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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Anchor 2


[Note: Just before writing this I noticed a typo in yesterday’s post, which I immediately corrected.  The third bullet point erroneously said, “In God, whose Word is praise,” rather than, “I praise.”  Key error]


Yesterday we left David in a bit of a pickle.  Saul was trying to kill him and David had taken refuge with his enemies who were of like mind with Saul.  I asked you to take a look at David’s response to the situation by looking at Psalm 56:3 – 4; 9 – 12.  This sequence of responses provides a good template response to terrifying situations.  It is a good anchor not only for us to use as adults but also something with which we should equip our children.

In this dire situation David put his trust in God.  Ok.  But look at what allowed him to do that, revealed in the second phrase, “in God, whose word I praise.”  He was trusting in God’s word to him and about him.  Remember in 1 Samuel 16:11 – 16, David was anointed king over Israel.  He knew God had called him to be king.  He had not yet taken that role physically but was, nevertheless, king.  He placed his trust in that word.  The evidence for that is in verse 12.  He recognizes that God’s plan, God’s vow about David is binding.  If he was anointed king, he will be king.  But this was not without struggle for David.  I am encouraged by the repetition of the commitment to trust God in 9 – 11.  It indicates to me the struggle through the fear to choose to trust God on the basis of His promise, His word, His vow, and His ability to fulfill His promise, His word, and His vow.

David entered into the dire circumstance with the word, vow, and promise.  The lesson for me, us, our kids, is that we need to be armed with that understanding of His word before we enter into dire circumstances.  We need to be settled that God has formed us for a purpose, Psalm 139; that we are His workmanship to do specific works which He has set for us, Ephesians 2:8 – 10.  Finally that He will work through all of our circumstances to enable us to fulfill that purpose, Romans 8:28.  That is the anchor for us and our children.  We need it, they need it, before we sail into the storm.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Anchor

All of us face difficulty.  The level of difficulty seems proportional to our age.  As adults we feel like we struggle with bigger issues.  Probably true.  Age should increase perspective.  However, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in teens.  While their difficulties may not seem as big, to them they are huge, life altering and life threatening.  So one of the responsibilities we have as dads is to equip our kids for life’s difficulties.  The life of David can give us some guidance on how to do this.


In 1 Samuel 21:10 – 15, David is in the midst of a dire circumstance.  He has Saul trying to kill him and he has chosen to flee to the Philistines, who are not his best friends, he had earlier killed their champion remember.  His life is in danger – from two different directions.  One could argue that one of the dangers was caused at least partially by a bad choice, seeking refuge with his enemies.

His response is recorded for us in Psalm 56:3 – 4, note the sequence:

  • When I am afraid
  • I put my trust in You
  • In God, whose word I praise
  • In God I have put my trust 
  • I shall not be afraid.

Note that he repeats this sequence in verses 9 – 12 but adds two phrases.  I want to explore this with you further, but first I would like to hear what you see as the keys here.  I will share my thoughts on this tomorrow.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Model

This morning during Sunday school we were talking around the table about our marriages and our children and the impact the marriage has on the kids.  One of the men commented on how important it was to model the Christian life and specifically a good relationship with your spouse.  He is right.

We tend to make fun of mimics; there is a whole genre of comedy that is comprised of those who imitate the voice and mannerisms of others.  However we are commanded in scripture to mimic those in the faith.  The Greek word is mimetes it turns up in 1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1; Ephesians 5:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2:14; and Hebrews 6:12.  In all cases but the Ephesians passage, it is used in an exhortation to imitate the faith of men who follow Christ.  So this notion of modeling for our kids has Biblical, strong Biblical support.  They do notice…

In the workshops on leading your children in the Word that I have done, one of the last things we do is have whichever of my sons is available join us.  During that section the men pepper them with questions about what we have done as a family in terms of grounding them in the Word.  I have learned a lot from these sessions.  Several times they were asked why they would want to study the Bible with me.  In every case my sons answered because they knew, they saw, me doing Bible study all of the time and knew that I could show them how.  I modeled for them a heart for the Word and they have all, including my daughter, have picked that up not only from me, but from the example of my wife as well.  There are other things I have modeled that they have picked up that are not as positive, my impatience with traffic leaps to mind.  The point is, they are paying attention.  Modeling is part of the process that God has ordained as a means of transmitting life from generation to generation.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

It Gives You Hope


In Acts 13.22, Luke, or rather the Holy Spirit through Luke, combines 1 Samuel 13:4 and Psalm 89:20 to tell us that David was a man after God’s heart.  That, you would probably agree, is a big deal.  All of us that are pursuing Him would be thrilled to have that evaluation from God.

The great thing is that we are allowed a glimpse into this heart, this relationship, this pursuit of God by David.  In Psalms the curtain is pulled back on David’s heart.  Psalm 55 is especially helpful and encouraging to me.  In verse 2 David says that in his prayer time with God he is “restless in my complaint and am surely distracted.”  He must have been watching my times with the Lord for the past 39 years.


I don’t know about you, but when I read that about a man who God says was hard after His heart, it gives me hope.  It also lets me know that the daily struggles that I face to get with the Lord, to focus on Him, to meet the needs of my family, to represent Christ to my family and those around whom I work and counsel each day; all the flood of those “distractions” that come on when I open my Bible and begin to seek His presence is the same experience that David had.

The reality of this journey with Christ on which we travel and seek to lead our families and others is that it is a continual battle with distraction and restlessness.  We are pursuing and leading others in a pursuit of that which is not immediately seen, the answers are not always readily apparent, the battles are not immediately won.  But that experience was the same as the one whom God declared was after His heart.  It gives me hope.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Essentials

A few days ago a friend of mine called in response to the Short Time post.  We talked for about 45 minutes about what would be some essential topics to cover with your kids before they left the nest.  We talked about the fact that when they leave that their faith will be challenged in ways that we cannot predict.  (I wrote about this in Your Walk, their walk, read an excerpt about attacks on our kids).  As we talked through this we came up with a list of essentials they are:
  • Purity
  • The Holy Spirit
  • The Person of Christ
  • The Sovereignty of God
  • The Love of God
  • The Holiness of God
There were specific reasons for each of these topics we discussed.  Over all of this we talked about the necessity of equipping our kids to dig into the Word for themselves, to arm them so that they would be able to stand against false teaching.  That means that they think critically about what they are hearing and reading and require that it fits the Bible.  To arm them thus, means that when they leave our nest they know how to study a book of the Bible, a topic, a chapter, a verse, or a word for themselves.

Would there be any topics that you would add?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Really?

“I do not have time to study the Bible.”
“Study the Bible? I have not studied anything since High School!”
“I do not want to go that deep.”
“It is my pastor’s responsibility to study the Bible.”
“I am not smart enough.”
“I need my pastor to tell me what the Bible means.”
“It is too much work.”
“Study is too hard.”
“I do not know how.”
“It is too confusing.”


“For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. Deuteronomy 30:11 – 14

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Re-calibration


On Wednesday mornings for the past 10 years or so I have been in a Bible study with several men.  This year we are working through Romans.  Two weeks ago we started on chapter 8 which is the first of four really difficult chapters.  This morning we were wrestling through a review of what we have discussed in the last couple of weeks and then dove headfirst into chapter 9.  Paul, as you know, deals with a number of topics in chapters 8 - 11 that are at varying levels controversial.  Things like foreknowledge, predestination, election, eternal security, and the role of God's choice in our salvation.

The Bible is our Re-Calibration Standard.
At the end of our time together, one of the men, said, "You know, if what Paul is saying is right, and he continues to work at evangelism like he does, my understanding of predestination is not the same as his; I am going to have to think about this."  (Not an exact quote but close.)

Wow.  I do not think he intended to, but in one sentence he clearly expressed the reason we have to continually dig back into the Bible.  It is a fact that we do not comprehend the heart and mind of God fully.  No matter how much study we do, how many books we read, how many messages we listen to, our understanding of our Lord will not apprehend His glory fully.  What my friend expressed is our need, my need, to continually dig into the Word to have it reveal to me where my understanding of Him and His truth needs to be adjusted.  One of my long time mentors put it this way, "The Christian life is a continual journey out of idolatry into true worship."  It is a continual process.  When we think we have it all figured out, someone will make an observation that shakes our understanding.  That should drive us back to the Word.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Motivation


Why do you do what you do?  Whether it is engaging in teaching the Word to your kids, sharing your faith with those with whom you work, your work – why are you doing it?  When things are not going well with sharing your faith, teaching your kids, or your work, when you are not getting the responses you desire or expect, how does that affect you?  It bothers me.


It was bothering me yesterday and through this morning as I was spending some time journaling and thinking through what the Lord has been doing over the past several days.  I found myself frustrated by the lack of progress on some projects.  As I was thinking through this Galatians 1:10 came to mind.  It was like the Lord was tapping me on the shoulder and asking me, “Why again are you doing this?  Is it to gain favor with men?  Or is it because I asked you to do this?”  Kind of let the air out of my frustration.  As a matter of fact that frustration has become an indicator, like an idiot light on the dashboard, that I am focused on the wrong thing, going after the wrong goals.  I heard Larry Crabb say that a blocked goal is the source of frustration, and that Biblical goals cannot be blocked.  I have relearned that lesson over and over.

So when the kids are not responding to your efforts to teach them the Bible, when sharing your faith is not seeming to have any impact, when things are not going well at work, when you are frustrated – for me it helps to remember that my goal is to serve Christ, Colossians 3:17, 23.  Faithfulness is not measured by production but perseverance.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Investment

Jim Elliot wrote in his journal on October 28, 1949, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” That came to mind this morning as I was reading Psalm 39. In verses 5, 6, and 11, David describes his and our life as a handbreadth, a breath. James describes our lives as a vapor in 4:14 of his book. I believe all of this. I struggle with all of this.


The “problems” of this life, this handbreadth, are in my face daily. It is easy to focus on them and forget that they are sub-temporary in relation to the reality of who the Bible says I am in Christ. I fret about the state of our family’s finances, the state of the nation, if my kids can make it through the challenges that they face in life – forgetting Philippians 3:20, I am  not a citizen here. Forgetting Colossians 3:1 – 3, my life is not here. As C. S. Lewis so eloquently put it, we live in the Shadowlands.

In Matthew 6:19 – 21, Christ commands us to live with that reality in mind. Our focus is not to be here, now. It is to be on there, then. Heaven, eternity. We are to invest, what we cannot keep, our lives, our money, our vaporous existence, in that which we cannot loose, our eternal life in Christ’s kingdom. Further, we are to be about rounding up as many people as we can to join us there, Jude 22 – 23.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Good Nutrition


If you have been reading this blog semi regularly, you probably have figured out that this is about getting men engaged in the Word of God in such a way that they are able to lead others, first their families, in it.  There will always be at least two consistent themes here.  First, the primacy of the Word of God in any believer’s life, that is the absolute necessity of the Word in following Christ.  Second, the necessity of each individual believer to personally engage with the Word of God, that means hear, read, study, memorize, and meditate on it.

To live physically, we have to have nourishment.  If we do not continually take on nourishment we will first become lethargic, then we will lose the ability to reason, and eventually our bodies with shut down.  The kinds of food we eat also have an impact.  Nutritionists are continually working to educate us on the proper foods to eat and the types of foods to avoid.  One of the things that they tell us to avoid is a steady diet of fast and/or processed food; instead we are to eat vegetables and lean meat.  The same things can be said about our spiritual lives.  We need to continually take on the nourishment of the Word.  Preprocessed spiritual food, others books about the Word, are not to be our steady or primary diet.

One of the reasons we tend to drift toward processed and fast food in our physical life is time.  It is just easier and quicker to grab a burger or pizza than it is to fix a good balanced meal.  Same thing is true with prepared spiritual food.  We do not have to struggle with the preparation.  We can just take on what someone else has prepared.  In doing that we miss the value of the struggle of preparation, plus we are captive to the skill of the one who prepared the meal.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Weaning


When they are young, our kids parrot our beliefs.  They like to be around mom and dad and they seek our approval.  That changes.  Which is one of the reasons it is crucial to wean our kids off of our faith so it is theirs.  It is crucial that their faith becomes their own and the sooner that happens the more able they will be able to stand against the forces in this world that come against their trust in Christ.

John 4:42 gives us a clue as to how to make this important transition.  The people in the Samaritan village at first believed because the woman told them what Jesus has said to her.  Much like when we share with our children or others to whom we speak about Christ.  This drew the townspeople to see Christ personally.  When they begin to interact for themselves with Christ, their faith, their belief was because they had seen Him personally.

As fathers, or friends, we need to facilitate this shift with our children and those the Lord allows us to help with their relationship with Christ.  Rather than answering all of their questions, we have to show them how to find the answers themselves.  They need to engage with the Lord personally.  That means that we will have to show them how to meet with the Lord in prayer and in His Word.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Prayer


What do you learn when you ask God for something and the answer is yes?  1 John 5:14 – 15 tells us that we have asked something that is according to His will.  That is one of the reasons that it is important and instructive to keep track of your prayer requests and the answers.  Looking over the answers tells you when your requests have been aligned with the will of God and when they have not.  If we do not keep track, we will not learn.

As followers of Christ, one of the things that should drive us is to get to know His heart, His will.  One simple thing we can do is to keep track of our conversations with Him.  What we ask for and how He answers.  You can learn much from that simple exercise.  It is also something that will help our children as they began to see patterns in the answers.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Preaching


On the last of the three posts on the Church, someone asked a really good question, “What is the purpose of preaching?”  Yesterday, one of the men I meet with on a regular basis asked the same question, so in as few words as possible I will try to share what I think the Bible says about this.

First, preaching is commanded, 2 Timothy 4:1 – 2 is clear on this.  So the first thing we know is that preaching is a core function of a community of faith.  The question one should ask then is it the central purpose.  Based on what we looked at in Ephesians 4:11 – 16 it seems that the answer is no.  The central focus of the community is to be the equipping of the saints for the work of service.  Preaching is to promote this equipping function.  How?  Educational studies have shown that people will forget 95% of what they hear in 24 – 72 hours depending on which study is quoted.  That number can be improved if those hearing can be engaged interactively during the message either through taking notes, responding verbally, or engaging in discussions about the message.  But engagement in the message is not necessarily equipping.

2 Timothy3:14 – 17 tells us that the Scripture is what makes us adequate for every good work, not what someone says about it.  Hebrews 4:12 – 13 reminds us that the Word of God is living and active, again not what one says or writes about it.  The Berean’s response to Paul, in Acts 17:11 is declared “noble-minded.”  I would suggest that the purpose of preaching in the community is to increase personal hunger, whet the appetite for, increase curiosity for, and ultimately drive the individual believer to their own personal interaction with the Word of God.

So, in terms of application of this to our families, as dads we should engage in the messages we hear, actively take notes, not just of what the speaker is saying, but of questions that the message raises for us.  We need to check out the passages that are referenced and validate the message (Acts 17:11).  Then we should think of ways to extend the interaction of our kids with the message (Deuteronomy 6:6 – 7).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Anger


Do you ever get angry?  Are you supposed to?  Christ did.  In John 2:14 – 16 (and the related passages in the other gospels:  Matt 21:12 - 13; Mark 11:15 - 18; Luke 19:45 - 48) we see Him throwing over the tables of the money changers and the sellers of animals for sacrifice.  He then beat them with cords to get them out of the temple.  He called the Pharisees names, hypocrites and whitewashed tombs.  Paul called the Galatian believers fools for abandoning the gospel, Galatians 3:1 - 3.  He criticized the Corinthian church for tolerating incest, 1 Corinthians 5:1 – 2.  When was the last time you saw this level of passion in your community of faith?  My guess is that most of the passion is stifled.  It is not viewed as loving to get angry about what happens in church.

There are a couple of things (my wife will testify that there are more than a couple) that will increase my emotional buttons.  One of the main things that does that is using Scripture as a spring board to say what one wants to say whether it relates to the passage read or not.  That infuriates me.  When a speaker reads a passage and then launches off on some marginally related message, that speaker is guilty of egregious malpractice.  The net effect of that is to remove the Bible from their listener’s hands.  It communicates that they alone have the truth and in order to understand the Bible we have to listen to them.

One other hot button is when speakers before groups of believers choose to share something other than the Bible.  Last time I checked it was the Scripture that was profitable in 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17, not what someone wrote about the Bible.

When folks tell my kids that perversion is acceptable as a lifestyle, that immorality is not, that it is narrow minded to think that killing 52,008,665 children since 1973 is not just a reasonable choice, that the Bible does not really mean what is says…  I get angry.

There are things about which I should not get angry that I do.  Part of this Christian life thing, part of the example we are setting for our kids, seems to me to be getting angry about the right things.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Trust


Trust Me.  For the past five years that has been the consistent message.  In just about every time alone with the Lord, every Bible study, every time in prayer.  Trust Me.  Trust Me with your time, your lack of resources, your frustration, your kids, your wife, your reputation, your ideas…trust Me.  Therein lay the rub.  If I choose to trust and do what I think He wants me to do, it takes time; time that cannot be used in other pursuits.  Add to that the little I do in His name seems to have had little or no impact.

So for the past five years I have been struggling with this issue of trust, specifically what does it mean and what does it look like when one is trusting – seems important to me somehow.  In an earlier post I wrote briefly about Hebrews 11:6.  That has been the passage, it seems, the Lord has brought me back to time and again.  I keep seeing the last part of that verse, “that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him,” in passage after passage; Isaiah 64:4; Psalm 91; Psalm 147:6; Jeremiah 31:6; Psalm 27:13, just the places I have seen it in the past three weeks.

The struggle for me is that not all of life seems to be working out so well.  There are abundant challenges daily, some of which are significant, at least they seem so to us.  I believe that He is.  I am seeking Him to the best of my ability.  Am I to look at my circumstances as my reward?  Am I to trust that the junk I am having to deal with on a daily basis is His reward for my seeking Him?  Am I missing something?  Am I really not seeking?  Or is my understanding of reward flawed?

If it is the case that God’s Word is true, then it seems to me that the only rational answer is that my understanding of reward is flawed.  What do you think?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Importance of One

The nation is recognizing the life of Martin Luther King today. It would be a good idea to talk through the significance of that with your kids. Not necessarily from the standpoint of the specifics of what he did, rather that one man, one person, when focused, dedicated to a cause can change a society.

This is the clear message of scripture as well. The worth of each individual. Christianity is intensely personal. Intensely individual even as it promotes interdependence. As validation for that note the number of New Testament books that are written to individuals, and note the number of names that are mentioned Philippians 2:19 - 30; Romans 16:1 - 23, are just two places. 2 Timothy 2:2 is Paul's reminder to Timothy of the imperative to invest in one person. Without much thought one can come up with a long list of individuals both good and evil, who through dedication, changed their world.

Our kids need to know that through Christ they can and should have that type of impact on their world. John 15:1 - 16 might be a good place to review this with them.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Short Time

As you got ready for church this morning, wrestling with your kids to get them presentable, it probably did not cross you mind that you will not be wrestling with them very long. They leave you after 18 years. That may seem like an eternity to you today. It is not. The communication window is actually shorter than that. Communication becomes harder after 12 or 13, so really you have from the time they begin to understand you until about 12 to build the bridges you will need to get them through the adolescent years, which by some accounts not last until the late 20s (joy).

What you do with them during that short window, for the most part, is going to set the tone and foundation for your communication with them. When they leave you, what do you want them to take with them? What truths do you want to insure that their exposure to will weather the attacks their college and the world will throw at them? They will have to move those truths from what your exposure to their core beliefs, but if you do not start the process, you are trusting others to do that for you.

So what are some of the key things that you want your kids to learn? What are you going to do specifically to make sure that they are exposed to these truths? Please share so others will benefit from your thoughts.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Honor Dad 2

Yesterday we looked at the command in Exodus 20:12 and other places that we are to "honor your father and mother." We noted that God applies this to Himself, specifically in Malachi 1:6. Today I would like to draw your attention to the Matthew 15:1 - 9 passage. Jesus is dealing with the Pharisees and scribes once again. He calls them out for not honoring their parents. They were skirting the command by means of a "loophole" that they had created. They came up with a religious way to get around the command. Look at what he says about what they have done, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?" It would probably be a rather convicting exercise to think through all of the ways that we overlay tradition over the commandment of God today.

 Part of honoring Him is to keep His commandments. All of them. I am not suggesting here that I have this figured out or that I am obeying perfectly. No. But as we have mentioned before our kids are paying attention. When I come up with reasons to break God's law, they notice and will emulate my choices.

 What I do to honor Him in this way matters.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Honor Dad


I am on the road today traveling to see my dad. His birthday is Monday, he will be 89. In Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16; Malachi 1:6; Matthew 15:4 - 9; 19:16 - 22; Mark7:10; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; and Ephesians 6:2 the Holy Spirit repeats the command to "honor your father and mother." That is both testaments, six different authors over a thousand year period. Repetition is one of the ways that things are emphasized in the Bible. It is kind of like when the teacher used to stamp their foot during class to let you know something would be on the test. Here this is emphasized not just in one passage but throughout the text of the Bible, the first time in the ten commandments. Must be important.

Dad is one of my heroes. He served our country in WWII. in the past few years I have attended the reunion of his outfit. I have been amazed at the stories they tell of what they did and saw. They arrived as Auschwitz the day after it was liberated, dad still cannot talk about that without deep and raw emotions. But the most incredible thing to me is not his hero status as a veteran, rather it is his faithfulness to my mother and his family. He and mom were married for 54 years. Long time. In this day and age, incredible. So we honor him, by visiting him, seeking his counsel, praying for him, caring for him.

There is more to this though in Malachi 1:6 the Lord applies this notion of honoring father and mother to Him. It seems that our honor of our earthly fathers and mothers is a reflection of our honor for our heavenly Father.

Our kids learn a lot by observing what we do.

I saw something else here but this is getting long so I will pick this up again tomorrow.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Purpose of Church 3


Last couple of days I have been sharing thoughts on the church.  One reason this is important is that we want our children engaged in a community for reasons and expectations that are informed by the Bible and not the culture.  If that is not the case, there is a probability that they will at some point drift away from engagement with that community.


So far we said the purpose of church is not to feed us but to equip us for the work of service.  There is another element that we need to acknowledge, the building up or edifying of people.  Ephesians 4:11 – 16, as we saw yesterday, tells us that the gifts given to the church are for the building up of the body.  In this passage Paul mentions three or four gifts, depending on how you count pastors and teachers.  But in I Corinthians 12:4 – 12 and in Romans 12:3 – 8, Paul lists several other gifts and states in both passages that the purpose of these gifts is not to enhance our lives but the lives of others, and specifically to build up one another.

In Romans 8:9 – 12, Paul tells us that if we are believers we have the Spirit, He has given us gifts, and those gifts are to be used, stewarded, to build up those around us.  As believers we have an obligation to serve those with whom we come in contact.  Paul describes the obligation in Galatians 6:9 – 10.

Is all this working in your community?  If so why?  If not, why not?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Purpose of Church 2


Yesterday I suggested that it was not the purpose of church to feed us.  So what is its purpose?  Ephesians 4:11 – 16 is a key passage on this.  It says in part that God put gifted men in the Church for a purpose, a purpose that is at least fourfold and sequential.  The first step in the sequence is equipping.


A church is not a theater.  We are not commanded to assemble to be entertained; rather it is intended to be a training, equipping facility.  Why?  Because the end is not simply our edification but our engagement in expanding the Kingdom of God as we are commanded in Matthew 28:18 - 20.  Church is not a solo act, it is intended to be a rallying point for warriors.  It is not the responsibility of the pastor to do ministry, the work of service, it is his responsibility to equip those in the church, the saints, to do that work, to engage with the Word of God personally, to engage with the Lord in prayer personally, to engage with their community both believers and not believers personally.  It is a base of operations – not the front lines.  A supply depot – not the theater of operation.

We have to both embrace that as members of a community while at the same time releasing and expecting the leadership to function in that divinely assigned role.  It is important that our kids understand that as well.  Their ministry – service – will be living as believers in their schools.

There is more to say on this…  How do you respond?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Purpose of Church


Over the years I have heard a number of people complain that their church is not feeding them, that they are not getting a lot out of it.  Each time multiple images come to mind, which by God’s grace I usually do not share with them.  One of the first things that leaps to mind is, “It is not the purpose of the church to feed you!”  I get a mental picture of an adult being spoon fed in a high chair with food all over them screaming, “I am not getting fed!”  Sort of like this but with an adult…

I'm not getting fed!

When we see an adult getting fed, we know something is wrong.  Either that person has mental or physical challenges, or they are very ill, but it is not normal.  We expect to see adults utilizing a knife, fork, and spoon in a semi-refined manner, reducing the food on their plate to manageable bites and feeding themselves, unless they are trying to eat Asian cuisine with chopsticks.  So why do adults complain when they are not getting fed?  As we have said before the expectation of scripture is that we do feed ourselves, Hebrews 5:12 – 14.

This is critical for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that our children will pick up our attitude toward things.  If we require others to feed us, they will expect the same.  If we expect others to serve, so will they.

So if the purpose of church is not to feed us, what is its purpose?  What is your view?

There is more to say about this, it may take a couple of days…

Monday, January 9, 2012

Assault on Christ


C. S. Lewis has said that every third book you read should be outside of your century.  I ran across this quote in a message John Piper gave on Lewis at his annual pastor’s conference (the main messages from the last 24 years are available on the Desiring God website – highly recommend them – this is the message about Lewis).  It is good advice.  I follow Piper on Twitter and on Sunday he mentioned a resource on Amazon, the complete works of John Owen (the subject of one of his talks at an earlier pastor’s conference).  I followed the link and found that for the Kindle app on the iPad my wife gave me for Christmas for less than three bucks.

The first of the 22 books in the set is “A Brief Declaration and Vindication of The Doctrine of the Trinity.”  You may not agree with his definition of brief.  As I have been reading through the first part of the work, there are several major points that Owen makes that are worth exploring.  But I want to highlight one because it is critical to the assignment we have been exploring together here, the centrality of the person of Christ to life.

Owen points out in his introduction that in every instance false teachers will attack and deny the fullness of Christ’s deity and the reality of the Trinity.  Philippians 2:5 – 11 asserts in no uncertain terms that Christ was God.  John 1:1 does the same.  In John 10:30 – 33 the Jews attempted to stone Christ because they understood that He was claiming to be God.

Without this essential truth, Christianity falls apart.  The foundation of your kid’s faith will be challenged, rocked, attacked.  In this age of “tolerance” Christian truth is not tolerated.  We have to arm ourselves and our children with a clear understanding of who Christ is.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Getting the Most Out of Church


If your family is like ours you went to and took your kids to church this morning.  One of the first posts in the blog talked about the impact of what we tell our kids about church has on them.  After they are there, what can we tell them or ask them to get the most out of their time there.  It is our responsibility to help them learn as much as they can during that time.

If they are younger, find out from the teachers what they are covering in their Sunday school or in the children’s church.  On the way home ask questions that help them remember the content and perhaps ask what they learned from the story, share briefly what that story means to you.  Don’t preach just casually share what you like about that story.

If they are staying in “big church” with you, you will have to work with them to help them learn to get the most out of the time there.  You may want to explain how each part of the service works with the others and why we do them that way.  Challenge them to keep track of the passages that the pastor uses during his message.  Have them write the passage down.  With maybe one thought that the pastor brought out or something they thought of as he was talking about the passage.  One trick to get the passages down is to write down the chapter and verse before you write down the book.  It is generally easier to remember the book than the numbers.  Later during the day or week you can invest a few minutes reviewing what they thought about what the pastor said.

Do not overdo this.  Keep it simple, you are reinforcing the pastor's message and by the conversation teaching you kids to take responsibility to process the message into their lives.

What do you think about this idea?  We did this but could have done better.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Dry

This is probably obvious.  You and your kids walk with God, your time in the Word and prayer with your wife, the journey of following Christ, will not be consistently exciting and awe inspiring.  There will be those times, but there will also be times that are just ordinary, or dry.  You will read a passage together or engage in a conversation about some spiritual truth and at the end it will feel like you are just going through the motions.

But that is true in any long term thing we do is it not?  There are natural ebbs and flows in our understanding and development.  We have to work through them, continue to do what we know to do and look at our heart and see if there is anything blocking our relationship with Him.  That may or may not be the case.  Dry does not necessarily mean that there is something wrong.  Ask.  He has promised to respond, James 1:5.  Regardless, we are to press on, Philippians 3:14 – 16.

Hang in there.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Discerning Error


Yesterday we looked at truth.  We said that there are many false teachers that are assaulting us via Television, the web, books, email…it is coming from all directions.  So how do we defend well against this onslaught?

Just after I trusted Christ I found myself in around several people who were involved in a well known non-Christian cult.  To arm myself against them I read books about them and their beliefs.  During Bible studies I found, marked, and memorized passages that would help me to counter some of their more typical arguments.  Sounds like a plan does it not?  It was a bad one.  A few months or a year after I started this, it began to dawn on me that a lot of my time in the Bible was consumed by looking for passages that would counter their arguments.  I had let them effectively hijack my time with the Lord.  I was focusing on them rather than Him.  So I stopped.  I just began to study the Scripture to know Him, His truth, and to apply it to me, not them.

Years later during an evangelistic thrust at the University of Alabama Birmingham, a student with whom I was sharing the gospel began to describe a “bible study” he was involved in on campus.  He told me that it was telling him different things than what we were seeing as we looked at the scripture together.  It turned out to be another cult “The Way” that cropped up during the mid to late 70’s.  I had not heard of them, did not know what they were teaching, but simply told him that if he was hearing things that were different from what we were reading together in the Word, that it was an error.

The point is that the best way to discern error is to be immersed in the Truth.  More than that to have a firm, personal grasp of the Truth.  That comes from consistent, personal engagement with the Word of God in study, practice, and teaching (Ezra 7:10).  That is the way you protect your family from error as well.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What is Truth?


Key question!  Pilate wanted to know (John 18:38).  One of the things you will encounter, if you have not encountered it yet, in guiding your kids through the minefields of life is the shaky way truth is defined in this current culture.  There are multiple pressures, spins, world views, presuppositions, opinions…  On that last one, opinions, you will hear, if you have not already, “Everyone has a right to their own opinion,” in some form or other.  Howard Tillman Kuist has said about this…
“Why should you have an opinion?  What work have you done on this subject to entitle you to one?  How much experience have you had in this affair, so that you can have a reliable opinion about it?”
The basis for what we believe has to be truth.  Problem is we have to fight to get there.  The enemy is a deceiver, liar, John 8:44.  The Christian community, you, and your family are assaulted by false teachers, 1 John 4:1, 2 Peter 2:1 – 3.  As fathers, leaders, we have to guard our hearts and minds staying on the alert for error and wrong thinking.  How?  John 17:17 gives us two hints.  Christ is praying for His people specifically that they would be sanctified in the Word.  Prayer is one key.  Being in the Word for ourself is the other.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Processing


What we teach our kids about the Christian life will determine, to a great extent, how they respond to difficult times.  If they believe that everything is always going to turn out well, that this journey is a simple matter of praying a prayer and living a prosperous life as one pleases, they will, at some point have a rude awakening.

That is one of the reasons that Deuteronomy 6:6 – 7 is so important and so difficult today.  In past times fathers were around the kids on the farm or in the family business on a daily basis.  It was easier to process life through the lens of the scripture with them.  Today, with the way we work in urban areas, with men working in jobs at corporations, with business travel and the schedules we keep, it takes a concentrated effort to process life with our kids.  In a lot of cases they do not even know what we do and the struggles we are going through.  Neither do we know what they are facing day to day.  Add that to the difficulty of getting teens to talk and it becomes a really tough assignment.

It is hard but we have to make the time to be with them.  The “with him” principal is what Christ modeled for us in with the 12.  The succinct statement of that is in Mark 3:14.  Note the order.  As we read through the New Testament we see over and over again Christ processing events with the 12 from His perspective.

Look for ways to bring what you are learning in the Scripture and how it applies to your both the good times and the hard times into your conversations with your kids.  What do you do now to make that happen?  Other dads can learn from both what has worked and what has not.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Value!

Hebrews 11:6 tells us that there are two elements to faith we have to:
  • Believe that He is
  • He is a rewarder of those who seek Him
That is a consistent theme.  It crops up multiple times Psalm 118:8 – 9, Jeremiah 31:16, Isaiah 49:14 – 22, Psalm 147:6, Isaiah 64:4, to name just the places I have encountered it in the past couple of weeks.

It seems to me that this is a lot harder than it may appear on the surface.  When we encounter difficulty, when life is hard, when we have to decide whether to follow Him completely, when after we make that choice things blow up completely, what then?  We are to walk in faith, believing that:
  • He is – sovereign, all knowing, all powerful, all present, love, light, truth, engaged, Abba…
  • The things we are struggling with are part of His reward for my seeking Him?
It may be that He values something different than I.

Getting this right, understanding God’s value proposition, is critical not only for our walk, but for what our children learn from our walking through it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Value?

In the last couple of days we have looked at this Christian life from a couple of different perspectives. First that there are no shortcuts and secondly that we have to give attention to this journey or we will suffer from the results of neglect. This all applies to our roles as husbands and fathers as well. It begins to appear that this is requiring much of us as men. This is not presented to us as a hobby that we can play at or engage in on a periodic basis. No, it is all consuming. Paul describes it as a living sacrifice in Romans 12:1. Christ used the term abide to describe it in John 15:1 – 16.

So that begins to beg some questions. What are my alternatives? Is this really worth it? What time I invest in my own study, in talking to my kids about the Lord, in nurturing my wife’s walk with God, by definition is time that cannot be invested in my career or personal interests. It is time invested for which, in a lot of cases, I cannot see any immediate or midterm result. Further, those who follow Christ are not depicted in the Bible as having an easy time of it. Read over Hebrews 11 again especially 36 – 37. We are promised difficulty, actually persecution (Luke 21:12; Mark 10:30; John 15:30; Luke 11:49). So the question becomes why would anyone sign up for all of this?

I will share some thoughts on this tomorrow. What do you think?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Neglect


Read just now in Hebrews 2:3 about the dangers of neglect.  Got me to thinking about neglect and how that impacts my relationship with Christ.  Curious, I looked up “neglect” online…

  • to pay no attention or too little attention to; disregard or slight.
  • to be remiss in the care or treatment of: to neglect one's family; to neglect one's appearance.
  • to omit, through indifference or carelessness: to neglect to reply to an invitation.
  • to fail to carry out or perform (orders, duties, etc.): to neglect the household chores.
  • to fail to take or use: to neglect no precaution.

When I neglect my relationship with Christ, my whole life gets out of whack.  I focus on the wrong things, I get anxious about just about everything.  I find that neglect is easy.  Without noticing, it will suddenly dawn on me that I have not spent time with Christ in days.  What happened?  I got busy and the relationship fell into neglect.  For me that is time in the Word with my journal, waiting on Him.

The antonyms for neglect are attention or care.  If we are to take Hebrews 2:3 at face value, what we are being told is that we are supposed to pay close attention to our relationship with the Lord, we are to nurture and care for it.  As a matter of fact that is what Hebrews 2:1 says.

What are some ways that you use to help you keep from neglecting Christ?