What My Grandchildren Have Taught Me About Life, Love, and Faith

“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3)

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One of the greatest blessings of having lived as long as I have is experiencing the joy of having grandchildren. As a Christian father and grandfather, I have always understood and accepted my biblical responsibility to pass on my faith and valuable life lessons to the generations that follow. But one of the unexpected benefits of being a grandfather has been the lessons my grandchildren have taught me through the years!

As I have pondered what it means to change and become like little children, I have usually interpreted Christ’s words as referring to having a child-like faith. And that certainly is what I believe was first on our Lord’s mind. Little children have a faith that trusts completely, without hesitation, and without conditions. God places a high value on that kind of faith. In fact, the author of Hebrews tells us that “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb. 11:6)

That kind of God-pleasing faith seems to come more naturally for children than for adults. But I believe Jesus had more than just faith in mind when He encouraged us to “become as little children”. As I have watched my grandchildren grow, God has revealed some of those deeper truths that are embodied in that simple little teaching.

The more malleable we are, the better God can mold us

As parents, it has been very gratifying to watch our children pass on their faith to the next generation, being DSC00763obedient to God in training our grandchildren in the way they should go. (Prov. 22:6) But the molding process in our lives should not stop when we pass from childhood to adulthood. Isaiah and Jeremiah both spoke of our relationship to God as one of a potter and clay.

But the older we get and the more set in our ways we become, the harder it is for God to mold us into the person He wants us to be. We can become so fixated on certain doctrines of men or the interpretations of certain teachers and preachers that we fail to follow the example of the Bereans whom the apostle Paul commended in Acts 17:11 for examining “the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” By failing in this, we deny the Holy Spirit the opportunity to fulfill one of His primary roles of teaching us all things. (John 14:26)

We are all unique in the eyes of God

imagePs 139:14 says “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. In 2004, our daughter gave birth to triplet boys. From the day they were born, it was clear that each one had been endowed with unique personality traits, interests, strengths, and weaknesses. As you can see from this photo, they each even support different college teams. It is also clear that the one in the middle is the smart one! (Sorry, Dawg fans – I just couldn’t resist!)

God made each one of us unique. The world tries to make us all alike, and it can stifle our creativity and interfere with God’s personal plan for our lives. But I believe one of the keys to living the “abundant life” (John 10:10) that Jesus desires us to have is to recognize our unique God-given design, and employ those unique gifts to serve others.

Growth requires persistence

When children are learning to walk, they fall down. Then they get up, and they fall down again, and again, and again … until they get it right. They don’t fall down and say “Well I’m never going to try that again!” It’s how they grow. It’s also how we grow. James 1:4 says “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.

Little children are not afraid of failure, but how often do we let the fear of failure keep us from exploring new and exciting adventures. Or perhaps it keeps us from serving the Lord in the way He has in mind for us. A healthy, Spirit-led sense of risk can be beneficial. It helps us grow. It makes life more exciting and it keeps us young.

The antidote for worry is trust

My grandchildren don’t worry about anything. They take life’s ups and downs much better than the grownups in their lives. They know innately that their earthly mother and father are going to take care of their every need. And so will our Heavenly Father.

Phil. 4:6-7 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. Jesus said in Matt. 6:27, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

The truth is that worry takes years off our lives. Studies of those who live to the age of 100 reveal that they tend to be relaxed, optimistic, and even-tempered. As adults we need to develop that same level of trust in our Heavenly Father that my grandchildren have in their parents. After all, our Heavenly Father is perfect in his love, infinite in his wisdom, and sovereign in his control. How can we not trust a Father like that?

Don’t hold on to anger and bitterness

“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” (Eph. 4:26)  Kids can have the worst argument and swear to never speak to one another ever again. Then a half hour later they act like nothing ever happened. They release their anger and move on without holding grudges. And when they are wronged, they quickly forgive, without keeping a record. 1 Cor. 13:5 says that love “is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”  Kids just seem to get that better than adults do!

Never lose your sense of wonder

Gen 1:31 says “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”  I love to watch my grandchildren discover the miracles of nature that we tend to overlook or take for granted. The triplets saw mountains for the first time when they visited in 2013. One of my grandsons is fascinated with bugs, reptiles, and rocks. He’s old enough now that when he encounters something new, he will spend hours looking up information on the internet about his discovery.

Last February, three of our grandchildren visiting from Florida experienced snow for theIMG_1149 first time. They had their first snowball fight. And our long downhill driveway that is such a pain to shovel this time of year turned into an exciting sled run. Needless to say, it was the most fun in snow I’ve had in years as I was able to experience it through their eyes. As an added benefit, I had help shoveling afterward!

Sometimes we adults tend to get so preoccupied with the cares and anxieties of our lives that we ignore the simple miracles taking place all around us. Several years ago on a visit to Colorado with friends, we came to a beautiful spot between Leadville and Copper Mountain just at the moment the sun was setting between a couple of peaks in the distance. As we stood there and took in that scene, God reminded me that a very similar experience occurs right outside my back door every night and I often just ignore it.

These are just a few of the things my grandchildren have taught me. I’m sure you have more lessons you can add to the conversation. Feel free to post them in the comments below. I would love to hear them. Remember, I don’t want this blog to be a one way conversation.

Until next time, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. (Matt. 19:14)

*All Scripture references are from the New International Version (NIV)

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Lessons From The Tree House

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“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed , we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. (2 Cor. 5:1 NIV)

I grew up on a 96-acre farm just outside the small town of Jenkinsburg, Georgia. As I look back on my life, I realize that some of my greatest life lessons were learned in those formative years on that farm. I recounted one of those lessons when I preached the funeral of my big brother, Ronnie just a few weeks ago. It received such a positive reaction that I felt led to share it with you.

When he was about ten years old, Ronnie decided to build a tree house in one of the oak trees in our yard. We were blessed to have parents who did not discourage such creative activities. When he was finished, he couldn’t wait to show off his handiwork.  After he coaxed me to climb up there with him, I didn’t feel overly secure to say the least. In my professional six-year old opinion, it shook a little too much on the limb it was built upon. The experience was not unlike walking across a swinging bridge.

Noting my discomfort and wanting to assure me just how safe it was, Ronnie started to jump up and down on the floor of that tree house. You can imagine just how much safer that made me feel!  As I grabbed onto a nearby limb, he uttered these fateful last words, “This thing will be up here a hundred years!” Those words had no sooner left his mouth than the limb that tree house was built upon started to give way, and it and Ronnie crashed to the ground.

I was still holding on to that other limb for dear life, dangling up there in that tree while he lay dazed on the ground.  It was time to use our signal. We had a signal I’d use when I was in trouble … I’d yell “Help!” at the top of my lungs! Ignoring his own pain and disorientation, somehow Ronnie climbed back up that tree and helped me down to safety.

As I look back on that experience, I suppose one could deduce a number of lessons from that story – one being to never trust an older brother! But the lesson that stands out with me is this – a structure is only as good as its foundation.

That tree house was well built. Just before he passed away, Ronnie had fallen and broke both his legs. When my sister Diane asked him how he had managed to do that, he responded, “When I do something, I go all the way!” And he did- all the men in my family were perfectionists. But the foundation upon which that tree house rested was not a solid foundation. And the force of Ronnie’s jumping up and down was more stress than it could bear.

How is your foundation today? Will it stand up to the storms of life? There was a time when the foundation of Ronnie’s life would not. But before it was everlasting too late, before the tree house of his life came crashing down, he ripped out that old cracked foundation, and replaced it with the solid rock foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And so, while those of us who knew him and loved him grieve his passing, we can rejoice that when he gave up this earthly tent, he received “an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands”. Just as I was hanging onto that tree limb many years ago, we’re left here behind, holding onto this world with all we’ve got, trying to adjust to life without him.  He can’t return to us and tell us to just let go or help us navigate this world without him. But God’s Word assures us that those of us whose foundation is built upon our faith in Christ will be together again with all those loved ones who have died in Christ before us.

My prayer for you is that because of the foundation of your relationship with Christ, you can be as confident of that as I am. And that on the day the Lord calls your name, you can face it with the same dignity, grace, peace, and positive expectation that Ronnie displayed in his final days here on earth.

Until next time, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:10-11 NIV)

Welcome To Ridgetop Reflections

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out.” (Rom. 11:33 NIV)

After years of teaching Bible Study classes, I have recently felt a desire to reach a wider audience and hopefully have a greater impact for the Kingdom of God. After a two-year hiatus from teaching, I’ve decided to publish this blog, “Ridgetop Reflections”.

The seeds for this endeavor were planted last June. I am blessed to live on a mountain ridge in the mountains of Western North Carolina. From my rear deck, I have a tremendous view of the Blue Ridge Mountain range over which the sun sets each evening. One evening as I sat there reading John’s first epistle on my iPad, I was almost overwhelmed reflecting on the amazing love of God. At the same time, I was left speechless by the sunset God had painted in the Western sky.

As so many of us do in this age of social media, I snapped a picture of that scene (the photo that serves as the header for this blog) and posted it with some quick comments about sometimes being left speechless and in tears over the beauty of God’s creation. But those quick comments seemed so inadequate to convey the feelings that were flooding my heart at the time, especially given the 140-character limit imposed by Twitter. I post fairly often on Twitter, but find myself often frustrated to convey my thoughts in 140 characters!

As a teacher, I put many hours through the years into lesson preparation. I have never been a very skilled extemporaneous speaker. In order to stand before a group and speak confidently, I find the need to write my lessons out word-for-word. Through the years, this level of intense research and preparation inevitably led to burn-out.

I also found myself questioning whether the impact of my teaching was sufficient to justify the hours of preparation I put into each lesson. Feeling a desire to reach more people, I began to email copies of my lessons to friends and family, never knowing whether they were actually being read or enjoyed. From personal experience, I know that an article I encounter on the internet or via email has to grab my attention very early and remain relevant if I’m going to take the time to digest seven pages of teaching!

While this blog was birthed out of that desire to have a greater impact on others for Christ, I have one other selfish motive as well – to enhance my own spiritual growth. I have always hoped that my teaching impacted others in a very positive, God-pleasing way. But whatever positive impact I might have had on others, those hours of study and preparation had the greatest impact on me. Maintaining this blog will serve as an important spiritual discipline designed to increase my spiritual growth.

The Scripture I chose as the theme for “Ridgetop Reflections” is Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out.” ( NIV). This verse begins that amazing doxology which so effectively expresses Paul’s wonder at the mysteries of God – a wonder I share. The longer I taught Bible Study, the more I came to understand how little I really know about God and His Word.

Even Solomon in all his wisdom came to appreciate the limits of our understanding, proclaiming “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the maker of all things.” (Eccl. 11:5 NIV)  The older I get, the more I accept and appreciate the mysteries of God. I have heard it said that mystery is not the absence of meaning – it is simply the presence of more meaning than we can comprehend.

Many of my posts will be taken from lessons I’ve taught through the years – I have years of material already researched and ready to be published. But knowing how God works, I’m sure he will be supplying much fresh material as time goes by. In fact, in just the last week, he has given me no less than twelve topics for future posts.

Most posts will be related to issues of faith and practical applications of the teachings of God’s Word. But I expect to also share personal observations of life in general, current events, and any other relevant topics that I feel might be of general interest to those of you who honor me by taking the time to read what I have to say. But don’t look for political articles here – I know how divisive that can be and I don’t want start down those pig trails!

So I hope you will join me in this endeavor. Be patient with me as I get my sea legs. A space is provided for you to post any comments you might have. Whether you agree or disagree with what I have to say, I welcome your feedback. Interaction is beneficial to us both.

Please feel free to share any posts you like on Facebook, retweet them on Twitter, or email them to your contacts if you’re not savvy with social media. This will help me establish as wide a readership as possible and will be greatly appreciated.

Until next time, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.