Actions Have Consequences!

One of the most important lessons that we must learn in life to succeed is that actions have consequences. What we do will lead us to be victors or lead us to failure. Every decision is important!

 

If your kids are like mine, you probably have issues getting them to bed on time. We’ve cajoled, we’ve spanked, we’ve nagged. It’s tough stuff! Recently, though, at the suggestion of our counseling pastor we read Boundaries With Kids and have implemented what Cloud and Townsend call “reality based consequences.” What that means is that when kids disregard a boundary they have to deal with a consequence connected to their breaking the boundary. For us and bedtime we established a firm boundary: the kids must get to bed by their bed time, in jammies, teeth brushed, family prayers said, and without us having to warn them of the time. The consequence for breaking the boundary is that for every minute they are late to bed, the next day their bedtime is 5 minutes earlier. So 5 minutes late to bed tonight costs 25 minutes tomorrow!

 

Sure, the kids tested the system. They’re kids! After a couple of tries to avoid the consequence and realizing that we were going to hold to it, they started adjusting. And now, several months later, it is almost comical. Our youngest daughter is 7 and was playing some Wii near her bedtime. I even remarked to our oldest child that I was wondering how late she was going to be! Then, about 6 minutes until bedtime, my little one realized what time it was. She sprang into action! It was amazing how fast she turned off the video game, got dressed, got her teeth brushed, and huddled the family up for prayer. And sure enough, she was in bed SECONDS before bedtime! Knowing that there was a firm boundary and established consequences made a huge impact on her.

 

We now have a mantra for our kids at home: “I am responsible for me.” I ask the kids who is responsible for them, and they all answer “I am responsible for me!” That extends to school, to bedtime, to chores, to life.

 

This is how life works. When we break a boundary, there is a consequence! I had to explain this to a student this week who had a court date. He was frustrated that he would miss class and asked me for an excused absence. He had been ticketed and needed to be in court for sure, but I told him that he was responsible for himself and that the absence was not excused. That would cost him points in class, and he tried to tell me all about how it wasn’t his fault that he got pulled over. Nope, sorry bud. Actions have consequences! (this is a good student, so no hate there…)

 

Do you realize that this is how God works? As Christians, we are each responsible for our conduct and our decisions have consequences, good and bad! 2 Corinthians 5:10 says that we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 Paul tells us that our decisions as Christians matter!

 

If anyone builds on the foundation [of Christ] with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

 

Actions have consequences and I am responsible for me! Likewise, you are responsible for you. How you live for Christ matters not only in your witness but in your reception by Christ on judgment day. There WILL be consequences for what we have chosen on that day, for good or for bad.

 

So…a question for you. How are you doing with those boundaries? Now that you know that the boundaries are established and will be enforced, does it change how you look at your decisions today? I hope so! Smile

What’s Heaven Like?

I was driving home from picking my two youngest daughters up from Kenpo this week, and we had a hilarious exchange that got me thinking:

 

My 6-year-old: When I get to heaven, the first thing I want to do is go swimming.

Me (trying not to laugh): Really? Why swimming?

Her: Because swimming is awesome and it will be awesome in heaven!

My 10-year-old: Well, when I get to heaven the first thing I want to do is hug Jesus!

My 6-year-old: Okay, hug Jesus first, then swimming!

 

First of all, it was hilarious. Kids can be so funny!  Secondly, though, it amazes me what kids think about God. Specifically, her thoughts about heaven and what eternity will be like amaze me.  And you know, she could be quite right that there will be swimming in heaven; if there is, I bet it will be awesome. (yes, I know Revelation 21:1 says there is no sea…it does not say that there are no swimming pools!)

 

Revelation 21 says that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and that the new Jerusalem will be amazing. In Genesis 1:31 God says that the creation was “very good,” so I am betting that the new one will be even better! But notice that there is not only new heavens, but a new earth. It seems that in eternity there will be an earth, and it will be populated. In Luke 19:17 the returning master gives his faithful servant authority over cities (plural), meaning there will be government and apparently an economy. There will be jobs! (not sea-based jobs, apparently) 

 

This reflects the perfection of the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve had vocation and responsibility. It seems this is how eternity will be as well.  That encourages me, even though when we’re all perfect and holy and filled with God’s grace without sin, I will have to find a new vocation! It doesn’t seem that heaven is sitting on clouds and singing in an angel choir for many. If not, and if we will have vocation there, then my job today can be a reflection of the kingdom of God if I will commit it to Christ and work at it like it is His plan for me.  And that, I will do, as well as I can.

 

How about you? When you close your eyes, what does heaven look like? What are you most looking forward to doing when you’re in the perfect eternal state of joy?

Recalibration Needed

It’s been FOREVER since I posted a thought on ABF.  It’s been a month of transitions, and just by way of explanation I thought I would post the text of an email I sent our church family this week. Hopefully this explains some of my absence from the blog, and gives you some insight into where I am in life right now.  I would love your prayers and your thoughts on how to get even better.

““For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? ” (Luke 9:25)

Hi everyone!
 
Just a quick update from me and some clarification.  I feel like I may have been misleading the past couple of weeks and wanted to make sure that I am communicating well.
 
I think that I may have put across the idea that we are not doing very well as a family.  Allow me to say, that is not the case at all!  In fact, I would say that now we are doing better than we ever have.  What the realization over the past month has taught us is that we were spread way, way too thin.  Between my many activities, the kids participating in lots of different stuff, and Laura’s many duties we were so thin that you could see right through us.  And that meant that we didn’t have the time to be together and love one another well.  It meant that we were always rushing to one place or another with no time to just enjoy one another.  It meant that the house was always a mess and that Laura felt like she couldn’t keep up with all of the demands of school work for the kids, house work, her doula clients (which is a huge passion of hers), AND be successful as a follower of Christ and wife and mother.  She realized it, but I was experiencing the same without really realizing it. (she’s always been more self-aware than I am)  And we all finally came to the realization that there were a lot of tasks and activities that are good in themselves, but in the end took us away from who we want to be.  So the past few weeks have been our attempt to clear out the stuff that matters least so that we can focus on the stuff that matters most.  To us, what matters most is that we love God and each other, and we are trying to do that more effectively.  And I think that God is using that in great ways, and with our “margins” and boundaries on our time re-established we are really having fun as a family.  In fact, I think that we are as joyful as we have been in a long, long time.
 
So that said, we cleared those margins not to get away from our church family; just the opposite, really! We want to spend more time together with you.  We want to have our family in Christ in our home, and grow closer with the people who matter most to us.  Yeah, that is primarily Laura and me keeping our marriage strong and healthy (which it is!), and helping our kids love God and love people.  This is why you’ll see us head out camping more, why James and I bought dirt bikes recently so we can do that as a father and son, and just being home more.  It’s brought back joy in my life in fixing stuff around the house, because I have the time to do so and because it is fun again to make something work correctly.  I have room in my mind for it!  It is also building healthy, transparent, growing relationships with our church family.  So look for that in our lives in the coming weeks and months as we focus on the things that matter the most to us.
 
All that to say, the Correia family is doing great.  We are through the “holy moley, we need to change some stuff” time and into cementing those changes to have some room in our schedules and in our hearts and heads to really just be present where we are.  So, please don’t think that we are in a dire straight or coming apart at the seams.  In fact, I think that we are more whole than we ever have been, and it’s been lots of fun to be in our home listening to laughter and talking and getting involved in what matters to our kids. (Laura told me last night that while she and James were cooking enchiladas he told her ALL about the Star Wars Lego world he has built, and all the characters and cities and everything that are in it…I know you’re jealous!)  I want to publicly thank Pastor Mike for being so instrumental in helping us make some of these realizations as a family, and continuing to help us relate effectively and communicate our hearts to one another honestly and clearly.
 
What does that mean for you? 
 
Keep loving us as a family.  We value transparency and authenticity, so we are just living life with you.  Don’t wonder what’s going on or worry that you’re intruding.  We’ll say so if we need space.  And don’t worry you’ll say the wrong thing or that you can’t just have small talk with us.  That’s what we want! Help us enjoy life a little by having lunch with us after church; we might forget to ask, so come ask us!  Let us get involved in helping you find those boundaries as well and make the main thing the main thing in your life.  Talk to us about the little things…we love that stuff.
 
Thanks again for being an amazing church family, where the pastor can just be a regular guy who occasionally needs to recalibrate.  It’s good to be healthier.

The Next Step

“Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.” (1 Thessalonians 4:1, NAS)

 
I love these words of Paul’s.  I am studying the New Testament with my students at Arizona Christian University, and yesterday we dug into 1 Thessalonians.  The tone of this letter is so much different than his tone in Galatians.  He was flat out mad at the Galatians for their legalism, but it seems that the Thessalonians were doing a great job.  They were pleasing God and walking with Him well.  They had it going on!  I just imagine them thinking that compared to many other churches (the Galatians and Corinthians come to mind), they were awesome and could just keep at what they were doing.
 
So what was Paul’s response? “Excel still more.”  He didn’t want them to rest on their laurels or read their own press clippings.  They thought that they were on the mountain top, but to Paul they were at base camp!  He was pleased with their progress but not content with their situation.  There was still more work to do if they were going to be everything that God wanted them to be.
 
I’m trying to do this in my walk with God as well as in my other areas of life.  I have run 3 half-marathons in the past year, which is great.  But now it’s time to “excel still more.”  So between now and June I will lose 15 pounds and on June 5th plan to run my first FULL marathon. (pray for me…it appears I have lost my mind!)  Our church is doing well in so many areas, but now it is time for me to “excel still more” in leading our staff, empowering our ministry leaders, and building authentic relationships with more people in our congregation.   I made some changes to my classes at ACU and Phoenix Seminary this semester too, so time will tell if they make the classes better.
 
How can you “excel still more”?
 

  1. In your walk with Christ.  What one area do you think that God wants you to change today to be more like Him?  How can you take a strength of yours in your walk with God and make it even stronger?
  2. In your relationships. Is your marriage good?  Your parenting?  Your friendships?  Where are you meeting standards, but want to change that “C” into an “A”?  What is one step you can take today to move in that direction?
  3. In your vocation. If you’re good at your job, what separates you from being great at it?  Would 10% more focused effort lead to 25% more success?  Can you be more agreeable to coworkers, or easier to lead as a team member?  Can you be a better model for those you supervise?
  4. In your finances. If your most successful friend from a financial standpoint looked over your finances, where would they say that you could make some changes to strengthen your giving, your saving, or your spending?

Doing good enough, in God’s eyes, is…well…not good enough.  Where can you “excel still more” today to the glory of God?

It’s Not Like I Remembered…

Man it gets my goat when my old Christmas traditions and memories come crashing down around my head.

I watched two Christmas movies this week that were childhood favorites.  The first was “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and second up was the 1983 classic “A Christmas Story.”  Watching these movies as an adult, ESPECIALLY with my kids, was a way different experience than I remembered from my childhood.  What I remembered as funny and encouraging stories about Christmas turned out to be some of the craziest and most horrifying movies I have seen with my children.  Boy, how times have changed.  Boy, how I have changed!

For the record, I can’t find many videos on YouTube or elsewhere with the scenes I am talking about in these movies (the sole exception is below).  I am not sure if it is a conspiracy by “the man” to keep the bad in these movies out of the public conscience or if everyone else just watches them and forgets about some of the content.  Whichever it is, there are almost NO videos I can find that have these scenes, so if you want to verify that I am not a raving loony you’ll have to watch the shows yourself.  Don’t say you haven’t been warned though!

We gathered all four kids around to watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special on Thursday night to get into the Christmas spirit.  It had to be safe for the whole family, right?  I mean, after all, it was made in 1965!  There couldn’t be anything offensive in there, could there?  Laura and I and our kids (ages 4-12) all sat down to enjoy some of the Christmas spirit together.  The best part of the show was Linus quoting a good chunk of Luke 2 near the end, which never would fly in today’s TV culture.  However, the movie was absolutely filled with the other characters calling Charlie Brown names.  He was told that he was the stupidest blockhead in the history of humanity.  Linus sighed and told him that of all the Charlie Browns in the world, he was the Charlie Browniest.  They ridiculed him, browbeat him, and laughed at him to his face.  We had to stop the movie on several occasions to remind our younger ones that we do not treat people that way!  There was some good for sure, but a lot of questionable stuff that I had forgotten about.

Then last night we decided to watch “A Christmas Story.”  My recollections about this movie revolved around the Red Rider BB gun and the slightly off-color lamp that his dad wins.  There was a bully as I remembered, and his brother was annoying.  But it was a good Christmas story!  We sent the littlest two to bed just in case, and with the older two and a good friend who had never seen it we settled in for a good old cup of Christmas joy.

Good night!  Where do I begin?  There was more cursing in that movie than  could possibly have been there when I was a kid.  We had a memorable mute button FAIL when Ralphie utters a bad word when he gets his Annie Oakley decoder ring.  I knew it was coming (it was the only one Laura remembered) and muted it, then un-muted it right before he says a quite inappropriate phrase, especially out of the mouth of a 9-year-old.  Don’t believe me? (WARNING: one bad phrase in the last 2 seconds of this clip)

There was WAY more than this.  His dad rages and curses in the basement throughout the movie, and though you never hear him cuss it’s clear that Ralphie picks it up from him.  In the famous “mother of all curse words” scene he ends up with his mouth washed out with soap, and soliloquizing that he got it from his dad.  On several occasions his friends let loose with curse words.  Also there is an awful lot of sexual innuendo from the lamp his dad wins.

Neither of these shows stood up to my memory of them.  What I remembered and what I saw as a dad were completely different!  Now I am not a kid just enjoying Charlie Brown being laughed at by his friends; I’m watching it wondering how my own kids are taking it and what it is telling them.  It really made me think and consider the call of God on me as a parent in Deuteronomy 6:6-7,

“These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

Rather than chalk this up as worthless nights that did harm to my kids, though, I decided to make the most of them.  “A Charlie Brown Christmas” teaches that materialism and consumerism can’t replace the story of the birth of Christ, and teaches that truth explicitly.  So we “chewed the meat and spit the bones” with the kids, reminding them that we didn’t treat people like Charlie Brown’s friends treated him and at the same time reinforced the message that Jesus is the reason for the season.

With “A Christmas Story” is was a bit more complicated.  There really was not much of a redemptive theme; in fact the overriding message of the movie was that Ralphie cajoled his parents into getting him a Christmas gift, then lied and got away with it when he hurt himself with it.  So we talked about that, about the peer pressure that Ralphie faced, and about the message concerning Christmas that the movie gave.  I suppose the best that I could say about it is that we used it as a bad example and “inoculated” the kids a little, then had a laugh and a face-palm over our parenting fail after they went to bed.

It also reminded me that the Christmas that I experienced as a kid is very different than that Christmas that I celebrate now.  I grew up as a typical, secular American kid without any thought about the history and tradition of Christmas.  We didn’t go to church at all when I was young (I became a Christian at 22), and movies like “A Christmas Story” were relatable to me because I saw a lot of that in my childhood in the 80’s.  Bad words weren’t a big deal in my house.  Though sex was a taboo subject, fighting certainly wasn’t.  (don’t get a wrong impression; I’m grateful for my upbringing and parents and they have a good marriage) 

Today I am a lot different.  Now I am concerned with making today count forever, and about serving Christ out of gratitude for His sacrifice for me.  I suppose I see it in the sense that I am not the man I used to be, which means that I need to put stuff like that behind me without being morose about it.  As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:11-12,

Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.  All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.

I am not the guy who wasn’t bothered by those things.  Christmas is about Christ, plain and simple, and this Christmas I am grateful that amidst the noise and busyness I can hopefully spend some time with Him.  And though as a Christian these two shows were certainly not sinful for me to watch, nevertheless they weren’t a good use of my time or a helpful way to spend my Christmas.  As Paul says, they are lawful but not profitable.  So I am going to try to get some more profit into my Christmas and less spiritual junk food.  More Jesus, less mall.  More love, more peace, more good times and less stress over deadlines.  More thought into my entertainment choices!  That way, in the years to come my kids can enjoy the movies we watched with their own kids and not have the same chagrin that I had this weekend.