On Repentance

yellow stripes road Repent. It is just one word, often spoken in scripture as a command, but it has great power, if obeyed, to change the course of history. An overstatement? I don’t think so.

Imagine if dictatorial world leaders were to kneel before God and repent. Imagine if corrupt politicians in Democratic Republics across the globe were to humble themselves at once and repent. Imagine if every criminal, every liar, every adulterer, every thief, every drunkard, and every addict in every city and every home in the world were to obey this one word, humble themselves before God, submit to His will and repent.

What a change! What a revival of righteousness our world would enjoy. 106 occurrences of the word repent or repentance in the Bible and each one is commanding us to change our mind and turn from sin.

It’s a word we’ve forgotten and have fallen out of habit in proclaiming. We need to repent.

I want to give you 5 reasons for repentance:

1) The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand

Matthew 3:1-2 says, “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

This is one of the most often repeated reasons in scripture that we’re encouraged to repent. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. It’s here, working, and available to you! Something greater than anything on this Earth is accessible to you if you’ll repent of your sin, change your mind about God, and turn from your will to His will.

2) That your sins would be blotted out

Acts 3:19 says, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out…”

This forces us to face a few uncomfortable truths. We all have sin in our life that needs to be addressed and God is the judge who will one day address them.

You are a sinner and you need a savior. I am a sinner and I need a savior. If our sins aren’t dealt with and blotted out, they will be held against us when we are judged by God. The wages we earn from our sins will be death but the gift God gives us is eternal life. The only way to access that freedom from sin and it’s wages is through repentance!

3) God Loves You

Revelation 3:19 says, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”

Repent because God loves you. The conviction that we feel when sin is addressed is a sign that His Spirit is drawing you to repentance. When clearly understood, and powerfully felt, His love is a strong motivation for repentance.

Luke 15:10 says, “…there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” Heaven celebrates when we repent!

How could I continue to reject the self sacrificial and supernatural love that God has shown to me? You and I should repent of our sin, not only because God is our judge, but also because He is our advocate, our substitute, and our savior. We should repent because He loves us.

4) Because we should

Mark 6:12 says,”And they went out, and preached that men should repent.”

When Jesus sent His disciples out two by two to preach in the cities they went everywhere preaching that men should repent. Let’s face it, we need to change. That was the disciples sermon and it is still our sermon today.

We should repent. We should change our minds about God. We should completely turn from our sin. Our hearts are nasty and given to selfishness and evil. God is great, and worthy of our full devotion. Put simply, we should repent because we’re wrong and He’s right!

We need a change of mind. We need a change of heart. The way of the world just doesn’t work. It has consistently proven itself incapable of sufficiently dealing with the questions that consistently plague the soul of mankind. The disciples were right, men should repent.

5) To turn away God’s wrath

Luke 13:5, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

Romans 2:5-6, “But because of your hardness and [unrepentant] heart, you are storing up treasures of wrath against yourself on the day of wrath when the righteous judgment of God will be revealed, and He “will render to every man according to his deeds.”

God is love but He is also a judge. He will justly and fairly judge all those who continue practicing sin without repentance. That judgment will include exclusion from Heaven and the eternal death of the soul. We must repent in order to turn away from us the wrath of God.

On the day of Pentecost, when the listening crowd asked Peter what they should do in response to the message he had just preached to them about Jesus and His substitutionary death on the cross, Peter said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38).

If you want to be filled with the Spirit, if you know God loves you, if you want to turn away the wrath of God, if you want your sins to be blotted out, and you want to walk in the blessings and promises of the Kingdom of God then you need to repent!

On What is Best

old empty church pewsOne of the near universal traits of human nature is that we rarely want what is actually best for us.

We know we should eat more vegetables but they don’t taste as good as onion rings. We know, intellectually, that some fresh cut fruit and a bottle of water would be a good start to our day but instead we grab a Pop-Tart and some chocolate milk as we rush to our car. We know we should devote some time each day to exercise but we really enjoy our leisure time. We know we should balance our checkbook, clean our house and maintenance our vehicle but we just don’t. Furthermore, we know that most of our frustrations in life are the result of our negligence in those areas and yet we still don’t change. We want the comfort of a clean house and the convenience of a good running vehicle but not the effort and expense that is required to have those same things.

We trade what we really want for what we want right now.

We know what is best for us but we often settle for the tyranny of what is convenient, easy and acceptable. As author Jim Collins has aptly put it, “The enemy of great is good enough.” So we counsel ourselves into apathy with platitudes like, “Everyones house is dirty”, and “no one is in perfect shape”, and “I don’t have the time” when what we really mean is, “that would take more effort and discipline than I’m willing to exert”. 

We know more truth than we’re living. Unfortunately, this basic principle of human nature doesn’t stop at oil changes and ice cream but it affects our relationship with Jesus Christ.

We know we should we pray but instead we sleep in. We know we should read the Bible but we’ve got errands to run. I haven’t fasted in weeks, haven’t given in the offering and haven’t volunteered to serve but I’ve made time for the game, the meal out with friends and the new toys. I want a strong faith and a spiritually healthy family but I trade what I really want for what I want right now.

God is offering us everything we really want but we’re not taking Him up on His offer. We don’t seem to actually want what is best for us. We allow the hustle of life to rob us of the treasures available in Jesus and HIs kingdom.

John Piper says it well in his book, A Hunger for God,

“The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20).

The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.”

It takes discipline, courage, and strength to seek what is best. So then, what is the cure?

The cure is to create disciplines and routines in your life that put you in places and around people that will support and encourage your pursuit of the things of God. Go to church, avoid environments and individuals that compromise your faith and disregard the truth of God’s Word. Set a day every week to fast and a time every day to pray and read your Bible. These habits and the people you surround yourself with will serve to encourage you to faithfully pursue the kingdom of God first and to trust His promise that “all these other things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).

The great truth we often overlook is that Jesus doesn’t deny us the things of life that we want. In fact, He promises to give us those things! He simply reorganizes when and how they are acquired. They are moved from being the object of our pursuit, to the neglect of God, to becoming the result of our pursuit of the presence of God.

In Psalm 16:11 David declares that he has found “the path of his life”, “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore”. Where? In the presence of the Lord.

Often the only thing that can pull us out of our apathy, and consequently birth an appetite for greatness in us, is a taste of what can be. Maybe this is why David challenged us to “taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8). He is what’s best for us and once you’ve tried what He has to offer you’ll settle for nothing less.

Into The Light

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But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (‭1 John‬ ‭1‬:‭7‬ KJV)

When my daughter was younger she often wanted to play hide and go seek. The only problem was, she played it backwards. She would put a blanket over her head and declare, “you can’t see me!”

She assumed that because she couldn’t see us we couldn’t see her.

I fear that sometimes we play hide and seek with God. We ignore His voice, disregard His laws, hide from His face, put a blanket over our heads and convince ourselves that because we can’t see Him means He can’t see us. But He can.

Hebrews 4:13 (MEV) tells us that “There is no creature that is not revealed in His sight, for all things are bare and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

No one and no thing is hidden from God. No matter how long you refuse to look at Him He is still able to see you.

We often hide from God because we either don’t want to submit to His Word or, like Adam and Eve did, because we’re ashamed of our sin. Adam and Eve created aprons of leaves to cover themselves but it was insufficient in God’s eyes. There’s nothing we can do to right ourselves in God’s eyes. The only way is to answer God’s call to step into the light and be honest before Him.

The promise of 1John 1:7 is that if we walk in the light, in honesty, confession, and integrity, we’ll not only enjoy fellowship with other believers but the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse us from all sin.

I Am Not A Christian

yellow churchI’m not a Christian. Not in any meaningful sense of the word.

Sure, I believe in Jesus Christ. I attend a church service or two every week and occasionally read my Bible, but I’m still not a Christian.

Sitting on a pew does not make me a Christian any more than standing in a bank makes me wealthy. My relative location to Christian things and spaces does not transfer to me Christ like character. I may go to church, but I am not a Christian.

I pray when I need something and worship only when it’s convenient. I give, yet often grudgingly and sparingly. I forgive, but only when it might benefit me. I serve, but only when called upon to do so and offered acknowledgement and reward. I love, but only when love is offered in return. I bless, but only those who have blessed me. I care, but often only for those who I feel are deserving of care. I sacrifice, but only after I have been shamed, rewarded, or pressured to do so.

The more I read the BIble, and then examine my life in light of how Christ lived, the more I am convinced, I am not a Christian.

He ate with sinners and politicians without one reservation as to how the company he kept would effect His reputation. He touched people He should have never even talked to. He healed people that His culture didn’t even demand He recognize as persons. He went out of His way, and often, to minister a small thing to one individual in a meaningful way. He showed kindness and grace to everyone, except for those who felt they deserved it. It was with the religious that Jesus argued, the hypocrites he rebuked, and it was the self-righteous which He humbled. The people I’m most comfortable with, church people, were the ones Jesus felt most at odds with. The people He invested in were those with failures and sin, the same people I avoid.

He sacrificed all and asked nothing in return. He was a man of “sorrows and acquainted with grief” knowing that millions throughout history would reject His love. He was giving, loving, gracious, virtuous, kind, merciful, long-suffering, faithful and true. I find in myself that I am selfish, ungrateful, hard hearted, impatient, demanding, dishonest, intemperate, corrupt, deceptive and unfaithful. I am not a Christian.

It was John Piper who, when asked what if anything might cause him to disbelieve in God, said,

“If anything might cause me to disbelieve in God it would be how painfully slow and inefficient the sanctification process has been in me.”

I take comfort in the fact that Paul wrestled with the same assessment of himself. He called himself the “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15) and confessed that he felt as though he had not yet attained Christ-likeness, but he was still trying (Phil. 3). He wrestled with his nature and called himself carnal and sinful (Rom. 7:14-25) acknowledging that “the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do”.

If being a Christian is defined in generic terms as anything associated with the teachings of Jesus Christ then I suppose I could call myself a Christian. However, if being a Christian means possessing the character and virtue of Christ, then I am not a Christian.

What I am is a believer, a follower of Christ, who all too often falls short of being like my Lord. However, I am still a disciple of His. I am redeemed, justified and still trying. I believe if I remain subject to the Holy Spirit Christ will continue to be formed in me and someday I will be like Him for I will see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). The truth, right now, is that I am not a Christian.

Not yet.

When You Fast

Farm House Table.jpgFor all of our failings, if there’s one place Western culture succeeds it’s indulgence. We are, after all, the home of the cafeteria, the smorgasbord and the all-you-can-eat buffet. Where else, but in the USA, would a place like Ryan’s be a commercial success.

We, especially in The United States, have engendered one of the most self-indulgent, gluttonous and consumptive societies in history.

Our forefathers were hunter-gatherers, we’re just gatherers.

As Dave Ramsey says,

“We spend money we don’t have, to buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.”

What’s worse is that we all see it yet we continue our self indulgence. We know we’re selfish, we know we’re gluttons, and we just can’t stop.

We’re not alone. Every culture that has ever enjoyed a level of prosperity has eventually been given over to decadence. It was the downfall of Rome, the decline of Greece and the blinders the British wore. We have everything, we need nothing and so we become numb to our ultimate and greatest needs.

Knowing this about humanity, Jesus steps into our story in His Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew chapter 6 He teaches,

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18 ESV)

He takes it for granted that His disciples will fast. He doesn’t say, IF you fast, but WHEN. Fasting is assumed as a basic Christian activity. Prayer and fasting are fundamental to a victorious life as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 17 Jesus and His disciples had an encounter with a family that needed a spiritual victory,

“And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:14-21)

They were reminded that simple faith can accomplish great things. Jesus revealed to them that very small faith could move very large things, even mountains. Indeed, the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man “availeth much” (James 5:16). However, when it comes to winning spiritual victories against spiritual enemies you need the added strength of natural hunger. You need to add fasting to your prayer. Jesus said spiritual victories are won through prayer and fasting!

This was precisely what God was reminding Israel in Isaiah 58.

“Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord ? “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.” (Isaiah 58:2-11 NLT)

God, through His prophet Isaiah, calls out Israel on their hypocrisy. He sees through their actions and highlights  their motive. They pray and fast, making themselves miserable, hoping to pry good gifts from the hands of God. They get it all wrong.

He says they “act pious” and they “pretend to be near me” but they’re only fasting to please themselves. They’re not really fasting to please God. They’re trying to use religious activity to cajole God to take their side and God rebuked them for it. That’s not how God works.

Fasting is not leveraging God for your interests. It is not divine arm twisting to get God to take your side. To the contrary, fasting doesn’t get God on your page, it gets you on His. It’s about you, humbling yourself, letting go of your self-interest and getting your will aligned with His. Fasting takes the most basic and vital physical need we have, food, and willfully denies the physical man in order to put the spiritual man back in control.

We often forget that we are physical and spiritual. We need to nourish and maintain the health of our entire nature. CS Lewis famously said,

“You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”

The truth is, we are engaged everyday in the care and feeding of our body. Sleep, showers, breakfast, lunch, dinner, radio, music, books, sports, shopping, clothing, friends, vacation and on and on. We do most of what we do to respond to the needs and maintenance of our physical self, often to the detriment and neglect of our spiritual self.

We’re washing the car but we’re not changing the oil. We’re a house of squalor with a manicured lawn. We monitor the externals but we neglect the internals which are exponentially more important and, consequently eternal. The only thing that can treat the malaise of this natural world is both prayer and fasting.

John Piper powerfully writes in His book, A Hunger for God,

“The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20).

The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.”

So, in Matthew 6, Jesus gives us instruction for, “When You Fast”.

The first thing He says is, When You Fast, don’t do it for men to see. If you fast only to procure a reputation as a pious and religious individual Jesus said you’re just a hypocrite and the praise of men will be your only reward. However, if you want to fast the way God intends for believers to fast, do it in private.

Don’t fast so that men compliment your piety or applaud you for religious activity. Fast so that your heart seeks the heart of God. Fast to submit your physical man to your spiritual man. Fast, not just to open the hands of God but rather, to hear the voice of God. Fast for joy, and men can’t give you joy.

He then, almost humorously, goes on to say, “wash your face”. When you fast clean yourself up, brush your teeth, do your hair, and use some product. Why? If you’ve ever fasted for several days you know, because you’ll need to!
Also, because you’ll be tempted not to. That will leave you open for questions as to why your appearance is the way it is.

Make no mistake, fasting is not easy on the physical body. You will likely be, if on an extended fast, (what my wife and I refer to as “hangry”) hungry, irritable and possibly a little weakened. It is, however, restorative. Many medical doctors even encourage fasting for it’s beneficial effects, a sabbath of sorts, for your digestive system. Fasting breaks down the physical man to ensure that the spiritual man remains in control of your life.

So, When You Fast, Jesus says let  your fasting have one focus, not the applause of men, not divine leverage, but aligning your will with your Father’s will that the joy of the Lord would be your strength.

Mothers

daisy ladybug fieldMen and women are different. Very different. Men and women are different in their nature, their strengths and their design.

Yet the message young women get from western culture is one that does not vary all that much from what it tells young men. Go to college, get a job, commit to a career and if you have time, and if it fits your lifestyle, get married and have children.

However, The Bible has something completely different to say. The message scripture sends to young women, older women and mothers is one of honor and value. That working in the home, caring for a husband and children is to be valued and honored.

What you do is important. What you do is a blessing. What you do in the home, in caring for children and your husband, should be taught to others and passed down to the generations that follow you (Titus 2:1-5).

Women and mothers are to be honored, protected and valued (Matthew 19:19).

Children come from the Lord and they are not an inconvenience but a blessing (Psalm 127:3).

Grandchildren are the crown of the aged (Proverbs 17:6).

In the ten commandments, right in between statements like, thou shalt have no other Gods before me and thou shalt not murder, is the fifth commandment. Honor your father and mother (Exodus 20:12).

Jesus used the last few moments before his death to care for his mother (John 19:26).

All throughout scripture we see, contrary to the Bible’s critics, the Word of God calling men to honor, protect and provide for women and children. The Bible exalts and blesses the role that women are called to play in society and in the home.

Men, through your actions, your lifestyle and your words you should and can affirm and fortify the Biblical role of your wife and mother.

Here’s a few practical ways you can affirm the role of your wife and mother.

Go to work and provide for her and your children.

Keep your mind clean and your eyes, as well as your hands, off other women.

Read your Bible and pray every day. Preferably with them.

Tell the truth.

Clean up after yourself. She may be a mother but she’s not your mother.

If any woman in your life is going to be offended in your behavior make sure it’s not your wife. If that means you have to be rude to co-workers or clients so be it. Your wife comes first.

Don’t laugh at or tell jokes that demean, demoralize or sexually objectify women.

Take her, and any children you may have, to church.

Spend more time with them than you do your buddies.

Hold doors, chairs and coats like a gentleman.

Treat people, even people you don’t like, with respect.

Keep the weekends for your family.

Tell her that you value her and what she means to your family.

Buy her things. Nice things.

Set a weekly date night.

Give her time alone and time with her friends.

Send her flowers for no reason at all.

These are just a few suggestions. Have you got any to add? Leave a comment below.

Thoughts for Dads

Superhero TootsiePopMy son has been running around the house with a cape and a mask making noises and jumping around. He’s not in trouble or needing attention. He thinks he’s a superhero. He’s being male. No one has to teach little boys to shoot guns with their finger, to make explosion noises or to do karate. They just do. It’s very natural for a boy to want to be a hero.

Men are called to lead. It’s built into our nature. It’s part of our being. It’s why we compete, hunt and sport. We are born leaders. God designed man to lead the home and the family.

That is not to say that women don’t have leadership abilities. Mothers and wives are responsible for their homes as well only in a different degree than men are. It was Eve that believed the lie of the serpent but it was Adam that God called to account for the spiritual condition of himself and his wife. Simply put, God’s ideal is that men be responsible for the provision, protection and spiritual health of the family.

When God wanted us to understand what His relationship with His people would be He employed the analogy of a Father and his children and a husband to his wife. We have a heavy calling as fathers and husbands to bear the image of our Father.

The scriptures often speak of God in the nature of a Father.

“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.” (Ps. 103:13)

“The Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Prov. 3:12)

“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” (Ps. 68:5)

It is of utmost importance that men, especially in our increasingly decadent and reckless culture, model the fatherhood and husbanding of God. We can and should honor God in how we treat our families. What the world knows of the Father we serve will be the sum of what they see in the Christian Fathers they know.

I never knew my father. My wife and I met him for the first time when I was 23 years old. It was Godly male leadership in the church, and the example of good Christian men, that helped me understand that God wanted to be my Father and that I could trust Him. It has been Godly male leadership in the church that has helped me understand what it means for me to be a good father and husband. Do not underestimate the value of Godly, Biblical, male leadership.

I’d like to also say that fathers and husbands in ministry need to be especially careful not to make ministry an idol to the detriment of their family. We commit idolatry when we place the ministry of the church above ministry to our families. We often forget that, according to 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, our ministry in the home is what qualifies us for public ministry in the church.

God has called dozens of men to your city to carry the Gospel. If you were to die today He would raise someone up to Pastor your church. However, you are the only man called to your wife & children.

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Seattle offers 11 practical ways for men to lead their families on his blog. He says:

As men, we bear a greater burden before God for the well-being of our families and our church. Our wives and children should flourish under our loving leadership.

By the grace of God, you can be who God has called you to be, do what God has called you to do, and love as God has loved you.

As men, we will never in this life experience perfection, but by the grace of God we can experience progress every day until we enter perfection in the life to come. So don’t sulk, don’t sin, and don’t settle, but instead strive.

Here are 11 practical tips for husbands to strive to lead their family well:

1. As the family leader, model humility, honesty, repentance, service, study, and worship. Your life preaches at least as loudly as your words, so teach and model humble godliness by the grace of God.

2. Make sure everyone in your family has a good, age-appropriate Bible that they regularly read. Read the Bible yourself and with them so they are encouraged to read on their own.

3. Make sure you have some basic Bible study tools available for your family in either print or digital form and that everyone learns to use them. If you do not know where to begin, ask your pastor or a godly student of Scripture in your church about things like a good Bible commentary, concordance, dictionary, and atlas.

4. Buy good Christian books for everyone in your family to read. Include Christian biographies among those books.

5. Choose good books that you and your wife can be reading together, including books of the Bible, and discuss what you are learning.

6. If there are Bible-based classes offered in your church, attend with your family.

7. Redeem your commute by listening to good sermons and classes, many of which you can download for free.

8. Have dinner together with your family most nights, and use that time to pray together, keep a journal log of prayer requests for other people, and read a portion of the Bible and talk about it together.

9. Pray for each member of your family every day and let them know you are praying for them.

10. Place a hand on the head of each of your children every day and pray over them. Then kiss them on the head and make sure they often get a loving hug.

11. While either snuggling or holding hands, pray with and for your wife every day and remember to include the reasons you are thankful to God for her that day. If these things have not been common in your home, it is very likely that your family has been aching for them and will be thankful for your loving leadership as the head of your home.

Do you have any other suggestions? Are there any things you’re intentional about to show your kids you love them and Jesus loves them? What kind of things did your dad do that showed you, not only that he loved you, but that Jesus was real in your family and that God loved you? Let me know in the comments below.

Born This Way

churchcemeteryIt seems as if the only thing the mainstream media and non-Christians know about Christianity is that we believe homosexuality is sin. It seems to be the first question always asked by an interviewer who has a moment with an Evangelical Pastor.

Pastor Rick Warren was interviewed on CNN recently by Piers Morgan and then again by a reporter from the Huffington Post concerning his new book and specifically his views on homosexuality. You can see the video here or scroll below.

 

 

The interviewer brings up a commonly asked question in regards to this issue. Why would God make someone with a desire that He would then call sin? The question posits a couple interesting theories. First, that God is the source of all of our desires and passions and second that possessing a desire alone is indicative of its legitimacy. The problem is, both conclusions are wrong.

An understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ instructs us in this regard. We are born into a fallen world with an active sin nature. It is natural to the hearts of all men and women to sin, that is, to violate the will, law and nature of God. Secondly, simply having a desire or passion speaks nothing to its legitimacy.

All sex outside of marriage is sin, whether its hetero or homo, and marriage can only be Biblically defined as between one man and one woman. The canard that, “Why would God create me with a passion He doesn’t want me to fulfill” is ludicrous. The fact that one has a desire they’re driven to gratify is immaterial to its acceptability.

Some men are born with inclinations to steal, lie, commit adultery, and all other sorts of evil. Why would God create them, driven to rape or cheat on our spouse let’s say, if He didn’t intend for them to fulfill it?

The Gospel tells us!

They’re right. We were all born this way. Born to sin, to lie, to steal, to pervert nature, to be unfaithful and to hate. We were born with a nature that would oppress and abuse if given the chance. Our natural inclinations and desires are inherently sinful and challenge God’s laws. We all, heterosexual & homosexual, need to be born again to get a new set of passions and desires, be filled with the Spirit and to align our natural passions with the Word of God.

Lady Gaga can sing, “I was born this way” all day long but it does not legitimate or excuse the presence of sin. We need to repent. We need to be born again. We need the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

How To Go Broke At Christmas

I am a big fan of Dave Ramsey’s financial advice. I definitely recommend you check out his website and take advantage of the many resources he has available for financial counseling and Biblical money management and principles. His advice helped steer our family out of financial crisis during a very important time in our young marriage.

Dave recently posted blog entry with advice on how to go broke during the Christmas season. You can read his blog here or scroll below for Dave’s advice.

7 Ways to Go Broke This Season

If you’re trying to get out of debt, this time of year can easily become crazy and stressful. You want to go all out and have fun, but you know that “going all out” is what got you in trouble in the first place.

So what’s an early Baby Stepper to do?

What you need is a good plan—and, sometimes, a good plan is as much knowing what not to do as knowing what to do. Well, heed these warnings, regardless of what Baby Step you’re on! If you want to have a merry different Christmas, you might not want to do the following things:

1. Try to keep up with the Joneses.

That’s just not a good idea. The Joneses are broke. They have a lot of bills, ridiculous car payments and tricked-up mortgages. But at least they look good! Have you seen Mrs. Jones’ hair? Wow! That’s fancy! But despite the good hair, stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. You don’t need her hair, and you don’t want their debt following you into 2013.

2. Mistake Batman for food.

Come again? You need food. You need shelter. You need clothing. Your son doesn’t need the $100 remote-control Batmobile. Would that be awesome? Of course! But you don’t need it. Keep your priorities in focus during Christmas. Do what you can, and don’t spend more than you have—even if it’s an awesome Batmobile.

3. Give presents to everyone in your family.

Most of us simply can’t afford to give a $20 gift card to every brother, sister, aunt, uncle and cousin in the family tree. But we do it anyway. A lot of times, it’s out of some vague sense of guilt or obligation. Instead of giving something to everyone, you can have a family drawing where people draw names out of hat. Then, you’re only responsible for the person whose name you have drawn.

Plus, if it’s been a trend over the past few years to just exchange gift cards that everyone picks up at the last minute at the end-of-aisle kiosks, is it really meaningful and worth the effort?

4. Let the stores determine your plan.

The mall will suck you in and spit you out like a bad piece of fruitcake. Going to the mall without some type of plan of attack is like going to a donut factory without expecting to gain weight. If you don’t go in with a purpose, all the shiny, bright plastic stuff will draw you in like a moth to a flame. Make a plan and stick to it.

5.Cover every inch of your house and yard in lights.

There’s nothing wrong with a little festivity. Who doesn’t love seeing a house wrapped in lights on a cold December evening? But if your power bill triples during the Christmas season, and if you can’t seem to avoid buying 12 new inflatables for your yard every Christmas, then you might want to tone it down a bit.

6. Treat yourself to something nice … or two or three nice things.

You’d be surprised at how many people, while out gift shopping for others over the holidays, decide to buy something for themselves! Say what? This is why the previous point is so important—don’t go shopping without a plan! The mall will mock you if you attempt to enter its gates without a determined gaze and the willpower of a vegetarian in a steakhouse.

7. Travel long distances.

Nothing will make you go broke faster than trying to buy plane tickets for a family of five. And that’s just the cost of getting to where you want to go. On top of that, you’ve got lodging, food, a rental car—and, oh, don’t forget the presents! Again, it’s okay to travel. But don’t prioritize going to see the grandparents over providing for your family at Christmas—especially if you have kids. The grandparents are retired. Let them come see you.

You don’t have to buy into the commercial hype that says you must go shopping and come home with a dozen shopping bags and $1,000 in debt. That’s not smart. Or merry. Or festive. Or jolly. It’s just an all-around bad idea.

Do you have any additional advice for a family wanting to go broke this Christmas?

Look Higher

I was raised on the South Side of Chicago. My brother and I would often go downtown on weekends or evenings to enjoy the city. It’s a great city to spend a weekend in and we took advantage of it often.

The skyline of Chicago is fantastic and can be seen from 40 miles out. If you’re driving in from Central Illinois you can see the skyline from Matteson which is 35 miles from Downtown. The skyline can be seen from Michigan City, Indiana which is roughly 30 miles across Lake Michigan.

What has always been interesting to me is how once you get downtown the buildings that were so easily seen and dominant at 25 miles away are now very difficult to see when you’re on Michigan Ave. When I’m in Blue Island I can see the Sears Tower but I can’t see it on Jackson Street.

The problem is that, on Jackson street, there’s a McDonald’s, and Jimmy John’s and Giordano’s Pizza, and a Subway and Dunkin Donuts. Amazingly the Subway and McDonald’s prevent you from seeing the Sears Tower. They’re so much closer to you when you’re closer to it that they prevent you from seeing something that is infinitely bigger than Subway will ever be. There’s also El Trains and bus stops and other smaller buildings that block the view of the Sears Tower once you’re downtown.

In order to see the Sears Tower when you’re on Jackson or Adams Street you can’t look ahead of you, you have to look up.

Once you raise your eyes from what is directly in front of you and look up you see what was always there but simply hidden by the immediate. What seemed so apparent, secure and imposing 30 miles out can become obscured by smaller, less important things that happen to be nearer your field of vision.

A certain myopia often overtakes us in life when we face difficulties and discouragements. Often the immediate obscures the imminent. We’re prevented from seeing what is substantially larger and of more value by those things that are small but immediately present. When these moments confront us we must never forget to look higher.

In 2 Kings chapter 6 the King of Syria planned an attack on the city of Dothan. The prophet Elisha and his servant were in that city. When Elisha’s servant saw the army of Syria surrounding the city he began to panic and stress. Elisha however, calmly declared to him that “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2Kings 6:16). Elisha then prayed that his servants eyes would be opened and when they were he looked and, in the hills, he saw the mountains full of horses, chariots of fire and the host of the Lord. His attitude changed when he looked a little bit higher!

I identify with the Psalmist when he prays, “when my heart is faint lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psa. 61:2, ESV).

Sometimes you just need to look higher and you’ll see that God is still on His throne and He is still watching out for you.