“How true Daddy’s words were when he said: ‘All children must look after their own upbringing.’ Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”
My parents raised four very successful kids and now have fourteen grand-kids and one great grand-kid. Lottie married Josh James and they are active in their church in Marble Hill. Ruth married Chris Taylor and after they graduated from SBU they started a family. Chris is a pastor in Houston, Texas. Courts met his wife, Jennifer, at SBU and they are now active in their church. Additionally, several of our children are already heading into full-time ministry.
My parents have never been rich, but the Lord has always provided for them. They have never had any serious health problems and have enjoyed a wonderful life. At each of dad’s churches the Lord blessed his work. His youth groups grew, his congregations expanded and people were drawn to the church and his ministry.
When you have doubts about the Bible and wonder if serving God will really pay off, look at their lives and know that serving God leads to blessings on earth and an eternity in heaven.
Lottie, Ruth, and Courts all made mistakes that caused our parents trouble and concern over the years. Of course, I’ve made the most mistakes and caused them the most trouble, but their Christian example, unfailing love and ceaseless prayers pulled me through all of the hard times in my life. I hope you will follow their example as you start families and raise children of your own.
For me, those first twenty years started slow and seemed to creep along, before speeding up in high school. Before I could even turn around, college was half over and I was twenty years old. Soon after my twenty-first birthday, I was married and responsible for a child.
Wow, what a life! It was a great twenty years. I had the best parents any boy could hope for. My brother and sisters were wonderful. I was born in America in a time when we had all of the modern conveniences that make life easy.
Think about it. There are about six billion people living on the earth today. Since the beginning of time, billions more have lived and died. I’m so thankful that God decided to allow me to be born in a free country, with electricity, water and good healthcare, two parents who believed in God, taught me the right way to live here on earth, and prepared me for eternity. America is a unique and fragile oddity in human history. Of all the chances to be born in another time, another country, to other parents, how blessed I am!
The only sad part of my first two decades of life were my choices, starting at the age of fifteen. I wrote this book so you could learn more about how wonderful your grandparents and aunts and uncles are. They provide very good examples to live your life by. I also wrote this book so that you could learn from my mistakes. It is not fun to talk about my mistakes and I am in no way trying to glamorize the bad choices that I made. They cost me dearly. While it may seem like I made it through that first chapter of my life with no scars, I didn’t. In Galatians 6:7 the Bible says, “Be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” When I sowed good seeds I reaped good things, but when I sowed bad seeds I reaped bad things. I also learned that you sometimes reap a harvest long after you sow your seeds.
Think about my mom and dad and how even God-fearing people can make a mistake. It’s sometimes hard to know what God wants you to do. Most of us either take matters into our own hands and run ahead of God, or we get lazy or rebellious and ignore God’s direction. Both cause us to take wrong turns.
When Dad took the Levelland job solely for more money, it led to some tough times for him before he was able to get back into the ministry that he was meant to be in. It’s hard to wait on the Lord and not trust your own reasoning when making decisions. My parents made mostly good decisions and we benefited from their good choices, but even they were not perfect.
Taking the wrong path may seem like an easier mistake to avoid compared to running ahead of God, but many of the wrong turns I took didn’t look so wrong at the beginning. I didn’t become an alcoholic, start smoking dope, and have sex with girls from day one. It started with small decisions that didn’t seem so bad. I picked the wrong friends, told little white lies, and went to the wrong parties.
In all of those small choices, I didn’t mean anyone any harm and none of them were particularly bad, but they led to more choices that were just a little bit worse than the first ones. One wrong turn led to another, which led to another until suddenly, before I knew it, I was completely on the wrong path and had no idea how I ended up there. While we all struggle with making the right choices, there are a few things I learned that can help you to know God’s will for your life:
- Read the Bible each morning
- Pray for guidance each day
- Attend church each Sunday
- Ask men of God to pray for you and give you advice
- Obey God’s commandments
When I need to make major or even minor decisions, I have found that God provides me direction when I read my Bible and pray about it. I have also gotten answers to my prayers while at a church service or while talking with wise men of God. I believe Matthew 7:7-8 which says, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” Reading your Bible, praying for guidance, attending church, and asking others to pray for you are all ways that you can show God that you are not too prideful to seek Him.
So, what’s the bottom line?
When I followed God’s commandments and my parent’s teachings, I prospered. When I strayed from those commandments, I had troubles and problems.
Here are a few lessons I hope you picked up from these pages.
- Obey God. Read the Bible and learn God’s commandments. You cannot obey what you do not know.
- Go to church. Even when you don’t think it helps, it does. Take time to attend church and pray to God each week.
- Pray each day. Ask God to forgive your sins and help you each morning and night.
- Forgive others. Bitterness hurts you the most. It will cause a lot of problems.
- Tithe. Make sure you give God 10%. He rewards those who give.
- Give to others. Don’t be greedy, help others whenever you can, you never know when you will need help, too.
- Make a to-do list each day. Have a list and stick to it.
- Set goals each year on your birthday. Write them down and review your progress.
- Keep a diary. Work on self-improvement. Thinking about each day’s/week’s activities will help you avoid repeat-ing mistakes.
- Spend time with family. They will not be around for-ever and when they are gone, they are gone. When you have troubles (and we all eventually have troubles), you will need them.
- Pick your friends wisely. No matter your age, you will do what your friends do. They will determine your choices. You will need them in your troubles, too.
- Never give up. Don’t let pain, mistakes or setbacks cause you to give up. No matter what you are trying to do, the one quality that can overcome any obstacle is perseverance. Keep trying, keep fighting and stay positive. As Michael Irvin said, “Get up, look up, and don’t ever give up.”
- Oh, and just in case you’ve forgotten: Don’t pee on an electric fence.
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