now,I am going to have people reading on Facebook, Twitter, news channels, family events, and other various venues, telling me I should have homeschooled my child.

Understand this – I have nothing against those of you who have chosen to do this.  If you have the knowledge, the means, and the ability to do this, more power to you.  But I believe there is a reason why there’s an old saying that goes “It takes a village….”  I have minister friends, church friends, and family that homeschool.  I respect them beyond imagination.  But homeschooling is not right for us.

My wife is the product of public schools, and I think she did just fine – going to college on an athletic scholarship and graduating with a nearly perfect GPA.  In fact, she finished a lot better GPA than me, the product of the Christian School.

I’m not scared to send my child to school.  She knows God, she knows what is right, she knows how to be a good influence, and she knows that there are people out there who don’t believe in God – and she’s prayed for them.  No, I’m not saying she’s a little missionary, but she has a heart for God that I didn’t have when I was 5.  She will have a chance to influence the boys and girls in her school for God.

On top of that,  we live out of the area where many of our church family goes to school.   We will be in a school where we know absolutely no one.

We’ll be going to parent meetings, teacher meetings, and school events in a place where there will be a great opportunity to share the love of Christ through our love and actions.  Sure, it would be easier to send my child somewhere where I knew the people, and felt more comfortable, but that would take away a great ministry opportunity God has put before me.

I’m not certain why some people are so afraid of sending their children to  school.  We can’t keep them in a bubble forever.  The world is changing, and I want my child to know what she’s up against.

Many of you who are hardcore homeschool advocates won’t understand this.  I have family members who homeschool that won’t understand this.  Is there a potential for her little mind to be scarred by things she wouldn’t see if she stayed at home everyday?  Sure.  But she’s going to experience the world one day, and I would much rather be in control of it now at the age of 5 when she heads off to college at 18.

On top of these things – know this:  I know that God is with her.  I believe in prayer.  I will pray for her daily.  My wife will pray for her daily.  With confidence, we will be able to send her off to school to learn, play, and become assimilated with society – and we will still be in control of her every step of the way.  If the school teaches something we disagree with, that’s fine.  Because we’ll still be teaching her at home, and still be teaching her at church.

So many who homeschool say the problem is that they have no control over what they are taught.  I don’t plan on just turning my child over to the system and then check back in with her every May at the end of the school year.  We will go over things.  We’ll discuss things.  We’ll take time to teach alternative things to evolution and liberal government.

I’m not scared.  I’m proud.  I’m proud of who my little girl has grown up to be in these short 5 years.  I know God will take care of her.  May God bless all our children as they start school over the next few weeks.