The Christmas season is the perfect time to establish family traditions! As our world continues to change at a rapid pace, traditions provide strategic opportunities to make positive impacts on our families. Traditions remind us of cherished memories, they keep relationships together and strong, and they have a grounding effect on us. Traditions take time and commitment, and dare I say, sacrifice. Yet their benefits outweigh their costs as we reevaluate our priorities and choose to slow down our frantic schedules for something truly worthwhile.
Most importantly, traditions (especially during Christmas) give us a natural way to communicate and pass on our hope in Jesus Christ. Traditions establish our legacy of faith by connecting our children to our values who will in turn, pass them on to their children and so on.
Here are some ideas on how you can impress faith into family this season:
In this manner, therefore, pray:
“Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
Jesus often retreated to a quiet place to spend time alone with His Father. Prayer refreshed Him after a long day of ministry. It was His source of strength. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us how to pray and offered the Lord’s Prayer as an example. We too, can find our strength and be refreshed in the Lord as we turn to prayer.
Preschool & Early Elementary Takeaway:
Jesus taught us to pray because it helps focus our thinking on God’s will, not our own. The Lord’s Prayer declares God as our provider. It acknowledges that only God can forgive our sins, ease our anger and to protect us.
Why is it important for us to forgive others?
What does it feel like when someone forgives you?
Student & Teen Takeaway:
It’s important that we move beyond prayer as a means of obtaining our personal wants and needs and to focus it as a time to increase our desire for God and to get on board with His mission (reaching the lost). Prayer not only draws us closer to God, but gives us compassion for our family, friends, and neighbors.
What does the Lord’s Prayer tell us about what’s important to God?
What struggles have you experienced in prayer?
What do you think it means to persevere in prayer? Why would this be important?
Couples: Each day brings it’s own challenges, some easier than others. We often forget to protect our hearts from the worry, stress, anxiety, frustrations, disappointments, etc. that we experience throughout the day. Turning to prayer, particularly as a couple, can help us get our eyes off our circumstances and to fix them once again on Jesus Christ!
How can I pray for you today?
Who in our family should we be praying for?
Lord, we need you. We know you’re the provider, savior, and protector of our family. We pray that you continue to soften each of our hearts, help us to be sensitive to the leading of your Holy Spirit. Forgive us for trying to live out of our own strength. There is nothing that You can’t do. We will trust in you!
Lord, I need You.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4:4-7
Worry can steal the joy and peace right out of our lives! Rather than ruminating on our troubles, begin the habit of praising God and calling on Him in prayer.
Preschool & Early Elementary Takeaway:
He doesn’t say rejoice and celebrate on your birthday, or just on holidays, or just when something happy or fun happens… He tells us to rejoice and celebrate always!
--What is something you want to thank God for?
Student & Teen Takeaway:
Many of our thoughts come from worry. We stress out about life, but we don’t have to. God is going to take care of us, and He is with us. He wants us to tell Him about our anxiety and fear. When you are worried, tell God about it. When we talk to God about our problems, we can experience His peace for us.
--What things in life cause you stress? How can you trust God with these?
We love feeling we can have control; that we’ve reduced all risk of danger or threats. However, we know better. Circumstances can change in a moment, revealing the places in our lives we need God to touch. Our call here is to choose to rejoice…no matter the circumstances…no matter what!
--Why is it hard to give up control? What do we need to surrender so our hope is in Christ alone?
Lord, no matter what comes our way, our eyes will be fixed on you. We choose to praise You for who You are. You’re good, faithful, and in control! We love You, and we choose to have our hope and joy in You!
“Joy of the Lord” - Rend Collective
What is Family Worship?
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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.” —Deuteronomy 6:6–7
One of the primary responsibilities God gives parents is to raise their children in the instruction and discipline of the Lord. God calls parents to lead and love their family diligently; regularly reminding their children of the faithfulness and glory of God found through the Lord Jesus Christ. Family worship is simple: you read God’s Word together, pray together, and sing. It does not have to be super-spiritual or deep. In fact, there may be sometimes you wonder if it is having any effect at all. Be careful with those harmful thoughts. Let us remember to not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. The power of Family Worship is not in an evening, but in the work of the Holy Spirit through the sowing of the Word of God over time. Keep sowing, keep watering, impress God’s truth, no matter what!
If you haven’t started Family Worship, we’re here to help! Soon we’ll be providing some Family Worship guides for your family to use at home. In the meantime, here’s a way to begin incorporating the Bible into your family’s routine. One of the best and most fun ways to kickstart spiritual conversations and reading scripture with your family is around the dinner table. What I have found helpful when doing this is to first make sure everyone has their food and drink before we begin. (Even after getting everyone settled, there will always be distractions. Keep going…patiently.) Then, I simply share with my family what the Lord revealed to me during my morning devotional time. I read the scripture, share what it means to me, and I ask them what they think about the scripture read. Depending on the age, this is where it can get interesting! Hang in there and trust that the Lord will do His work. Add this simple routine to your family dinner…tonight!
Bedtime routines with little ones can be exhausting! There is bath time, finding the “perfect” pajamas, brushing teeth, cleaning up toothpaste smeared on the sink, kids arguing over which book to read (which always leads to reading more books than planned), tucking them in, and finally, you’re ready to turn off the lights! It’s a busy, tiring, and at times frustrating routine, and it has also become one of my favorite routines of the day. In these chaotic moments, God has provided a window of opportunity for us to connect to the hearts of our children and to pray with them…right in the middle of this busy routine! Since my oldest was born, every night after I tuck my kids in, I pray a simple prayer over them. I have prayed the same prayer now for seven years over each of my children. It’s the most important part of our bedtime routine. It’s rarely ever missed, and my kids now make sure of that. Deuteronomy 6 gives instruction for parents to impress truth upon the lives of your children at home, as you go, and when you lie down and get up. We must seize these moments as opportunities to model to the next generation what it means to follow Jesus Christ. ‘Seize the moment’ means you need to grasp hold of it’; no matter how tired, frustrated, annoyed, etc. you may be…seize these bedtime moments to impress God’s truth and pray with your children. They’ll love it and keep you going. Couple suggestions to pray with your kids:
• To know God intimately
•Family members, friends, and neighbors.
Your bed-time prayer does not have to be long or flowery; just allow it to be genuine and intentional. Just for fun, here is the prayer I do with my kids…
“I pray the Lord opens your eyes, so you can see Him. That He opens your ears, so you can hear him. He touches your mind, so you can know Him. He touches your mouth, so you can speak of Him. He opens your heart, so that you may love Him. He blesses your hands, so that you may do His work!”
I have said this simple prayer at bedtime over 2,500 times since becoming a father. I trust the Lord has not only heard them but will continue working in my children’s lives in response to them. There is tremendous power in prayer! So, before you turn off the lights, make sure to seize the moment and bless your children!
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” -- Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Spiritual conversations with our kids don’t have to be overthought and meticulously planned out. As mentioned in the previous post, life is busy! Sometimes, even the thought of adding an extra task to our busy schedules brings more anxiety than excitement. We become paralyzed by all the things we’re “supposed” to do. The good news is, having these important moments with our families doesn’t have to be difficult. We simply need to seize the moments in our normal, daily rhythms.
One of the easiest moments you can take advantage of is where your family probably spends a lot of time already...mealtimes. Your interactions in the kitchen, at the dinner table, and even during cleanup, provide the perfect opportunities to talk with your family; to share with them about God’s truth, and what He is doing in your life.
Here are a few discussion starters and activities you can try at your table…
This is certainly not an exhaustive list, and what may work for some may not work for others. That’s OK. Keep at it until you find what works best for your family. The key here is to seize the moments that you can!
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” -- Deuteronomy 6:6-7
“We will not hide them from their descendants, we will tell the next generation, the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.” –Psalm 78:4
Scripture clearly articulates the duty of parents, grandparents, and invested adults to instruct children in the things of the Lord. Every generation of Christians bears the responsibility of handing down what they have received—the testimony of who God is and what He has done—to the next generation. When it comes to passing on this precious story, we don’t need to over-complicate it. In Deuteronomy 6, Moses doesn’t give us a program, manual, or an overcooked strategy for discipleship. Moses simply encourages us to seize the moment.
Life is busy. The thought of adding something else to your already full schedule generates more anxiety than anticipation. Here’s how you keep your priority to impress truth upon the hearts of your kids. Your greatest mission will be best accomplished through this simple, daily practice. Just seize the moment.
Here is what this can look like…
These verses bring tremendous encouragement. Reaching and discipling the next generation doesn’t have to be complicated. Just seize the moment. Read scripture together, play your family’s favorite worship music at home, and share how much you love Jesus. Kids will always catch what we project!
“And because you are sons, God has set forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts crying out, “Abba,
Father!”. Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, than an heir of God through Christ.” Galatians 4:6-7
Whoa. Read that again and allow it to sink in and become food for you. God’s Spirit is living in you. The
most powerful living being in existence has made your heart His dwelling place. Incredible! It’s the
checkmate to every fear, worry, disappointment, and hurt that you’ve experienced. The Spirit of Jesus
Christ, the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead and set the early church on fire, is burning now in
you…in each of us! Since this is a fact, how in the world can we ever view life, work, parenting, and
church the same? Why would we settle for anything less than the adventure of the kingdom mission?
Why are we constantly lowering the bar of what it means to be a Christian? Why be merely consumers,
when we’ve been given the opportunity to be so much more?
The baptism of the Holy Spirit came with both power and ability for us to live a more victorious life in
Jesus Christ. Here are some thoughts on what this can mean for you…
1. Let go of your hurts. The consequence of having the Holy Spirit living in you is there will be
fruit. But, the fruits of offense and bitterness are not of God’s Spirit. Once you’ve recognized
that fruit, take it off the vine and throw it away. You have what you need. Now, raise the bar.
2. You have what it takes to finish. Don’t step back from what you believe God has called you to
do because of disappointment. Stop allowing people to talk you out of your convictions. With
the Holy Spirit living in you, you have what it takes to finish the job. Raise the bar.
3. Put aside your strategies. Things don’t always work out the way we think they will. Stop
stressing out. Give your cares to God and trust Him! Raise the bar.
4. Stop being a consumer. You’re equipped for mission, adventure, and battle! Share the gospel.
Lead your family and pray with them. Repent of apathy, offenses, and anything else God reveals
in your heart, that is rooted in selfishness. Serve with a grateful heart. Raise the bar.
Let it sink in…You have God’s living, active, and powerful Spirit living in you. Let us raise the bar again of
what it means to be a Christian!
Proverbs 17:22 “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
There are moments, perhaps even seasons of life, when your faith feels unstoppable. Your spirit is alive. It’s burning with anticipation, optimism, and courage. You’re ready for whatever comes your way! Nothing in this world is comparable to these experiences, and they help strengthen every facet of your life (i.e. marriage, parenting, work). My prayer is that this type of faith becomes more common and richer for us all, rather than momentary. It’s interesting though, that you can experience these great seasons, or even victories, but then moments later, find yourself drained, discouraged, or, as Proverbs 17:22 describes, broken.
Proverbs 17:22 is more relatable than most of us are willing to admit. We all go through times where we feel like we’re out of resources, and addressing another valley or giant seems impossible. We have little desire to sign up for another trial. We don’t have the energy to fight any more battles. What do we do then? What do we do when sorrow and discouragement have gripped our hearts? There is nothing more painful than a broken spirit.
I know it can be painful, confusing, and frustrating to walk with dry bones. You can be sure, the promise you have from God will pass through some things. It’s at these times a decision must be made. Will your faith rest in your subjective experiences or in God’s Word? Will you make the decision, regardless of feelings, waiting time, or opposition, that you’re going to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind? Here is what that means….
Your decisions…your daily self-talk will look like this:
· “Even though I’m not currently experiencing peace, I will not make the conclusion that peace is not for me.”
· “Although I’m feeling discouraged, I will not make the conclusion that hope and joy are not for me.”
· “Even though I’m still not healed, I will not make the conclusion that God is not the healer.”
· “I will never question His love. I will trust in His promises. I will trust in His Word, that He is good, and He cares for me.”
Never allow a difficult season to steal what God has promised you. That’s exactly what the devil wants to do. To break you down and steal your worship. But you cannot trust the feelings those experiences produce. Instead, you will grow resilient and deep as you trust in what His word says. You’re not an orphan. You’ll never be alone. You have overcome the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of your testimony! Your testimony, regardless of current experience, always begins with your freedom to choose to make a bold declaration that He is still good, faithful, and mighty! Watch what begins to happen in your heart when your focus shifts from your experience to Jesus Christ!
How are your New Year resolutions going so far? Are you still moving forward, going strong after the vision you have for 2019? Self-improvement, or at least the desire for it, is something most of us aim for. Research says, 40% of Americans proclaim bold resolutions every year, but only 8% of us stick with it. That’s not surprising. We know this to be true. Most of the time, we feel disappointed about our goals, and put them off for next year’s resolution list. How about this year we try something different? What would life look like, if we commit ourselves to just a 1% improvement in the most important areas?
It’s so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment, and underestimate the value of making small, daily improvements. Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action. Whether it’s losing weight, building a business, improving relationships, growing spiritually, or achieving any other goal, we put too much pressure on ourselves to make one, extraordinary improvement, that will instantly change the trajectory of our lives.
Our goal shouldn’t be instant success. Rather, our focus should be on developing small habits over time, that will stack up. Consider a different approach this year; incremental change. Daily improving by a mere 1% may not seem noteworthy, but it can prove far more meaningful, especially in the long run. If we grow 1% better each day, for one year, we will compound success, and the overall direction of our lives will change. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of our habits multiply as we repeat them.
Here’s the challenge:
What’s the 1% improvement you can make in your marriage and with your children today? We’re not even going to talk about what you want to change this year…We’re only talking about today. Try putting your phone away at 7PM each night to reduce your social media use. You’re not throwing away all your social media. You’re simply making a small change to your evening routine, to now invest more time with your family.
How about your walk with God? Is there a 1% difference you can make in the way you approach your prayer life or devotions? Maybe you have an ambitious goal of waking before 6AM each day to read the Bible, but already you’re feeling defeated and running out of steam. Perhaps your 1% improvement is to write a scripture on an index card, you can keep in your pocket all week. Read your scripture and meditate on it throughout the day, rather than choosing a Bible reading time you know will be a huge hurdle for you.
Whatever it is, start with 1% each day. What starts as a small win will accumulate into something much more. Tiny changes can produce amazing results!
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Eph. 3:20
How do you keep a fresh hunger for God? How do you continue to elevate your vision for your life at church, home, and the marketplace? Start by convincing yourself of the fact that God can do more! He is not done in you yet!
Ephesians 3:20 should stir you up again, out of your comfort, and get you moving out of ruts! It’s time to cultivate the Pioneer Spirit! Here are five choices a pioneer will make:
1. Have a Decided Heart
· Get your clear YES in your life, so you can eliminate the fluff!
· Have a passion for the future!
2. No Plan B
· Once you have a clear ‘yes’ you are passionate about, this is the path you will follow. No exit strategies. No reinforcements are coming. You’re wholly trusting God!
· Have courage in the pain. Obey God, even when it hurts. Choose courage!
· Pioneers choose optimism. It will not be a fleeting feeling. No, they constantly make the decision to eliminate toxic attitudes from their thoughts and vocabulary.
· If you find yourself in a wilderness—check your attitude! Pessimistic attitudes are a sure sign that the wilderness is near.
4. No Settling
· Stick to your clear YES. Don’t ever give up. Even when it hurts, and others are turning back, choose to press forward. Hold onto the promise, “if you don’t grow weary while doing good, at the right time you will reap a harvest (Gal. 6:9).”
· Pioneers are invested in others. Taking risks and enduring pain is not merely for the benefit of the here and now. The choices and accomplishments made today, are the foundation for the next generation to stand and build upon!
5. Be a Person of Action
· Refuse to be defeated! No matter the circumstances, or what the cynics may say, pioneers don’t retreat or stay down forever! People with a Pioneer Spirit know, when they’re weak, God’s power can then be made perfect! There is much confidence to gain, when understanding God is for you, and has given you the gifts and power needed to overcome, whatever comes your way.
God is already doing more than you could ever ask or think. Cultivate the Pioneer Spirit, and refuse to stay behind!
No matter how old your children are, it’s never too late to begin praying with them. Here are a few
ideas to help you get started.
Newspaper prayer: Have each family member take a portion of the newspaper and circle items that he
or she feels need to be prayer for. Then ask family members to pray for the things they circled.
Sentence Prayer: You can help your children pray aloud by giving them a sentence to complete, such as:
“Lord, I thank you for…”
“Lord, forgive me for…”
“Lord, help my friend…”
“Lord, help me to let go…”
Highs and Lows: Ask your children what their “highs” were from the day, and then ask them about their
“lows” from the day. Share your highs and lows as well, and than pray about them together.
Prayer Journal: Share your prayer requests with the other members of your family, and then record
them in a prayer journal. One person can pray for all the requests you’ve listed for the day. The next
time you pray together, look over the requests you listed previously, and update any changes and
answers. This is a good way to see how God has been active in your prayer lives.
Remember that prayer is just a conversation with God. Let your children hear you talking with God
about your day, your concerns, and your joys, and then ask them to do the same.
Adapted from Faith Begins at Home by Mark Holmen
“When the men of Israel saw that they were in danger (for the people were distressed), then the people hid in caves, in thickets, in rocks, in holes, and in pits.” 1 Samuel 13:6
Saul had a lot to learn of what it meant to be a king. Two years into his reign, things were not looking very good. Jonathan, his son, attacked a Philistine garrison, in hopes it would deter their great enemy from attacking them in the future. To say the least, the plan backfired. Though it was a technical victory for Saul, the Philistines quickly responded with the largest army Israel has ever seen. Thousands of chariots, horses, and more soldiers then one can count showed up for battle. Clearly, their great enemy was waiting for an opportunity to strike.
Tragically, the mere sight of such a force sent God’s people, not just on the run, but into hiding. Caves, thickets, rocks, holes, and pits… These are not appropriate dwellings for people who know the one true God! However, we read they were distressed, trembling, desperate, and cowardice. Though they had enormous success against the Ammonites, they lost heart by simply seeing this enemy approach. Past victories of God’s faithfulness were long forgotten. Fear swept them away.
This isn’t just an Israel issue. It’s everybody’s issue. When fear reins unchecked and runs wild, our view of God shrinks, and we quickly forget that all His promises are ‘yes and amen.’
Paul says the following in Romans 8:15, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” Evangelize yourself! When the enemy appears to be greater than you can face, don’t take up the yoke of fear. As sons and daughters of the Father, he has called you out of the cave. Hiding is never an option. Your marriage needs you to come out of the cave. Your kids need you to venture out of the thickets. Your church needs you to rise out of the rocks and holes. Climb out from the pit. Take hold of what God has promised you (Ephesians 1:3), and contend again!
Persuade yourself again, that nothing can separate you from the love of Christ. Fan that gift back into flame. Pray with passion. Move with courage. You are more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ!
And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”
But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Mark 10:20-22
We meet this young man who appears to be very well off, certainly financially, and possibly spiritually. He desires to please and love God, as evidenced by keeping God’s commandments. But as we read, there is a problem this young man has been unable to address. His heart is following another treasure…money. Jesus easily identifies the man’s heart-issue and gives him a solution; get rid of the wealth, and you’ll finally receive a treasure your heart yearns for. This is not what the young man expects to hear, and he departs in sorrow.
Abandoning our treasure, however each of us defines it, is painful. We don’t all follow after money, but let’s not fool ourselves, our hearts are mesmerized by false treasures. It can be difficult to let go of these things, and we can quickly establish patterns in our lives that protect these counterfeit riches. This is what occurred for this young ruler. The pattern of loving money became so strong, that escaping it appeared to be impossible for him. Here is the issue for the young ruler: It wasn’t that his possessions were too much or that he couldn’t donate a portion. Worse, he felt it would be impossible to be free. He thought it impossible to be the type of person that can live without this false treasure. He believed, “It’s impossible for God to make a heart-change in me.” When you, like this young man, live in a place of “impossibilities,” you will always walk away in sorrow.
Ultimately, the young ruler in the story made the wrong conclusion. He concluded not even God could set his heart free from the lure of his treasure. Bottom line: He determined it’s impossible to live free. But Jesus declares, what is impossible for man, is not impossible for God (Mark 10:27)! Jesus didn’t intend to leave the man in sorrow. Jesus wanted him to see, though it may be impossible for you to break free, it is certainly possible for God to supply the grace and power you need. This is the hope of Jesus Christ! We don’t have to walk away in sorrow, when our hearts are stuck in the muck of sin. We now have hope and are promised victory, because of the work of Jesus Christ!
If you find yourself walking away in sorrow, stop right there. Don’t draw the wrong conclusion about your fate and about the goodness of God. For with man it’s impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God. This is the conclusion we can all live in!
”But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:10
Both during Christmas time and throughout the rest of the year, we deal with stress, like family and relationship problems, health struggles, financial issues, and more. However, Christmas is a reminder that God cares for us and loves us. We can make Christmas to be about a lot of different things, but it’s core message is one of hope. Jesus is here! The times of darkness, fear, hopelessness, and despair are coming to an end! God comes in humility, yet with intent and power that is still felt to this day. Love from God himself will be poured out and His people will be saved. He will be known as the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. No one can ever or will ever compare to Jesus!
We have many challenging things we walk through in our life’s, but let us not forget you have every reason to have joy! He is still the God that is here, alive, and full of power to do the impossible! The brokenhearted are still being healed. Captives are being set free and released from darkness. The oil of joy is pouring on those in mourning and the garment of praise is replacing the spirit of heaviness. This is our Jesus and this is the reason why we still have cause for great joy this Christmas season!
“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Rev. 3:15-17)
What just happened? The church in Laodicea was clearly in some serious trouble. Unlike the other churches, Jesus doesn’t commend them for anything, it’s just a firm rebuke. This early church was in spiritual flatline, and they were in complete ignorance of it. Instead of being aware of the spiritual decay, they proclaimed victory and blessing. “Look at us Jesus, we’ve come so far. Our church is extremely successful!” Jesus was not impressed with their wealth, church attendance, or program efficiency. The bottom line is, the church was no longer effective and causing spiritual sickness.
So, what happened? This is a church that would know the Apostle Paul. A church that would know what it meant to be powerfully filled with the Holy Spirit. Apathy and boredom would not have been a characteristic of this church. But here they are now, captured by the lures of complacency and self-sufficiency. It’s unclear why this church became “lukewarm.” Perhaps it was just living life, contending, and apparently succeeding (at least regarding wealth and comfort) that eventually brought on a weariness and spiritual arrogance. Maybe they simply forgot their stories and no longer had a sense of wonder for God.
Whatever the reason, spiritual drift can happen. If we’re not growing in the Lord, then we are going to drift. There is no holding pattern. If this early church could not be an exception to this principle, then neither can you and I. We must be vigilant over the matters of our hearts. We face difficulty, pain, disappointment, confusion, a spiritual enemy that wants to see our destruction. Our hearts are never on the sidelines. They are always on the playing field.
Though Jesus begins with a rebuke, He continues with the mission of restoring all that has been broken. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Rev 3:20) Even in our apathy, Jesus is still here. When we are weary, Jesus is still here. Though we proclaim self-sufficiency, Jesus is still here. Now, let’s open the door. Let us once again be filled, powerfully, by the Holy Spirit! Let us once again be captured up by the wonder, grace, and love of Jesus! He’s knocking even now. Open the door.
“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23
We must be watchful, vigilant and ready to fight for our hearts. The heart is mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible, over 200 times the heart is referred to things that motivate, mold, and impact our life. To put it simply, the heart is a big deal! Though the Bible makes it clear that it’s of the upmost importance to look after, without intentional guardianship, it prefers to drift. It doesn’t always stay where you tell it to stay! As you may have already experienced, a drifting heart will never drift in a good direction. So, let us not take this lightly, we must know what it means to be diligent over our hearts. All of life is going to flow from our hearts and when we lose a grip on it, there will be some symptoms that will flare up. Below are some examples of a drifting heart:
· You’ve lost passion
· Your view of God is small
· Your living offended
· You no longer share your faith with others
· Diminished interest in prayer
Hearts that are full of God are surging with love, faith, and passion! When life flows from a heart like this, nothing in your world (relationships, workplace, school, etc.) is left untouched by God! Will there be times of heartache, dryness, and disappointment? Most likely, yes. These are the moments in which we MUST be vigilant of our hearts! Rather than allowing these circumstances to dry us up, let’s press into Jesus, receiving the water that will not leave us thirsty. God is entirely faithful, He knows exactly what your heart is in need of and will not hold back on us. “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:14
Parenting the Internet Generation Pt. 1 will primarily focus on potential threats that exist in the digital world. We are engaged in a battle for the hearts and minds of the next generation. While this is a hard fight in the 21st Century, it is imperative that parents, mentors, educators, etc. are aware of the dangers and digital distractions that are out there.
Here are just a few potential threats that this generation has and/or could be exposed to:
1. Internet Pornography
Stats you need to know:
· 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to internet porn before the age of 18.
· 83% of boys and 57% of girls have seen group sex on the internet.
· 70% of boys have spent more than 30 consecutive minutes looking at online porn on at least one occasion.
· Only 3% of boys and 17% of girls have never seen internet pornography.
· 2/3 of young men and half of young woman say viewing porn is acceptable.
At the click of a button, literally hundreds of millions of pornographic images and videos are available online—no credit card and no age verification required. Because a child’s brain is still in critical stages of development even through the teen years, more and more psychiatrists are concerned about how early exposure to sexual media hinders healthy sexual development. Porn is a part of an overall societal message that treats sex as a commodity and sees people as objects.
2. Online Predators
The internet is an amazing tool for kids and teens to connect with people all over the world. But not everyone they meet online is safe. Here are a couple of things you need to know:
· Most internet sex crimes against youth are committed by offenders who do not hide their age or sexual intentions.
· Most predators prey on a teen’s desire to be liked, their desire for romance, or their sexual curiosity. Often a predator may “groom” a child through flattery, sympathy, and by investing time in their online relationship. Predators are expert manipulators, able to foster a relationship of dependence with a teen.
· 50% of the time the teen describes themselves as “in love” with the predator.
It is noteworthy that most sexual predation does not occur with total strangers through internet communication. Young people have a much greater risk of sexual predation from their schoolmates, community, and family.
“Sexting” is a slang term for sending erotic or sexually suggestive messages, photos, or videos. A survey was done by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy to explore the prevalence of sexting. The survey found that 20% of teens overall have sent or posted nude or semi-nude pictures or video of themselves, and 39% have sent or posted sexually suggestive messages.
This trend reveals a deep problem among youth. Sexting is just one part of the overall sex-on-tap culture in which we live. If they desire to be accepted by someone they like, teens and young adults often give into the pressure to become someone else’s pornography.
For more information on these internet threats and others, click here
Parenting the Internet Generation Pt. 2 will discuss strategies and give resources on how to help your teen develop healthy habits when exploring the digital world.
Parenting the Internet Generation © 2012 CovenantEyes
“So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.” James 1:21 (MSG)
The human heart is much like a garden. If left to itself, the soil would produce only weeds. James was aware of our hearts’ tendencies to be overtaken with such valueless intruders that choke out the fruit God desires. James urges us to pull out all of the garbage (weeds) in our lives that keeps us from growing up in Him. God has good plans for all of us. Yet, these plans are intertwined with our spiritual maturity. So how can we grow when the condition of our hearts have become in disarray?
First, let’s confess our sins and ask the Father to forgive us (1 John 1:9). Then, let’s allow “our gardener,” God, to “plow up” the soil in our hearts that has been producing weeds. This is easier said than done, but God is a master gardener and knows exactly what He is doing. Trust in Him.
James then says, we are to have an attitude of humility when receiving God’s word. In other words, don’t try to argue with or twist it to conform to our own thinking. There are many Christians who like to argue their “points of view” on various issues, but may only be fooling themselves. We may think we’re maturing, when in reality we are only cultivating weeds.
Let’s open our hearts every day for what the Lord has planned to cultivate in us!
“So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.” Luke 24:15-16
Cleopas and his companion were lost and directionless on their way back home. The events that occurred on that long and violent Friday left them wounded, confused, and hopeless. They knew Jesus, they witnessed his miracles, and they believed He was the Messiah, God’s promised one. That’s why this story is interesting, how could they not recognize someone they knew and observed very closely?
Pain has a way of reducing our ability to see clearly and make our choices based on reality. Perhaps that is what these two men were experiencing. Their focus was only on their pain and a future that was no longer hopeful. Scripture doesn’t give us the whole picture on their temporary “blindness,” but it’s not that difficult to put yourself in their shoes and understand why they didn’t recognize Jesus. We’ve all experienced a sudden loss, seasons of pain, confusion, worry, and frustration when things are not working out like we hoped. When in these moments, we can become unaware or even may experience some temporary blindness that hinders us from finding the hope, comfort, and strength that is found in Jesus.
Perhaps this was Cleopas’s experience; why Jesus appeared as a stranger to him. But, as we’re about to find out, ones’ heart cannot help but recognize when Jesus is near. Luke 24:32 says, "...Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and when he opened the Scriptures to us?" There’s just something special about Jesus. It’s too difficult to even attempt putting it into words. Even in moments we feel lost, hopeless or perhaps even angry at God, He still knows what it takes to warm and ignite our hearts. Our hearts can always recognize when Jesus is near.
As we move through this week in preparation for Easter, let’s not forget to slow down and steady our hearts to recognize Him. When circumstances and experiences are creating temporary blindness, know that only the living and powerful Jesus can get to those places in your heart that need Him. No heart is too far off or too cold to be warmed again by the presence of Jesus!
In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon lists the seasons of our lives in pairings—contrasting one season with the other. Inherent in all these contrasts is an important point: Seasons end, and new seasons begin. It’s important for us to recognize the seasons that we are in and when it’s time to take the exit ramp for a new destination. Let’s take a look at a few seasons that we need to recognize and quickly take the next exit:
1. Unforgiveness: Forgiveness has a way of unlocking the shackles that keep us bound up in bitterness, anger, disappointment, and depression. If these feeling are holding us captive, then it is time for us to move on. If someone wronged us long ago and we’re still waiting for justice, it’s time to let it go. Let’s step into the new season of forgiveness!
2. Cynicism: It takes no courage whatsoever to tear down other people or their ideas. It is not a spiritual gift to find every weakness in someone’s character and worldview. If we find it easy to do these things rather than encourage, build up, and offer our support, then it’s time for us to move on to a new season. We must also be careful of allowing cynics to be among our close circle of friends. Cynicism is always contagious. Let’s move into the new season of encouragement!
3. Anger at the Church: It is unfortunate that there are many people who have been wrongly treated by church members. Many have not stepped foot in a church for years, due to the wounds they experienced. However, there is an alternative route to take, rather than avoiding a community of believers. Even if we have been wounded, we can all decide to move on and explore a relationship with God, in spite of whatever happened to us. Let us never use someone else’s bad behavior as an excuse to keep us from growing in relationship with God and being a part of His Bride (the Church). With grace and forgiveness, let us move into a new spiritual season of optimism about God’s plans for us and for the church!
Do you find yourself in an unproductive season? What steps can you take to move on?
What new season is God opening up for you?
To find out more, check out Bill Hybels book Simplify: ten practices to unclutter your soul
“Like a muddied spring or a polluted well are the righteous who give way to the wicked.” Proverbs 25:26
How muddy is the spring of your heart right now? Is your well polluted by all the cultural toxins seeping in? Or does your spiritual well draw on Living Water as its pure, thirst-quenching source? Here are a handful of toxins that will pollute your well:
Septic Thoughts: If you are looking for the bad and ugly, you will certainly find it. However, if you are determined to find the good and beautiful you will not be disappointed. Too often, our wells are polluted by chronically negative thoughts about others, circumstances, and ourselves, resulting in thought-bondage.
Lethal Language: “Words that do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.” (Mother Teresa) Your words are either bringing life or death, building up or breaking down. Helpful words build up, but hurtful words crush. What comes out of your mouth was first hiding out in your heart. If you want to empty your mouth of the garbage, you need to start with cleaning up those hidden places in your hearts!
Hazardous Waste: “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13) Hiding your sin might make life easier in the short run, but it always becomes worse over time. If you hide your sin you can’t receive God’s blessings. Those who confess find mercy and forgiveness.
Green with Envy: Envy is when you resent God’s goodness in other people’s lives and ignore God’s goodness in your own life. Our culture thrives on envy. We want the newest toys, cars, house, etc. We never enjoy what we have because we’re too busy striving to lay hold of what everyone else has. Envy is a serious heart killer. Just take a look at what the book of James says about it: “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (3:14-16).
Bitter Roots: “Bitterness is like a cancer. It easts upon the host.” (Maya Angelou) Bitterness has a dangerous tendency of justifying itself. It feels right, so we allow its roots to grow deep into our hearts and minds. Bitterness will destroy not only your character, but your relationships in record time. Bitterness will never produce good results, you will only harvest pain, anger, and disappointment.
“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23
For more on these “culture toxins” and others, check out the book Soul Detox: Clean Living in a Contaminated Word by Craig Groeschel.
Matthew 12:33-35 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”
When it came to religion, no one studied, disciplined, and had more zeal than the Pharisees. If a test existed, to show how much knowledge they had or how dedicated they were to their faith, this group of elite religious people would be on the honor roll! But then enters Jesus. Jesus was able to see through the religious veneer and go straight for the heart, as he always does. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks…” This would have been quite the statement to hear. During those days, spiritual growth and maturity had always been measured by external factors, but with these words, Jesus is flipping that on its head! Jesus is forcing these people, as well as us, to look within and start evaluating what’s really happening internally.
Pharisees despise introspection. To introspect is to take an honest look within ones’ heart. We then have to take responsibility for what we find. What are we producing? Is the fruit coming forth something we really want to share with others? Is it spoiled or ripe? The reality is, what comes out of our hearts was already there to begin with. If bitterness, envy, malice and the like are flowing from our mouths, we can be certain they have been festering in our hearts for some time. Our hearts are always revealing themselves, especially at home. We can put up a great front in public, like the Pharisees, but at home our hearts are on full display. How do we speak to our spouses after a long day at work? When our kids continuously push all the right buttons, how are we responding? How do we speak of others (i.e. from church, work, etc.) in front of our families?
Proverbs 18:21 "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Every word out of our mouth counts. It’s either building someone up or it’s tearing them down. Let’s make sure we allow the Lord to do the heart work in our lives, to ensure the fruit that is produced is not spoiled but will be ripe to bless others!
In the interest of keeping sight of our ultimate purpose as parents, as well as understanding the big-picture view of God’s plan for us, here are some helpful principles from the book, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family, by Paul Tripp:
Principle #1 Calling: Nothing is more important in your life than being one of God’s tools to form a human soul.
Principle #2 Grace: God never calls you to a task without giving you what you need to do it. He never sends you without going with you. Quit beating yourself up because you feel inadequate. God never intended you to parent separate of Himself.
Principle #3 Law: Your children need God’s law, but you cannot ask the law to do what only grace can accomplish. If rules and regulations had the power to change the heart and life of your child, rescuing your child from himself and giving him a heart of submission and faith, Jesus would have never needed to come!
Principle #4 Inability: Recognizing what you are unable to do is essential to good parenting. Our job is not heart change, but to be humble and willing instruments of change in the hands of God.
Principle #5 Identity: If you are not resting as a parent in your identity in Christ, you will look for identify in your children (and other things). Jesus is your life, and this frees you and your children from the burden of asking them to give you what Jesus has already given you.
Principle #6 Process: You must be committed as a parent to long-view parenting because change is a process and not an event.
Principle #7 Lost: As a parent, you’re not dealing just with bad behavior, but a condition that causes bad behavior.
Principle #8 Authority: One of the foundational heart issues in the life of every child is authority. Teaching and modeling the protective beauty of authority is one of the foundations of good parenting.
Principle #9 Foolishness: The foolishness inside your children is more dangerous to them than the temptation outside of them. Only God’s grace has the power to rescue fools.
Principle #10 Character: Not all of the wrong your children do is a direct rebellion to authority; much of the wrong is the result of a lack of character.
Principle #11 False gods: You are parenting a worshiper, so it’s important to remember that what rules your child’s heart will control his behavior.
Principle #12 Control: The goal of parenting is not control of behavior, but rather heart and life change.
Principle #13 Rest: It is only rest in God’s presence and grace that will make you a joyful and patient parent.
Principle #14 Mercy: No parent gives mercy better than one who is convinced that he desperately needs it himself. Your primary calling as a parent is not first to represent God’s judgement, but rather to constantly deliver his mercy.
Click here for more resources from Paul Tripp
“Pretend that I have a bowl of water in my hands and I shake it vigorously and water splashes out of the bowl. And suppose I ask you why water spilled out of the bowl, and you answer that it spilled because I shook it. It all sounds pretty logical, doesn’t it? But the answer is only partially correct. Why did water splash out of the bowl? Because water was in the bowl. If the bowl had been filled with milk, you could shake it for eternity and water would never spill out of it. In the same way, it is very important for parents to understand and humbly admit that when we are shaken by the sin, weakness, rebellion, foolishness, or failure of our children, what comes out of us (words, actions, attitudes) is what is already inside us.” - Paul Tripp
This can be a hard pill to swallow! What this means is the ongoing issue we face is not our kids’, spouse’s, co-workers’, and family’s problem. It’s ours. No one can force us to say and do anything. What comes out has already been there. The cause behind our actions has been hiding out in our heart, probably for a long time! The people we have in our life are simply giving our heart the opportunity to reveal itself in words and actions. Jesus says it like this, “How can you being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” (Matt. 12:34-35)
If we continue to shift blame to others for our bad attitudes, actions, and words, we will fail to reach out for the help that is ours; the forgiving and transforming grace of Jesus. Praise the Lord, you can change! You don’t have to be ensnared by sin and it’s patterns any longer. With the power of God’s grace and working of the Holy Spirit in our life, we can begin and continue to produce good treasure that our circumstances can’t steal!
For more from Paul Tripp, check out his book Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family
The beginning of the year is always a great time to evaluate how far we’ve traveled and grown in the past 365 days; hopefully we’re moving in the right direction and ready to take on 2017! John Maxwell states that we often have “uphill hopes with downward habits.” Here are few tips to make sure we’re developing the right spiritual “habits” this year, to continue deepening our relationship with Jesus.
1. Get back into the Bible.
"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and forever, Amen." (2 Pet. 3:18) Peter’s call to the early church is just as important for us today: “Grow!” God’s will for every Christian is to grow, increase, and be fruitful. This happens by deepening our relationship with Him through reading and knowing the Word! You need the Bible like you need food. Stop over thinking it. Ask the Holy Spirit to light up the verses you need to hear, and be ready to receive.
2. Pray. Pray. Pray.
"As well could you expect a plant to grow without air and water as to expect your heart to grow without prayer and faith." - Charles Spurgeon
Draw close to the Lord and He is faithful to draw close to you. Pray with faith, passion, expectation, and perseverance. Make a lifestyle of prayer this year!
3. Connect with the church.
You won’t make it very far without a community of people (the Church) who will encourage, bless, and hold you accountable. Start this year by forgiving all those in the church who have hurt you. Holding offenses is a self-inflicting wound to your heart. Forgive and ask for forgiveness. Then, find your place in the Church. There is a place in which you are needed and only you can fill!
4. Break sinful habits.
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Cor. 10:13)
Have you been stuck in a spiritual rut? Have the same personal and relational issues been reappearing? Are you addicted to your anger, shame, and lust? It’s time to break free. Sinful habits and ruts are not to be your destiny. Jesus has paid the cost of freedom in full. Walk in it! Repent and experience what it means to be saved by His grace! Don’t walk this out alone any more. Ask for help! Bring whatever is hidden in the darkness into the light, and be free!
What other spiritual habits are you starting this year?
“For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end…”
Every time we watch T.V., listen to the radio, or check social media we are bombarded with updates of just how much our world appears to lack peace. For many today, the idea of peace is far-fetched, almost as if it can only be found in a fairytale. It sounds too good to be true, that one can be content and at rest, no matter their circumstances. When the savings account is running dry, your joy is still full. When you don’t land the promotion, or get your raise, you’re still giving thanks. When medical issues and bills keep stacking up, your faith in God remains as steadfast as ever. How does one get here? Regardless of upbringing or religious background, tough days will always come. At these moments, peace is what everyone longs for, but not everyone obtains it.
In our busyness, and for some, in their unfortunate circumstances, it’s easy to forget the important messages of Christmas. Jesus flipped the world upside down, and He assures us His Kingdom will have no end. As Pastor Greg mentioned on Sunday, once Jesus begins His work in your heart (and it’s received), there will be no stopping the transformation that will occur! The peace, joy, hope, and everything Jesus has promised is only going to multiply and expand in your heart! His peace, real peace, is always a heart issue! We can only point our fingers of blame at others, or the world, for so long until we run out of things to point at. The real issue will always be our own hearts. Until we allow God to take hold of those areas, we will continue to find ourselves tossed to-and-fro.
Starting this Christmas season, let’s take our eyes off of everything that troubles us, and fixate on Jesus once again. Let us cultivate in our hearts everything Jesus said should be there! Allow his peace, joy, and love abound and have no end in your heart this year!
To be complete in Christ, as Paul puts it in Colossians 2:9-10, encompasses every single facet of our life. The blessings of Jesus should be changing us not only in the most difficult of moments, but maybe even more so in the little moments of life. The little moments tell us a lot about where our hearts really are. The little moments reveal the honest condition of what’s happening in our private lives! What’s your response when someone offends you? When someone else at work receives the admiration or promotion, how do you handle that? You’ve been diligently trying to improve your livelihood but never seem to find contentment; why is that? It’s in the little moments we answer a critical question, “Is Jesus enough?”
Do you need Jesus, plus something else, to have peace, joy, or comfort? The “something else” is typically tied to enslaving sin we have not allowed the Lord to handle. When it comes to being complete or full in Christ, we don’t need something else. He is enough and has broken the power of sin and condemnation that weigh on us.
In Colossians 2:14-15, Christ makes his victory public by subjecting these powers to open ridicule. Here is how one commentator puts it:
“The Roman triumphal procession was the best way to bring home to people, that their returning generals had been winning genuine victories. No one in town that day could possibly be ignorant of what had happened as hundreds of weary prisoners of war were paraded, straggling behind the conquering army. Shamed and exposed to public gaze, everyone could see that there is nothing to fear from these once-proud soldiers…Paul is intent on showing that true spiritual freedom was won for all God’s people through the cross of Christ. It is impossible for anyone to know this King and to not know his glorious victory.”
Jesus has conquered the enemy! Whatever forces used to intimidate or agonize you, have now been exposed and paraded in defeat. Even more so, our King’s glorious victory is not just for what we may consider significant issues, but also in the everyday, little moments that affect our hearts! If Jesus is enough, then certainly we can experience victory in any of our moments!
Betsie and Corrie ten Boom spent time in the notorious Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, north of Berlin, for hiding Jews in their home during the Nazi occupation of Holland. The ten Boom family of Haarlem, Holland were watchmakers by trade. They also lived as devout Christians. Corrie was raised to understand that honoring God included respecting the Jewish people. In Corrie’s book The Hiding Place, she tells of the story when she and Betsie arrived at the concentration camp and the encounters she had with fleas!
Corrie was in a panic when she woke up one night when bitten by fleas, the entire dorm was infested! Corrie shouted that she couldn’t live like this anymore, but Betsie said God gave her the answer for their problems. It was to give thanks. Corrie pulled out her Bible, they had snuck in the camp, and read 1 Thessalonians 5:15. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” It was hard for Corrie to imagine that this was a time or place to think about what they can be thankful for, but Betsie urged her to at least, give it a try. So they did, and realized they had much to be thankful for, starting with being with each other, having a Bible, and even for the fleas! The fleas kept the guards from ever entering into their barracks, allowing them to read the Bible with the other prisoners without threat of being caught!
You never know what can happen by simply having a thankful heart! You may feel overwhelmed and think things will never improve, but in light of Bestie and Corrie’s story, I think we can at least give it a try.
Go ahead and try it, what are a few things you are grateful for today?
The first emotional bonds we form are with our parents, and the nature of these bonds influences us throughout our lives. For many young adults, parents have been the primary influence on their spiritual and religious development, and relations with parents are linked to their first conceptions of God. Instilling Christian truths into our children and inspiring them to pursue their own relationships with God is of the upmost importance for Christian parents. But what exactly promotes or hinders this spiritual transmission to the next generation?
Research collected by Vern L. Bengtson in the book, Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations, states that the quality of parent-child relationships, is strongly associated with the passing on of the faith from generation to generation. Vern identifies four different parenting styles that help promote or hinder spiritual transmission:
#1- Warm, affirming parenting: This is perceived by the child as a consistently close relationship with one or usually both parents. This type of parenting can be described as loving, supportive, and respectful. The methods in this parenting style for religious socialization involves teaching, modeling, and living in a community that affirms their faith. This isn’t perfect parenting, and it is not without some bumps and bruises. Bengstons’s research shows though, that these parents are living consistent, Christian lifestyles. Throughout the research, it reveals the better the relationship one has with their children, the better the likelihood of their children embracing their faith as adults.
#2- Authoritarian Parenting: The other extreme of warm parenting would be a parenting style perceived by the child as cold, distant, or authoritarian. With this style, even the most dedicated efforts by parents, to pass on their faith, can be undone. Many young adults in Bengston’s findings report they no longer adhere to any religious affiliation due to their parents, and other well-meaning adults, being highly critical and having fractured relationships.
#3-Mixed Message Parenting: Sometimes a parent, usually a father, appears to shift between criticism and nurturance, creating an ambiguous image in the child’s eye. The child can also perceive parents occupying two extremes, one being very excited about their faith and the other more ambivalent. In Bengston’s research, they’ve found when there is “mixed-message parenting,” there is less intergenerational continuity of faith.
#4- Preoccupied Parenting: This type of parenting refers to parents who are distracted by marital, financial, or health problems, occasionally even substance abuse. These parents mean well, but when preoccupied for a long period of time, in which the children are not near the center of the parents’ attention, the research shows that it does not typically lead to a successful passing on of the faith.
In summary, in families of faith, warmth matters. The quality of the parent-child relationship directly affects how much influence mothers and fathers have on their children’s spiritual temperature in adulthood. The young adults in Bengston’s study who felt particularly close to one or both parents not only continued in the faith, but have many positive experiences of their own too!
If interested to learn more about this study, check out the book Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations
“And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo, the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle, and the men of Israel had retreated. He arose and attacked the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand stuck to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day…”
2 Samuel 23:9-10
David’s soldiers would’ve been quite the sight to see! These were not your normal, run-of-the-mill soldiers. These were men of valor, courage, faith. They were risk takers, and they had an appetite for battle. There is a grouping of David’s army named, “The Thirty.” These were the toughest military warriors and are credited for many heroic feats. From among these heroes, there was “The Three,” Josheb, Eleazar, and Shammah. The exact roles of this elite group are not clear, but they were certainly seen as ‘stand-outs’ among David’s Mighty Men.
The scripture above tells us one of Eleazar’s defining moments and shows us a couple of important spiritual lessons.
#1: “until his hand was weary…” These are the moments that give you the right to be called a Mighty Man. Israel sees the enemy, evaluates the situation through their human perspective, and then runs for it! I’m sure they had many rational reasons for their retreat, but Eleazar, for whatever reason, decided that he wouldn’t be defined as a man that would flee from his enemy. So, when everyone else turned and ran, Eleazar stood his ground and fought, until his hand became weary. This is important to see. He wasn’t weary of the battle. He was weary in it. Eleazar wasn’t regretting his choice to fight. He was not second guessing his decision to stand his ground. The enemy had to be addressed, and he knew if the Lord was in it, then victory was assured. Don’t retreat because you fear of becoming weary. Know that the Lord will strengthen you in the battle!
#2: “…his hand stuck to the sword.” This is wild to even imagine! How long does one need to fight until the hand muscles literally freeze in place? Perhaps to get an idea of how intense the battle was, compare it with another battle fought by Josheb. In verse eight, it states that on another occasion, Josheb fought and killed 800 men at one time. Yet, with no mention of his hand freezing to his weapon. No one knows what this battle for Eleazar must have been like, but we do know this. He was not about to give up. If he was going to die, he would die with his sword in hand and his enemies falling with him. When in battle, never let go of the sword! Let the Word of God become the sharp weapon it was always meant to be! Hold on and keep fighting until the victory is won!
The enemy is always roaring and will want you to tuck tail and run. When you’re in that battle, take some cues from Eleazar. Don’t retreat! Grip your sword, and know that the battle is won by the Lord.
Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 135 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children, in more than 100 countries since 1993. During shoebox distributions, local churches present a Gospel message about how Jesus is The Greatest Gift the children could ever receive. Then, they invite the children to a 12-lesson discipleship course called “The Greatest Journey.”
It’s important as parents, to not only live out our faith in front of our children, but to also include them in doing mission together! Operation Christmas Child provides a great way to teach your children about caring for others as your family blesses children all around the world.
Here are several ideas on how you and your family can make an impact with Operation Christmas Child this year:
1. Give Thanks
Thank God for how He is working in the life of your family. Talk with your child about how important it is to share the message of Jesus with others, especially with those who haven’t heard about Him. Explore additional ways that you and your family can share about Jesus in your community.
2. Select Gift Items
You can include handmade items that you and your child have created. If you prefer to purchase the gifts, encourage your children to select gift items they think other children would like. Some people prefer to follow a theme, such as buying items of similar color. If your aim is to go gift shopping in one trip, consider making it a race among your family members. Can you fill a box—within budget—in 10 minutes or less?
3. Personalize It
Write a note and include a photo of your family in your shoebox. A photo transcends language differences and puts a face to the gift. Your kids can fill out our “Let’s Be Friends” coloring pages as another way to personalize the gift.
4. Emphasize Prayer
Pray before, during, and after packing your shoeboxes. Pray for smooth passage of the shoeboxes to their destinations. Pray for the local churches who will distribute these shoeboxes, as well as for the children who will receive them. Ask God to use your gift to open doors for the Gospel with their families.
Make this into one of your family traditions each year, and create new ideas along the way!
For more info on Operation Christmas Child click here!
**You can also donate supplies at the Operation Christmas Child booth on Sunday mornings for the shoebox party on Nov. 13th @ 1PM!
“Prayer turns ordinary parents into prophets who shape the destinies of their children, grandchildren, and every generation that follows.” -Mark Batterson
One of the greatest gifts you can give your children, or grandchildren, is to show them what it means to love Jesus with your own life. Be a living example of a life shaped and anchored in prayer. There is a laundry list of reasons why we may not take prayer seriously, or only go to prayer during those ASAP moments. We need a fresh love again for prayer! How about as parents, we lift the bar on prayer in our homes, and teach our children what it means to call upon the name of the Lord, no matter what our circumstances? If we want our children to follow Jesus as adults, then let’s make it a priority for ourselves to follow and love Jesus with authenticity and passion.
You are the spiritual thermostat in your home. Let’s keep it hot by persevering in prayer!
How have you been shaping your children and grandchildren’s destinies?
Grandparents, you’ve done it! Your kids are adults! They have their own careers, and they are starting their own families. The many years of relentlessly leading and guiding your kids are paying off, and it may appear your job is done. It’s tempting to celebrate; to kick back and enjoy this new season of your life. Well, you definitely deserve some much needed rest…but don’t celebrate too early. You’re not done yet.
Research shows that the #1 influencer in a child’s spiritual life is their parents. No surprise there. The runner up though, at #2, is a close family member, specifically grandparents. This makes sense, and is supported in scripture. Check out Deuteronomy 4:9. “Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren.”
As grandparents, you have a tremendous opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of not only your kids, but of your precious grandbabies! Don’t celebrate too early. Make sure your kids and grandkids love Jesus more than anything. Once that happens, celebrate away!
Looking to make an intentional impact on your grandkids? Click here for some great resources and encouragement.
We’re planning for a great time this weekend! Come on out this Friday night @ 6:30PM for a music night, featuring “The Narrow”, from Olivet Nazarene University. The Nineteen Fifty est. coffee shop will offer beverages and snacks.
On Saturday morning @ 10AM, we’re having our annual Friends and Family 5K and 2K walk at KCC. Come dressed in your favorite sports apparel for the run! There will be games and a 100yard race for kids, who can dress up as their favorite super hero! There is no cost for the run, but we will be accepting canned food donations for the benevolence ministry.
Don’t miss out Sunday morning for our one service at 10AM! “The Narrow” will be with us again to lead us in worship. Right after service we’ll have a free lunch, activities for kids, pony rides, face painting, and our family friendly Field Games. Don’t miss out this weekend, in finding and building community @ Peoples Church!
While grace represents the core of our theology, our research identified a number of other factors that are common among parents who raise kids with a lasting faith. Although there are no guarantees, the following principles can take some of the guesswork out of instilling faith in children:
“Sticky faith” parents . . .
. . . discuss their own faith journeys. They frequently share organically about their own faith journey; how it continues to impact and influence their life. Tell your ongoing story. Share how you became a Christian, and include what God is currenlty doing in your life.
. . . give their kids space to wrestle with tough faith questions — and help them find resources that can provide answers. Doubt, by itself, isn’t toxic. Doubt becomes toxic when it goes unexpressed. Giving permission for independent thought leads to a stronger faith.
. . . connect their children to caring adults. Kids need to develop a strong personal identity for faith to stick, and community helps accomplish this. When kids know adults who are “on their team,” they have a web of support to catch them when they fall. What’s more, these adults are often able to speak to them in ways parents can’t.
. . . involve their kids in service. Kids must see that faith inspires action. Our research found that family service was a key builder of lasting faith. Sometimes the local church was the catalyst for this service. Other times, parents took the lead in making family service a priority.
. . . prepare teens for a future that includes faith. As part of practical discussions on issues such as managing money and time, wise parents help young people plan their schedules and lives to include church.
Like any parenting priority, our children’s long-term spiritual growth stands a better chance of success if we think in advance about what is important — and how we can make time for those priorities. But while families that adopt certain practices tend to raise kids who have a lasting faith, there is no magic formula. Every child has a free will. Still, spiritual roots don’t grow deep by accident. God is the ultimate gardener, and He often works through parents to prepare the soil, remove creeping weeds and make sure kids have the spiritual nutrients they need to flourish.
It's never too late to begin impressing spiritual truth on your children. Don't allow the enemy to determine your level of influence as a parent. No matter what season of life you are in, your children and grandchildren will need you.
(Excerpt from Kara Powell "A Faith that Sticks")
Shame comes in many different colors. It’s a silent killer with the capability of even justifying its own existence. It creeps into how we see ourselves, our relationships, marriage, parenting, work life, etc. The terrible thing about shame is that it seems so right. It seems reasonable to doubt our abilities, to be cautious, to kick ourselves bloody when falling short. We always seem to fall short. So we try harder to do better, be better, win more, get ahead...But the inevitable will always happen. We will fall short. And, when we fall short, that feeling once again rises up from our gut and seems to cover us. "Why am I not good enough?" "Why can't things just work out for me?" "What am I doing wrong?" "If I could only be like him or her." "I can’t believe I thought I could do this." "I will never let myself get hurt again."
Sound familiar? Sure it does. It's the whisper of shame. It never introduces itself as shame, but it always plays its hand early. We've just never paid enough attention to see it. We don’t know a whole lot about the woman in the story above. We don’t know what her childhood or what her family-life was like. But I can guarantee you this, she was suffering under the reign of shame. We know she was caught in adultery, and the religious elite were ready to do what they do best - reminding people of just how short they always seem to fall.
But then enters Jesus. Jesus challenges these religious elite to go ahead and stone her, but not unless they too are free from sin. Religious people hate introspection. So, one by one, they drop their stones and leave. I love this scene. It's just Jesus and the woman now, and a bunch of stones. No condemners. No one pouring the heaviness of shame. Then, Jesus says something significant. "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." Jesus has a great opportunity to modify her behavior, by telling her to try harder and be better...but he doesn’t. The first thing He wanted to assure her, was that this reign of shame was over. Even though the accusers were gone, certainly her past continued to whisper the lies of shame. But Jesus would not tolerate such nonsense. He would end it. "It's not if you try 'harder' and act 'better,' then I won’t condemn you."
It's grace first. Jesus will never motivate you to change by using shame. "Go and sin no more" is important and necessary. But that is the fruit of experiencing this type of grace. You see, our response to ourselves, and others, when we fail is always," do better and then receive acceptance." With Jesus, it's acceptance first. Because of that, there will be fruit that will be better. Grace will always produce good fruit. Get that shame off you and let this grace take its place.
How come some parents are more successful at nurturing a long-term faith in their kids? Our research has shown that one of the key variables is how kids are raised to understand the Gospel.Too many young people today live by what philosopher Dallas Willard calls the “gospel of sin management.” This truncates the Gospel to the belief that we have to adhere to a bunch of good behaviors in order to have a relationship with Jesus. When young people don’t live up to these behaviors, guilt causes them to think that the relationship itself is over. They end up running from God and the church, just when they need both the most.
But grace is the heart of Christianity, and it needs to be the primary understanding of faith in our homes. Through the Incarnation, God pursues us, offering a gift of salvation that isn’t dependent upon our actions or our ability to clean ourselves up. It’s a gift we simply receive. And continue to receive every day.
Kids make mistakes. They’ll choose to sin. I frequently tell my children that Jesus is bigger than any mistake we can make. He can handle it all — all our little accidental mistakes, all our big intentional sins.
Grace doesn’t mean we live without boundaries. Kids need parents to clearly establish behavioral guidelines and then discipline them when they step across those lines. But we must strive for a way to sprinkle grace even into our discipline — perhaps especially in our discipline. Sometimes, it’s the tone of voice we use when taking away privileges. Other times, it’s how we empathize with a child’s frustration — the frustration he feels over a poor choice. Or, (more likely) the frustration he feels with his parents for imposing discipline.
Kids also need to see their parents relying on the same grace that we want them to experience. If we want our homes to shine with a complete picture of grace, we as parents need to be quick to apologize. Confessing our mistakes to our kids not only builds closer family relationships, but it also helps our kids recognize everyone’s need for God’s tender mercies. Indeed, you’re more likely to have children repent if you have made “I’m sorry” a regular part of your vocabulary.
Excerpt from A Faith That Sticks by Kara Powell
Where people are at their lowest, and where hope is most dismal, in the margins, you will always find Jesus. Jesus wasn't found eating at the finest restaurants, with the most influential people of his day. He was found willingly touching lepers, eating with messed up people, and breaking all sorts of religious rules. That's our Jesus. He has a niche in finding people who most need acceptance, significance, and hope.
A few weeks ago 12 students and adults went on a mission trip to Guatemala, to minister to children and prostitutes working on what is called, "The Line". This was probably the most evil place I have ever witnessed. There appeared to be nothing but shame, lust, depression and ultimately, hopelessness. For the majority of these women, they were stuck in this environment with little hope of ever escaping. But then enters Jesus. In the midst of this dark place, a ministry was born called, "El Oasis". Every week, for the past 15 years, a group of people minister to these ladies by simply sharing just how much Jesus loves them. By the power of God, planting seed by seed, lives are being transformed. What was once broken is now being made whole!
Our hearts, in a lot of ways, are similar to these ladies'. We too, have areas in our hearts we have pushed to the margins. We’ve accumulated shrapnel from broken relationships, disappointment, shame, regret, bitterness, crippling doubt, and hopelessness…all symptoms of a heart beaten back to the margins. Remind yourself of this. Jesus is against all of it. The same way he approaches these ladies, is the same way He approaches you and I. Not with more pain or condemnation…His approach is healing. It's love. And He will never stop pursuing you.
VBS is underway! We're having a blast learning just exactly "What's in the Bible?" and why it's important for us today! You and your family can still make it for the last two days! Dinner is at 5:30PM and the event starts at 6PM. There is a special parent/grandparent small group that meets from 6:45-7:30PM.
5 Reasons why you should come to VBS:
1. Kids love it. If you’re doing it right, VBS is just plain fun, and the kids love it. Fun is, of course, not the end all and be all of children’s ministry, but it is a big selling point. When kids are having fun, they are more apt to be paying attention and learning, and they are more likely to invite their friends.
2. It is an opportunity to share the gospel of Christ. For some, this may be the only time in which someone will share just how great Jesus is!
3. It gives the kids in your church a chance to spend some time together. In addition to reaching out to the community, VBS let’s your kids spend some time together and continue to build those relationships.
4. It gives adults a chance to serve and see how much fun and how rewarding working with kids can be. Sometimes it can be challening to serve long-term in childrens ministry (i.e Sunday School). VBS gives adults the opportunity to serve for a week and have a blast with the kids!
5. You can’t buy that kind of excitement. That is the kind of excitement we should feel about God and about his Good News every day, and VBS week helps to remind us of that.
For more reasons, click here
The next two nights are going to be great, see you then!
There truly is no one like Jesus. From the beginning, He did everything different. He didn't spend his time with the movers and shakers, but with the poor and the desperate. He had time for everyone who requested it, healing and helping wherever He went. He touched lepers who were only accustomed to being cursed and kept at a distance. He gave dignity to fallen women, known sinners, and the general dregs of society. Jesus saw everyone as a child of God. He built no tabernacles. He established no mission headquarters. But He was on mission at every moment. His mission was people, wherever and whatever they were. He started where people were, not where we would prefer them to be. Jesus' mission was clear. Redeem everyone, no matter how messy the margins appear. (Excerpt from The Resurgent Church)
There is no one like Jesus. No one even comes close. He is for hope, not despair. Grace, not condemnation. Life, never death. At this very moment, Jesus is still infiltrating the darkest of places. The margins. Those places or people that make us the most uncomfortable. Jesus is right there doing what He does best, reconciling all that is broken! Let's get with Him on this mission!
"God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken."
Our VBS registration has started and this year we're making it easier for you to sign up! Simply follow this link here to our online registration for you and your family! Register as an individual or as a group, only takes a couple of minutes! You can also comment if you would like to help us out for that week!
Things you need to know:
-A FREE family friendly dinner is at 5:30, Monday-Thursday.
-The event starts at 6pm and will end at 7:30PM.
-This is a FULL family event! When we say family, we mean it. Bring everyone! There will be nursery options for the little ones, worship and lesson is ALL together, and then parent/family small groups that meet while the kids are participating in their own groups.
Looking to help out that week? Make sure to attend the volunteer training July 17th at 1:30 at Peoples Church.
“Perhaps the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or be few."
1 Sam. 14:6
The story of Jonathan has always inspired me. There is guts, grit, courage, and adventure! For the past month or so I've been wondering about his intimacy he must of had with God. We don't know a lot about Jonathan's time with God, how he prayed, studied, worshiped, etc. But there must have been depth to his faith to say, "Perhaps the Lord will work for us, for nothing can restrain the Lord." Certainly Jonathan heard as a boy the stories of old on how God rescued His people and delivered them from their enemies on countless occasions. Jonathan is not a boy any more and he is about to attack an enemy that greatly outnumbers them and he has no plan of retreat or reinforcements. In our human perspective, it's a terrible battle plan.
There is a difference between believing something and actually knowing it. Perhaps the majority of Jonathan's life he merely believed the stories of the great I AM, but now as a young man he needed to make his move. Belief was about to transform into known experience. He would no longer believe that God is a mighty warrior, he would experience it first hand. Regardless of how the battle would turn out though, Jonathan was going to make his gutsy move with the confidence that the Lord can come through in any circumstances. Nothing restrains the Lord.
There are times in all of our lives in which we need to make a move. You've heard the stories and you sing the songs, but a gutsy decision, a step of faith, needs to occur. "For nothing restrains the Lord..." Do you know this to be true? To know is to have first hand experience of it. To have that first hand experience, you at times, like Jonathan, need to climb a couple mountains and address the enemy that's been holding you down. Do you really believe that anxiety, depression, bitterness, hate, and evil can restrain the Lord? Then make your move. You need joy again? Get your worship back. Need healing in your marriage and other relationships? Ask for forgiveness and give it freely. Get out of the shade (1 Sam. 14:2), address the issues, and start living like we say we believe. Is it risky? Yes. But it's in these bold moves of faith that we can begin to know that nothing restrains the Lord.
Father's Day is behind us and on we go with the rest of summer! Hard to believe that the 4th of July is less then two weeks away, before you know it summer will be over and school will be back at it! It's so easy to allow our schedules, responsibilities, etc. to take over and lose sight of what's most important. A research study was done on over 1,500 children and the main question that was asked is "what makes a family happy?". The primary answer was not vacations, bigger home, nice cars, new toys...it was just doing activities together. I've heard it said before that children spell love as T-I-M-E. So with that being said, here is a couple tips from the blog "Tips for Busy Dads" on how to stay plugged in to what is most important, your family:
1. Set your expectations right
Expect chaos because so many times when I get home, chaos is happening. Rare are those days where I walk into my house and my family just ministers to you with a soda, newspaper and the evening news (were those ever the days or just drawings from Norman Rockwell?). Usually I get girls telling me about their day and wanting me to do things with them…things that just make me tired thinking about it. So make sure your expectations are right before you walk through your door so that you don’t get frustrated.
2. Be flexible
No matter how many books you read on parenting and children, the bottom line is no one can prepare you for what you are going to encounter. No one specific book can tell you exactly how to raise your children. The rules break all the time. That is why you need to be flexible and roll with the punches. The more we are flexible and have our expectations set right, the less frustrated we will be when things don’t go quite as we had planned or as the book says. By being flexible we are able to really learn who our children are and how we can best meet their needs and help them grow to be healthy children and young adults.
3. Inject Christ in your life
On your way home, turn on the Christian music station or read some scripture before you walk into your house…scripture on patience Seriously, I have found the more I listen to Christian music before I go anywhere, the more my mindset changes and get focused on the right priorities.
4.”Be here now”
“Be here now” implies that it doesn’t matter what you could be doing somewhere else or should be doing. What is most important is that you stay focused on where you are at. So that means, when you are at home with your kids, you focus on your kids. That means no cell phone, iPad or any other work distraction you may have. I know that is easier said than done, but the reality is we have at least 9-5 M-F to focus on our work and toys (yes, our iPhone is definitely a toy). We need those few hours each day when we get home to be focused on our children and loving our wife.
What else can you add to the list?
Things you need to know:
-A FREE family friendly dinner is at 5:30, Monday-Thursday.
-The event starts at 6pm and will end at 7:30PM.
-This is a FULL family event! When we say family, we mean it. Bring everyone! There will be nursery options for the little ones, worship and lesson is ALL together, and then parent/family small groups that meet while the kids are participating in their own groups.
-Pre-registration begins July 10th (online & at VBS booth) To register online, click here
-Quick little video on the curriculum: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ceyJeGGJuk
Check out below what you and your kids will gain from being apart of our VBS:
Elementary-aged children will experience an exciting rotational model VBS and walk away from the week knowing the BIG story of the Bible – God’s Great Rescue Plan! – and what it means to live as a Christian.
Parents will walk away with a new understanding of the Bible, how to lead their families through the tricky parts of the Bible, and how to engage their family in God’s redemptive mission in the world. Parents will also be receiving several take home resources that can help you keep the experience alive while at home!
This is a great way for you to wrap up your summer to move into the school year with momentum and excitement!
Let’s go across to the outpost of those pagans,” Jonathan said to his armor bearer. “Perhaps the lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!”
1 Sam. 14:6
I love stories that require some grit. Grit can be defined as someone who displays courage, guts, resolve, and a backbone when the stakes are high. Jonathan was a man that had grit. The story above tells us how Jonathan and his armor bearer, though the odds were against them and defeat looked evident, charged the enemy anyways with a gutsy faith! "Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord..."
That's a pretty gutsy thing to say. Perhaps. Was Jonathan doubting God's ability? I dont believe so. He was confident that God can do anything and the battle was His. Jonathan was just tired of doing nothing. His father, Saul (the King), was comfortable sitting in the shade of the trees while an enemy approached. Not for Jonathan. Someone in this army needed spiritual grit. Someone needed to finally reject passivity and actually behave like God can do mighty things...impossible things!
Another man that had grit is found not to long ago at the battle of Iwo Jima, his name is Jack Lucas. Jack talked his way into the Marines at fourteen years old, fooling the recruits with his muscled physique. While stationed in Hawaii he was assigned to drive a truck around the island, but had grown frustrated; he wanted to fight. D-Day for Iwo Jima was about to begin, so he stowed away on a transport departing from Honolulu heading towards one of the bloodiest battles in WWII. He was only 17 at this point. He landed on Iwo Jima without a rifle, but charged anyways towards the enemy. Once finding a rifle from a fallen comrad he fought his way inland. While crawling through the trenches with a few other soldiers the enemy sprang up on them and tossed two grenades landing right by Jack. Jack instinctively covered up both of the grenades with his body to protect the other soldiers. Jack remembers thinking to himself "I'm about to die." One of the grenades explodes tossing the badly wounded Jack through the air, but sparing his comrad's lives. Jack miraculously survives the injury (after 21 operations) and becomes the youngest person ever to receive the Medal of Honor--The only high school freshman to do so. Jack had over 200 peices of shrapnel in his body for the rest of his life. Not only that, Jack joined the Army later in life to become a paratrooper...just to conquer his fear of heights.
So what's our excuse again for not having a gritty type of faith? As we move forward from the comfort of the shade, let us not forget that Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing hinders the Lord. Nothing.
Family ministry has become a hot topic lately. Google it and you will find plenty of statistics and research explaining the importance of regaining a biblical perspective on God's vision for the role of parents. I find this a pretty exciting trend, especially as a parent looking for resources (sometimes I feel clueless) and encouragement (parenting is messy). However, there are some aspects of "family ministry" that can be concerning if not clarified and kept in perspective. Here is a couple that come to mind:
-"The family ministry "model" will save our kids and transform parents." No model/program will keep your kids in church or activate a parent's heart. Only Jesus can do this. Family ministry is not the Gospel. When forgetting this, the "model" will quickly become your church's idol. As you may be aware, God isn't very keen on idol worship. Can a family ministry approach help equip our families, engage our children, and produce intergenerational connects? Absolutely! If that is our purpose for this type of culture, let's embrace it!
-I've heard this said a handful of times, "My family is great, were doing well, that's why we don't always make it to church as much." This is a pretty common one as well, "Our family is so busy right now, we just don't have time to get involved in any more activities." We are a society of busy people, that is for sure, but can we really do Christianity without the church community?
This is a huge topic, that will require more space and time, for now let's look at a couple points on the importance of church community regardless of how busy or great family life may be.
1. Deut. 6:4-7 These are go to verses for family ministry, instructing us on how to pass faith to the next generation. I like how Moses kicks it off though by saying "Hear, O Israel". Moses was calling all of Israel together for instruction, not just mom and dad. All means uncle, aunt, grandparents, brother, sister, cousins, close friends, and of course mom and dad. Moses was telling the community (church) of people that to pass this faith to the next generation all must be active participants in impressing these truths on the children.
2. Research shows that teens who had at least one adult from church make a significant time investment in their lives were more likely to keep attending church. More of those who stayed in church --by a margin of 46% to 28%--said five or more adults at church had invested time with them personally and spiritually.
One of the greatest values of the church is providing a community for you and your kids. A place where they can feel safe, have meaningful discussion with a caring adult, and to ask the tough questions. We all need this type of community.
I realize we didn't define "family ministry", that was intentional. Still working on it myself! But I believe we're heading in the right direction when viewing family ministry as a way of coming along side families to train up the children to love God with all of their heart, soul, and strength.
The American culture boasts in its convenience. Everything is better when done more simply and less time consuming. We've become the impatient nation. We like our fast food. We use the self-checkout lanes in grocery stores. Pay extra for overnight shipping. We want fast answers to complex issues such as the economy, relationships, social justice issues, etc. We even prefer to speak in half sentences and use emoticons to share how we are feeling!
We're busy people (another topic for some other day), so convenience is not all that bad. It has it's pros, but are there any boundaries? How would you feel if we can create a church experience that is super convenient to your schedule, pleases your short attention span, requires very little participation, and will make sure God doesn't do something crazy like, you know, show up? Sounds like a radical way to follow Jesus, right?
Let's just get to it. Convenience needs its boundaries and we've probably allowed things to bleed into the Church for to long. Our desire to "win" people by making Jesus convenient has backfired. We've created "converts" with no fire in their hearts and who avoid the risk of faith at all costs. There is nothing in the New Testament that is safe. Jesus is anything but safe. Jesus isn't looking for cheerleaders, He is seeking men and women who will follow Him into the game. Convenience is all about you, but following Jesus is ALL about Him!
Convenient based Christians are focused on their own interests, worries, fears, priorities, and lifestyles. Disciples are focused on Jesus. Period.
Convenient Christians are comfortable. Disciples make sacrifices.
Convenient Christians prefer just to hear the word of God. Disciples are about living it.
Convenient Christians are occasionally involved in the mission of Jesus. Disciples are committed to it.
Convenient Christians will rationalize sin. Disciples will repent.
There is so much more to following Jesus then just merely putting Him on your weekly calendar. How about we take the restraints of comfort and convenience off of us and begin trusting that He actually can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think! When we start to do that, buckle up, your about to encounter an adventure that is well worth everything that you are and have!
"Oh lord, please light the fire,
That once burned bright and clean.
Replace the lamp of my first love,
That burns with holy fear."
(Oh Lord, Your beautiful)
My prayers have been simple lately, "Jesus, set my heart aflame for You." Everyday, all day, this is where I desire my heart to be. There are so many distractions and things in life that can take our attention and focus, but only Jesus can truly capture and ignite the heart! If you find yourself in a place of boredom and apathy, my encouragement for you is to get that lamp aflame again. The apostle Paul says that when we are baptized into Christ, we have then put on Christ Jesus. This is the Christian lifestyle. My agenda is now different. The way I view my world is now completely different. My heart is only given over to one Master, not a multitude.
The question is, are we willing to proceed in life without His presence? Are you willing to settle for religion, rather than transformation? Let your first love, be the way you always love.
"Prayer, without fervor, stakes nothing on the issue, because it has nothing to stake. It comes with empty hands. Hands, too, which are listless, as well as empty, which have never learned the lesson of clinging to the cross...Prayers must be red hot. It is the fervent prayer that is effectual and that availeth. Coldness of spirit hinders praying; prayer cannot live in a wintry atmosphere. Chilly surroundings freeze out petitioning; and dry up the springs of supplication. It takes fire to make prayers go...Yet fire is not fuss, nor heat, noise. Heat is intensity--something that glows and burns. Heaven is a mighty poor market for ice." --E.M. Bounds
What is the atmosphere of your heart? We're careless when it comes to being watchful of what season we've allowed our hearts to enter. For the one who follows Jesus, shouldn't our hearts and the way we pray, always be in the season of summer? Winter is dreary, cold, and dead. Let that never be a condition of our lives!
We have a new spirit, let us approach God with a passion and confidence that nothing is impossible for Him! Nothing. Leave your doubts in winter and let your prayers begin to take fire!