SOUTHEASTERN BOUND (and Successful Parenting)

Kelsey's acceptance letter

My oldest daughter, Kelsey, received her acceptance letter in the mail recently from Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. She sent me a text with the photo (shown to the left) of the letter with a pendent included, and, well, I paused for a moment to reflect on this good news as tears welled up in my eyes.

Ask anybody that knows me very well and they’ll tell you that I don’t cry… ever (well, I did cry one time when my favorite team lost in the final seconds of the big game, but that’s a another story for another day). But when I received Kelsey’s text that day with this exciting news… I cried. Yep, I admit it. I sat down in my chair behind my desk, and in that solitary moment of emotional reflection… a few crocodile tears welled up in my eyes as I tried to deal with the emotion that my baby girl was “officially” growing up.

I guess you could say my tears were a mixture of joy, sprinkled with a dash of pride, all colliding with the reality that my little princess would no longer be sleeping in her bed, under our roof, eating at our table, commandeering “my TV remote”… well you get the idea. Yep, it’s the stark reality that her mother and I now have to come to terms with that our oldest daughter is no longer our cute little princess, sitting on our laps, asking question after question, many times not even pausing long enough for us to answer, barreling down the highway of discovery. She is now a growing, beautiful young lady, full of passion, vision, dreams, creative ideas and plans for her life and… who also loves Jesus with all of her heart. By any definition, I would say that’s what true success looks like!

As Karine recently posted on her Facebook wall: “My greatest gifts to this world are Kelsey Cencebaugh, Ashley Cencebaugh, Rebekah Cencebaugh, and Andrew Cencebaugh. All four of you will be greatly used for and by God. What more could I ask for!”

What a treasure. What an accomplishment. What a gift. What a success in life!

If you are a parent who’s reading this post right now, I want to encourage you by saying, you are not defined as a successful parent based on how much money you make, how big your house is, how many cars you own or how many big screen TVs you have hanging on your walls. You are deemed successful as a parent when you lead your child into a growing relationship with Jesus! And once you have both taught and modeled what it means to be a growing follower of Jesus, you can send your children off into the big, scary, dark world without fear, knowing that you have dedicated them to the Lord; that His hand is upon them; and that the Holy Spirit is the best guardian you could ever ask for.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once wrote:

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.

So, we are challenged, as parents, to supply our children with the basic faith essentials of helping them to find their roots in Jesus as their lives are being built on him, the very foundation of our faith.

Colossians 2:7 (NLT) says,

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught

Remember this…

True success in parenting is not measured so much by how our kids behave as by who they are becoming under our watchful care!  So, let’s lead them wisely… and then stand back and watch who they become and what they will accomplish for God’s glory!

Oh, by the way, grab some Kleenex… you’re gonna need it!

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A PLACE FOR EVERYONE

Web Sermon PageI love the Church. And I love the description of the Early Church as recorded in Acts 2:42-47. It gives us an inspiring vision of what the church CAN BE and SHOULD BE DOING when it submits itself to the authority of Jesus, who is the Head of the Church, and the leading of the Holy Spirit, who is the Helper of the Church, resourcing it with power to fulfill it’s mission. When the church is healthy and in biblical alignment, it is the most powerful, life-giving force anywhere! God’s divine plan is a healthy church that is uniquely designed for the broken and the hurting, for those who are believers and those who are far from God. In other words, a place for everyone.

My goal as a pastor is to model the church that I lead after this example, for I believe that an Acts 2 Church is A PLACE WHERE…

EVERYONE IS KNOWN. “All the believers were together and had everything in common. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:44, 46, NIV).

If you really want to get to know someone, just go out to eat with them. There’s just something about food that makes even the most private person become an open book. I mean, they will just start sharing things that you never knew about them, or they will “let their hair down” and you’ll begin to see who they really are, what’s underneath that mask they wear (by the way, keep in mind that we all have facades to some degree, but that’s for another blog ;-).

One of the greatest desires of people is it know and be known, to care and be cared for, to love and be loved, to celebrate and be celebrated. That’s the kind of community that the Acts 2 Church enjoyed, and I am convinced that the best way for us to replicate this experience today is through healthy Small Groups. We must work harder and be more intentional in getting people from sitting in rows (on a Sunday morning) to sitting in circles (anytime, any place in a Small Group setting).

An Acts 2 Church is also A PLACE WHERE…

EVERYONE IS SUPPORTIVE. “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need (Acts 2:45, NIV). The Acts 2 church was a deeply spiritual and deeply communal church. They combined resources and financially supported both MINISTRY (inward focus) and MISSION (outward focus), and did whatever they could to meet the needs around them.

EVERYONE IS SERVING. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen” (1 Peter 4:10-11, NLT).

I love how Rick Warren put it, “We are saved to serve, not sit, sour, and sulk!” So true. Let’s encourage one another to find our place of service and then be diligent and faithful in that area!

Finally, an Acts 2 Church is A PLACE WHERE…

EVERYONE IS CHANGING. “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:47, NIV). The ultimate change in a person’s life is when they surrender their lives to the Lordship of Jesus, and that was the end-game for the Acts 2 Church–people being saved/changed by the power of the Gospel! That must be the church’s end-game as well.

May every believer reading this post see the vision for establishing a Spirit-empowered Acts 2 Church where the primary objective is to CONNECT OUR CULTURE TO CHRIST through grace-saturated, compassion ministries.  Perhaps then EVERYONE we touch with the Message of Jesus will feel more welcomed and the local church will truly be known as… A PLACE FOR EVERYONE!