When It’s Time to Act

For parents, there is no worse feeling than watching your child spin out of control while nothing you do seems to make any difference.  If your teenager’s behavior is giving you feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and fear, I would like to offer you some suggestions.

 First, stop what you are doing and start a new way of thinking in regard to how you are handling the situation.  Albert Einstein defined insanity as “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  If your home is feeling a little insane these days, perhaps you need to change how it operates.

 Start in a new direction by first talking to others, like your friends, pastor, youth minister, your parents, your child’s teachers, and the rest of the family.  You need to gain wisdom and a sense of reality regarding the situation.  Are you blowing it out of proportion, or perhaps not even noticing how bad it has become?  Is your teenager just acting out at home, or are they behaving even worse when away from home?  People around you will know, and they can help you gain perspective.

 Accepting the reality of the problem is difficult for some parents.  They won’t acknowledge it because to them it would be accepting responsibility for failure.  Others tend to see just the good and believe no wrong in their children.  They are blinded to what everyone around them can already see; that is, until it becomes a full blown crisis or tragedy.  So when you come to a right “realization,” don’t hesitate to begin your search for a resolution by validating your suspicions with those around you.  They know what’s going on and will be glad that you finally see the light.

 WHAT IS AN “OUT OF CONTROL TEEN”? An out of control teenager is one who doesn’t appear to have the internal ability to function within established boundaries and rules of the home or society. Their behaviors, if allowed to continue, could have dangerous or grave consequences for them physically, for their future, or for your family.

 When Is It Time to Act?

 I’m sure you wish this situation wasn’t at your doorstep.  But it is, so you have to act on your child’s behalf.  And no matter how lonely it might be, or how difficult it might appear; no matter what your child’s response, you must act quickly.

 STEP ONE:  INVESTIGATE

 It is critical to ask questions to get to the root of what is causing your child’s change in behavior.  Is he depressed?  Is he being bullied, abused, or using drugs or alcohol?  Has a major loss happened in your family recently?  Most of the time, parents find out way too late about underlying causes of a child’s behavior.  Communication is key at this time.  If the lines of communication are down, then re-establish them—forcing communication if need be.  Require time from your child to discuss how they’re doing before you pay their next car insurance bill, give them gas money, or hand over the keys to the car.  Determine to establish the lines of communication and make sure you ask lots of questions.

 Find out how your child is acting outside of the home.  Talk to your child’s teachers and coaches, kids at church, your own parents, your siblings, their siblings, your friends, their friends, their youth minister and just about anyone who has had contact with your child.  See if they have any insights into why your child’s behavior has changed.  In fact, if your teen’s friends show up at your home, don’t be afraid to ask them what’s going on.  Some will be honest, as they might be just as concerned as well.  Just make sure you ask questions, and ask everyone to be honest with you.

 STEP TWO:  SET BOUNDARIES

 Establish and communicate clear boundaries for behavior by all members of your family (not just your wayward teen).  Determine what you hold to be true and the principles upon which you will base your rules for living.  Communicate and live by these boundaries, rather than “shooting from the hip” every time something comes up.  Make a policy and procedure manual for your home, so everyone knows what to expect.  Spend some time determining how you want to live and put some feet to it to ensure that all understand those boundaries.

 STEP THREE:  ESTABLISH AND ENFORCE CONSEQUENCES

 Once boundaries are in place, there must be reasonable consequences for inappropriate behavior, and they must be enforced, or your credibility goes right out the window.  And keep in mind that they must be enforced for all members of the family, not just your teen, so they don’t feel singled out.

 Parents today tend to be so relational that they find it hard to send a strong message to “not go this way” for fear of losing their relationship.  But what most parents don’t understand is that kids do want direction, correction and help in moving through the transition to adulthood.  Tom Landry once said, “A coach makes people do things they don’t want to do so they can get to a place where they do want to be.”  Parents must do the same for their children.

 STEP FOUR:  GET OUTSIDE HELP

 “He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.”  — Chinese Proverb

 Perhaps your child’s issues are deeper and they’ll need professional counseling or medication to get through it.  And maybe you’ll need counseling to get through it as well.  Find a good Christian counselor that specializes in teen behavior, and trust what they recommend.  If you’re going to pick and choose the counsel you receive, then you’ll more than likely just continue to do what you want, and your child will continue to spin out of control.  Don’t let old beliefs about medicine control your new decisions that have to be made for your child.  If your child is depressed or anxious, has ADD, or OCD, can’t sleep at night, is bi-polar, or has a true mental condition that demands medication, don’t let your outdated boundaries prevent your child from getting help from something that is essential to their well being.

 Hospitalization may even be needed if you feel that your child is a danger to himself or herself.  Extreme cutting, eating disorders, bizarre behavior, extreme depression, suicidal thoughts, or excessive drug or alcohol abuse are just a few of the symptoms that might warrant hospitalization.  Don’t hesitate to hospitalize your child just because you don’t know what it is.  It’s better to be safe than sorry.

 When Nothing is Working

 In the event that your teen is running away or otherwise hitting bottom, and counseling is going nowhere, you may need to place your teen in a therapeutic program outside of your home for a time.  This is not the time to spend mulling over where your parenting has gone wrong.  It’s time for action, when your child could damage his life and possibly make choices with grave consequences.  After you’ve had time to get good counsel (hopefully from quite a few people) and you’ve had some time to think it through, start to put an intervention plan into action.

 A therapeutic program or facility away from home will get them away from their peers, drugs and other influences.  It will give the whole family a time of rest and regrouping.  It will offer the teen a fresh perspective and a concentrated, focused way of dealing with their issues.  Yes, it’s a “last ditch” effort, to be initiated when all other options and attempts to help your child have been exhausted, but for some kids, it can be a lifesaver.  Over the past 20 years, some 3,000 kids have come to live with us a Heartlight (http://www.heartlightministries.org) for 9 to 12 months at a time.  We daily work with them in a relational way to change their thinking and ambitions to more positive pursuits.

 All therapeutic programs are not the same, and there is very little regulation or standards in therapeutic care for youth.  So do your homework.  Check out each program’s professional references.  Call the local Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints.  Get a list and call the parents who have had their child in the program recently.  If the program won’t allow you to call parents, then that may be a sign to look elsewhere.  And make sure the list they supply is made up of real parents, not just people trained to convince you to enroll in that program.

 A therapeutic program isn’t an easy or inexpensive option for parents.  It can cost tens of thousands of dollars.  No doubt, it will be one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever have to make.  But one statement I hear from kids and from their parents over and over is this:  “If I (they) didn’t come to Heartlight, I think I (they) would have been dead or in prison by now.”

 It’s a harsh reality to send a child off to be cared for elsewhere.  But that reality pales when you consider the possibilities or outcomes of your child’s current behavior and how such behavior could ruin his or her life.  What you are giving him or her is something that can’t be found in the current home setting.  You are loving them in a way that perhaps you haven’t loved them before.  It’s tough to think that they’ll have to miss some of their time in the local high school, and may never graduate there.  But it’s a good decision if it will save your child.

 Don’t ignore what is happening in your family.  Though you undoubtedly hope it will just go away, it won’t likely do so without a major change in the way your home operates, or placement of the teen in a therapeutic program away from home, especially if the behavior has already been going on for many months.  And if you think the problem will disappear when your child turns 18, think again.  It won’t disappear; it will likely get worse and linger well into adulthood if it is not dealt with earlier.  Just envision the chaos in your home from having your teenager still living with you at age 35, either because they continue to be addicted to drugs or they can’t find a job because they were arrested and have a record.  That’s a reality in more homes today than you might imagine.

 Consider this … if God’s timing is perfect, and I believe it is, these issues are happening at this time in your life for a reason.  So take advantage of it, and do what you need to do.  And know that this time of trouble will one day be over.  II Corinthian 4:17 states, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”  I would put an emphasis on “momentary.”

 This struggle may last awhile, but it won’t last long – not if you take the necessary steps to correct it now.

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a therapeutic boarding school located in East Texas. Call 903-668-2173. Visit http://www.heartlightministries.org , or to read other articles by Mark, visit http://www.markgregston.com

 

 

 

 

Parable for Dads

Have you ever considered the father figure in the Parable of the Prodigal to be the focus of that story, not the wayward son? After all, the word “father” is mentioned many more times than the word “son.”

A “prodigal” is defined as one who “spends extravagantly.” While the son spent his inheritance; it was the father who was the most extravagant, both with his money and with his love. It was the father who was the prodigal.

Whether or not Jesus’ parable was taken from a real life example, I imagine it wouldn’t be easy for any father to see his son live a sinful lifestyle and waste his inheritance. But there is no mention of the father bringing brute force or threats to bear to hold back his son or to bring him home, any more than God forces Himself on us.

Oh, how much would he have liked to pull (him) back with fatherly authority and hold (him) close to himself so that (he) would not get hurt. But his love is too great to do any of that. It cannot force, constrain, push, or pull. It offers the freedom to reject that love or to love in return. It is precisely the immensity of the divine love that is the source of the divine suffering. God, creator of heavens and earth, has chosen to be, first and foremost, a Father.” – Henri J.W. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son

When the son came to his senses, the father again showed his prodigal nature by extravagantly welcoming him back into the family with fanfare and rejoicing. There was no demand for repayment, no warnings, no threats, and no expressions of disappointment … just love and grace. He threw a party and lavished all the same rights and privileges on the son as if he had never left the fold.

It’s the kind of prodigal grace and attention fathers need to lavish on their teens every day today. In our counseling of teens at Heartlight, the most often mentioned desire of teen girls is, “I want more time with my Dad.” They want time together, even if they don’t act like they do.

If you are a dad, take your teen to lunch, grab a snack after school, attend all games or school events, find things you can do together, and communicate with them online. Send daily text messages to say “Hi” or, “I love you.” Make sure your teen knows your desire to continue to be involved in his or her life even if there is a split in the family. Do it, or they’ll seek validation from someone else, and that can lead to bigger problems than you ever want to have with your teen.

The Missing Dad

I asked one young girl in our counseling program how she was doing. It was a simple question in passing, and I expected a simple “doing okay” answer. Instead, the young lady proceeded to tell me everything about herself, everything she ever did, everything she ever accomplished, everywhere she had ever traveled and every talent she had.

She reported how she could play the guitar, the cello, the violin, the piano, the harp, the drums, the trumpet, the bass guitar, the flute, the clarinet, and the tuba. She told me about all the things she likes to do, and all the things she doesn’t like to do. She talked about how she is a swimmer, a gymnast, a dancer, an equestrian, a pianist, and a volleyball queen.

She “shared” how she was homecoming queen and the “most likely to succeed” in her class. She told me what she wanted to be, and what she did not want to be. She told me all her hopes and dreams, and all her disappointments and failures in one breathless dissertation.

I quickly realized that this one-way “conversation” was a desperate cover-up of what was going on inside her. She wanted me to know she is worth something and she plead her case based on her accomplishments.

When she took a breath, I finally got a chance to wedge in a better question that might open a real dialogue. Her demeanor completely changed when I asked, “What’s been the most difficult thing that has happened in your life?” Her chattering stopped, her eyes welled up with tears, and she replied, “When my dad left, I felt all alone.”

Suddenly, there was silence. I stood looking at her for a few seconds and instead of trying to come up with the right words to say, I just gave her a hug. She wanted to talk, but I encouraged her, “Hey, hey, hey … you don’t need to say anything.” Finally, a real connection was made.

When dads are missing, problems will usually follow. Why? Because moms are the ones who instill a sense of value, and dads are the ones who validate it. All children need their father’s blessing. When dad’s stamp of approval is not there, the child will look for validation somewhere else.

This is especially true of teenage girls. They need their dad to meet that need for validation – something only he can really fulfill. And with 12- to 14-year-old girls, this need is greater than ever. But sadly, many dads get too busy or otherwise emotionally move away from their daughters at this time in their life.

Learn to Listen Extravagantly

Dads are usually weak at listening. They’re made that way. They aren’t easily distracted from their focus on whatever they are doing and they’re always doing something. It’s a great asset to have in the business world, but it’s a liability at home. Many times dads are concentrating on something else when their teen attempts to talk to them; or they are only thinking one way and anything different fails to get through their filter.

You don’t have to work so hard to listen to your children when they’re little, but when they enter the teen years, you have to work at it. If you are willing to just listen, you might touch the heart of your teen and convey a sense of value. Don’t try to fix their problems like when they were young – not unless they ask for your help. And don’t worry about what your answer is going to be; we can’t all come up with the scripted responses of TV dad’s like Ward Cleaver, Ben Cartwright, or Heathcliff Huxtable. Focus on your teen and offer your attention as a wordless message of support.

Have Fun Extravagantly

“Life isn’t about how to survive the storm but how to dance in the rain.” Author Unknown

Years ago, I listened to a man on the radio that I’ve been a fan of all my life, Chuck Swindoll. He stated in so many words, “What I want written on my epitaph is that ‘Dad was fun!’” Does that surprise you? It did me. I thought what every good Christian parent was supposed to want written on their epitaph was something to the affect of how godly or spiritual a person they were, or some thought about how they provided for the family. And here was one of the godliest men that I ever listened to sharing how he wanted to be known forever as a “Dad of fun.”

I agree with that philosophy, balanced with everything else that it means to be a good father. You may be pretty good at maintaining parental authority and discipline in the home, but are you making a connection with your teen in a way that is fun – fun for them? Sometimes it’s okay just to sit and watch a movie together. You could go fishing somewhere or take blankets and go out and see the stars in the middle of the night. You may see a meteor shower. These connections are manufactured times and they just don’t happen automatically. Come up with a list of ideas that you’ve got to make happen for that special time with your child — even when they don’t want to do it. Build up to it, “Tomorrow, we’re going to do this,” and then make sure you do it, without fail.

Right the Wrong

Dads can be great at checking out or avoiding issues. They can boil, stew, hold a grudge, and allow unresolved issues to destroy their relationship with their child; or, avoid conflict by compromising their standards. Then there are those who cover up problems by overindulging their kids … deflecting the problem temporarily and causing even more problems in the future.

But dads can also be pretty good at correcting their own errors if they put their attention to it. If you’ve not been the dad you know you should have been, will you take responsibility for steering your home in the right direction, fostering positive emotions and mutual respect? Start by identifying where you have been wrong, and seek forgiveness from those you have offended.

I recently witnessed an entire family break down and sob when the father asked each member to forgive him for his failures. He repeated his request with intensity and emotion. It was a humble, sincere apology, and a good step toward healing the resentment of his children. Every heart in the room melted and it was a new beginning for that family.

Dad, let me urge you to not despair and certainly not to quit. Instead, choose to have an honest conversation with God about your struggle, just as your teen should be able to have with you. Ask Him your questions, and tell Him how you feel. He, too, is a Father. Ask Him what you are supposed to learn and what you should do to make things better. Be okay with life not always making sense. Celebrate being needful of God’s care. Our Heavenly Father shines best when our life is a mess, and I hope you’ll be your best when your teen needs you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a therapeutic boarding school located in East Texas. Call 903-668-2173. Visit http://www.heartlightministries.org , or to read other articles by Mark, visit http://www.markgregston.com

 

Teaching Purity in a Seductive Culture

Have you looked around lately?  Our kids live in a dangerous generation.  They are constantly bombarded by seductive imagery.  Innocence is threatened at a young age.  And our culture isn’t doing anything to stem the tide.  In fact, it’s pulling our teens away from purity and pushing them toward promiscuity.

Over the many years at Heartlight, we have worked with hundreds of girls who struggle to maintain their integrity and personal purity.  Along the way, I’ve learned a couple things worthy of passing along to you.

When everyone around a teen assumes they’re going to be sexually active, or makes fun of them if they aren’t, it creates the perfect storm for failure.  In any case, our teens are set up for a private battle of choices.  Many of the kids I talk to are confused about their own convictions on the issue.  Over and over again they say how they wish they were still a virgin, but then admit that if they were still a virgin, they would be moving in a direction to try not to be.

Sexual Normalization

Sexuality is something that teens talk about all the time.  Their banter is almost shocking.  These conversations usually exemplify a teen’s craving for attention.  Even though our kids are communicating like crazy over the Internet, texting, and through social media sites, they aren’t connecting.  So they often resort to other ways to get noticed, such as their appearance and performance.  They think they can get the connection they long for through their sexuality.  And it makes sense that they think this way – television, music, and advertising all give kids the strong message that experimenting with sex is perfectly normal.  It’s no longer just an invitation to sexually express themselves, but an out-right expectation.  In fact, the media makes fun of virginity.  But when it turns out that reality shows aren’t reality, teens become disappointed and confused.

Continuing the Conversation

Parents have a natural opportunity to connect at this point.  When teens discover that a lifestyle of “appearance & performance” don’t deliver the results they want, they’ll start asking:  now what?  This is where having a strong relationship and ongoing conversation with your kids is helpful and many parent struggle with how to get to this place with their kids.  Teens are young men and young women, not just young kids anymore, and we can’t control what they’re thinking, yet we need to have input along the way.  This is a perfect opportunity to sit down with your teen and openly talk about what’s acceptable and what’s not.  So, if you have been building your relationship with your teen along the way, your child may be more receptive to what you’re hoping to accomplish.

Even with good relationship-building, kids don’t always listen or follow our standard.  Parents, if you see your teen acting slightly outside of the standard, it’s okay to choose your battle and say:  I don’t like it, but I’ll let it go.  But it’s important to clarify the standards for modesty and your expectations.

Expectations aren’t a list of rules.  They’re taught in conversations, and caught with an example of your lifestyle.  The parent’s role is to help prepare the child – and instead of showing our kids how to live in a zoo, we have to be teaching them how to survive in a jungle.  Sometimes a child tells a parent:  I don’t believe in the things you do, I don’t behave the way you do, it’s my body, I’ll do what I want.  This becomes a different conversation.  Instead of talking about the expectations of the household, you might have a practical conversation about the Scriptures and show how a lack of modesty can hurt relationships.  Deviating from God’s plan always ends with pain and failure.  We need our kids to know that God doesn’t merely say Don’t!  God says, Don’t get hurt!  The Scriptures are a great place to start because they show our teens their value.

Refining the Message

Kids don’t think of long term consequences, so it’s helpful for you to point out the lifetime ramifications of promiscuity.  Give them practical advice and direction, such as asking the question:  What would your future husband want in you?  What would your future wife want in you?  As your teen begins to define this for him or herself, stay engaged with them.  Model the life you want for them and help them sort through their confusion.  In the context of relationship, teens will see this instruction, not as judgment but as love and connection; just what they’re looking for.

You can hear us talk on this subject by listening to our radio program.  It’s called, Parenting Today’s Teens.  Next time, we talk with Family Coach Tim Smith.  Tim will share his perspective on how important it is to approach this issue with your teen in the context of relationship.

You can hear Parenting Today’s Teens online, as a podcast, or find a radio station near you.  All the information is found at www.ParentingTodaysTeens.org.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a therapeutic boarding school located in East Texas.  Call 903-668-2173.  Visit http://www.heartlightministries.org , or to read other articles by Mark, visit http://www.markgregston.com

 

 

Dear brothers and Sisters in CHrist

I came across this video this evening, and loved it, so I thought that I would share it with you. I know that as you watch it, you too will be encouraged to Hate Religion and love Jesus.

Has Your Child “Boomeranged”?

Most of us think adolescence ends at the age 18, but the American Medical Association has defined adolescence as going all the way to age 23.  What used to be a period of seven years is now fourteen years!  And for many parents reading this article, this means that your kids may come back home to live with you after college.

 We set our kids in motion to live as independent adults, and like a boomerang they just come right back to where they started.  Sometimes it happens for good reasons because of issues outside their control.  But when a child wants to disengage from a normal growth opportunity and fails to establish their own independence, it’s a sign that emotional problems are in play.

 It’s been great for Jan and me to be empty nesters.  We love it.  Oh, sure, I like it when the grandkids pop in with their parents, but it’s good when they leave, too.  Gratefully both our son and daughter have established independent lives of their own.

 But maybe you’re in a different place.  Maybe you’re dealing with the boomerang effect.  So let me offer some helpful perspective and a couple suggestions.

 Welcome Home?

 Some kids come home after college until they get a job.  That’s one thing.  And in this economy, finding a job takes much longer than ever before.  So it’s understandable when they need a place to stay while aggressively pursue the next phase in their life.  But when kids get too comfortable in your home and can’t launch from that spot, they’re in trouble.  They can’t get to the next place, and they show their inability to function at a higher level.

 Mom and dad, when you take these kids back in, you aren’t doing them a favor.  Parents want to be helpful, but they’re just postponing the inevitable.  I’m talking about when a child wants to avoid growth.  Moving back home becomes a way to avoid the challenge of becoming independent.  A child can try to live like they’re in high school, or have everything provided, or take an “extended vacation.”  We all have a plan for our lives.  When your child comes back home, it’s kind of outside of the plan.

 When Coming Home is Healthy

 Sometimes, it is healthy for kids to come home.  But just because the reason they come is appropriate doesn’t mean that your transition will be easy.  To help, you need to line out your expectations for your son or daughter and set up some new rules.

 To help you get along with your adult children, spend necessary time with them.  But not out of obligation.  Your child doesn’t want to spend time with you if they think it’s a burden.  Love your child in a way they can receive it.  Sit down and talk.  Be a servant to them.  I want to be a servant to anyone who walks in my door.  But being a servant doesn’t mean being a doormat.

 You need to build an understanding of how you’re going to live together.  Your child is the new person to the house, even if they’ve lived there before.  So he should fit into your household’s current agenda.  Parents, you need to openly say to your children, “You’re welcome here, but you’ve gotta follow the current game plan.”  Talk to your child before he comes home.  Determine whether they will pay rent or not, whether or not they will be required to work.  There are a lot of times in my life that I haven’t liked what I was doing for work, but I did it because I knew it would strengthen my work habits and would help me financially.

 If your child is not following the plan you talked about, and it’s becoming disruptive to the house, you may need to kick your child out.  Sounds harsh, but if you don’t take action, if you allow your child to keep the same attitude, they will find it easy to stay like a child longer.  Not to mention that they may influence the habits and attitudes of your other children.

 Adults are adults.  You need to treat them that way.  And if your child isn’t acting like an adult, you may need to push them out.  Every adult’s goal is to live an independent life.  This means moving on to another place.  You need to respect this goal in your child’s life.  If your child doesn’t see the need for this movement, and you don’t act, you are enabling your child’s foolishness.

 Parents:  Plan, Act, and Let Go!

 If the presence of your boomerang child has become a negative situation, and they’re still enjoying the benefits of living under your roof, then you are probably kidding yourself about their maturity.  You could be justifying their childish behavior.  You’re allowing it to happen.  Kids are hampered by their parents’ inability to act.  I have seen some of these kids at Heartlight, and I think, “You can’t be serious!”  By letting your kids stay at home, you are allowing them to rely on you when the Scripture says we are to train up a child in the way he should go.  Hear that?  Go.  If they stay because of excuses, these kids won’t grow up to be good husbands, good wives, good fathers, or good mothers.  They’ll repeat the cycle with their own kids.

 If you are the problem, you need to let go!  Parents, remember that your child is more important than you.  If you aren’t releasing your child to move onto the next step, it’s your issue not theirs.  When you finally let go, let me tell you this;  you’re going to love it!  Where they are going is more exciting than where they have been.  You need to trust God to take care of your kids.

 The moment when the prodigal son came back to his senses was right after everybody quit giving him everything.  You need to consider what this means for your family.  Come up with a plan of transitioning your child into the real world.  Move them to a point where they are either in school, working, or waiting for a move to the next step in life.

 You can hear us talk on this subject by listening to our radio program.  It’s called, Parenting Today’s Teens.  Next time, we talk with Family Coach Tim Smith.  Tim, whose philosophy of parenting is “don’t do anything for your children that they can do for themselves,” will share his personal experience and perspective on having children return home.

 You can hear Parenting Today’s Teens online, as a podcast, or find a radio station near you.  All the information is found at www.ParentingTodaysTeens.org

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a therapeutic boarding school located in East Texas. Call 903-668-2173.  Visit http://www.heartlightministries.org , or to read other articles by Mark, visit http://www.markgregston.com.

 

The Christmas Story

From the beginning of the world, God’s intention was to bring his beloved creation back into a relationship with him. He told the people of Israel 500 years before Christ came, that he would be sending a Child, born of a virgin that would become the savior of the world.

Read along with me as we follow the prophecies of the coming King.

Isaiah 9:6 – 7

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

This is the account in the book of Luke, that describes how the Angel Gabriel came to Mary to tell her that she would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit.

Luke 1:26 – 55

 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,  to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”   Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” 

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”   The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 

 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.  For nothing is impossible with God.” 

 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.   At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,  where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.   When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!   But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 

As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,  for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me–holy is his name.  His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.   He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.   He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.   He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.   He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful  to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” 

The lord in his great Mercy sent his son Jesus Christ to become the savior of the world, why did we need a savior, because sin came into the world and because God is a holy God, those who are sinful cannot come into in his presence. Therefore he needed to make a way back for us.

Romans 3:22

 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  as done has been done through God.”

The bible teaches us that God loves us, read this verse and see how much.

John 3:16-21

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.   Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he h

The moral of the story is this, God loves you, and he sent his son Jesus Christ to this earth so that you could have a relationship with him, so that he can set you free from sin and death. He can give you peace, help you to walk in love and fill with his Holy Spirit power.

He wants to give you hope, hope for the future, both here on earth and for eternity.

Jesus is the reason that we take time to celebrate christmas, God have us the gift of his son, and so therefor we give gifts to others in appreciation for what God has done for us.

I pray that you will enjoy the gift that God has given us, and accept him as your lord and savior today!

Helping Your Child Own Their Spiritual Journey

Statistics show that 85% of kids today are leaving the church upon graduation from high school.  When I was a teen, I wasn’t brave enough to say: “I don’t wanna to go to church today.”  For today’s teen, leaving the church is normal – but not necessarily helpful.  Teens today are exposed to more opportunities and options in the kind of church they want to go to.  And when they begin to put into practice their developing desire for independence, you might need to be prepared.

 Building Independence

 Every parent wants their child to grow up and become a successful adult; I know these parents.  They’re great parents.  But as our kids grow up, they begin to exercise more independence.  How we respond to them, especially in this area of going to church, will affect their decisions.  As we raise our kids, there are different signs and little signals that show us that our goal of helping our children become independent, is working – this is one of them.  Even if you don’t like the idea of your child not going to church with you, it’s a good sign.  It shows us that they are starting to think on their own instead of just following us.

 Parents, I understand that we’re dealing with an issue that’s very important to you.  The real issue is faith in God, not going to church.  I so often hear parents say “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” and then in the next breath say to their kids “as long as you live under my roof, you will live by my rules.”  Does this sound familiar?  To tell you the truth, it unnerves me a bit.  You need to sit back and evaluate your values, beliefs and goals for your child.  If what you are telling them is contradictory, then you are going to be making your uphill battle even harder.

 The Bigger Picture

 Ultimately, you are helping your child form a belief system – not just a habit of going to church.  So, if your child can choose the church that he wants to go to, then you can help him achieve your own goals for your children.  Your goals may be for his spiritual training; if he can reach those goals on his own, it may be better to have him go to a different church that meets his interests, while keeping him connected to the church.

 Let’s keep the kids involved in something.  I may lose the opportunity to sit in church with them, but I may gain something far greater in having them part of something that will help them throughout their life.  The bigger issue is their spiritual health.

 Responding When Your Child Chooses Something Else

 I would encourage you to pre-meditate your response when your teen tells you that he doesn’t want to go to church.  Are you going to allow your child to make choices in his life?  Even if you know they won’t make the choice that you want?  Just because you like the idea of your family doing things together, doesn’t mean it’s wrong for your teen to desire something different.  This is a season of independence you need to embrace in order to hold onto the bigger picture – faith in God.

 As a parent, I want to help my child make good choices.  If they make choices that you don’t agree with, you may need to reign in the choice they are allowed to make.  Allow them the opportunity to make a choice, but provide for their training as well.  This way, instead of choosing not to go to church at the age of 13 or 14, you give your child the option to go to one of two or three churches.  They keep the ability to make a choice and have control over their lives, and you still help guide them toward faith.

 At some point, your teen may reject any choice you give them.  But teens send out signals in advance of coming to this point, so you need to pick up on these clues.  If they’re falling asleep, writing notes during church services, or are more interested in eating after church than being part of church, you may need to address their actions.  If you see these things coming up, pull your teen aside and talk to him about it.  The issue could be something other than the church itself.  By talking to your child, you can help determine the motivation behind the behavior.

 Make sure that your plan gives some opportunity and flexibility that reaches your goals for them.  As they get older, if your child chooses not to go to any church at all, keep your relationship with them.  Don’t shame them in the process or make sarcastic remarks.  These things will show your child that you are disappointed in them; instead, let God work it out and bring them back in His time.

 You can hear us talk on this subject by listening to our radio program.  It’s called, Parenting Today’s Teens.  Next time, expert Chap Clark shares what he has seen in the lives of families that are facing this issue.  He’ll also share strategies he has found helpful for maintaining that relationship and allowing your teen to define his relationship with Christ.  Chap has been with Young Life for years and is now the Vice Provost at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California.  We will also talk, as always, with a teen who has experienced this issue in his life.

 You can hear Parenting Today’s Teens online, as a podcast, or find a radio station near you.  All the information is found at www.ParentingTodaysTeens.org.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a therapeutic boarding school located in East Texas. Call 903-668-2173. Visit http://www.heartlightministries.org or to read other articles by Mark, visit http://www.markgregston.com.

 

 

Experimenting With Drugs

If you’ve seen an unexplainable or drastic change in your teenager’s honesty, grades, behavior, attentiveness, or friends, it may not be hormones.  It could be that they are experimenting with intoxicating substances that are as close as your kitchen drawer, medicine cabinet or garage.

It used to be that older teens were most susceptible to drug experimentation, but kids today are experimenting earlier and earlier.  In fact, 10 to 14 year-olds are now the most likely to begin experimenting with one intoxicating substance or another.

One fad is a throwback to the 60’s hippie culture, marked by an increased popularity, availability and use of marijuana (pot), as well as the more seriously addicting 60′s drugs like heroin and LSD (acid).  Today’s pot is several times more potent than it was just a few years ago and heroin is even more accessible in some schools today than alcohol.

Illegal drugs get a lot of news coverage, but there are literally thousands of less sinister, but potentially more dangerous, ways for kids to get high, including:  potent concoctions of common household glues, solvents and aerosols, prescription pain medications like Oxycontin and Vicodin, or even some of the plants found in your yard.  Some kids even get a buzz off of massive doses of certain vitamins.

Most teens think they’re invincible, so their drug history is their badge of courage.  They learn about every source of intoxication from the Internet and then try them one after another.  So, they could be experimenting with huffing aerosol propellants, glues, gasoline, or paint.  Or, they could be crushing cold medications and sniffing them like cocaine or guzzling liquid cold medicines.  They could be taking your prescription drugs or taking nothing at all and just playing the “choking game” to get a temporary high from near asphyxiation.  Still others show their courage by experimenting with the harder drugs like ecstasy, crystal meth, crack, cocaine, LSD, or heroin, which are all highly addictive.

When Does It Start?

When I ask kids in our counseling program the age they started experimenting with drugs or alcohol, they usually report it was in the 7th or 8th grade; and some as early as the 5th grade. Most say they were introduced to drugs or alcohol when staying overnight at a friend’s home or other overnight youth event; or, at their friend’s house after school when their parents weren’t home.  Others were introduced to drugs or alcohol when attending parties … usually parties where older teens are present and parents are absent, distracted, or don’t care.

Fact is, parents today who allow their teenagers to stay overnight with friends may be putting their teen in peril.  After the parents are asleep, the kids try to outdo each other in regard to how far they will go, armed with the latest vices from the Internet.  That’s why I recommend putting a stop to slumber parties at age ten.  Stop at age 10 for a couple of years …..slumber parties where the crowd influence is greater than just sleeping at someone’s house.  From then on, the normally innocent agenda of pizza and pillow fights tends to shift to more sinister things these days.

By the time most parents first discover their child is using drugs, the child has usually been involved for several years.  But if parents can be diligent in keeping their kids from experimenting with intoxicating substances before age 14, they’ll be less likely to get started at all, so it’s important to be the most vigilant in the critical tween and early teen years.

The Addicted Teen

There’s obviously a difference between experimenting with drugs and being addicted.  However, experimenting is no less dangerous, since we hear stories every day of deaths of first-time users.  And some drugs are so addictive, that they can lead to a lifetime addiction with their very first use.

There’s nothing more gut-wrenching for a parent than to deal with their teenager’s drug addiction.  Just watch a few episodes of the show “Intervention” on television and you’ll see what dealing with an addict is like.  It’s a constant nightmare, not just for an addict, but for the entire family.  The lying, stealing, fits of anger, run-ins with the law and constant fear that the child will overdose can destroy and bankrupt a family.  And it won’t get better without treatment and ongoing support, sometimes spanning the addict’s entire life.

Sadly, each year more than a million teenagers need to go into substance abuse treatment programs.  And just like alcoholism, many of them will struggle with that addiction throughout their entire life.  That’s why it’s far better for parents to prevent kids from experimenting with drugs early on, before they get a foothold.

Why Do They Experiment?

Kids are usually motivated to experiment with drugs by curiosity and the need to fit in.  They want to try what their friends are trying, and they have a great need to belong.

Some kids experiment because they are seeking relief from anxiety or emotional pain.  In essence they are self-medicating or using drugs or alcohol to cope with the stresses they are feeling.  For instance, many kids use marijuana to reduce their anxiety, but medical studies show that the prolonged use of the drug has the opposite effect, leading to heightened anxiety, depression, nervousness, mental disorders, paranoia and panic attacks.  While some parents diminish the seriousness of use of marijuana, they should pay attention to what the National Institute on Drug Abuse says are the effects of its prolonged use.  They report it can cause, “… impaired attention, memory problems, diminished learning capacity, interference with the formation of memories and the ability to retain knowledge, a general apathy toward life events, poor coordination, diminished interpersonal skills, and poor judgment.”

Sadly, other kids experiment with drugs to tempt their fate.  Teens with more serious emotional and psychological problems turn to dangerous concoctions or massive doses of drugs as a form of “Russian Roulette.”  They reason, “If I die, then so be it.”  Not a week goes by that I don’t receive a message from a parent or grandparent, heartbroken that their teen overdosed and died.

 Signs of Drug Use

There are many signs of substance abuse that a parent should watch for, but the only way to know for sure is to take your teenager to get a full-spectrum drug and alcohol test (a test for many types of drugs).  To be sure, have it done professionally by a local lab that processes tests for businesses.  Give your teen little forewarning to prepare for the test, since they can usually find ways on the Internet to falsify the results.

A substance abuse test is warranted if you see any of these signs:

Masking – you notice that they are consuming mega doses of vitamins, teas and herbs in attempt to mask drug use.

Increased lying – not just once or twice, but chronic dishonesty, especially if lying is new for your teen.

Breakdown in normal habits – drastic changes in sleep, appetite, the ability to complete schoolwork, loss of interest in things they once loved, extreme forgetfulness, and marked decrease in hygiene.

An unusual odor on clothes or in the room — frequent use of incense or deodorizers to mask the smell, frequent use of eye drops (to alleviate bloodshot eyes), extended periods locked alone in their room or the bathroom, frequent use of the garage or shed or other vacant buildings.

Change in friends – your teen exchanges healthy friendships for fierce loyalty to questionable people you don’t even know.  They may even run away, or disappear with their new friends for long stretches of time.

Stealing or sudden wealth — shoplifting, credit card abuse, valuables disappearing from the home without explanation.  Or, you may see unexplained money, jewelry, new clothes, or new gadgets from the selling of drugs (even from selling your prescriptions).

Change in schedule – up all night, or up very late at night, sleeps for days, misses work, misses appointments, wants to be on the phone late at night or regularly wants to stay overnight at a friend’s house or out camping.

Aggression, anger, mood swings, disrespect, and blaming – to an unreasonable degree, and directed against you and your family or other authorities.

Drug paraphernalia — pincers or paper clips for smoking, empty or disassembled pen cases for snorting, empty aerosol cans, burnt spoons, homemade pot pipes, steel wool, hypodermic needle parts, unknown prescription bottles, empty liquid cold remedy bottles, cold remedy blister packs, missing glues or solvents, or knives and spoons used for crushing and sniffing pills repeatedly show up in their room.

Dropping grades– lack of care for school, sports or other healthy pursuits.

 Drugs May Be the Behavior Issue

It’s easy to identify bad behavior and blame drug use on teenage rebellion, but it could be that drugs are what’s affecting your child’s behavior.  The real dilemma comes from the parent not believing their child might be experimenting with or using drugs in the first place.  This is simply denial.  Until a parent understands the real possibility of drugs use — even if their teen has good Christian friends and is active in church — they won’t be able to get to the root of the problem.

You may not understand the reason your child has chosen drug use as their way to “cope” with some giant in their life, but that’s another matter altogether.  And because it is inconceivable that your child would ever do such a thing, you may fail to consider it, discuss it with him or drug test him to find out.  I’ve found that parents with kids in Christian schools are the least likely to admit their teen has a problem.  After all, they are in a “safe” environment, right?  Wrong!  Kids that have come to our program with drug issues tell me that the drug problem is more prevalent, not less, in the Christian schools they’ve attended than in public schools.

Before Counseling, Get the Drug Use Under Control

Since drug use may be the cause of behavioral issues, all the behavioral counseling in the world will have little positive effect until the drug use is stopped and the lingering effects of the drug are out of the teenager’s system.  Depending on the drug that was used, the after-effects can last several months.  That’s why at Heartlight, we require that kids with known drug dependencies first go through a separate addiction treatment program.  We cannot deal with their inner issues until the drug issues are taken care of.  Likewise, don’t attempt to get counseling for your teen until the drugs are out of their system.  It’s a waste of money and time.  The best plan is to have the two therapies work hand in hand, ensuring that the ongoing support of an Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous program continue in tandem with your teen’s counseling for emotional and behavioral issues.

If your teen is showing any of the signs I’ve already mentioned, I recommend that every few weeks, unannounced, you drug test your teen.  Make it a prerequisite for using the car.  Hold them accountable to the results, just as if a court would hold them accountable if they were on probation.  Test them even when they squeal in protest or appear disappointed that you don’t trust them.  Easy-to-use home drug and alcohol test kits can be bought in almost any drug store that can be used for regular monitoring.  And when you test them, stay in the room.  Don’t trust them to give you a valid sample.  If they are getting caught up in that culture, they’ll also know ways to get around the test and they’ll have no trouble lying to you about it.

Overall, your teenager needs to know you will do everything in your parental power to keep drugs from becoming a part of their history, even if it means putting them in an addiction treatment program or reporting them to the authorities and landing them in jail.  Better a few days in jail and a time on probation where they’ll get tested regularly, than a lifetime in the grip of drugs.

 Don’t stick your head in the sand or otherwise pretend that your teen knows better than to try drugs.  If you are dealing with an out of control teen, and there have been no other traumatic events or psychological problems in your child’s life, you are most likely dealing with the effects of drugs or alcohol or other intoxicating substances in one form or another.  The sooner you know what you are dealing with, the better the chance you’ll have for finding the right kind of help for your child.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a therapeutic boarding school located in East Texas. Call 903-668-2173. Visit http://www.heartlightministries.org or to read other articles by Mark, visit http://www.markgregston.com.

 

 

The Spoken Word – Gossip

I have once again been reminded of the fact that the words that proceed from my mouth will either bring life and refreshment to myself and those around me or they would bring death.

It is very easy to form bad habits when it comes to the use of our mouths. Sometimes those habits have been taught to us by other people and other times, we adopt them because it makes us feel better about ourselves.

The Lord recently revealed to me that my mouth once again was getting me into trouble. At the time I enjoyed every morsel that came out of my mouth. I felt justified to say what I was saying and it was not until later did I realize the damage that I had been doing.

You see, I had been having some issues with a person, and how their attitude was affecting me and everyone else around them. Where I landed in hot water with God was, I was retelling these “facts” to another person, “teaching them, what not to do” yes, I know, ridiculous but that is what I did.

I would love to sugar coat what I did, but the truth of the matter is, I was gossiping, slandering and tearing down the integrity of that person, as I retold “My side of the story”. Yuck!

In the process, I realized that not only had I compromised my relationship with both of those people, but I had sinned against God who tells me not to gossip, and slander another person. I felt horrible and apologized to the person whom I had told the story to.

You see, in my irritation with the person, I felt justified to shake my head and say,” see look at that behavior is it not awful?” not realizing at the time, that my behavior was just as bad. God wants us to be people of integrity who use our mouths to bring life to all those around us. To speak well of them, instead of using our time to tear them to pieces as we smugly sit on the side lines and discuss them.

I know that I do not want people to talk about me behind my back, therefore I need to make sure that I do not do it to other people.

James 3 tells us that the tongue is hard to control, but we need to learn to bring it into submission under God.

James 3:5-6

 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.   The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 

James 3:9 – 10

 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.   Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 

I desire to be a woman whose tongue brings life to those around me, I desire to build up and encourage the people that God has given me the privilege of ministering to. I cannot do that, if I allow my tongue to be used as an instrument for evil.

In the book of Isaiah, God had shown the Prophet Isaiah a vision of heaven and had called him to be a prophet to the people of Israel, but during the time of this vision, Isaiah realized that he was a man of an unclean tongue who also lived amongst people who also used their words for evil and not good.

Read the following scripture to find out what God did to remedy this situation;

Isaiah 6:1-7

 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.  And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 

 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.   “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” 

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.   With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” 

Brothers and Sisters, your sin and mine have also been atoned for by the blood of Jesus Christ through his death on the cross. You have been given the right to become a child of God and been sealed with the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing your inheritance one day. Therefore, you have also been given the ability to choose to walk in righteousness all the days of your life.

If you have found yourself depicted in this article, I pray that you would ask the lord to forgive you. He promises that he will.

Please understand something, I did not start out the day, thinking, hey I am going to gossip about someone today, but I found myself there. I know that the bible teaches that we should not do it, therefore I knew that what I had done was sin. I still did it, but when I realized that I had sinned against God I asked him to forgive me. Which I know he did as that too is a promise in the bible.

I believe that God enables us to learn and grow more and more into Christ likeness when we acknowledge sin in our lives, repent quickly, learn from it and determine not to do it again. In the following scripture the apostle Paul tells the believers where we are to set our minds, they are to be set not on earthly things but in the heavenly realms. We are to clothe ourselves with the good that God has given us, and literally de-robe from the things that held us captive before, even gossiping.

 Colossians 3:1-17

 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.   For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.   When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.   Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.  But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.  Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. 

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.   And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.   Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 

I pray that the lord will bless you today as you clothe yourself with Him and His righteousness, and leave behind the things that will put you into the bondage of sin once again.

 

 

Having a Yes heart

The world is filled with many very talented people. Some use their talents for the good of mankind, others may use them for selfish reasons and some actually bury theirs and never really live lives that are fulfilling or even satisfying.

I used to hide my talents all of the time, fear kept me from pulling them out and dusting them off and using them. It was debilitating for a long time, but then the lord started to work on my heart and helped me to change my mind.

He showed me in scripture that I had been given a task to do on this earth and that to run and hide would never give me any satisfaction.

Ephesians 2: 10

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 

Therefore armed with this verse I realized that I was not here on this earth just to put in time, but had been given by God a task to do while I was here.

I discovered that the bible taught that some people were gifted by God to become pastors, who would take care of his children. There were responsible to feed the people the word of God and to pray for them, and literally lay down their lives for the people if necessary. They were also responsible to God for their conduct and how they shepherded his flock. The shepherd would never let anything come near the sheep that would harm them. The same is true for a Pastor, he/she needs to be so intimate with God, that he/she guards the flock and would rather die than have anything come near the sheep that would harm them.

Other people have been called to be an evangelist. They go throughout the world and their neighborhoods and share the good news of the gospel with all of the people. These are an important part of the body of Christ, for without them, the pastors and teachers would have none to teacher and care for.

The lord knew that some people would need to be administratively savvy in order to help the pastors, teachers and evangelists deal with all the little details of life, (paper work) so that they could concentrate on the gifting that God had called them to walk in.

 Ephesians 4:11-13

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,  to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

These gifts that were given to the people were given for the benefit of the whole body of Christ.

So I thought, phew! I am off the hook as I am not a pastor, evangelist and I hate administration. Slowly though the lord helped me to see, that everyone of us in the body are called to minister to those around us. We might not be heading up a big church but we can love our neighbors, care for our families. We can show kindness and compassion to those who need it; we can also allow the Holy Spirit to enable us to do the work that God has called us to do.

Every believer has been given the Holy Spirit when we accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior. Therefore the Holy Spirit comes to the table with gifts and abilities and power that we don’t have naturally. Like true love, compassion, kindness, long suffering, joy, faithfulness to God and His way for our life. . Galatians 5:22

The big question is; how willing are we to use our gifts, talents and natural abilities for the Glory of God? I was not willing to do so for a long time, as I did not realize that Jesus was actually trustworthy with my life.

What do I mean by that? I believed that if I said yes to the lord, then he would send me to a place so far away from all that I knew and loved. That I would have to contend with big spiders and other creeping things and that my life would be miserable.

I did not really know and understand God or his love and plan for my life. God desires that we come to him freely and say, yes lord, not my will but yours be done. He will not use us against our will and he is not mean and nasty requiring things of us, that he would not be willing to do himself.

Yes there are Christians in this world right now who are going through some really horrific things because they are Christians, but they gladly endure it, because they love the lord and they know that His love for them is greater than what they could ever lose in this life.

Therefore on this road to discover the gifts and talents God had placed in my life, I learnt something, it was written in an old book called:

Hearing heart, by author Hannah Hurnard.

She said “We need to know that it is safe to Trust God and that no matter how we are, He can do wonders in and through us.

As God reveals his special gifts in you, be sure to take the time and consecrate it to him. Hand him the gift and say with a humble heart –

Lord, I promise to never say no to you, when you call on me to use my gift that you gave me. Use me lord to reflect you in every way.

Amen.”

My hope and prayer for you today is that you too will realize that God has given you gifts and talents to use to make this world a better place and if you are willing to give those gifts back to him, and allow him to work through you, you will not only have a very fulfilling life but you will have a deep joy and satisfaction that comes only from doing exactly what God prepared in advance for you to do.