4 Reasons To Read The Bible As A Family

 

Forget for a second that your teenagers pretend they don’t want to be around you. Forget that the first time you try to do this it is going to feel awkward. Forget that you feel like you don’t know the right way to do it.

Just pick a time of the day and go for it. Use a Bible reading plan. Read together for 15 mins.  Talk about what you read. Then close in prayer.Wm._Riley_Blankinship,_miner,_with_his_children._Koppers_Coal_Division,_Kopperston_Mine,_Kopperston,_Wyoming_County..._-_NARA_-_540984

Don’t worry if at first it doesn’t seem fruitful. What’s important is the routine of reading the Bible together as a family.

Because reading the Bible as a family does four things for your family:

First, it shows that you as the parent value the Bible.

This might seem like a small thing. It’s not. Teen’s attitude toward the Bible will often reflect their parent’s attitude toward the Bible. If teens don’t see their parents holding the Bible in high esteem, then neither will they. One of the greatest ways parents can contribute to the faith of their students is to share with them why they (the parents) reads the Bible, and how it has changed their lives.

Second, it centers your family around God’s Word.

Every time your family reads the Bible together, you are in a very simple way saying to your family that “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” It’s a simple reminder to the family that your family is not like other families. Your family has different values, different traditions, different expectations. Your family is a family that seeks to follow Jesus. When you read the Bible together as a family you are reshaping your family’s identity. You’re grounding your family in something bigger than sports, music, video games, clothes, appearances, and other stuff. You’re giving your kids a sense of security that is hard to find anywhere else.

Third, when families read the Bible together it opens up the lines of dialogue.

Having trouble talking to your teens? Read the Bible together. Then ask them what came to their mind as they read (or heard) the words? What questions did they have? What did it make them think about God? What about their their life? About their friend’s lives?  Don’t worry about having all the right responses. Instead just focus on hearing what is on your teen’s heart. Think of it as a three-way conversation between you (the parents), your teens, and God. Trust that God’s Word is alive and active. And overtime God will use His Word to open up your teen to sharing what is on his or her heart.

Fourth, it might just save their marriage (and yours).

This might seem random, but it’s not.  There is a long held belief that the divorce rate in America is 50%. Now it turns out that it’s not quite that high at all. But do you know what the divorce rate is for couples who regularly read their Bibles together or pray together– less than 1%. That means if you help your children feel like reading the Bible as a family is normal, they might just do that with their spouse one day. And it might just be the one consistent practice that gives them the foundation to weather all the storms of life that come in a marriage. Not to mention reading the Bible as family will likely strengthen your marriage, which will in turn give you children  a healthier picture of marriage. It’s win-win.

 

Yeah, it might be awkward. Yes, it will take some practice. But know that it is worth it.

Because families that read the Bible together are simply, better families.

 

 

How To Overcome Boring Bible Reading

Why is reading the Bible sometimes boring? For most of us reading the Bible begins to get boring when we reach a kind of plateau. We know most of the stories in the Bible, we have a basic understanding of its theology, and we have a few key verses memorized.

But what if God intended us to do more–more than just read the Bible? What if Bible reading was really just the beginning of the meal and not the main course?

For me the Bible moved from old hat to a chest of treasure when I moved from merely reading the Bible to studying the Bible. As I have learned to study the Bible, there has been no end to the depth of riches I can plunder.

But how does someone study the Bible? Isn’t it complicated? It can be. But recently I have come across two  great resources that can help.

The first is a book (which we’re currently using in our summer Sunday School class) entitled, Dig Deeper: Tools for Understanding God’s WordThis is a very user friendly book that provides a wealth of information. I’ve seriously been impressed with it, and would recommend it to any one wanting to get more out the Bible.

The second resources is coming out in the Fall. It’s a video teaching series by John Piper called Look at the Book. Here’s what he had to say about it on his website:

 This fall we plan to launch Look at the Book, a new online method of teaching the Bible. Look at the Book is an ongoing series of 5–8 minute video interactions with the Bible in which the camera is on the text, not the teacher. You will hear my voice and watch my pen work its way into the meaning of the text. I’ll point and circle and underline in the passage, all the while talking through how I’m seeing what I’m seeing.

Our main aim will be to create habits of mind and ways of seeing the Bible that help you find the riches of Scripture for yourselves. We really believe that serious Christians can see more wonders in God’s word than they ever thought they could. Look at the Book is our effort to bring that belief to life for you.

I honestly expect this to be a great resource. If you’re interested in studying the Bible I would encourage you to keep an eye out for it. Here’s a trailer that might get you a little more excited:

And here’s a sample of a Look at the Book session.

Whether you’ve read the Bible a few times or regularly for many years (or you’re just curious about what the Bible is about), I would encourage you to take advantage of these resources. I would encourage you to move from a person who just reads the Bible to a person who studies the Bible.

If you are willing to prayerfully pursue this with a teachable heart, and a desire to know God, I assure you the Bible will never be boring again.

What Puritans Can Teach Us About Family Worship

What can I do to help my kids grow spiritually?

For most of us, the first thing that comes to our mind is to teach our kids the Bible. This is great, but depending on the age and stage of our kids this can be rough. So what can we as parents do?

This week I came across a conversation between  Tim Challies and Dr. Joel Beeke on the family worship habits of Puritans.  In it, Dr. Joel Beeke points out that for Puritans reading the Bible was just one part of family worship. But it certainly wasn’t the only part.

Below is a part of the conversation between Tim Challies (TC) and Dr. Joel Beeke (JB). You can read the entire conversation here.

TC: To hear people talk about the Puritans, you would imagine they were harsh toward their children, making them endure endless hours of family worship. Is this accurate?

JB: Endless hours in family worship would have been impossible for most people in the seventeenth-century. In Puritan New England, many people were farmers who had to labor hard to produce food. Children also had much to do in school, household chores, and working alongside their fathers and mothers to learn a vocation. The Puritans also took time for recreation. They enjoyed hunting, fishing, shooting competitions, and wrestling—two New England Puritan ministers were famous amateur wrestlers. They enjoyed music in their homes, owning guitars, harpsichords, trumpets, violas, drums, and other instruments. There was a lot to do; family devotions were one part—albeit the most important part—of a busy daily schedule.

The Puritans aimed at pithy instruction and heart-moving prayer. Samuel Lee wrote that in all our teaching of the family we should beware of boring the children by talking too much. Long devotions overburden their little minds. It is best to hold the attention of children by using spiritual analogies with flowers, rivers, a field of grain, birds singing, the sun, a rainbow, etc.

 

What is clear from this brief exchange is that Puritan families were spiritually strengthened by at least three practices:

They worked together

Whether household chores or learning their parent’s vocation, children worked along side their parents. This provided plenty of opportunities to for parents and children to talk together about life, the Bible, and the Christian faith. It was a way of living out the principles of Deuteronomy 6:4-7.

They played together

As hard as it is to imagine, puritans families had fun together. Sports, music, and just good old fashion play was a regular part of the their household interaction. They understood that all activities could be done for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

They enjoyed God’s creation together

Notice when teaching the Bible, parents were encouraged to use spiritual analogies to help children understand. They used pictures of flowers, rivers, fields of grain, singing birds, the sun, and rainbows, to help explain the Christian life. They used such analogies because they took pleasure in these creations. Puritans understood that one of the purposes of creation is to lead us to worship of our Creator (Romans 1:20).

 

Helping you family grow spiritually doesn’t have to be boring. And it doesn’t have to just consists of a series of Bible studies. If you really want your family to grow spiritually, then take a lesson from the Puritans. Work to together. Play together. Enjoy God’s creation together. Knowing that such practices will enhance those times when you do read the Bible together.

Friday Fun

If you’ve never watched The Colbert Report, here are a couple of things to know about the host, comedian Stephen Colbert. On the show, Colbert portrays a caricatured version of conservative political pundits, and often pokes fun at his guests. The guests know this when they go his show. But in real life Colbert is a practicing Roman Catholic who even teaches Sunday School. The interview below with bible critic Bart Ehrman, is intended to be funny (and it is). But I especially like it because most of Stephan’s arguments are actually valid. Enjoy!

http://media.mtvnservices.com/embed/mgid:arc:video:colbertnation.com:1a2a488e-ed01-11e0-aca6-0026b9414f30

Five Practices that Lead to Happiness

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I hear what you’re saying.  You want to succeed in life, you want to feel significant and you want to be happy. But often you feel tired, unsure, and a little depressed. You want to know how to break that cycle without spending massive amounts of money for motivation that won’t last, or investing massive amounts of time for change that won’t stick. You want life to be different but you’re not sure what to do. You’re not looking for a quick fix but neither do you want to start something that will feel like a burden for the rest of your life.

Here is my humble attempt to help with five practices that, when I choose to apply them, help lead me to happiness.

Celebrate– For me I’m currently celebrating that I have been created by God, and that God never stops pursuing me. I’m celebrating that this God of infinite knowledge and power wants to be with me, to teach me, to lead me, and to care for me.  I’m celebrating that He has given me a wonderful wife and the best kids ever. I am celebrating that He has given me a job where I get to use my gifts and talents.  And I am celebrating that I have friends and extended family that really love me. Starting my day with celebration changes everything.

Create– I am learning more and more that I am made to create. When I create I am reflecting God, my Creator. Therefore to create is an act of worship.  The creations can be small- a blog post, a lesson plan, or lyrics to a song.  The size and scope does not matter. What does matter is only that I am using my gifts, skills, or imagination to make something. Anything. When I create I feel significant, and when I feel significant, I feel happy.

Connect– There is almost nothing more valuable than taking time to connect with others. To be honest, this is often the hardest one for me. To pursue others truly, like God pursues me, takes real work and involves constantly fighting my fear of rejection. But God is continually reminding me that we are made for relationships. People want to be connected with.  And happiness comes when I take the initiative to pursue people, even just one person each day.

Challenge-I don’t know about you, but it’s easy for my mind to dwell on negative thoughts, and there are great consequences for this. My negative thoughts lead to negative attitudes which in turn lead to negative practices. It has been said many times before, but it is so true: change starts with the thoughts in our head. I need to take time each day to challenge (and defeat) these thoughts. Scripture calls us to renew our minds (Romans 12:2), so I challenge my negative thoughts by spending time with God and letting Him fill my mind with His Word.  I also like to find time to be inspired by others. Just the other day I read a quote by the legendary motivational speaker Zig Ziglar: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”  I need motivation every day, because I need to daily challenge my negative thoughts, negative attitudes, and negative practices. When I do, I am happy.

Be Consistent – Ok so I lied. Connecting with others is not the hardest practice for me– consistency is. Practicing the same things over and over again is incredibly difficult for me. There is a massive part of me that hates (with a capital “H”) routine. But I am learning that some routines are good.  When I get up early each morning to spend time with God, exercise, and shower before my kids wake up, I am happier. Each morning that I choose to reorder my world in a small way by taking the time to make my bed, I am happier. Consistency is hard, but it is also the most essential because it fosters the continual enjoyment of the fruits of the other practices, so it too leads me to happiness.

Celebrate, Create, Connect, Challenge and Consistency. I pray that these practices would lead you to a little more happiness each day.

What other practices have helped you find happiness?

Five Crazy Things You’ll Likely Do In Heaven

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The notion of eternity has always scared me to death. As a pastor, that is not exactly easy to admit, but it’s true. If I think too long about the idea of living forever I will literally start to freak out. I know I am not alone in this. Many times students in our church have shared with me that they don’t like thinking about heaven because when they think about eternity it scares them.

Eternity is scary, but only when our picture of heaven is vague.  So to help us overcome the fear, here are five crazy things I think followers of Jesus will likely do in heaven.[1]

1.       Flying (Acts 1:3-10)

After His resurrection Jesus met with his disciples to give them final instructions. After He had finished, the Bible says “ he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They [the disciples] were looking intently up into the sky as he was going…” Like a scene out of Iron Man, Jesus flew up into the clouds. If His resurrected body could fly, then there is good reason to believe that when we receive resurrected bodies we will be able to fly also.  

 2.       Walking Through Walls (John 20:19-20, 26-27)

Before they knew Jesus was alive again, the disciples were in a home “with the doors locked” and yet Jesus “came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” Locked doors and solid walls could not stop the resurrected Jesus from appearing to his disciples inside the home. And we know that this appearance of Jesus was not just a vision or even just spiritual. Jesus talked to his disciples, he ate with them, and he even let Thomas touch his wounds. These are all signs that he was very physically present. By the power of the Spirit his new resurrected physical body was able to pass through material objects. I think our future resurrected bodies will, in reflection of Jesus, do the same thing.

3.       Running Faster Than A Horse (1 Kings 18:45-46)

“Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of the LORD came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel” (1 Kings 18:45-46). God gave Elijah the power to run so fast that even though Ahab had left before him on a horse, Elijah was able run faster than Ahab’s horse, and arrived first. If the Spirit of God gave Elijah that power on earth, why would he withhold it from us in heaven?

4.       Walking on Water (Matthew 14:22-29)

It is a famous story that we all know. In the midst of a storm, Jesus walks on water, and then Peter wants to do the same thing. Sure enough, Jesus calls him out of the boat, and together they stand on water. Sure, Peter started to sink, but it was only because of his lack of faith. If Jesus allowed Peter do such a thing on Earth how much more when we too have resurrected bodies and unhindered faith in Jesus will we, like Peter, be able to walk on water with Jesus.

5.       Teleporting (Acts 8:38-40)

Philip was on his way down to Gaza. On the way he comes across an Ethiopian official with questions about the words from the prophet Isaiah. Philip explains how Isaiah was talking about Jesus, the official puts his trust in Jesus, and then he asks to be baptized. Philip baptizes the official, but then the Bible says the Spirit of the Lord “suddenly took Philip away…” and “… Philip appeared at Azotus.”  Azotus was roughly 19 miles away from Philip’s intended destination of Gaza. It’s therefore safe to say the Spirit of the Lord teleported Philip at least 19 miles in order to move him to Azotus. No matter what the distance was, what is clear is that the same Spirit, who lives in every believer, supernaturally moved Philip.  If the Spirit was able to move Philip on Earth how much more should we expect the Spirit of God to freely empower us to move in heaven?

I don’t know about you but when I think about flying, walking through buildings, running super-fast, walking on water, and teleporting all by the power of the Holy Spirit, as a reflection of Jesus, to the glory and enjoyment of the Father… well, now eternity just sounds fun.


[1] These activities are based on the following lines of thought:

After Jesus’s resurrection he was given a new body. When we are resurrected we will be given a new body like the body of Jesus. Therefore, what he was able to do with his glorious body, we will be able to do with ours in the New Heavens and New Earth.

-and-

All miracles are the result of the power of the Holy Spirit. In heaven we will be completely full of the Spirit (without sin to hinder His presence). Therefore whatever the Holy Spirit empowered people to do on Earth, He will empower them to do in Heaven.

Evil and Grace

Jesus on cross black and white

Why did God let a madman shoot up a school? Better yet, why did He let Adam sin? Better yet, why did He let Satan into the garden? Better yet, why did He let evil into Satan’s heart?

Why is there evil at all?

Sure it’s true that God Himself through Jesus Christ came to rescue sinners from evil and to redeem the world. But why should the world and the people in it need rescuing in the first place? Is God like a man who built a house, rented it out to tenants and then set it on fire so that He could later rescue them? And even if we say that, in God’s case, He did not actively set the house on fire, He just allowed it to happen, He is still the one that had the power to stop it and chose not to. Why?

Some say God did not stop evil because He could not; others say He did not stop evil because He chose not to. Among those who say He chose not to stop evil, there are those who say it is because God is evil, and then there are others who say it is because God wants to work good from the evil.  In either case, God still appears evil. Because even a God who allows the ends to justify the means appears to be a God who is simply a manipulator of creation, like someone just doing the best He can with what He has to work with.

But the God of the Bible is none of these things. So why then did YHWH allow evil into the world?

Imagine evil never existed. Imagine Adam and Eve never sinned. And not only did they never sin they never had the option to sin, because evil was nowhere in existence. What then could we know of God? We could know His power.  We could know His intelligence. But we could never know His Grace.

Grace–unmerited favor–cannot be known in a world without evil.  Grace does not exist in a perfect world because in a perfect world everything is merited.  Every reward is the natural consequence of the perfect action that preceded it. But in a world where there is evil, there are many actions that merit condemnation, judgment, and even wrath. And in that world there is now space for Grace.

In an evil world there is now an open place for favor to be poured out where it should not be. In an evil world Grace shines brightly against the just consequence of condemnation.

Grace…an unknowable quality of God in a world without evil. Could it be that the great I AM is interested in displaying all of who He IS?

In Grace we see a characteristic of God that is wholly unlike any other conceived divine being. In Grace we see the holiness of God (His otherness). In Grace we see the beauty of God. In Grace we see the love of God in a way that otherwise would not be possible.

The Cross, the great symbol of Grace, is not just about salvation from evil, nor is it just about Jesus conquering evil. It is even more: it is a glorious beacon brightly shining in the darkness of night, displaying who God IS.

Evil is necessary for Grace. Grace is an essential attribute of God. God desires to fully display His attributes. Therefore evil exists.

What are your thoughts?