Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Children Who Stray From The Faith

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They are a garland to grace your head

and a chain to adorn your neck.

Proverbs 1:8-9

If you would like to continually be kept in the loop concerning new opportunities for service and outreach and blessings and victories to celebrate at St. Mark, make sure the church has your current email address.  You will receive a G2 (Grow & Go Vision updates) on a regular basis.  The first one was sent out on June 20th
encouraging people to help St. Mark finish our fiscal year strong (end June 30th).  The response was amazing.  St. Mark partners gave an additional $19,000 dollars already!  Praise God!


Q:  What can parents do if children start to stray away from the faith and how can they prevent this from happening?

A:  If you are certain your child is straying away from the scriptural truths of the Christian faith he or she was brought up with, chances are your child is having trouble seeing how those scriptural truths apply to his or her life right now. Perhaps the child is going through some problems and just cannot see how "church" is going to help. Perhaps the child has been fooled by the things of this world into believing that the Christian faith is "no fun" or will somehow withhold pleasure from his or her life.

Parents, the key is communication – from you!!! No progress can be made in this area without calmly talking with your child. As a parent you have always wanted what is best for your child and this is no different. As children experience problems or changes that have them doubting how relevant the Christian faith is to their lives, parents want what is best for them. Parents want their children to be able to apply scriptural truths to the challenges, changes, and pleasures of this life because this is what is best for them. So parents talk to their children about these things. Where is the disconnect between the Christian faith and the child's life? What are the hurts or problems or issues that the child thinks cannot be helped by a healthy relationship with God? Let's talk about how God wants to bless us in every area of our lives, even the problems, because he loves us.

A passage that has always helped me as a parent in this area is 1 Timothy 4:8: "Godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." Here God tells us that living a life that honors him holds out a promise for this life; namely, it allows us to enjoy life to the full with the joy, security, and peace of a solid relationship with him. The godly life also holds out the promise of something even better, eternal life, as God uses the gospel to keep us clinging to the Lord Jesus in faith and looking forward to heaven.

The Next Sermon Series

June 29, 2014                    Mt. 5:1-16               The Welcome Mat

July 6, 2014                        Mt. 5:13-20            Health Check

July 13, 2014                     Mt. 5:21-26            Anger Management

July 20, 2014                     Mt. 5:33-37             A Little Goes …

I look forward to seeing you this weekend!  Bring someone with you!

Pastor John Parlow

Thursday, June 19, 2014

How Am I Supposed To Treat My Gay Friend Or Family Member?

"Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Gay marriage is receiving a lot of media attention as the battle for legalizing same-sex marriage in Wisconsin continues.  This is a sensitive and emotional issue.  I've already had several of our partners at St. Mark ask me what they should do or say to their gay friend or family member who is married or seeking to be married.

The words of the apostle Paul in Ephesians chapter 5 listed above are very fitting.  Paul wrote, "Be very careful how you live...making the most of every opportunity."  Whether you realize it or not this gay marriage issue is an opportunity.  It's an opportunity to point your friend or family member to Jesus.  Jesus is the One who changes hearts, not a law banning same-sex marriage.

First, we need to understand that a gay relationship involves sexual sin.  God clearly condemns homosexuality as a sexual sin, just like he condemns lust or adultery in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-28.  Sin is sin in God's eyes and something from which we need to repent.  Unrepentant sin has only one end, eternal death (James 1:13-15).  That's true for me just as much as my gay friend or family member.  I need to repent of my sins as Paul said, "Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise, but as wise."  It's unwise to live in unrepentant sin.  Love leads me to share this truth with my friend living in a gay relationship.

Second, we need to remember that Paul advises us to "make the most of every opportunity."  So when the issue comes up between our gay friend or family member, we can't be silent.  We need to speak the truth in love, yet always keep in mind what James said in James 1:19, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."  Because this is such an emotional issue, it's easy to become angry.  Don't.  Strive to view your friend through the eyes of Jesus.  Remember, Jesus lived perfectly, died innocently and rose victoriously so that everyone's sins are forgiven (John 3:16)!  Our goal in making the most of every opportunity is not to win the argument, but to win a person's heart back to Jesus.

Third, there is no place for a holier than thou attitude.  All of us are sinful and need Jesus just as much as our LGBTQ friend or family member.  We are just as broken as they are.  We need Jesus and the forgiveness He brings.  When it comes to what to say to someone living in sexual sin that's where I begin.  I acknowledge my brokenness and then confess my faith in Jesus.  I then share the peace that Jesus brings.  Where the conversation goes from there is up to you and the Holy Spirit, but I always begin with my brokenness and my need for Jesus.

Fourth, we don't want to give the impression that we are okay with a sinful lifestyle.  There may come a time in your relationship with your gay friend or family member when you have to establish boundaries as a loving witness to them that you are not in agreement with their lifestyle.  What this looks like depends on the situation.  For example, one person I advised that perhaps she would not go to her gay family member's house for a family function until her family member repents.  That's just one example of what a boundary might look like.  The key is to lovingly clarify with your gay friend or family member what you cannot and will not accept and why you at the same time desire to maintain a relationship.  This will look different depending on your situation.

Every situation requires lots of prayer and lots of love.  Ask God to work miracles.  Ask God to fill you with wisdom from the Holy Spirit and a desire to speak the truth in love.  Ask God to give you the right words to say when the opportunity arises.  He won't let you down.  Ask Jesus to give you a loving heart that views your gay friend or family member through His eyes, as someone for whom He died and whom He earnestly wants in heaven some day.  Ask Jesus to change your friend or family member's heart.  Remember, the pressure is ultimately on God, not you, just as the power is His, not yours or mine.

I'm interested in hearing from you what you think about this sensitive topic and how to handle it.  Here's a LINK to the latest poll that shows the change in attitude regarding same sex marriage.  Regardless of what popular opinion says, we know what God says.  Let's resolve to listen well, love well and speak the truth in love.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Helping Parents Out At Bedtimes & Mealtimes

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction 
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They are a garland to grace your head

and a chain to adorn your neck.
Proverbs 1:8-9

Helping You Out At Bedtimes & Mealtimes

When your kids resist going to bed or make mealtimes unpleasant, try these tips:

Bedtime Battles

We often adjust bedtimes according to our children's behavior that day. For each infraction, they must go to bed five minutes earlier, but if they've been extra good, they can earn the right to stay up an extra five minutes. 

Having a struggle at bedtime? Try this: Next time you're dealing with the usual bathroom trips, cups of water, giggling, and talking, call off bedtime. Declare, "Nobody has to go to bed tonight!" Inform them that they may stay up as long as they like — the operative words being stay up. Then have each child stand still in the middle of a separate room of the house. Their warm, comfy beds will look awfully good after just a few minutes of standing alone.
Because I so desperately need some down time with my husband in the evenings, I have been known to put the kids to bed very early compared to their friends' bedtimes. For instance, I may put Haven to bed at eight, but she's allowed to stay up and read until nine. She's notorious for leaving her clothes on the floor, however, so I tried this idea sent to me on my Web site: For every piece of clothing lying on the floor when I came to put her to bed, her reading time was reduced by 10 minutes. It worked. After her evening bath, she scurried around like a little mouse, cleaning up her room before I came to tuck her in.
If you have trouble enforcing the "lights out" rule in your house, make it easy on yourself with this rule. If you put your children to bed, only to look down the hall and see the light shining under the door, simply unscrew the light bulb until they can learn to appreciate the privilege of responsibility.

Mealtime Madness

Does your child tend to act up during dinner? Try sending him, along with his plate of food, into the other room to eat alone at the dining room table until he can settle down.

Haven seems to believe that the dining room chairs have been designed to stand on one or maybe two legs at the most. This has become an unconscious habit, but we're trying to help her break it (before she breaks her own legs or the chair's). Now whenever she tilts back her chair, she is required to remove it from the table and finish her meal or schoolwork standing.

 If you have dawdlers, try this: Whoever is last to the table at dinnertime becomes the server. But there's a catch. Even if you're first, your hands must be clean, or you'll end up serving the food, pouring the drinks, and fetching the condiments (after washing your hands, of course!).

At our house, eating in the living room is a special occasion. Inevitably, our children push to see if they can turn this exception into a rule. To curb this impulse, we've tied a price to the privilege. Our kids may eat in front of the television if they vacuum the floor when they are finished. This helps them to appreciate the privilege-and keeps them from asking for it every night.

I heard of a single father who served five plain brussels sprouts to his picky eaters. They had 10 minutes to eat them or they would get the remaining eight in the pot. This made such an impact on them that he only needed to refer to the "brussels sprout" punishment when the children were tempted to complain about their meals again.

When our kids don't want to eat what I've cooked for dinner, Steve and I won't make it an issue. They don't have to eat it as long as they've tried at least one bite. If they refuse to do even that, however, they just go hungry. I refuse to be a short-order cook. (They won't starve until the next meal, even though they may feel "starved.") If they eat all their vegetables and protein, though, they are allowed to eat the bread and dessert.

A neighbor boy complained when his mother burned his toast, so she decided he could do without her cooking for the rest of the day. He got pretty tired of cereal and peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches by the end of the day.

Adapted from Creative Correction by Lisa Whelchel, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers.

See you this weekend!

John Parlow

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Quick Reminder: Couples, fill in the blank.

M: (to the groom): _____________, will you take _____________ to be your wife? Will you be guided by the counsel and direction God has given in his Word and love your wife as Christ loved the Church? Will you be faithful to her, cherish her, support her, and help her in sickness and in health as long as you both shall live? If so, answer, "I will."
G: I will.

M: (to the bride): _______________, will you take ________________ to be your husband? Will you be guided by the counsel and direction God has given in his Word and submit to your husband as the Church submits to Christ? Will you be faithful to him, cherish him, support him, and help him in sickness and in health as long as you both shall live? If so, answer, "I will."
B: I will.

M: Join your right hands, and make your promises to each other:
(The groom and bride will say in turn)
I, __________________, in the presence of God and these witnesses, take you, ____________, to be my wife/husband. I promise to be faithful to you as long as we both shall live.


If these short statements sound familiar it is because they are taken from a typical wedding service we perform in our church. I write it out this morning that perhaps more than a few married couples (and myself) would be reminded to fill in the blank with your name and the name of your spouse… because sometimes we forget.

At first marriage is wonderful, exciting, and new. You enjoy the unique way in which your spouse talks, thinks, and does things. The odd part though, these same characteristics can soon drive you crazy, lead to conflict, and change the blessing of marriage into drudgery. Remember your vows.

There are no conditionals in the vow you took with your spouse. There is no fine print stating, “If I get sick of stubbornness… Or if I know I’m right and they’re wrong… I can stop my committed love to them.” The fine print is not there because marriage is patterned after the committed love that Christ showed to you. Jesus didn’t hold anything back but sacrificed himself for you therefore husbands don’t hold back any good thing for your wife. In response to Jesus’ love Christians dedicate their life to Jesus therefore wives dedicate yourself to your husband.

Marriage can be wonderful, exciting, and new every day when you remember Jesus as the foundation in your vows and your marriage. Don’t forget to go back regularly and fill in the blanks.