The original plan was one post with all fifteen points. Plan B was fifteen points in two blog posts. Now we’re on Plan C: fifteen points in, you guessed it, three posts. Life has a way of suddenly rearranging our otherwise perfect and precise plans. I’m sitting here surrounded by boxes on boxes. The packing is in full swing. Moving is neither easy nor pleasant. God willing, this will be our last move for a long, long time. With any luck all of our stuff will be either stolen, destroyed, or lost in transit to Oregon.
So back to the celebratory list for numbers 6 to 10…
6. God’s Providence Will Never Lead You Where His Grace Will Not Sustain You
The plan was never for me to be an evangelist. I was simply taking a year off school to better understand and appreciate my newfound faith. Here I am fifteen years later, still on that “year” off of school. I preached my first full-length evangelistic crusade less than two years after my baptism. My victims were the kind and wonderful members of the Shingle Springs Seventh-day Adventist Church in the California foothills. The preaching was just plain terrible. Astoundingly, 17 people were baptized, including a former nun!
I still have the tapes of that series. In fact I just packed the box they’re in two days ago. One time I tried to listen to those sermons. It lasted about 30 seconds. I quickly ejected the tape and put it away. Not one of the 28 tapes from that series has ever come out of that box since.
I was no preacher. Not even close. But there is one thing that, in fact, I was: willing.
And that is the most important ingredient.
No one was more surprised than me when I finally became, through a series of thrilling, unusual, and providential events, a preacher. Today, I travel the world as, yes, a preacher. God’s grace, in fulfillment of His promise, has been sufficient for me. Nowadays, when a door of providence opens, I walk through it eagerly, adventurously, and even confidently. The confidence is not in self, but in God’s sustaining grace!
Life lived this way is an adventure. An adventure with God!
7. Make Time to Memorize
The importance and impact of Scripture memorization is incalculable. I still remember many passages that I committed to memory fifteen years ago. Truthfully, I don’t remember all of them, but they’re in there somewhere. In this degenerate age our minds are continually bombarded with trash, trash, and more trash. Scripture, memorized and meditated upon, is a solvent to much of the world’s grime and grunge.
Scripture memorization became a part of my walk with God early on when I memorized the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). What a joy it was to repeat those words over and over again! They are, after all, the words of Jesus Himself (translated into English, of course). Those words, and many others memorized since, have buoyed me through difficult times, strengthened me in moments of temptation and weakness, and given me hope in moments of despair and self-loathing.
Scripture, memorized and meditated upon, is a solvent to much of the world’s grime and grunge.
Here at ARISE scripture memorization is taught and taken very seriously. Just ask any former ARISE student! I cannot count the number of people who have come to me at the outset of the program and announced, rather solemnly, that they, “aren’t able to memorize 100 verses in 100 days.” My advice is always the same: just try; pray and ask God to help you and try.
Then miracles take place.
The mind, perhaps dulled by years, laziness, drugs, media, music, or some other thing, becomes sharp, retentive, and clear.
Because God’s Word makes room for itself!
We just have to try. To be willing. (You didn’t forget #6 already did you?)
8. Marry the Right Person at the Right Time
To quote my good friend Matt Parra, ARISE’s Associate Director, “If it’s not the right time, she’s not the right girl.” Or, “If it’s not the right time, he’s not the right guy.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s not just about personality and “chemistry,” it’s about timing. A too-early marriage is a marriage fettered with additional stresses and trials. A too-late marriage is an opportunity lost.
Here’s the short version. (The long version will be released in a book sometime between now and the Second Coming.) Marriage, when done right, is absolutely amazing! I tell people all the time: life begins at marriage. My life has been immeasurably enhanced by my marriage to Violeta. She is a terrific, special, beautiful, lovely, unique, intelligent, and loving person. It is a privilege to be her husband. She has, with God’s guidance and grace, made me a much better person than I would otherwise be.
A bad marriage is, to be clear, far worse than no marriage. In fact, a bad marriage is worse than a good marriage is good. For this reason, you must be absolutely sure that s/he is the right person. If you have any doubt, DO NOT GET MARRIED. It is quite possible that the success or failure of your life will be directly traceable to your wedding day. Good weddings are easy; good marriages take work. (Note: all bad marriages are salvageable and redeemable by God!)
In fact, a bad marriage is worse than a good marriage is good.
And they take grace. And love. And forgiveness. And tolerance. And compromise. And mercy. And so much more.
Remember, this is the short version.
Here’s the even shorter version: marry the right person at the right time.
Then, let life begin!
9. Minimize the Time Spent Away from Your Spouse/Family
I am absolutely passionate about this. And you should be too. Early on I made the decision that I would not sacrifice either my family or my marriage at the altar of ministry. I want my wife and children to be thrilled that I am a preacher. So far, they are. Part of the reason is that they travel with me most of the time to my various appointments and events. Only about 10 to 15% of my yearly appointments are conducted alone. These are times when either Violeta and the kids just don’t want to travel, or I feel very led of God to take the appointment, but the budget simply cannot accommodate additional family members.
But you do have to give them your time. Lots and lots and lots of it. As much as you can.
Let’s just put all the cards on the table shall we? Bad things often happen when preachers travel alone. The Asscherick family is not willing to risk it. We are committed to this.
But there is even more to this. Several years ago I read an article titled The Myth of Quality Time. It basically said that there is no such thing as “quality time” when it comes to kids. What kids want and need is “quantity time.” It’s true. My boys wouldn’t care if we were going on a cruise to Mexico or a bike ride around the local lake. Both are basically the same to them. You don’t have to give your kids (if you have any) the world, they don’t expect it. But you do have to give them your time. Lots and lots and lots of it. As much as you can.
The same goes for spouses. Quantity will trump quality every time.
10. Have Morning Family Worship (And Evening Too, If You Can)
We are not perfect. We occasionally “miss” a morning. But it’s rare. Family worship is important in the Asscherick home. And it should be in yours too, even if you don’t have children, or if they’ve already left the home. It doesn’t have to be long. In fact it’ll be better if it’s pretty short, not more than 20 minutes tops. Ours usually lasts about ten to twelve. We have family friends who would have worship for between 30 minutes and an hour twice a day! It’s no surprise that the kids hated worship.
The very last thing you want your kids or spouse (or house guests!) to do is hate worshipping God!
Family worship should be interesting, consistent, and even reverentially fun, especially if you have young children. Our family worships are short and sweet: a song or two (the boys play on their ukeleles), a reading, prayer requests, prayers, and a closing, simple song. Nothing fancy. Nothing revolutionary.
Just something very simple and important: starting the day with God.
Even if you are single, you can begin the tradition and rhythm of daily worship. Sing a song (even if you croak like a frog), read a passage, and pray out loud. This can be distinct form your personal devotional time. It’s a good idea to start this habit even before you get married and have kids. If you have kids and you’ve not been having daily family worship, there’s no time like the present. Better late than never!
This is one habit you won’t regret. It will bind your family together in a way that few other things can.