Heart & Life

Got Kids? Read This!

From time to time, I get inquiries and questions from parents. Not the average day in and day out things, I am referring to deeper, more introspective, faith-centered questions. This past week during a phone conversation, for example, I was asked: “I don’t know what’s going on with ________ (their child).” They went on, “I’ve done everything I know to do and things are not improving.”

So let’s start with these two things right off the bat:  (1) Yes, I did ask for permission (names redacted) to share this; and (2) It is a question that is much more frequent than I can possibly communicate here. In fact, it comes in all the time in different ways. Some are more subtle than others, some are in chats and talks, but most noticeably – it is in face to face conversations. Lastly here, it comes from parents of who’s children are from 5 or 6 years old all the way up to 20 somethings.

In being a parent and raising a few myself, I can relate to the “seasonal” challenges that we all face. Children grow. They experience life. They deal with peer pressure. Their bodies and minds expand and change. They are developing personalities. This is all part of the God-ordered cycle of living. For any parent (no matter who it is) to say, “I’ve had no issues.” “There are no challenges.” “They’ve been absolutely perfect” – is all a facade and I would submit, a cover-up. Sure, there are some who just present limited challenges and follow instructions better, but in time, a season will come.

But for here, let’s just go on the premise that you or someone you know is having more consistent dire situations arising. Your child is rebelling. They are getting into trouble at school, at home, and maybe in social situations. They don’t listen. They act out. They are stealing and lying. And it is elevating the thermostat in the home.

Here is what I typically ask on the very front-end, to the parents:

  •  Are you praying about this regularly, every day, both in your own devotional time and with your family? Quite plainly: Are you taking this to God first and seeking His will and wisdom?
  • Next level: Are you surrounding yourself with people, in the church, who can be an encouraging, positive, Christlike influence on you and your family? Meaning: Are you making a solid effort to honor God’s desire that you are a part of a community who can love and support you (the church)? It’s more than showing up when its convenient or fits your schedule. It’s actually giving priority to being a part of something bigger than yourself.
  • And lastly: How are things in the home affecting this whole situation? Is there a lot of fighting, arguing, name calling, and disrespectful behaviors happening? You must know that in so much of life, a child will reflect the atmosphere they are exposed to: for good or for bad. What can be done, now…today, to change that atmosphere for the better? 

You see, to talk about our children – we must first examine ourselves.  We can’t dishonor and ignore God and then expect Him to be an active, welcoming part in forming and fashioning our children. He wants access. He desires our seeking. He so longs to be an active part in each of HIS children’s lives. And ultimately, we are all His children first.

I am hoping this helps you. It has helped me. The old saying: “It takes a village to raise a child” actually holds a lot of merit in my view. There is much truth in it. Allow the church, the family of faith, be a support beacon for you and your family. Bring your children to church and communicate that it’s a priority for you and your family. Trust God and pray frequently for your kids – as much as humanly possible. I assure you, if you stay the course, you will see incredible results. It’s just Who our God is! 

Be a vehicle through which, “future generations are told about the Lord.”

In prayer and with great hope, for all of us parents!

Porter

Free 4 All

Get Them Here!

get-them-to-him

 

 

 

I really like this picture. Out of the many I have gathered over the years, this one just speaks of urgency. In case you’re not aware of if you are looking past it – the picture depicts more than just a hole in the roof or a massive construction issue. To me, what is demonstrates beyond anything else is the concern, desire, and love that friends had for their friend.

This is what’s recorded in Luke’s Gospel: “One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the Law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee, and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up to the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.'” (Luke 5, vv.17-20).

I think of what these men did, that day, and the incredible faith they showed. When one way seemed to be shut down, they got innovative. It’s almost as if they would not be denied on behalf of their friend. And the result: God was glorified through this man, this sinner, being saved. Yes He was healed (read on in chapter 5), but most importantly: he who was once lost, was found.

I wonder if we would go to such lengths for our friends? Do we show the same resolve, the same fortitude, the same passion? Will we do what is necessary to get them to encounter Jesus for themselves? We should be – continuously.

Don’t give up friends. Do whatever it takes in love. Father, give us all we will need, today, to reach out to others with the Good News. Help us to have the determination and courage that will be necessary so that no one misses out on the life changing transformation that has been made available through Your Son and that is provided today by Your Holy Spirit. May we be a people that take this mission passionately and seriously. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

-Porter

Heart & Life

What Will it Say?

Earlier today, we celebrated the life of Mary E. Mason, who passed away this past Saturday (on New Year’s Eve) at the age of 92. It was a hopeful, Spirit-filled service as we honored her impact, her life, her legacy. We remain in steadfast prayer for the Mason/McKeithan Family in this time, but we are grateful that they have and live in the promise that one day, they will see Mary again.

In these past 2 years, we have celebrated many godly people who have “gone on before us.” In view of the ministry side of it, these are seasons that we as people and as church bodies go through. As I was driving today to Atlantic for the graveside service, the faces and the memories of those who have passed (with a connection in my life) seemed to saturate my heart. It was as if I could see their face and recall some of the wonderful memories they have left and the deep teaching they have passed on.

From immediate family to church family to dearly loved friends: At some point, if the Lord allows us to live long enough, we will all experience it sooner or later.

But at some point, it will be us. That is, one day, it will be you or I. That is just a reality that some don’t have a problem with, but others try to delay and avoid at all costs. On my return home back from Atlantic, this was on my heart and mind. Not in some weird or confusing way, but in a way that really is about helping people understand: This life we have here, on earth, in these bodies that do wear-down and will give out, is not the final chapter. And I say: Thank God!

A few years ago, the commercial asked: “What do you want on your tombstone?” In case the ads aren’t around anymore or if you haven’t seen them (and I don’t know the answer to either), it was a commercial for Tombstone Pizza. Yet, it goes beyond a simple iconic motto to sell pizzas. It’s a question that has deep ramifications for us all.

Unless the Lord comes back while we are still alive here on planet earth, there will come a day when others will plan and have a service for us. Yes, they will give testimonies and share stories about who we were, what we did, where our hope was placed, and what kind of impact we had (on them). The question is: Will they be able to give witness about our faith? Will they be able to speak about our relationship with God and with others? Will they be able to say we inspired them?

It’s reality. Don’t put off til tomorrow what can/should be done today. So what is it you want on your tombstone? Is it being written even now? Do you want a course correction so that it can be changed? The Good News is: God provides us with everything we need! All we have to do is be willing.

I am so grateful and thankful that in the many life and memorial services I have been involved in, in a variety of different ways. That what I have been able to say and share has flowed precisely from the life and memory that the person actually left. No manufacturing of words, no partial realities, no creative descriptions needed. Just the life lived, the Heaven gained, and the lives touched.

Blessings and joy…

Porter

Free 4 All

He’s Near

Christmas is about being near. Sure, it’s about a lot of other things too, but it is certainly about being near. To what? – you may ask. To God! – I would answer. The Advent Season is surrounded by God’s “nearness” to His creation; so much so that He Himself stepped out, came down, and became one of us.

A good question to ask during Christmas is this: What am I near to? We might all answer that in a different way. But the point is: Asking the question is a great way to really identify what we have put as the priority in our lives. What’s near to us is generally what is most important to us. That is a common trait that we share as humans. Our tendency is to be closest to what we have made most essential in our lives.

More than games and gifts, more than red and white, more than celebrations and get togethers – we are meant to be nearest to the Lord Jesus Christ. Now some will try and find anything to fill the vacuum and the void with other things. We’ve most likely all done that before, a time or two. But nothing will ever satisfy us until we come to the end of that pursuit and realize that it’s only He Who can bring that joy and peace to our lives.

He’s near. He’s here. He has never left us. If you need some assistance or help in coming to accept His amazing gift, please don’t hesitate in contacting me. This can be [and will be] the very best Christmas of your life. No need to delay or put off: For He is near!

Free 4 All

Draw Closer

wise-stillIt is this time of year when we do well to allow ourselves to draw closer to the King Who has come, Who is here, and Who is coming again. While it is easy for any of us to be drawn into the hustle and rush that surrounds Advent and the Christmas Season, being proactive and intentional about slowing down, focusing on what’s most important, and getting into the Gospel narratives will establish (and re-establish) our heart and soul. It’s not about getting and receiving, it’s about giving and reorienting our lives to His purpose.

  • Read John 1 and let the truth of Who Jesus is fill you.
  • Find creative ways to spend time with God.
  • Get in The Word and commit to not only learning more, but applying more.
  • Surround yourself with others who will build you up and pray for you.
  • Worship Him and give priority to it.

That is a recipe for a “Christmas to remember!”

Blessings and joy!

Heart & Life

Just Listen

[Disclaimer here: This is a shorter blog entry due to being on Sabbatical. However, I felt compelled to share a miniature update here.]

So it’s been 6 weeks since Sabbatical began. That alone seems unreal, yet, it’s accurate. In this time of refocus and rest, I can state very emphatically that the words I have heard over and over again from the Lord, in a multiple of ways are the 2 found in the title above: “Just Listen!”

That is exactly what I am doing, and I want to report: It has taken every ounce of effort and focus for me to do this – but I am determined to see it through. Beyond all else, in this season, I do not want to come out of it feeling as if (in any way) I didn’t seek and listen to the Lord. To me, that would be a tragedy and a complete waste of what the Sabbatical intends to do and provide.

I humbly request your continued prayers, and please know, I continue to seek and pray for you. I believe God has something very special and custom-tailored for us ahead. That is something we can believe in because He has our best interests at heart…always! Grateful…

Porter

Free 4 All

A Season for Everything

It has been 11 years since I was first entrusted to follow the Lord’s call, from everything that had been familiar, with the “new” call to lead and under-shepherd God’s Church. But it was in 1999 that the journey really commenced, when we were led to the Harrisonburg First Church of the Nazarene. For nearly 7 years, God planted us in that local life-saving station to be nurtured, to grow, and to be discipled by some of the most gifted and godly servants I have ever known.

In 2002, while at the altar, God confirmed that I would be beginning a new phase to prepare for a life transition. And there could be no doubt that in order for my/our life to be redirected and uprooted in that time, it would take nothing short of the Lord Himself to navigate it. From furthering education after being out of college for 10 years to making energy, finances, and opportunities available – only He could have pulled it together. Confirmation came in God’s time as things started to fall into place, and as others verified what God was doing.

Some of what God dealt with and lead us through: Our current church and our involvement. Family demands. A very full-time job as a Manufacturing Manager. 2 young boys (at that time), 2 more who God gave us in the midst of it. Close friends and ties to a community I had grown up in. All of this – all of it – was going to be redirected as the call of God saturated my life. The only response I knew and could utter: “Lord, I will do what you say! I will go where you lead! Just lead the way and I will follow.”

So now, after 11 years serving in the Pastorate: 1 year on the Virginia District, and now 10 with the North Carolina District, I have been blessed to have been given and granted a Sabbatical. Yes, you heard that correctly: a Sabbatical. A time of refocus, renewal, and rest. And I must say: While I am very much looking forward to it and to what God will reveal, I am also a bit reserved. Rest? Downtime? Getting out of the routine? Being quiet and just listening to God?

For a Type AAA personality, that can be a daunting challenge. I recognize that. But I am sensing that for the long-term, for the betterment of Christ’s Kingdom, His Church, and those who do serve full-time in the ministry – it is absolutely needed. Far beyond a “want” there is the need. The need to refocus, to put first-things-first, to get back to living and leading from a position of strength and not weakness, and for long-term effectiveness and longevity – it is needed.

So many emotions, feelings, and thoughts fill my heart, mind, and soul. So much to pray for and think of and do. But even with the unknowns, I believe God is going to use this season in a variety of incredible, Spirit-filled ways. And I can’t wait to see how others respond, and step up, and utilize their God-given gifts. I am believing that God is going to do that and bring growth and vitality to His church.

I would like to thank our Leadership and Sabbatical Team at Bridgeway and our District Superintendent, Dr. Greg Mason. I so cherish and appreciate their support and approval because I know that they “get” the importance of it to the health of pastors, families, and the church body and mission as a whole. I would only ask for your prayers, for your deepest prayers in this time, and for your active continued participation in the ministries and mission we are called to work out. During this time: Get more anchored. Become more involved. Seek new opportunities to serve. Fill the gaps and step up. That is what I am hoping for, praying for, and believing in.

Without doubt, you are in my prayers and will go with me into this season. God is with us and He truly has our best interests at heart. You are loved by the One Who is love! BT!

Porter