An oxymoron is a is a figure of speech that combines contradictory terms. Oxymorons appear in a variety of contexts, crafted to reveal a paradox. Oxymorons are prevalent in our daily vernacular:
…and on and on and on, but the oxymoron that has been recurring in my thoughts and prayers lately has been failing spectacularly.
Examples? I have failed spectacularly with my blogging endeavors. I was embarrassed to go back an look at how long it had been since my last post.
If you’re a sports fan, you’ve seen this before…
Unfortunately, this idea of failing spectacularly is not limited to my blogging endeavors or the arena of sports. We see it in business, education, religion, and family life. It pervades our culture. Sometimes this mantle is well-deserved, other times it is the result of conflicting views. Take Scripture for example.
By the world’s standards, the twelve men who chose to follow Jesus failed spectacularly…
By the world’s standards these men definitely failed spectacularly. BUT even with this less-than-honorable recognition, people realized there was something special about this group of ordinary men. One of my favorite chapters in Scripture is Acts 4. Please take five minutes and read it for yourself. You have these spectacular failures annoying both the religious and civil leaders “because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus”. They were arrested and drug before the Jerusalem council of “rulers and elders and scribes.” Peter, my favorite apostle, lays it out to them! I can picture the fiery Peter addressing the crowd. Again, you should read this chapter. His boldness is amazing! Which brings us to my favorite verse in the chapter.
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)
Uneducated. Common. Astonished! Recognized. Been with Jesus!
These men who left all to follow a ridiculed and crucified Savior were now astonishing people with their faith and boldness! In fact, if you continue to read the New Testament Epistles, you see that these spectacular failures fanned a fire that spread Christianity to all ends of the earth. These uneducated teachers took the Gospel of Christ to the world. They took the words of Jesus in Matthew 28 to heart and took to the streets and roads to make disciples and baptize and teach! They believed Christ wholeheartedly when He told them that “I am with you ALWAYS!”
These spectacular failures bucked cultural norms, suffered ridicule, torture, and even death because they had spent time with Jesus and believed the things He told them. Amazing!
Uneducated. Common. Astonished. Recognized. Been with Jesus! Changed the world!
What would happen in our lives, our families, our workplaces, our churches, our schools, our communities, our cities….if we decided to take Jesus at His word and fail spectacularly by the world’s standards?
What would that even look like for us today?
What can you do to fail spectacularly for God?
Connecting with my nine year old daughters is easy. We can work on our UpStreet 24/7 activities (Bible facts, memorization, geography, Q&A) with ease. It’s easy to sit down and read from a devotional book with them. It’s easy to make up stories. Sometimes though, it’s not as easy to engage your tweens and teens in ongoing and meaningful faith dialogue. Despite our best intentions, we as parents sometimes falter in this area.
I believe it was Winston Churchill who said, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” Well…that pretty much sums up any unplanned approach to spiritual growth in the house of Foreman. So, today we are putting a plan into motion and I invite you to join us. It’s not some elaborate plan developed in the dark recesses of my basement office. It’s a small group curriculum put out by City on a Hill Productions. It’s Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman. I’ve watched the first couple of video segments already and think they will fit our family nicely. Another aspect I am looking forward to seeing unfolds the Follower’s Journal that each of us will work in for the next 42 days.
My prayer is that God’s Word, Not a Fan, and our time together help us (1) grow closer to each other, (2) become more a follower of Christ rather than a simple admirer, and (3) grow closer to our Father in the process.
If you want to try it out before purchasing it, you can look at the first week’s video and journal at:
I’ll try to keep you posted on the ups and down of this 42 day journey as our family attempts to cling closer to our Creator.
(Alternative Post Title - What has to go?)
If Deuteronomy 6 tells us one thing it is that our love for God is to be intertwined into every facet of our lives. It’s not about making sure God is placed at the top of your priority list. It’s not about squeezing in your private time with God. It’s not about making sure you roll out of bed on Sunday morning to give God the first 90 minutes of your week. It’s not about putting an Ithicus (that’s the fish symbol thingy) on the back of your car that causes confusion when people see it then see you yelling at the officials at ballgames. It’s not about setting aside time for (insert favorite spiritual discipline here). It’s about focusing our entire being - and thus are entire family’s being - on God and everything God.
Reread Deuteronomy 6:6-9 again.
This is not a piecemeal approach to God. This is allowing God to fully infiltrate every second of your day and life. As parents, it means continuously pointing our children to their Creator. It means molding them so that they fall so deeply in love with Him that they shun the world’s view of life and chase relentlessly after the heart of their Father!
So…if we are to do this, what needs to change? What things need reordered in your house? What things need completely removed from your family’s culture? What things are competing for your heart, your spouse’s heart, and your children’s hearts?
What has to go in your life so that you can better focus on your Father’s will for your family?
Ok, let’s (finally) get into the book of Deuteronomy. As we get into this book of law, I think it’s important to have a little background on what’s going on at this point in time in history.
Moses is nearing the end of his life. He and the Israelites are situated in the plains of Moab. They have been wandering in the wilderness for forty years because of their lack of faith in their God. So as they wait to enter the land that God promised to them, Moses delivers a lengthy sermon that, as we see on multiple occasions, “the LORD your God commanded me to teach you.” In this sermon, Moses recounts the law previously given at Mount Sinai. In chapter five, there is a retelling of the ten commandments. Then in chapter six, he throws out what is referred to as The Greatest Commandment. We see this in both the Old and New Testaments.(1)
“Here, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (2)
In Judaism, this referred to as the Shema and is the cornerstone of the Jewish faith and should be of the Christian faith as well. It seems as if Moses here is taking the opportunity to convey to Israel that it really doesn’t matter what you and your kids can do, how much you know, who you know, or what you do IF you don’t know WHAT really matters. It would be disheartening for your kid to be the smartest student, the best soccer player, the best musician, have an amazing lifestyle, live in a land flowing with milk and honey, but never really know God. That is the point Moses is driving home here. When Moses starts out with “Here, O Israel”, he’s saying (yelling)…”HEY! YOU! YEH YOU WITH THE HAIR ON YOUR HEAD! I’M GONNA SAY SOMETHING IMPORTANT AND YOU’D BETTER NOT FORGET IT…EVER!!!”
Our God is God! We need to know this AND BELIEVE this! Everything in life hinges on this. Everything is really about God. It’s not about family, although family was the first institution ordained by God and plays a role in His story. It’s not about individuals, although God has used and will use individuals to fulfill a role in His story. It’s not about the church, although the church as the Bride of Christ plays a role in His story. It’s not about nations, rulers, political parties, hobbies, interests, likes, dislikes, denominations…It’s ALL about God. And He should be the foundation and continuous focus of our hearts, souls, and might.
OK, back on track…Moses then commands the Israelites to keep these words in their hearts and to teach them to their families (children). He then emphasizes the “when” and “how” this supposed to occur.
“…and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (3)
There is both familiar and unfamiliar language in these few verses and we are going to spend some time looking at what they mean and how we can apply that to the lives of our families today. The opposites “sit/walk” and “lie down/rise up” suggest that we should be focusing our families on God anywhere, anytime, and regardless of what we are doing. We will hash these out in coming posts.
I appreciate all that Reggie Joiner and his co-workers have done to promote the joint efforts of the church and family. I would like to leave you today with a quick quote from that book.
“When it comes to the battle for the heart, what is temporary has a way of crowding out what is eternal. Moses is simply saying, “Stay focused. Don’t forget who your God is.” (4)
For our GOD…tf
1 Matthew 22:38 2 Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (English Standard Version) 3 Deuteronomy 6:7-9 (ESV) 4 Joiner, Reggie. Think Orange. Page 54.
1 Matthew 22:38
2 Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (English Standard Version)
3 Deuteronomy 6:7-9 (ESV)
4 Joiner, Reggie. Think Orange. Page 54.
Photo with 1 note
If you have never had the opportunity to visit Yellowstone National Park, let me be the first to tell you that it is amazing! I was completely enthralled by it’s beauty and diversity! However, as good as the trip was, it could have been even better.
On our last day in Montana, Kendrick,Dad, and I visited the park with the rest of our fishing party. When we drove through the park gate we were given a map. We immediately began planning out what we would like to see. Old Faithful, geysers, hot springs, waterfalls, wildlife, and magnificent canyons were going to fill our day. We plotted our course and off we went. Now, before we go any further, you need to know that I didn’t have the highest of expectations for Yellowstone. I love the outdoors and spend a lot of time fishing, camping, and hiking, so I thought this was simply going to be another walk in God’s creation…wasn’t really expecting anything spectacular. Man, I was sorely mistaken! What an amazing display of God’s wonder, power, and creativity.
So we had our map and a plan and we were off to see the sites…and they were amazing! The hot springs are fabulous, the water falls spectacularly powerful, and the wildlife unreal! We saw a herd of several hundred bison, some crossing the river. I felt like Kevin Costner (in Dances with Wolves for you young ones) watching this amazing display! As we moved from place to place we started to take the advice of others in the vehicle as to which direction to go and what to see next. There was a little squabbling at times, but we relented to the park “experts” and followed their lead to the next big thing.
Whew! What a day. As we were leaving the park we looked at the map as sort of a recap of the day. What’s this?!? We missed this and this? What about the other water falls? Why didn’t we go there? How did we miss that? I wish we could do it all over again and keep to the map. We missed some of the best sites and encounters because we deviated from our plan, the map.
Now Yellowstone was still a pretty good day, but imagine all that it could have been if we had simply adhered to the plan. If we had stuck to the map we could have experienced so much more and been even more enthralled with the experience.
“Hold on Tony! I thought that this was a blog about family discipleship? While, I enjoy the stories of your trip to Montana, I thought we were getting into Deuteronomy 6 and talking about family discipleship here. What’s this have to do with that?”
Excellent question my friend! When it comes to family and family discipleship, I believe that the same thing has happened. We were presented with a great plan starting in the Garden of Eden, through Deuteronomy, and running through all of Scripture, but we’ve taken our eyes off that map. We’ve started listening to experts, culture, outsiders, and others and we’ve deviated from the course that our amazing God laid out for us. So, let’s attempt to find the “You are Here” mark on our maps and get back to the path that God so perfectly laid out for us.
In Deuteronomy 6, God writes,
4“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (You should keep reading through the end of the chapter to get a more complete look at what we will be talking about over the next few weeks and months.)
The responsibility and privilege here is clearly put on the parents and family. We are to diligently teach our children at home, on the move, at bedtime, at breakfast, and throughout the day. We are to incorporate God’s Word into our daily lives. We are to saturate all that we do in what He has done for us. We should take every opportunity to instill in our family the principles and truths that God has laid out for us in His amazing Book.
We are going to take a lot of time and focus our attention on just how this plays out in the daily lives of our families. However, before we do that we have to decide something else. We have to decide that our family is worth working hard for. We have to decide that we are willing to do what it takes to raise our children to be spiritual champions. We have to commit to making some decisions that may seem weird or unpopular to those around us. Some things may be tough. Some things may be way out of your comfort zone for now. I can’t honestly say what the future will hold for your family, but I do know that you can’t really move forward until you’ve made the decision to do what God thinks is best your family. You and I have to commit now to doing whatever it takes to protect and nurture our families.
“How can we do this when we don’t know what’s ahead? How can we do this when we don’t know the consequences for our decisions? How can you ask us to decide now when there are so many unknowns?”
Well, if you believe that God’s plan is best for your life and the life of your family, trust me. If you honestly trust that God will honor decisions made in light of His will and instructions, stay with me. If you know that God is Lord of all and it is Him that we should seek to please, love, serve, and follow, then make the decision now to do whatever it takes. It worked for Daniel and he was in a much more dangerous situation than we have ever been.
You need to read the story of Daniel in the book of Daniel to see just how hot of a spot Daniel was in. He had been uprooted from his home. His family had been either killed or enslaved. He was thrust into service for a hot-headed, murderous tyrant, but Daniel did something big! We may even call it stupid! In the face of a fierce dictator, “Daniel resolved.” (Daniel 1:8) Without knowing the outcome and expecting the worst from the evil Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel resolved to adhere to God’s plan regardless. When he could have been beaten, tortured, or even killed, he resolved to follow God. With out knowing the consequences of his decision, he resolved. And God did some amazing things for Daniel based on his resolution. (You really should read the story of Daniel. It is amazing!)
It worked for Daniel and it will work for you. His situation, if we are honest with ourselves, was a lot more difficult than ours, but he resolved and God provided. I firmly believe that if you honor God with your life and decision concerning the direction and discipleship of your family that God will honor and bless your efforts. I can’t say exactly how. I can’t say that there won’t be tough decisions and “fall out” at times, but I do believe that God will honor you and your family for your decision - your resolution to follow Him regardless.
So, I hope that you will join the Foreman family on this journey. We have started doing a few things differently in our home. I’ll share some of those with you as we travel together. May God continue to bless you and your family as you strive to honor Him in all you do! (…and go ahead and plan that trip to Yellowstone while you’re at it.)
One of the saddest sites from our front porch is this stump. This is all that remains of what used to be a towering dual-trunked Oak. I remember playing under its massive branches as a child. Years ago, one of the colossal twin trunks died and had to be cut down. The remaining monstrosity continued to provide shade and beauty until just this last year when it too had to be cut down for safety reasons. After generations of productive life, this once magnificent giant has now been reduced to a smoldering stump.
Sometimes, as with this stump, the end comes naturally as life comes to end. Other times though, the end of a season comes at the hands of mistreatment, neglect and/or failure. If there has ever been an instance where the church and the family have simultaneously and catastrophically failed, it is in the area of family discipleship.
Over the course of several decades, parents have abdicated their God-given responsibility to spiritually train their children over to Sunday School teachers, AWANA Commanders, children and youth pastors, summer church camps, and Christian schools,. We have tried to fulfill our roles by hiring, for lack of a better term, mercenaries to turn our children into model Christians. We drop them off at the counter so we can attend adult services. We pull up to the curb and hurry the out to AWANA check-in so we can make it to our small group Bible study, dinner with friends, or a quick trip to Walmart. We have placed the challenge and honor of developing a new generation of Christian leaders squarely on the shoulders of the professionals.
During these same decades, Christian leaders and institutions have welcomed with open doors and arms, waves of impressionable children. We have developed engaging environments, trackable programs, Disney-esque encounters, and a vault overflowing with eye-catching, heart-engaging, and salvation-centered literature, music, video games, and experiences. We have become one-stop minimarts affording families all their eternal-focused needs in one convenient package.
Please don’t get me wrong. As both a father and pastor, I think there is great value in Sunday morning opportunities, mid-week discipleship endeavors, and the like! Nor do want to attack either families or the church for this misdirection of responsibility. I believe both parties have played a role in this misplacement. I also believe that there was never a maniacal laugh belted out by the church as they deviantly usurped the roles of parents. Nor do I believe the parents intentionally outsourced their responsibilities. However, while we just may have woken up one day to find ourselves in another discipleship world, it didn’t just happen over night or on its own. But there is no time to lobby shots of blame back and forth. It is time to right the ship; to return the family to its primary role of child discipleship and the church to its primary role as a support system to parents in this area. These two must work alongside each other if we are to develop men, women, parents, and children ready to face the attacks from that evil one roaming our streets in search of its next victim.
Next up…we will dig into Deuteronomy 6 as we begin to realign family and church roles and build a more biblical, effective partnership.
For the FAMILY….tf
Post with 1 note
I know I’ve spent way more time trying to come up with just the right title for this blog than I should have. I mean, everyone knows how important the right name is, right? I just knew that I could come up with just the right A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. or numerical Scripture reference, but alas….I failed. So as I was sitting on the front porch this morning drinking a most enjoyable cup of coffee and reading a very enthralling and challenging book, genius hit me up side the head…VIEWS FROM THE FRONT PORCH!
While this may not be the flashiest or catchiest blog title ever concocted, it does represent a place and process of deeper interaction with God for me. When I’m home, the front porch is my main connecting point with God. I love to sit, read, pray, and listen to God from this location. I love being surrounded by His amazing creation. What He shows me from this vantage point is amazing.
Now I’m not solely talking about the physical views from our front porch because right now I’m staring at a rather large set of gardens that are yet to produce a single tomato, an old Oak stump, the family farm, and a pile of cow manure. While there are valuable lessons to be garnered from the physical setting, especially the pile of manure, I am hoping that the combination of God’s guidance, His amazing creation, and our interactions with said creation will lead us all into a deeper love relationship with our Creator and Redeemer.
I hope that you will join me, and other contributors, on this journey. We will focus mainly on discipleship. I feel strongly that our present churches and families have dropped the ball when it comes to this Christ-given commission. And since the responsibility to develop spiritual champions (aka, disciples) rests mainly on the shoulders of the family, most of our efforts will be spent examining how we as parents, grandparents, and extended family members can better lead our loved ones into deeper, active relationships with Christ.
Before I wrap up, I feel the need to publish a major disclaimer. If you are looking for expert advise on how to disciple your family you may want to keep searching. You won’t find that here too often. What I invite you to participate in though is a commitment to join me in focusing greater passion, more time, increased effort, and more consistent attention on leading our families into a more concerted relationship with Christ. We will share successes and failures, but I hope in the end our families are all better equipped to serve and love our amazing Father!
For the FAMILY…tf