I AM MY BELOVED’S AND HE IS MINE

by Michelle Ofori-Ansah 

In a joyous Texas-sized celebration this past October, Golan Gordon Lindsay married his beautiful sweetheart Krissia Sanabria, a CFNI alumnus and a lawyer from Honduras currently studying to obtain her U.S. bar acceptance. Celebrating with friends and family from many nations of the world, they made a covenant before God promising to honor, love and obey until death do they part. In his written portion of the vows, Golan said, “When I say I love you, this is what I mean: I will cherish you as a gift from God, celebrate you for who you are, honor you above myself, serve you with joy, support your vision and dreams, and sacrifice for you . . . ”

For those who know the Lindsay family, the beautiful depth of love displayed held tremendous significance. Since Golan grew up in what often felt like a fishbowl, a common situation for those whose family is well-known in ministry, and because he had troublesome spots as a youth, his story is especially compelling. With Golan now part of the leadership of the worldwide ministry, Christ For The Nations (CFN), and the understanding of how “Mom” Lindsay had said that she hoped that her grandson Golan might carry out the legacy of leadership for the ministry one day, seeing whom he had chosen to be his life partner and companion in that role was important for those who know and love the family and ministry.

Golan grew up living on CFN’s campus as the son of Dennis and Ginger Lindsay, the current President and Chief Operating Officer of CFN. He is the first to say he was “raised right” but didn’t always seem to make the right choices. “I constantly got into trouble. I lived on the edge, testing boundaries, often obliterating them and doing whatever I wanted to do.”

“My heart wanted to do right, but I just gave in a lot, and when I gave in I couldn’t stop. I used to crave the excitement, and I just did what I wanted. Afterward, I would ask, ‘God, why can’t You just take this desire from me?’”

In the spiritual tug-of-war he was experiencing, it was his parent’s godly marriage and steadfast testimony that reached him through the darkness he felt surrounded in. Golan knew he had to make a big change if he was ever to have that reality himself. So he left Tulsa having completed his B.A., and came home .

“I just knew I was tired of living this way,” he said. “I saw in my parents’ lives that they were blessed. Their lives were going in the right direction and mine was going very wrong. I didn’t want to choose this wrong path anymore. I saw my friends in the clubs and how their lives were messed up because of their lifestyle. I wanted to choose the path my parents had chosen, serving the Lord because even though it was often hard, they were very blessed.”

In His enormous faithfulness, God reached out to meet Golan exactly where he was. As he felt himself turning from the world back toward God, Golan shared his desire to make right choices with his mom and she encouraged him — he could do it. He had tried before, but this time it was different — over the next month, God sparked a passion for the Word and prayer in him. “After this point, I didn’t have any desire to do those sinful things anymore,” he explained of receiving his God-given freedom.

Over the next years, Golan earned his MBA and worked in the Christ For The Nations business office as Director of Human Relations and then Director of Operations. “The Lord did a miracle. He put an excitement in my heart to read good books, read the Word, to be in prayer. I took a year off sports; I didn’t play, I didn’t watch TV and that was the best time of my life. I was so content and nothing could bother me. I just wanted God,” he explained.

It’s clear now that that precious time was about God setting the stage to answer the deep desire of Golan’s heart; to have a life blessed like his parents, to come together in love and marriage with a God-fearing woman and to face life together.

Golan met his future bride, Krissia, about five years later. He had been walking with God and doing his best to follow His plan, not actively looking for his future wife. Then he saw Krissia and everything changed. They met when she started at Christ For The Nations Institute, and got to know each other on the CFN Israel Tour, which she was invited by her pastor to join.

“After the Lord helped me to turn my life around, I knew the type of woman I wanted to marry, but I really didn’t think I would be able to find someone who I was attracted to, yet who also had a strong relationship with the Lord — until I met Krissia. There was no playing on the edges of things, or finding gray areas with her. She truly lives a life above reproach. And, she is beautiful as well,” he said with a smile.

Krissia herself was born in El Salvador. While her story is different from Golan’s in many ways, she also went through trials testing her faith and obedience. She vividly remembers that her mom first came to know the Lord when Krissia was only 5 years old, becoming the first Christian in her family. Her dad, however, was against Christianity and did not approve of her mom taking Krissia and her older sister to church. This was such a struggle between Krissia’s parents that it resulted in a one-year separation. But it was during this time that a tenacious ability to stand in prayer for an answer from God was birthed in this young girl. Not only did her father eventually come to the Lord, he received a call into ministry. Years later, the entire family moved to Honduras as missionaries to pastor a church. So, Krissia too is familiar with growing up in a ministry family and the sacrifices involved. She also shares a wonderful spiritual legacy she has in her parents.

Krissia remained steadfast in her faith throughout her life, spending time under the leadership of Pastors Ricardo and Reina Salazar from Cristo A Las Naciones ministry. She was a youth pastor, worship leader and held many ministry leadership roles, yet keeping a heart of obedience to the Lord to wait for the right one was still a struggle at times. Her pastor, Ricardo Salazar, was a CFNI graduate so she had a longtime desire to attend the renowned institute to sharpen her ministry call although she had to wait until it was the right time. Throughout her undergraduate and master’s degrees, she sought God for her husband and for the release to attend CFNI. While waiting was hard, she determined to follow God’s plan no matter the sacrifices required.

It was eight years after it had been on her heart to attend CFNI, and going now required laying down a profession, friendships and leadership roles. But, she was reminded of the call she had felt on her life for ministry, and so she came.

Just three months later she would meet Golan Lindsay. “Even though it didn’t look like it at times, my life was not about waiting, but committing myself to the plans of the One that never fails,” she said with joy.

Two years after meeting, Golan proposed to Krissia in Jerusalem. Then, just five months later, they were married. As they stood at the altar before God and their community, they came with their unique story, showing an outward triumphant testimony of their obedience to the God who never fails — joined in joy by the many loved ones who undergirded and stood through many years to contend for God’s best for them.

Golan shared his thoughts on his new marriage, “I am blessed beyond measure by Krissia. Her walk with God inspires me and I love that. God has truly done ‘exceedingly abundantly above all that I ask or think’ (Ephesians 3:20).” Krissia is the crowning jewel in Golan’s testimony, he says, proof that redemption is possible and beautiful.

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30 Day Brown Bag Lunch Challenge

by Jennie Bogart 

As we look for ways to live to give, it’s often little changes that can add up to big savings. So, with giving season upon us, we challenge you, dear reader, to go “brown-bag” for 30 days! 

Here’s The Challenge: 

Pack your own lunch for 30 lunches – absolutely no eating out! Follow this plan for 30 days, and you’ll begin to experience financial and health benefits immediately (up to $200 saved in one month). Donate the savings and make a difference with that money.

1. Plan Ahead 

Don’t skip this step! Planning ahead helps build routine. Write out all of your meals for the upcoming week (or month if you’re feeling adventurous). Using that list, create your grocery shopping list and make sure all ingredients are on hand. Lastly, try preparing your lunch the night before. This is a great way to ensure freshness, and you will never be without a lunch on the days you’re rushing out of the door.

2. The Right Lunch Box 

If you’re carrying your lunch in a purse or backpack, consider purchasing a lunch box with a hard shell so your meals won’t get squished. Thermoses are a great option for soup. When you’re not using your thermos for soup , it can double as a bottle for your beverage, hot or cold!

3. Three Simple (and healthful) Recipes

Experiment with different recipes while you’re starting out. Finding one or two good salad, sandwich and soup recipes will ensure that you have at least one week’s worth of meals. Once you’ve found your favorites, rotate them throughout the month. Go with what works!

4. Spread the News 

Tell your friends at school or work about the 30-day challenge. Ask them to join you and hold each other accountable. This will help you avoid the pressure of feeling like you have to spend money eating out, while still keeping up with your social life.

5. Stay Healthy 

Choose healthy recipes — not only will you be saving money, but you’ll feel great doing it! When you eat out, you are usually unaware of the fat, sugar and calorie content. By making your own food you are able to control these factors and also monitor your portion size. Wow, double benefit!

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Living A Thankful Life of Passion

There goes God finger painting again, daubing and swirling colorful strands of silver and pink into big puffy clouds. I imagine Him joyfully whirling and mixing colors to create today’s masterpiece, signed “with Love, from Love,” especially for you and I. “Let’s see, I’ll make a pink elephant for Suzy . . . and Tommy, have fun finding the two monkeys playing congas, my son.” I can picture Him with His miracle paints and canvas of air, adding a splash of pink, a dab of blue and a perfect touch of sunny brilliance breaking through the center.

This one is for John who is breathing his final breaths . . . “Receive my welcome home card in the sky as a gift of peace in answer to your tears. Yes, I shall take care of your children while you wait for them above, for I love them even more than you possibly can.”

Listen close; you will hear Him speaking to you too. I love you, He whispers through a cool breeze and ocean waves. He is an adoring Father who swirls mementos of beauty from up above.

The splendor of creation reveals more than God’s supreme power as the Creator; it also loudly illustrates His passionate love for us. What other reason would He have to create playful puppies than to lick the face of a little girl? Why create a radiant array of colorful, fragrant flowers but to be picked with love for a mother’s table? Sure, all white flowers may feed the bees, but our Creator is a wonderful passionate God who IS Life. He takes every opportunity to show His love through gifts of beauty.

His passion inspires us to overflow with life too, stirring us to daub like mad, adding color to the canvas of others’ lives. As we purposefully behold His passion, we too will begin to overflow with life and beauty.

So, what does all this “living a life of passion” mean? Well, for starters, it means enjoying the trip, finding the cloud monkeys. It means helping the downtrodden, running around in a rainstorm without an umbrella, smiling at strangers and putting money where a child will find it. Passion means throwing a luau, taking your daughter on “dates” to teach her how she should expect to be treated, surprising your husband with a love letter hidden in his sock drawer even after 40 years of marriage. It means sharing the Gospel and always believing the best about people. The passionate rent a convertible car just for fun, start a garage band after retirement or visit those forgotten in nursing homes that stand in the shadow of death’s door. The passionate dance salsa and meringue ‘til dawn, wear silky pajamas, support missionaries, sing badly at the top of their lungs, laugh ‘til their stomachs hurt and learn to make sushi. What better way is there to show appreciation for this gift of life than to use it with relish? When you are passionate, can’t you feel Him smiling down on you in pleasure?

shutterstock_133592429Passion is excellence, seeing at last the accomplishment of a dream. It rushes forward like fire on dry brush, blasting forth from the heart of God to ignite people with energy and vision for His purposes. Passion gives us the “glasses” that sharpen our vision and shows us how we can leave the world and those around us better than we found them. There goes God, finger painting again!

Passion isn’t bound by gossip or trends; it sees a higher purpose and isn’t afraid to say so. The passionate have the courage to fail, to struggle back on their feet and keep on trying. Passion means catching a wave that could transform you, but could also embarrass you —and you won’t know which until you get to shore. It means risking it all — even unto death — to see the potential of others come to fruition.

The passionate make the most of each moment, seeing any struggle as stepping-stones to character. Passion cannot be contained — it drives itself onward. The moment it starts second-guessing itself, it becomes self-conscious, a caricature of itself.

Don’t expect any awards, admiration or applause from others — for your reward for passion is the way it feels to be passionate and the incredible things God pours into your life when you are. Fearful people may hate your passion, but God will chuckle and keep on painting.

Consider this from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting . . . Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.”

So, take stock in life’s glory, and you will be revived. Fly with passion into those clouds that were painted just for you. Break free from the humdrum by finding the beauty and strength you can live and give — for that is the secret to making the seemingly simple things spectacular. Ask God to release His passion into your soul, living each moment in gratitude for this gift of life. It is finished. Let the fire burn.

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Home is Where the Heart is Formed

by Kelly Head

Is “Home, Sweet Home” the last place you actually want to be? Perhaps it’s because (like many women confess) disorder, despair or depression are “residing” there.

Thankfully, the “fix” isn’t another set of rules we must try to impose upon ourselves. Rather, as global pastor and teacher Devi Titus offers, it is about an impartation and conviction regarding the purpose of our homes—and distinctly, our purpose in and for our homes.

Recently, Devi shared about her passion and life mission to see women come away with a real change in their ability to create peace and love at home. She says, “it’s really about the heart of the matter.”

Devi has written and produced the book and DVD curriculum The Home Experience: Making Your Home a Sanctuary of Love and a Haven of Peace, along with Marilyn Weiher. Devi says that most issues, from rampant divorce to addictions, relationship issues and more, can be traced back to the home.

“A wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands” (Proverbs 14:1).

Devi is the wife of renowned pastor and speaker Larry Titus and a 50-year ministry veteran who now travels extensively ministering before large audiences. She has seen firsthand the broken lives that stem from homes that are out-of-order. She passionately desires to see change.

Devi notes the significance of home, stating that when the home breaks down, it causes the breakdown of our entire society. In fact, Edward Gibbon in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire mentions the undermining of the “dignity and sanctity of the home” as the top reason for the fall of the great civilizations of the past.

“We need to understand the significance of our role,” Devi emphasizes. “Then, we need to go to God’s Word for His view about the home.”

“We have to have a plumb line of understanding of God’s Word,” Devi says, “because if we are off even just a little bit, we will miss the mark. In our society the value of the home has changed dramatically, even in the past two decades alone.” She adds, “I’m not here to create legalism, but to share principles from God’s Word that have been lost or misunderstood; because whom one becomes is a direct reflection of where one spends most of their time.”

HOME IS MEANT TO BE A PLACE OF LOVE AND PEACE

Devi declares, “God created the home to be the institution to develop the two essential human emotions—love and peace. That’s all your kids need, that’s all your husband needs, and that’s all you need.” She asks,“Have you seen those little plaques that say ’Home is where the heart is?,’ Those are cute, but I say, ‘Home is where the heart is formed.’”

We are called, as women within the home environment, to be the guard, or “keepers,” of our homes. The word keeper used in Titus 2:4 is the same Old Testament word for the guard who was the watchman at the gate of the city. The keeper’s assignment was to look beyond the walls of the city and discern if there was going to be an encroachment of the enemy to come in to take away the peace of the city.

“God has positioned women to be the guard at the gate of her household in the same way,” Devi explains. “He has established you in the environment of your home to be a keeper of peace.”

Having worked with families for decades, every personal issue people dealt with in life: relational issues, sin issues, anger, bitterness and addictions, can be traced back to the home, Devi explains.

“The heart is either hardened, hurt or hindered, or it’s made sensitive, safe and secure from the home,”
she says.

“It is amazing how many people were wounded because their home wasn’t a place of peace and love. We are either messing [our children] up or nurturing their hearts. We can disfigure who God made our children to be by the very basis of our homes,” she says. “I think it’s time, with redemption of the Cross, that we learn to live beyond that.”

EATING AS A FAMILY

Devi says that the number one thing people can do to bring peace at home is to make eating together as a family a top priority. Doing so creates deeper, more meaningful relationships.

The American Psychological Association published a study that illustrated the crucial role of the family meal in the lives of teenagers. The study found that adjusted teens, those with better relationships with peers, more academic motivation and few (if any) problems with drugs and depression, ate dinner with their families an average of five times a week.

“If academic research says that if your kids eat at a dinner table fives times a week that they’re less likely to experiment with drugs, experiment with sex, wouldn’t you think we would do it? It just seems reasonable. But we don’t. Why? Because we are so busy doing good things—church, volunteer, doing this, soccer, all the stuff that you sign all your kids up for—that you don’t have time to come to the table.”

Devi’s message is that something supernatural, beyond your words, beyond your analytical abilities, beyond you trying to “convince your kids” or “condemning” your husband and arguing with him, will happen if you will prepare a meal and come to the table.

“There is a supernatural presence called the Bread of the Presence that will heal whatever happened that day, but we have to come to the table,” she said.

BRINGING THE PEACE

A main ingredient to a peaceful home is to find the way of excellence, or what Devi calls “The Also Principle.”

“My favorite scripture is, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord… knowing from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance” (Colossians 3:23).

“Just change Who you are doing this for,” she says. “When you set the table, you light the candle, also. When you wash the dishes, you dry them, also. When you do, you will receive the reward of the inheritance, initially given to Abraham and includes: faith, provision, prosperity, obedience and intimacy with God.”

ORDER

Another pitfall that may steal the peace from your homes is a lack of order or structure, which can create a need to be outside the home as much as possible.

In contrast, the Proverbs 31 woman ran her home like a mini-corporation. There was order in her waking, feeding and caring for her family.

“If we treated our businesses like we treated our homes—talked to people the way we often talk to our families, ran things how we ran them at home—those businesses would certainly fail,” Devi shares. “If we have order and structure in our homes, they can become a place that is life-giving to our families and give the joy and purpose that we might be seeking to gain from so may outside things,” says Devi.

Making a peaceful home is also about keeping it simple and special for the important people in your life.

“People always say, ‘49 years of marriage, wow, how do you do it? I say, ‘Do something every day to make that day special for your spouse.’ A kind word, a special meal—just anything your mind can create to add a touch of special for your husband and your children, too,” she adds.

CHANGE

Getting to the root of the issue is important in bringing peace back into our homes. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition are, there is confusion and every evil work” (James 3:11).

“You have to ask yourself, ‘What is in me that has brought this result?’ You have to take ownership,” she said.

Once you’ve decided to bring peace and love back into your home, contrary to conventional wisdom, Devi says it’s best to then work from the outside in—starting with just a small space. Devi suggests starting with the kitchen, so that the meals can be prepared and shared. Cleaning up the environment will start the path of peace.

“It didn’t get this way overnight, so you won’t regain order overnight,” she says.” But when you begin putting the pieces of your life in order, you will gain the peace of God. Like any other aspect of discipleship, it is done in small bites. So do each thing, and then be proud of yourself,” she encourages.

From Devi’s perspective and experience, grasping the significance of our role in the home makes all the difference in whether we find and give joy and peace there. Her resources also offer many practical solutions on how to best love those in our lives through the ministry of what really can be “Home, Sweet Home.”

 

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Parents: Armed and Loaded with Prayer

When George McCluskey married and started a family, he decided to invest one hour a day in prayer, because he wanted his kids to follow Christ. After a time, he expanded his prayers to include his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Every day between 11:00 A.M. and noon, he prayed for the next three generations.

As the years went by, his two daughters committed their lives to Christ and married men who went into full-time ministry. The two couples produced four girls and one boy. Each of the girls married a minister, and the boy became a pastor.

The first two children born to this generation were both boys. Upon graduation from high school, the two cousins chose the same college and became roommates. During their sophomore year, one boy decided to go into the ministry. The other didn’t. He undoubtedly felt some pressure to continue the family legacy, but he chose instead to pursue his interest in psychology. He earned his doctorate and eventually wrote books for parents that became bestsellers. He started a radio program heard on more than a thousand stations each day. The man’s name— James Dobson.

Talk about the power of prayer! The next time you’re blessed by Focus on the Family or one of Dr. Dobson’s books, thank God for a generational watchman, George McCluskey. Many kids aren’t as blessed with praying fathers.

At a 1994 Promise Keepers’ conference in Denton, Texas, Pastor James Ryle told his story:

When he was two-years-old, his father was sent to prison. When he was seven, authorities placed him in an orphanage. At 19, he had a car wreck that killed a friend. He sold drugs to raise money for his legal fee, and the law caught up to him. He was arrested, charged with a felony and sent to prison.

While in prison James accepted Christ, and after he served his time, he eventually went into the ministry. Years later he sought out his father to reconcile with him. When they got together, the conversation turned to prison life.

James’s father asked, “Which prison were you in?”

James told him, and his father was taken aback. “I helped build that prison,” he said. He had been a welder who went from place to place building penitentiaries.

Pastor Ryle concluded, “I was in the prison my father built.”

Indeed! In more ways than one.

These are amazing stories, powerfully contrasting two possibilities. We can either build prisons for our children or through prayer build fruitful lives that bless others.

ALL HE CAN DO IS PRAY

The same stories could be told by millions around the world. Change the names, a detail here and there, but the bottom lines are the same: success or failure, life or death, fruitfulness or barrenness, bondage or freedom—results that are largely determined by the influence of righteous or unrighteous parents. Never underestimate the power of a praying parent!

 

Prayers and Prodigals

As we think about the importance of watching intercession for individuals, most of us probably think immediately of our families, as well we should. Our personal gardens, as our opening stories reveal, are where we must begin. Quin Sherrer has taught much on the subject of praying for family members. In her book Good Night, Lord, she relates an occasion of interceding for her son:

“I clearly remember a day when the Lord spoke to me about my teenage son, Keith, as I walked the beach. Deeply concerned about his spiritual condition, I felt he was drifting further and further from the Lord. My only recourse was prayer. I realized that as a parent, I had made so many mistakes. So I asked the Lord to forgive me.

“That afternoon, as I walked alone, I proclaimed aloud Scriptures tucked away in my heart. ‘The seed of the righteous shall be delivered,’ I shouted into the wind ‘Because of Jesus’ blood I am righteous and my children are my seed and they shall be delivered,’ I paraphrased. ‘All my children shall be taught of the Lord, and great will be their peace,’ I paraphrased again (see Proverbs 11:21; Isaiah 54:13, KJV).

“Over and over, I repeated scriptural promises God had given me for my children. I desperately needed an answer for my son. After more than an hour of this, I reached down and picked up a small brown shell being tossed about by the waves. ‘Trust me to polish and perfect your son,’ the Lord seemed to whisper to my spirit as I turned the shell over in my hand.

“I took my shell home, cleaned it and set it where I could see it whenever I cooked. ‘Lord, You promised,’ I would say some days as I cradled it in my palm. Even after Keith left for college and I saw little change, I thanked God for His word that He and He alone would perfect my son whom I loved so very much.

“Our prayer battle ended one night when Keith called to ask his father and me to forgive him; we asked him to forgive us, too. He had started his pilgrimage back to the Lord. After college and a short career in graphic arts, he enrolled in Bible school.

“Not long ago, Keith finished seven years of service with the Youth With A Mission organization (YWAM)… Today he’s a godly husband to a wonderful wife and the father of two young daughters. My ‘promise shell’ still sits in my kitchen, testimony to a prayer answer God gave me so many years ago. That promise shell is also a watchman shell, for that is the watchman anointing!”

Quin also shares prayer steps she uses in being a watchman for her children:

• Be specific;

• Pray Scripture passages aloud;

• Write down your prayers;

• Pray in accordance with God’s will;

• Pray for your children’s future.

In another of her books, The Spiritual Warrior’s Prayer Guide, she and Ruthanne Garlock give biblical examples of how to do this by offering the following scriptural prayers:

• That Jesus Christ be formed in our

children (see Galatians 4:19);

• That our children—the seed of the

righteous—will be delivered from the evil

one (see Proverbs 11:21, KJV; Matthew

6:13)

 

• That our children will be taught of the

Lord and their peace will be great (see

Isaiah 54:13);

• That they will train themselves to discern

good from evil and have a good

conscience toward God (see Hebrews

5:14; 1 Peter 3:21);

• That God’s laws will be in their minds and

on their hearts (see Hebrews 8:10);

• That they will choose companions

who are wise—not fools, nor sexually

immoral, nor drunkards, nor idolaters, nor

slanderers, nor swindlers (see Proverbs

13:20; 1 Corinthians 5:11);

• That they will remain sexually pure and

keep themselves only for their spouse,

asking God for His grace to keep such a

commitment (see Ephesians 5:3,31-33);

• That they will honor their parents (see

Ephesians 6:1-3).

 

My fellow watchman, most of us will never be called to lay our lives down in a literal sense. But every believer is called to a life of prayer. In fact, we are called to be our brothers keeper—yes, the word is watchman. How much more should we keep “watch” for our own children whom the Lord has entrusted to us? I encourage you to pick up the serpent-killing mantle God is offering. Use it daily!

 

 

This article is an excerpt from Watchman Prayer: Keeping the Enemy out While Protecting your Family, Home, and Community by Dutch Sheets. For more by Dutch Sheets, visit DutchSheets.org.

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Kids: Brats or Blessings?

 

Going out to eat with six children is always an adventure, not because the children misbehave (they are good children), but because everyone seems to feel they have the right to share their opinion about the size of our family.

If you are one of the 5 percent of American Christian couples with more than two children, you have probably had some smirking witster approach you with this question: “You do know what causes that, don’t you?”

In fact, we know full well what causes children to be born into our family, and we are well-practiced in the procedure. Children are the fruit of attraction, intimacy, potency and passion. And whether these are found in a church or in a home, they are designed to result in reproduction. Multiplication. Childbearing.

Why is our culture so constipated about kids? Why do professional women look down their noses at us like we are exceeding our oxygen quota by spawning so many Neeselings? Do children emit greenhouse gasses? Are they consuming more than their fare share of resources? Are they inconveniences to enlightened, independent adulthood? Are they hindrances to marital happiness?

Neese Family2When did we become allergic to parenting? When did children stop being blessings and become obstacles to fulfilling our dreams and destinies? When did America decide that children were no longer honored guests in our homes, but unwelcome parasites in our wombs?

Once, great-grandmothers felt that God had entrusted them with children. Now, God has burdened us with brats. When did our attitudes shift?

If the typical “large” American family were to name their children based upon their honest feelings about them, an introduction would go something like this: “This is my son, ‘Trophy-Child.’ My daughter, ‘Fulfilled-American-Dream.’
And this is little ‘Inconvenient-Deviation-From-Our-Plan,’ but we call him ‘Oops’ for short.”

The Church has bought into the popular theology of politically correct family values, which is more accepting of homosexuals than children. A modern family can be a dad and mom, two dads or two moms, or any combination who are living in perverted relationships with one another. As long as there are not more than two kids. Our perspective is screwed up!
We think large families are the result of irresponsible stewardship of resources and poor reproductive planning. The biblical view of childbearing is absolutely contrary to that position. From a biblical perspective, being able to reproduce and raise children is the proof of a godly man’s power. Jacob called Reuben, his firstborn, the FIRST sign of his strength (Genesis 49:3). He went on to prove his strength 12 more times.

Interestingly, we measure God’s strength by the same standard. We all agree that God is OMNIPOTENT. The word potent means powerful, but it also means “able to reproduce.” In other words, God is all-powerful, but He is also a Father who is “all-able-to-reproduce.” His power is demonstrated in His creation of life and in the formation of His children into His image—the reproduction of Himself in us.

What if we are most like God when we are reproducing children and discipling them to maturity? What if our marriage best represents Christ’s relationship with His Bride when the power of our intimacy (worship) is proven by our fruitfulness (creating disciples)?

Sadly, the decline of the American Church is due in part to our negative perception of childbearing. In contrast, the global rise and spread of Islam is not due to the superiority of its religion, economics or military strength: it is due to the superiority of their potency. In our day Islam is more potent than Christianity. Not because its god is more potent, but because its people are more potent.  They have embraced the inheritance of childbearing.  And they are literally taking over the world through superior multiplication.

Christian couples need a paradigm shift—a return to the perspective of God.

According to Psalm 28:3 a righteous man’s wife is like a fruitful vine. Psalm 127:3-5 asserts that children are a reward from God and evidence of His blessing upon a righteous man’s life. So, here’s a perspective change: children are God’s badges of honor.

The world says that children prevent us from accomplishing our goals. God says that children are our heritage. As couples, we can forsake parenting and focus upon the transient success of our personal goals, or we can invest our lives in success that will succeed us. As for the Neeses, we believe that the only things worth doing in life are the things that will outlive us. Parenting is investing in generations of success. Our children will be greater than us. Their children will be greater than them. And our great grandchildren will prove the power of our lives as they carry on our heritage of godliness. True success is proven through succession. So here’s a second perspective change: children are God’s plan for our successes to outlive us—part of our eternal reward.

You may be thinking, “Yes, but parenting is so hard, so expensive, so time consuming, so inconvenient.” Well, of course it is. “But,” you might say, “the Bible says that children are a blessing from God. Isn’t that a contradiction?”

Not at all. Our confusion is in our misunderstanding of the word blessing. A blessing is not something God gives us to make life easy. When God blesses us, He is catalyzing destiny in our lives. A blessing pulls calling out of us. It shatters our mediocrity and sets our feet upon the path of greatness. Children bless us because, in parenting them, we embrace an essential ingredient to the fulfillment of our own destinies.

We, Jen and Zach, are not just parents, but being parents is essential to our becoming the people that God designed us to be. And each individual child contributes something to who we are – they contribute to the fulfillment of our created purpose.

So, though they are a blast to make, children are not a blessing because they are always easy to have around. Children are a blessing because they train our hearts for destiny and equip us for our Armageddons.

How do they equip us? God says that children are like arrows in the hands of a warrior. In other words, when we are raising a child, we are fletching a shaft. We are sharpening an arrowhead. We are practicing our marksmanship. And when the day of contention comes (as it does each morning), we knock our children on the strings of our bows, draw them back, aim them at our foe and we let go. Those children will fly straight to the heart: they will pierce him and break his charge, topple his minions from the walls and cause confusion in his camps. Our children will thwart the devil’s plans and pulverize his resolve. Why? Because that is what they were born for. And they will sense the pleasure of God as they do it.

When we have family prayer time in the Neese house, we are firing flaming arrows into the enemy camp. And it scares him to death. Arrows don’t see their targets and flinch. They don’t doubt the archer’s aim. They just fly and strike. That is the blessing of a godly man and wife. As we raise these children we are promoted from the ranks into high command. Zach becomes the general, Jen the Field Marshal and the children are the troops. The eight of us are a more formidable opponent because of our numbers, training and discipline. We are pack, and we are powerful.

So allow us to introduce you to our family. We know exactly what caused them, and we are honored to have the privilege of parenting them. If we were to rename them according to our feelings about them, it would sound something like this: “This is my son, ‘Vanquish.’ My daughters, ‘Javelin,’ ‘Morning Star,’ ‘Trebuchet,’ and ‘Intercontinental Ballistic Missile.’ And this is the baby, ‘Beloved,’ but we call him ‘Kick the Devil’s Tail Up Around His Ears’ for short.”

You’ve probably heard of them. If not, you will, we assure you. They are the proof of our potent intimacy. They are our reward from God. They are our blessing and our inheritance. They are daily catalyzing destiny in our lives. And they are going to conquer the world.

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The Great Omission of the Great Comission

The enemy knows that behind the vast numbers and statistics hides a face, a name, a life and a soul.

If we are honest, most of us want to bestow a great legacy to our family. We want to leave this world better than we found it. We want to make an impact. We want our lives to count. However, wanting these things does not guarantee they will happen. Why do so many of us, even Christians, never reach the place of significance?
Why don’t we leave a spiritual legacy for the next generation? Could it be we haven’t embraced a cause?

When David was about 15 years old, he followed his father’s instructions to take supplies to and check on his brothers when the giant Goliath began to taunt the army of Israel. This 9-foot giant was demanding someone fight him. While the trained men in the army trembled and backed off, David inquired about the situation, asking “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” When his older brother mocked him, David asked, “Is there not a cause?” (1 Samuel 17:29, KJV).

There is a cause! And this cause is a giant much bigger than a 9 -foot Philistine named Goliath. It is the cause of this generation of children who are at risk. For them, childhood is no longer a time of innocence, or being safe, while they are vulnerable and dependent. Children are still precious to God. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).

There are 2.3 billion children in the world. What happens to one in childhood determines the rest of their lives. Children form their worldview by age 4-5, their moral foundation by age 9, and their spiritual identity by age 13.

But, children are the ultimate, silent majority. They make up over one-third of the world’s population, yet they bear far more than their share of giants who are out to destroy them.

What are the Goliath’s facing our children? The breakdown of the family may be the largest giant. Emotional pressures in dysfunctional families contribute to violence, drug abuse, incest and suicide. The giant of apathy within the typical Christian family keeps children from the great spiritual legacy we may want to leave. We are too busy being entertained by the things of the world and compromising on biblical values that our children never know what it is to “give their lives away for the sake of the Gospel,” because they do not see it modeled at home.

We cannot ignore the giant of poverty when 56 percent of the world’s children live in poverty or severe deprivation. This results in the lack of education, child labor, children who are sick and dying of preventable diseases, orphans, abandonment, abuse and violence, and the growing phenomenon of street children.

We hate to even think about the giants of gendercide, where girls are aborted or killed at birth, human trafficking of children for sex or labor, and the reality of child soldiers and young refugees of war. Persecution for being a Christian is a very real giant for children in many parts of the world.

We have to face the fact that while poverty keeps children from a great legacy, so does prosperity. We probably know children who have everything to live with and nothing to live for. They may receive a large financial legacy, but never know Jesus as their Savior. They face the giant of gaining the whole world but losing their soul. America is desperate for those who will fight this giant and reach the children of prosperity.

We have done a good job of training males to be tough and to be afraid of showing any emotion, except anger. There was a time in history that during times of danger, the men rose up to protect the women and children. Today, instead of rescuing and protecting them, men are abusing them in unimaginable, horrible ways. What a shame, that for many children, their most feared giant is their own father or stepfather.

Children are the great omission of the Great Commission. Only 10 percent of mission’s efforts are on evangelism and discipleship of children. Most missions work is not targeting this reachable generation of children, who are open to change and could transform their nations.

The saddest giant is the Church. Like in missions, children’s ministry is the great sin of omission by the Church. The Church has ignored the fact that children are open and receptive to the Gospel. Between 75 – 85 percent of those who make the decision to follow Christ do so between the ages of 4 and 14 years. Yet, only 15 percent of the Church efforts are on children. The Church has ignored the most receptive group to its message. The Church has also perpetrated the lie that training the children in spiritual matters is a “woman’s work.” Jesus commanded His male disciples to bring the children to Him.

Who will be the David to go against these giants? It is going to take mighty men and women to bring down the Goliaths of this day, those giants who keep children from receiving a godly legacy.

This is a cause and call for all generations. While everyone else saw a giant, David saw an opportunity. David’s motives were different from others. He recognized that Goliath was coming against God, and knew God would be with him as he fought Goliath. The enemy knows that behind the vast numbers and statistics hides a face, a name, a life and a soul.

David’s vision was different from others. It is puzzling that others don’t see and hear the truth that God loves children.

David’s experience was different from others. We believe the experience and training offered in Children’s and Family Major at CFNI is different too, and helps us to see children, and the battle against them, with the eyes of God. It prepares us to take out the giants.

While everyone saw Goliath as a threat too big to hit, David saw Goliath as a target too big to miss.

Let’s embrace the cause and the call to leave a legacy of God’s love to the children of the world. We can do it! The target is too big to miss!

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