Practical Ways to be Reminded of Who God is and How that Affects the Way We Live

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By way of preface, the assumption I am placing on the reader is the fact that ultimately none of these things are possible to accomplish in a God glorifying way without being reborn, regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God. It is Him that moves us with delight in living out Christian Disciplines. Therefore, if you have been born again, here are a few practical steps to as reminders. We need these reminders or “ticklers” to remind us because while we do supernaturally desire God we also do still do have a sin nature and will continue to pursue other stuff over God apart from the Spirit of God.

 

Read your Bible.

While this seems extremely basic, I know that if you’re like me it’s not hard to “get busy” and prioritize “life” over getting into God’s word regularly. This is monumental. We have to immerse ourselves in the word by spending time in it. This could be opening a physical Bible and reading a passage or book. This could mean using a Bible app on your phone. This could be an audio Bible while you commute. For some, it might be following a twitter account that posts daily scripture. While technology certainly has its negative effects, it has also made a positive contribution to our devotional lives as Christians. Use it. Don’t not get in the word because a particular method doesn’t fit your lifestyle. Reading your Bible is paramount for practical steps to be reminded of who God is because it is the Primary source of information from and about Him.

 

Memorize your Bible.

As soon as folks read this subtitle, the natural inclination in your heart is to dodge this. It’s interesting because memorizing things that we delight in is natural, not something we have to work at. Just think about it…if your my age then about a decade ago you had at least about 50 + phone numbers memorized, addresses, directions and all kinds of other detail. Pray that God would give you such a hunger for His word that you would slowly begin to memorize small pieces of Scripture. It is through God’s word, primarily, that the Spirit is going to speak to you. For any small tips, feel free to reach out to me. There’s no magic method, but there are many to try and tailor to the way you’re wired. Therefore, when we memorize Scripture and we are put in circumstances to make a decision the Spirit will move in your heart and mind through God’s word.

 

Pray.

This is one step that I’m positive is constantly overlooked because of pride and/or lack of confidence in who God says He is. Prayer is not to move the hand of God (which is primarily what we see it used for), but it is to align our will with the Father’s will. Prayer is about relationship. If we are in constant and continual prayer (formal and informal) then we are going to be more sensitive to the Spirit and how He is directing our lives and resources.

 

Community.

It is beyond imperative for this to be a reality in every Christian’s life. It is only in small groups of close friends that we are able to allow others to speak into our lives honestly and lovingly. Don’t let this one slide, thinking that it can be “Just me and Jesus.” You need community. You need accountability and you need to give it. Get connected with 2-3 others who you are able to do life with and provide that level of friendship. Make it a priority. You eat so many meals a day and have so many weekends a month. Be intentional to use those times that you already have and repurpose them for your soul wisely as opposed to adding extra on your plate, which would only lead to despair and burn out. This is going to serve you well as you walk with Jesus in faith through this life.

 

Calendar.

Use your calendar. Schedule in times throughout your day to hop on a twitter feed or pull out your Bible. Schedule time in your day to pray and a few minutes of silence and solitude. Schedule time in to do the things that you won’t do unless you actually block time out to do it. Make this a priority once a week or once a month and be diligent in seeing it through and talk to your close friends about it, so that they are able to hold you accountable.

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Contentment in the Wrong Context Can Actually be Evil

a holy discontentment

This year, on Christmas morning, my daughter said something that made me reflect on an important reality particularly for me and in general for all Christians.

 

After opening gifts for about 15 minutes my wife and I hit the pause button on our morning gift exchange in order to get some breakfast going. Once we returned to the living room I told both of our kids that another gift would not be opened until all of the trash on the ground (wrapping paper and such) was picked up. “I’ll be your garbage girl,” my daughter joyfully exclaimed. It made sense. She was willing to do whatever she needed in order to pursue the fullness of her satisfaction: opening the rest of her gifts.

 

The truth is that she, nor her brother, are ever that excited about cleaning. In fact, they have an apathetic attitude towards it because they don’t believe at this point in their stage of life that it brings them any joy. The reality is that satisfaction and contentment in their fullness lead to complacency, apathy and the end of pursuit.

 

More popular is the subject of contentment, which is biblical and obviously important. Perhaps more popular because it makes us seem more mature than we really are. So, we cloak ourselves with being “content” in front of others, yet in our hearts we envy so many others for what they have and we don’t. Contentment is an important spiritual discipline, but it is only one side of the coin and should never be over emphasized at the expense of another biblical reality. Maybe just as important as contentment is a holy, or a right, discontentment.

 

A holy discontentment causes us to continue to pursue hard after a deeper level of satisfaction and contentment. After marrying your spouse how hard and consistent is your pursuit for her/him now that you’ve won them in marriage? Now that you’ve received your degree how hard and consistent is your pursuit toward continuing education?

 

Once we are satisfied with what we’ve attained we become complacent and apathetic towards a further pursuit of something we already “have.” Sadly enough this is a reality in our pursuit of God as well. We get comfortable with where we are at with God and become apathetic in our pursuit of Him. I’ve heard more that two dozen times, “I’ve been a Christian for 30 years. I’ve heard it all, but it’s good to be refreshed with the way different preachers preach a passage.” That, my friend, is apathy. We are never to old, to smart or too mature to not grow more in every area of our lives.We have never “heard it all” or have arrived at some place spiritually where we can stop intentionally pursuing God and just passively grow when it’s convenient.

 

Too many Christians all of the sudden reach some status of perceived maturity in some Christian discipline and then become complacent and judgmental towards others who may not be in the place that they are at. Oh, that’s great, you’ve read the Bible 30 times? Well you must be super spiritual. Read it again. Oh, that’s great, you have made over 20 disciples? Well you are the best disciple maker out there! Make more. Oh, that’s great, you give 18 percent of your income to your church? You are so mature and spiritual! Give more. Every Christian, from pastors to non-member, regular attenders of a local church is being sanctified in these different areas of spiritual disciplines and much more. Your status of where you land in any of these areas does not make you any more spiritual or more mature than another person. What is important is that we continue to develop a holy discontentment with where we are at so that we continue to press harder and grow more in every area as opposed to getting comfortable with where we are at.

 

The more satisfied we are with ourselves, we become less satisfied with God because “WE HAVE ATTAINED SUCH A GREAT STATUS.” This holy dissatisfaction causes us to press forward to continue to pursue a higher level of knowing Christ and to find our satisfaction in Him.

 

In addition to developing a holy discontentment is to remove anything in our lives that is hindering our relationship with God. While for some complacency is birthed out of past success or current status, for others it comes from being bound to past hurts and failures. Some are so chained to their past hurts and failures that they have lost their pursuit of God. They have accepted defeat. In both instances, we are called to wage war on and remove anything that hinders us from our relationship with God, which can only truly happen in community for the sake of accountability and encouragement.

 

The apostle Paul would go as far to say that those who do not have a holy discontentment consistently and are satisfied and content with where they stand in their relationship with God are enemies of the cross (Philippians 3:12-21). Meaning, if there is not a continual pursuit that flows from a holy discontentment and your satisfaction is in your won achievements than there may not be a real relationship to begin with.

 

My prayer is that you and I would either begin or continue to develop a holy discontentment in order that we would press in harder towards knowing Christ. Being content and satisfied with where we are in our relationship with God is a dangerous place to be. Moreover, be encouraged. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Lastly, in the coming days I will update this post with a link to the sermon I preached this past Sunday titled A Holy Discontentment from Philippians 3:12-21 where I explain more thoroughly on this topic.

Sermon link:  http://bldg28.com/sermons/28-sermons/

Crux mihi ancora

Theology: General & Special Revelation

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Over the past 8 weeks, I have had the opportunity to spend time with and co-lead a group that we just called Foundations of the Christian Faith. In essence, the intention was to offer some sort of 101 class for those who were wanting to either learn for the first time and/or for those who wanted to be reminded of the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith in order that we would be led to worship.

A couple weeks ago, I taught on the doctrine of God. It was during this time that we had some great discussion and a few wanted to go a bit deeper. For the sake of time in the class we can only cover so much material, so I’ve decided to build upon what we covered in the class here.

By way of preface, this is still by no means an exhaustive study of God, but it does offer some additional information that is beneficial for us to revel in the beauty of the one true God. I’ll cover these things in a small series of posts moving forward.

It is helpful for us to begin with the question, “Why Theology?” What does that even mean?

Theos = God

Logos = word or discourse

Therefore, Theology is a “discourse about God.” So, by studying theology, we are saying that there is, in fact, a way to know God more…that God communicates with us about himself. So, how does that work?

Revelation of God

Revelation = unveiling or disclosure. Historically, we understand God revealing himself to us in two primary ways.

General Revelation. God has revealed His nature to ALL mankind, so that all humanity is aware of God’s existence. This is general in the sense that it is not unique to only believers. This unveiling of God is evident to all of humanity. Every person in every place is a recipient of general revelation (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-21). Therefore, there is no excuse for any individual anywhere to not seek out the one true God that is evident to them by way of his beauty and intricacy in all of creation. While a person does know that God exists through general revelation, they cannot know the Gospel through general revelation.

Special Revelation. Special revelation is much narrower than general revelation. While all mankind is a recipient of general revelation, not all are recipients of special revelation. Special revelation is unique to the believer and is communicated in a very specific way. I would say that special revelation is the equivalent of saying the Gospel. The Gospel is not an intuitive message. This is something that has to be revealed and/or communicated to an individual or group through either verbal or written communication (Hebrews 1:1-3; Romans 10:11-21).

Special revelation is two-fold.

  1. Revelation through the Scriptures
  2. Revelation through Jesus Christ (John 1:18, “explained/exegesis = to draw out or explain)

It is through special revelation that a person comes to know and love the person and work of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we share the Gospel and do missions so that hearts and minds are opened through special revelation to the story of redemption through God sending his son, Jesus.

to be continued…

Holy Week: in Context

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Last year, Crossway published a series of short videos – one for each day of Holy Week, the final week of Jesus’ earthly life. The videos are extremely helpful in understanding the biblical, historical, cultural and theological context surrounding each day of this intense week of Jesus’ life. Understanding the context to these important events helps breath life into the narrative. Subsequently, we are then able to apply to our own lives the theological weight of Holy Week.

I’d encourage you to watch one per day throughout your week as you acknowledge and remember Holy Week. If you’re a couple videos behind – don’t be discouraged. They are short and I promise you won’t want to stop.

PALM SUNDAY

MONDAY

TUESDAY

WEDNESDAY

MAUNDY THURSDAY

GOOD FRIDAY

SATURDAY

RESURRECTION SUNDAY // EASTER

7 Reminders When Satan Tries to Steal Your Joy

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One of the most gut wrenching biblical texts for me is Luke 4:13, “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him [that is, Jesus] until an opportune time.” It is quite sobering to think that even Jesus was a target for Satan. Naturally, we tend to look at Jesus as some type of super hero guy who didn’t deal with any kind of spiritual warfare, which is completely antithetical to the Scriptures and what we see in them. Why, then, would we think that we would be free from Satan’s tactics to steal, kill, and destroy? So,what can we do?

Satan has declared war on you and your family. He will do anything he can to keep you from trusting in the sovereign hand of God in your life, walking with Christ faithfully and believing that Jesus has already won the victory. I am reminded by this text that Satan is alive and well, and only leaves to come back at the opportune time.

When your day begins to look down, when your week begins to looks bleak and the month begins to look dark, here are 7 reminders for you that have helped me greatly.

Talk to God.

God, the Father, wants to hear from you. He desires you and a relationship with you where you will come to Him with everything. Not because He needs to stay informed, as if He doesn’t already know your thoughts before you think them, but because He desires a relationship with you. As you begin to talk with God about your burdens, He will begin to give you clarity of mind, as well as a confidence to continue to persevere.

Remember the Sovereignty of God.

In all that is happening, there are two BIG promises to remember. God has promised that “…he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV). In addition, He promised, “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV). God didn’t miss His cue to filter this season of warfare for you. In fact, there is purpose in it. Know that God has made plans for you and that His plans cannot be thwarted. He is sovereign over whatever it is that you are going through.

Remember who Jesus is.

Satan has been defeated by and through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived the life that you and I cannot live, died the death that you and I deserve, and rose so that we can also be raised with Him when God calls. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV). Know that this season that you are in is light and momentary in comparison to the weight of glory. What you see now is transient, but what you cannot see is eternal.

Remember who Satan is not.

Satan is not some ethereal being, he is very real. Satan is not God. Satan is not omnipresent, despite what you may have been taught. Satan is not the victor, but he has been defeated. Satan is not in ultimate control.

Remember the Spirit.

It is completely and utterly impossible for you and me to have any type of victory over Satan and his plans to destroy us apart from the reality, presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is the Spirit of God in us that influences us to believe God, moves us to faithfulness and gives us the strength to persevere. Be confident in the fact that your success in getting through this season has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the Spirit of God in you. Even more, remember Jesus words concerning the Spirit, “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13 ESV). Joy within ourselves? We know from the context of this passage that Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of God within us that gives us Joy – not better circumstances. Therefore, in the process of remembering the Spirit of God, you are reminded that Satan cannot steal your joy because your joy comes from the Spirit being within you.

Remember others.

You are not the only one in a trial right now. It is extremely easy to become focused on self in a trial. Remember that there are others who are much worse than you at the moment. What could possibly be worse than what you are going through? How about the 2 billion people in the world who have never heard about Jesus and are far from God. Or the 20,000 people that die each day from either starvation or preventable diseases. Don’t just remember others to make yourself feel better about your personal situation, but remember others as a motivation to stay on mission.

Remember the church.

In the midst of your trial, do not forsake the assembly. Don’t retreat from community, but allow the church to come around you to encourage you, walk with you, pray with you, and keep you accountable during this very “opportune time.”

7 Ways to Plan a Family Devotional

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“I have had over a dozen conversations just this week alone about how to plan a family devotional, so I’m re-posting this short read that I wrote this time last year. Enjoy and pass along.”

It has been quite the journey with my wife and I trying to implement a family devotional. While we are still far from perfect at it, there are some things along the way that we’ve learned that I hope could be helpful for you and your family.

1. Make a plan. For the longest time we talked about doing a family devotional, but didn’t actually do it because we never had a plan. If you have to, schedule time aside to do it. For our family scheduling a certain time just doesn’t work. For us, it becomes a “law” that is so easy to break – often. Plus we have two awesome young kids that don’t always accommodate a schedule, so we have to be pretty flexible.

2. Don’t give up. If your plan doesn’t work the first few times, don’t give up. You will fail at first. It was only through a lot of failure that Brooke and I were able to find a format that worked best for our natural rhythms of life.

What does this look like for us? We choose a book of the Bible. We just finished Ephesians. We go through one chapter a day. We both read the chapter separately at some point in our day. In the evening time, after the kids are in bed, we pull our Bibles out and re-read the whole chapter out loud together. Then we take turns talking about highlights, hard texts, encouraging and convicting notes, etc. Two great resources are RightNow Media, as well as Desiring God’s, Look at the Book.

3. Include prayer. Always include prayer. This is the point where we are acknowledging that it is God that is speaking to us through His word and that the Bible is not just some great piece of literature. One of us leads in prayer while we hold hands.

4. Make it Gospel-Centered. It is real easy to turn a devotional into moral reminders. Always get to a point in your devotional where you bring it to Jesus and how the Gospel affects the text or idea that you are discussing. Don’t make your devotional time a daily reminder of how you either do great or constantly fall short of the law. Live in the light and freedom of the Gospel.

5. Involve your kids. Our kids are pretty young. With that said, our 3 year old is fully able to communicate who Jesus is, who created everything, and what sin and forgiveness is, so do not under estimate your young children. With our kids, we have intentional and unintentional devotional times.

Intentionally, around 7 o’clock every evening (after dinner and before bed), my wife hangs with our 3 year old, Amber, and I hang with our 1 and 1/2 year old, Parker, for about 30 minutes. Brooke uses The Gospel Project with Amber. It’s a great Gospel-centered curriculum that is fun and interactive. I hang with Parker  and just have guy fun with his spider man mask and Jake and the never-land pirates sword. Most likely around the age of two, we will begin some sort of toddler curriculum with him as well.

Unintentionally, we use all kinds of God-given moments throughout the day to talk about sin, Satan, Jesus, and a lot of prayer with the kids.

6. Actually be interested. Several times a day, Amber randomly will talk about Jesus or “the evil one.” I make it a priority to drop whatever it is I’m doing and acknowledge the fact that she is wanting to have a “God conversation.” She needs to know that we can have an open dialogue with anything, but especially the Gospel.

7. Have fun. The Gospel is serious, but it can also be a lot of fun.

Stop Telling People That You Will Pray for Them

PRAYER

Prayer is a gift from God. It’s an opportunity to communicate with the Creator of the universe—to converse with God, praise him, confess our sin, ask for his provision, and listen for his response.

When it comes to prayer we have a tendency to focus on requests, so be sure to shepherd your family toward a fuller understanding of prayer.

Provide opportunities for your family to pray often and build a culture of prayer. Encourage your family to recognize that it is more important to pray than to talk about praying, but be quick to go to prayer when you hear a need. In other words, if someone is sharing and you hear a need, stop and pray. As opposed to saying, “I will be praying for you” say, “Can I pray for you right now?”

This past week, God showed me an amazing thing. One of our close family friends had an important meeting to be a part of and I was telling my wife, Brooke, about it. My 4-year-old daughter, Amber, overheard me telling Brooke that it was an important meeting and immediately said, “Can I pray for Mr. Brian’s important meeting?”

My prayer today is that God would make my heart and yours like that of a 4-year-old. Trusting that God is our only help and that He wants to hear from His children regularly. For the next 30 days, I challenge you. Whenever you hear a need, declare war on your natural human tendency to say, “I’ll be praying for you” and actually stop and pray in the moment. Stop telling people that you will be praying for them and actually stop and pray for them. Stop talking about prayer to the extent that you never spontaneously pray.

I was actually able to record my daughter praying this past week, so that I could send it to our friend. It made his day and mine. Watch it below…

Clearing Up Your Christmas Misconceptions, Part 1

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This post originally aired LIVE on WATA 1450 AM, a local news and radio station located in Boone, NC as Pastor Stephen shared a mini-series called Clearing Up Your Christmas Misconceptions.

When it comes to Mary, our human tendency is to either make too much of her or to make too little of her. Here are several things we can learn from Mary’s life about the “person that God uses.” The text for this message was Luke 1:26-55.

OVERCOMING FEAR

You must overcome fear, in His power. Mary was going to have to overcome fear. Primarily, there are three types of fear that we see in Mary’s life that we must overcome for God to use us.

 

Fear of criticism. “What are people going to think of me?” While a young girl becoming pregnant in our day is the new norm, in that day it was not. No doubt, Mary had critics. I have found in my own ministry that whenever I am doing what I know God is asking me to do, there are always critics. Wherever God is at work there will always be critics. You must get over the fear of criticism. Know that it is not you who they are criticizing, but God. Therefore, don’t take it personal and get over it.

 

Fear of Inadequacy. “Who am I, Lord?” Mary was a young lady and most likely poor. Just an ordinary girl in a town of about 300 people where everyone knew each other’s daddy and grand-daddy. Mary, I am sure, had feelings of inadequacy. Allow feelings of inadequacy to be a tool for you to trust in Jesus’ all sufficiency. It’s not about you. It’s about Him. It’s not about what you can do, but it is about what He can do through you if you will trust him.

 

Fear of Change. “But my dream was to go to college and become a doctor.” I am sure that Mary, just like every other young lady today, had dreams and goals. She had a dream of her future life. She possibly even had made some plans on what her life would look like and becoming pregnant before marriage wasn’t in the plan. Change is something that is all too difficult for those of us in Western America. While we shout “change!,” we cringe at any change that might negatively impact us personally from our own perspective. If you like to be in control, you are going to have to die to that if you want God to use you. If you are going to trust God that means you have to get out of the driver seat.

TRUST HIS PROMISES

You must trust His promises. This is one of the areas where Mary is belittled. “

 

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:31-35) Mary is not distrusting God in this moment like many like to quickly claim. She is actually asking a legitimate question. Mary trusted God’s promises, which is quite evident in that she has impacted billions of people across the world. Know that you trusting or distrusting God’s promises DOES affect others. Your decision today may affect multitudes.

WILLING TO PAY THE COST

You must be willing to count and pay the cost. It cost Mary and it will cost you. It cost Mary her reputation for some 30 years. Most likely, until Jesus began His earthly ministry she was considered a weirdo and young fornicator who lied to herself and others. Even more, it cost her comfort. Can you imagine a 75 mile donkey ride at 9 months pregnant?

Mary was ordinary like you and I, but she was used by an extraordinary God who also wants to use you and I. Overcome your fear, trust in His promises, and count the cost.

The Heart of the Matter

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The Requirement

Jesus says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” and “Blessed are the pure in heart, they will see God.”

So, Jesus is emphatically clear that the heart really matters. Jesus cares a lot about the heart of man. According to Jesus, we are to love God with all our hearts. In addition, if we want to see God, we must have a pure heart.

The Problem

The problem is what we discover in Proverbs 20:9, “Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin?”

The writer is posing a rhetorical question. The answer is no one can claim that they’ve made their own heart pure. Therefore, if one needs a pure heart to see God the implication is that no one can see God.

The question is, “Why do we do what we do?” “Why do we sin?” “Why are we impure?” Philosophy and religion, both, have attempted to answer this question. Here’s a few samples of what they have said.

  • Sigmen Froyd says, “Primal urges that we’ve picked up through our evolutionary processes.
  • Karl Young, a well noted psychologist, says, “Our problem is ultimately collective unconsciousness we’ve carried on from our racial history.”
  • Carl Rogers , an influential American phycologist, says, “We tend to overlook our goodness and we are impinged upon the culture that compels us to do bad things.”

In essence, “we are victims of genetics or environment, or heritage or upbringing.”

The Bible gives a real different diagnosis. It says that ultimately, we have a sin nature. We know that in Genesis 1 God created and everything was good. Fast forward to Genesis 3 when sin entered into the world through Adam, also known as the fall.

Additionally, the Bible teaches that we have inherited that sin nature from our father Abraham. We have a sin nature. It is not the functional sins in your life that condemn you to hell, those are just indicators that you have a sin nature and are already condemned to hell. You could live a perfect life and still be condemned to hell due to the sin nature that you inherited from Adam, also known as original sin.

When Adam sinned, we were all implicated. One of the great myths today is that we are all individual, autonomous human. We are not. You either have your sin nature from Adam or your righteousness from Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). Adam sinned and we are all implicated. This is why the Psalmist was able to say that we are wicked from our mother’s womb and it is rooted all the way down in our heart.

The Safeguard

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flows the springs of life.”

Keep an eye on your heart. The picture is that your life is like a river that is flowing from your heart, the spring. Therefore, the problems in your life have to be dealt with upstream. You can modify the river all you want to, but if the source is never addresses, eventually the pollution will come right back.

Therefore, the problems and struggles in your life are indicators of a health issue in your heart. Safeguards are great, but not that answer. They are helpful, but not the answer. If there are things you don’t want in a river, you have to go upstream and find the source of pollution. The affects are downstream, but the problem is upstream. The answer is not behavior modification, it is a heart issue.

History tells us, while not confirmed, that the early church father, Origen, from a literal translation of Matthew 9 castrated himself to keep from sexual temptation. That’s not going to work because it’s a heart issue. In the Victorian Age they began to drape linen over tables because “if men saw the legs of the tables, they might be sexually tempted.” That’s nice – and weird – , but it won’t work.

Jesus echoes the same thing.

Mark 7:20-23 says, “And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:14-23 ESV)

In this passage, Jesus is speaking to religious people and they had this ideology… “In here, I’m good” “Out there, it’s bad.” So the sin isn’t in me, it’s out there. “I’m a holy good person and the world is filled with evil.” “So as long as I stay away from it I can maintain my purity.”

Religious people tend to think this way “I am pure, the world is evil.” So, for them, the answer is stay away from the world. Jesus says, that’s not the case. He says that the world is not filled with “good people” and “bad people,” but it is filled with bad people who are either repentant or unrepentant.

So it’s not safe “out there”…and it’s not safe “in here.”

The Answer

The Bible, ultimately, says that the answer is regeneration.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 says, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

This is a common theme in the O.T. God says this multiple times in Jeremiah. He says “I’ll give you a new what… a new heart.”

This is where Christianity is different than other religions. Other religions are about behavior modification, trying harder. Christianity is about getting a new heart. It’s not just doing better with the old heart…you get a new heart.

“…and a new spirit I will put within you…” So this is a gift of God, a work of God, and an act of God. We call it grace. The new heart has the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and repents of sin.

Does this mean you’re perfect? No, it says a new heart, not a perfect heart. You’re still being sanctified. We still have to deal with the residue from our old sin nature and walk in the Spirit on a daily basis because the devil has come to steal, kill, and destroy.

Here are 14 marks of a new heart just from proverbs…

  1. Faith – 3:5
  2. Desires obedience – 4:4
  3. Is corrective – 5:12
  4. Teachable – 10:8
  5. Contentment – 14:30
  6. Loves wisdom – 15:14
  7. Cheerful – 15:15
  8. Helpful – 15:28
  9. Discerning – 16:21
  10. Persuasive – 16:23
  11. Humble – 18:12
  12. Intelligent – 18:15
  13. Beautiful – 27:19
  14. Repentant – 28:14

7 Tips for Discipling Your Kids

7tips

Plan an intentional teaching time.

Discipling your kids requires an intentional planned time of family devotions. We all invest so much of our time into so many different areas of life, but we label ourselves “too busy” to plan an intentional time to read the Bible with our kids. Plan the time. Work your plan. Be intentional. Make it fun. Add crafts or something that will give the kids an opportunity to interact with what you’re reading and talking about. Then, alter your plan as needed to fit into the natural rhythms of your family life. Here is another resource to help you Plan a Family Devotion.

 

Be ready and available for spontaneous teaching moments.

Pray that God would give you the eyes to see and the ears to hear those God given moments to teach your kid. Be concerned with your kid’s spiritual growth to the point where you are listening for opportunities to teach them. If you’re busy, stop. It really is that easy. Try it and see how God makes a difference.

 

Be creative.

Discipleship is more than a family devotion. It is a lifestyle. Parent in a way that everything you do is an example for your kid to see. Be creative in discipling your kids through activities that they are already enjoying (e.g. dance, sports, karate). Pray that God would give you wisdom in how to use those things to talk about what a relationship with Jesus looks like with your lids.

 

Pray with them.

When you begin to regularly talk to God, He begins to open your eyes to what He is doing all around you. Praying with your kids not only teaches them to pray, but it broadens their perspective on what is happening outside of your immediate family life and how God is working in all of it. Pray with your kids that God would give your family opportunities to serve others.

 

Involve them in giving.

Regularly involve your kids in serving others. Create a culture of sacrificial giving in your home. Bake cookies for neighbors. Visit the elderly in your community. Donate old clothes, shoes, and toys. Pack a food bag to hand out to a homeless family.

 

Involve them in mission.

Be hospitable. Make your home a place where other families can come and enjoy. Cook big meals and invite other families over to eat and hang out. God gave you your home, so that you would be a good steward of it by serving others with it. Teach your kids that you have time for others, are interested in others, and love others by having other families over often. With a healthy balance, involve your kids in mission out in the community as well.

 

Commit to a local church.

Probably most importantly, commit to a local church. For one, you can’t lead well if you are not following well. How can you teach your kids to follow and be discipled if you aren’t following and being discipled. Additionally, while it is your primary role to disciple your kids, you need help from the church. It is the local church’s role to partner with families to disciple their kids. It is good and healthy to have other spiritually mature adults speaking into the life of your kids. Moreover, it is extremely important that they are involved in church community to grow and learn with other kids their age.