The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Children

Fathers, what’s one of the greatest gifts you can give your children?

It’s not money, toys, or even a college education. It’s not clothes, athletic ability, or a car when they turn sixteen.

But you already knew all that. So what is it?

An Identity.

All children, especially as they enter their teen years are asking one question, “Who am I?” And they are constantly looking outside themselves to find the answer. It’s why the likes and dislikes of your tweens and teens seem to change by the minute. They’re not trying to be difficult, they’re just trying to figure out who they are…likes and dislikes included.

As a man, even Jesus needed an answer to the question, “Who am I?” Author Dan Spader points out,

“It was critical to Jesus that He understand who He belonged to. At His baptism, for the very first time, Jesus heard His Father’s voice say, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). In the Old Testament, learned rabbis would string together key verses from three major parts of the Old Testament to convey a truth. This was called stringing pearls. At Jesus’s baptism, God the Father did the same thing. He took references from three major portions of the Old Testament and strung them together to make a profound statement: “You are my son” (Psalm 2:7) “whom I love” (Genesis 22:2) “with you I am well pleased” (Isaiah 42:1). With these three brief citations, God spoke of Jesus as a king, as servant, and His son.”[1]

Did you catch that? God the Father blessed God the Son (Jesus) with an identity. With three short statements, the Father told the Son, “this is who you are—a king, a servant, and my Son.” The result, Jesus lived out his identity.

It’s the same today. Our children will always live out their identity. The only question is where will their identity come from?

Fathers, God has given you and me the great opportunity to give our children an identity…a good identity. How can we do this?

First we start with ourselves. How have we been defined? How do we see ourselves? If we struggle with our own identity we must repeatedly come to our Heavenly Father and receive his words, “You are my son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.” Because of what Jesus did for us, we can own those words.

Then let us speak these words in different ways, at different times, again and again, over our children. Let us remind our children whenever possible that they are loved, they are objects of pride, and that they are sons and daughters of God.

How we define or don’t define our children will dramatically impact how they live. So let us not waste the opportunity God has given us. Let us give our children one of the greatest gifts of their life…the gift of an identity.

Blessings,

 


 

[1] Dann Spader. 4 Chair Discipling. 71-72

Family Idols

Last month  I was invited to speak at a friend’s church. I spoke to a Men’s group and the topic was “Using Worship to Overcome Addiction.”

The gist of the talk was, all of us are tempted to worship things other than God that can’t fully satisfy us. When we pursue those things we find ourselves frustrated, stressed, anxious, depressed and hopeless…which leads to us engaging in sinful behaviors as a way to cope. But when we pursue and worship God we find the satisfaction we long for and the sinful behaviors begin to go away…because we don’t need to the sinful behaviors to cope anymore.

Now all this got me thinking about my own parenting. How so often I only focus on my kid’s sinful behavior. And how I rarely think about what is behind that behavior. I don’t think I have ever asked myself what are the idols of my kid’s heart? What are they pursing that is leaving them frustrated, stressed, anxious, depressed or hopeless? And how are their sins connected to these pursuits?

Now my kids are young and there is no way they could articulate any of this. But they still have sinful desires. They still have idols. I know this because if I asked them the question, “what could I give you that would make you happy?”…I am sure they wouldn’t respond, “more Jesus!”

And that’s is the problem. Not just for my kids and yours, but for all of us. If there is something we want more than Jesus, we are worshiping an idol– something that is leading us (and our families) to destruction. Idols lead to sin, sin leads to destruction. It’s just that simple.  If we believe there something that can satisfy us in a way Jesus cannot…then we are setting ourselves up for frustration, sin, and destruction.

Our kids are no different.

As we come into summer, a time when most of us will see more of our kids it’s a good time to ask ourselves do I know what idols my kids worship? Do I know what idols I worship? Do I know what idols our family worships? And how are these idols effecting our family?

As I outlined in my Men Ministry talk, freedom from sin comes when we take the following three steps:  We confess our idols, acknowledge how they harm us, and then ask God to help pursue and worship him. Because only faithful worship of God through Jesus Christ can free us from sin and bring us the satisfaction we long for—parents and kids alike.

May your family and mine continue to lay our idols at the cross of Jesus that we might grow in faithful worship of God. And may God alone satisfy our hearts and keep our homes evermore free from sin.

Sharing The Gospel Can Be Easier Than You Think

How much do you have to know to share the good news of Jesus Christ?

The answer is not a whole lot.

The important thing is not knowing a lot, but knowing where to go.

Think of a gospel-conversation like walking with friends along a path and making a few stops along the way. Your job is simply to walk with them in conversation and lead them to the right stops. Then at each stop give them an opportunity to respond.

What are the key stops on the path?

Stop #1 God’s Law.

Stop #2 God’s Judgement.

Stop #3 God’s Grace.

Stop # 4 God’s Offer.

What might this look like?

Watch this video:

Did you notice how the conversation was build around six key questions?

  1. Do you think you are a good person?
  2. Have you every broken one the Ten Commandments?
  3. If God judges you by the Ten Commandments on the Day of Judgement do you think you’d be guilty or innocent?
  4. Do you think you’d go to Heaven or Hell?
  5. Do you know what God did for sinners so that you don’t have to go to Hell?
  6. Are you willing to receive God’s gift, repent and to trust Jesus?

Did you notice how the questions lead the person to consider God’s law, God’s judgment, God’s grace and God’s offer?

The conversation took a few turns but ultimately it kept coming back to the four key stops. And that is all you have to do when sharing Gospel with others–take them to the stops.

I didn’t originate this method, and I definitely don’t think it is the only way to share Jesus with others. But it is one way. And it is a way that is easy and clearly points to our need for Jesus.

So try it out and then tell me how it goes.

And if you have a favorite method of Gospel-sharing put in the comments. And let others  know.

Blessings,

 

The Secret of Strong Families

I have to hand it to Facebook. They finally figured me out.

For the longest time the ads in my feed were useless and annoying. But last month there was an ad from Crossway Publishing promoting a free five day email course on Family Worship.

I clicked on it, signed up, read the emails and watch the videos for each of the five days. And to my surprise the videos were all very helpful. So I bought the book the videos were promoting.

The book is called Family Worship: In the Bible, In History, and In Your Home by Donald S. Whitney. And it really is a great book…so great, I wrote the following review on Amazon:

Every Christian family should read this book. Clear, simple, short but very informative, and very practical. This book will be helpful for any family interested in family worship…especially for those that have never done it before. As a pastor I will be recommending this book to every family in our church.

The book is really that great. So here I am recommending it to every family in our church.

One thing that has become clear to me over the years is, families who worship together flourish together.

Worshiping families are closer. Their kids do better in school, and they make better choices with their friends. Their kids don’t leave their faith in college and they tend do better after college.

Worshiping families flourish because they make Jesus the foundation of the family…and that’s a foundation that doesn’t break.

But here’s the thing,  if you’re like me, maybe you’re not sure how to do family worship. Growing up my family was a Christian family. But we never spent time as a family reading the Bible, praying, or singing. Those were things we did “at church”…not at home.

So when I wanted to start family worship in my own home I didn’t have a clue what to do. It was awkward. It was frustrating. It often felt forced.

I needed help.

Family Worship: In the Bible, In History, and In Your Home has been that help.

My hope is that every Christian family will buy this book. Not because I want to add one more thing to your to-do list. But because it is my prayer that every Christian family will commit to worshiping as a family throughout the week. Because I want every Christian family to be a strong family…built on the strong foundation of Jesus Christ.

If your family does not worship together, consider getting a copy of Family Worship: In the Bible, In History, and In Your Home. If you want to preview things before you buy here’s the link to the five day video course. And if you just need someone to talk to (or vent to) about family worship leave a comment, I’d be happy to help in any way I can.

May God bless your family!

Saint Patrick’s Story

The story of Saint Patrick is a great story.

I think it’s one every Christian should know.

Because the story of Saint Patrick points us to the Gospel story.

Patrick lived in Britain in the 5th century A.D. He grew up in a Christian home, yet was not a believer.

At the age of sixteen Patrick was captured by a group of Irish pirates. He was taken to Ireland and enslaved.

Yet, it was in slavery that the Lord met Patrick.

In his book The Confessions, Patrick says that the Lord had mercy on him and gave him the opportunity to be forgiven of his sins.

Patrick received the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness and was forever changed. So changed, that he pursued God with a new passion.  In The Confessions he writes:

“The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same. I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn.

But that was only the beginning. After six years of slavery God gave Patrick a vision that led Patrick to freedom. Once free, Patrick returned to Britain and devoted his life to God.

He studied to become a priest and then a bishop. Then God gave Patrick a new vision–return to Ireland and preach the good news of Jesus Christ.

Now is his twenties Patrick, returned to Ireland. For 40 years he shared the good news of Jesus with the Irish. He suffered and endured many hardships. Yet in the end, God used him to convert thousands of people and plant many churches all over Ireland.

It’s a great story. And it’s a Gospel story.

Patrick knew he needed a Savior. Patrick knew what he had been saved from. Patrick knew he had received God’s grace. And because of that Patrick responded to God’s call to share God’s grace with others.

The story of Saint Patrick reminds us that at one time we, like Patrick, were all slaves…slaves to sin. That it was in our slavery that Jesus met us.  Offered us forgiveness. Offered us freedom. And Jesus did all this so that we could pursue Him and help set others free.

So this Saint Patrick’s Day let us take a moment to meditate on Jesus’ gift of forgiveness and freedom. And let us take a moment to thank God for the grace he has shown us. Then maybe, just maybe, we might find our story becoming like Saint Patrick’s story. One that points others to the Gospel story.

Why heaven will not be boring

In high school, I once overheard some friends say that they’d rather go to Hell instead of Heaven. I was like, “WHAT?!” That seemed crazy to me!

So I listened in on their conversation to find out why. It turned out they wanted to go Hell because they thought Heaven would be boring.

Sometimes the way I hear people talk about Heaven makes me not want to go there either, and I’m a pastor. Like when someone once told me that they thought Heaven would be a never-ending church service… depending on your church experience that might not be too fun. Thankfully, though, heaven is not like that.

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Top 5 Posts of 2015

Hey guys,

It has been a great year!

We’ve covered a lot of different topics. And thanks to your likes, comments, and shares, more people have read this blog than ever before– just over 3,500.

That’s not going to break any records as far as blogs go, but it’s not nothing. And it means a lot to me each time you consider the content on this site worth interacting with on some level.

Speaking of content worth interacting with, here are the top five posts from 2015. These were the posts that you and others read and interacted with the most in 2015.

So in case you missed one of them, here’s my gift to you. Hopefully, they’re still just as helpful as when I wrote them:

  1. The One Big Difference Between Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses

  2. Five Books That Helped Me Learn How to Pray

  3. The best parenting advice I’ve ever 

  4. Should I let my teen go to another church?

  5. Bad Recruiting Day

 

Enjoy! 

Answers to Middle School Questions

How do you know for sure that God is real?

There are at least three ways we can know God is real.

First we know God is real through the Bible. The first words of the Bible are, ”In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” (Genesis 1:1) The Bible is a book all about God–who he is, and what he has done. The Bible is also God’s Word to us (2 Timothy 3:16). Through the Bible God speaks to us. So if we want to know God’s is real, the first and best place to go is the book that is all about him and full of his words.

Second we know God is real through nature. Romans 1:20 tells us that God’s has made himself known in nature “since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” We when we study nature we discover that much of creation is full of beauty, order, and design. And that tell us there must have been someone who created, order, and designed in all. [1] Would you believe someone if they told you that your bike built itself? Of course not, because things as complex as bikes have to be designed and built by someone. It is the same way with nature. Complex things don’t just build themselves. They need a builder (like in Minecraft). So nature points to the great builder God himself.

Finally the third way we can know God is real is through experience. In John 14:21 Jesus says, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” When we obey and love Jesus, we get to experience the love of God. And Jesus makes himself known to us (that’s what manifest means). I can tell you the longer I have walked with God and done my best to obey and love him, the more I know for sure that he is real. How do I know he is real? We’ll because I am in a relationship with him. So I know he is real like I know my mom or dad is real. I talk to him, he talks to me. I’ve seen him help me. And I’ve felt his love his love for me.

So if you want to know God is real, I encourage you to spend a lot time with God’s Word, then spend a lot of time with God in creation, and finally do your best to obey and love God. There will still be times of doubts (and that’s okay). But the longer you do these three things, the more you’ll know for sure that God is real.

 


 

[1] Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks. When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences. Baker Books. 1990. p.16

Where Discipleship Starts

“Go and make disciples”

What goes through your mind when you hear those words?

Often, when I talk to people about discipleship their faces begins to change. Their expressions say something like,  “I know I should, but the idea is overwhelming.”

Maybe you can relate?

Maybe you want to take Jesus’ words seriously, but you don’t know where to start…because you don’t know where to find disciples.

But what if I told you finding disciples is actually easier than you think? What if I told you, you probably already have some?

In the first century, early Christians didn’t go looking for disciples. Instead they started with people they already knew. (And not in some kind of  Amway-like sales approach.)

They simply started with people that were already under their influence…people who naturally [because of birth or business] would listen to them…people who were part of their “oikos”.

Oikos is the Greek word for “household”. But it means a lot more than that. Win and Charles Arn write, “In the Greco-Roman culture, oikos not only described the immediate family in the house but included servants, servant’s families, friends, and even business associates. An oikos was one’s sphere of influence, his or her social system composed of those related to each other through ties of kinship, and territory.”[1]

And in the first century one’s oikos  was “A key element in [the disciple-making] process.”

For example, in Acts 16 when a jailer asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved, they reply, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household [oikos].”

Then look what happens next…

Paul and Silas “spoke the word of the Lord to [the jailer] and to all the others in his house [okia]. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household [oikos] were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household [okios]. (Acts 16:31-34)

For the “regular” New Testament Christian the discipleship pattern was not to first go out and evangelize and disciple strangers. The early Christian likely was not even thinking about how he could evangelize and disciple his pagan neighbor…at least not at first.

Rather, the priority for the early Christian was to evangelize and disciple those he already knew. People already under his care, people who were already a part of his okios.

So much was the focus of discipleship on “households”, that a Christian could not even be eligible to lead others in the church until he had a track record of discipling his “oikos.”

The Apostle Paul writes, a church elder “ must manage his own family [oikos] well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family [oikos], how can he take care of God’s church? (1 Timothy 3:4-5)

In a similar manner, when it came to the early church evangelizing their non believing community, not everyone was called to the task. Instead early Christians specifically set aside particular church leaders to be  evangelists (Acts 21:8, Ephesians 4:11, 2 Timothy 4:5). Much like what we do with pastors today.  This was because, the priority of discipleship in the early church was in the following order: Household, Church, Community/World.

So if you want to be faithful to Jesus’ words, “Go and make disciples” but aren’t sure where to start, may I suggest you start with those God has already given you. Start with your oikos.

Forget about the stranger for second, and don’t stress about not teaching in the church.  Take your cues from the early church and make your first priority your household.

If you are faithful there, then in time God may call you to disciple those in the church. And if you are faithful in the church, who knows God might just call you to make disciple of all nations…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

For now, just start with your oikos.

 

 

 

 

 

Now, if you’re wondering how to disciple your “oikos”, here’s a couple of links to get you started:

The Four Tasks of Discipleship

The Path of Discipleship

 


 

[1] Win Arn and Charles Arn. The Master’s Plan for Making Disciples. Second ed. p. 39 -40

Help For The Frustrated

Where do we find words for the frustrations that we feel?

I don’t know about you but when I hear about another mass shooting I feel frustrated. Part of my frustration comes from feeling an inability to communicate appropriately about the situation. There’s a struggle to communicate the mix of emotions and thoughts that are stirring inside me.

Maybe you feel that frustration too. So what can we do about it?

As Christians we have a wonderful resource to deal with and communicate those feelings of frustrations. It’s the book of Psalms.

Over the last year I have read at least one Psalm every day. And I can honestly say, the Psalms are a true balm for the soul. They provide a way to communicate about every emotion and every frustration of life.

For example there are seventy-one references to evil alone in the Psalms. One of my favorites is Psalm 10:

Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.

For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.

In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”

His ways prosper at all times;
your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
as for all his foes, he puffs at them.

He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”

His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.

He sits in ambush in the villages;
in hiding places he murders the innocent.

His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;
he lurks that he may seize the poor;
he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.

The helpless are crushed, sink down,
and fall by his might.

He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;
forget not the afflicted.

Why does the wicked renounce God
and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?

But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.

Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.

The Lord is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.

O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

 

The early church father Athanasius once wrote, “Whatever your particular need or trouble, from this same book [the psalms] you can select a form of words to fit it, so that you…learn the way to remedy your ill.”

The world is a frustrating place to live in sometimes. But thankfully God has given us a tremendous resource to help us live and communicate in these times of frustration.

If you are feeling frustrated, I encourage you to take advantage of this resource.


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