Swinging and Talking

 

Just the other day, my youngest daughter and I bonded while I pushed her on the swing. The weather was ideal. It wasn’t hot. There weren’t any bugs bothering us. We just stayed in the backyard swinging for about an hour. I pushed her, and she was swinging.

As I pushed her on the swing, she was smiling and laughing. As she was cutting-up, I was talking to her.

This is how it went:

-“Lili, it feels nice outside, doesn’t it?”

-“Do you like swinging?”

-“Lili, you know, I love you! I am so happy to be your daddy!”

(To all of this, she is just laughing and not really saying anything)

-“You know, God gave you to me. I don’t know why He let me be your daddy, but I am so glad He did. I love you so much!” “Your mom and I love you a lot!”

-“Lili, you know what else? Jesus loves you too. He loves you a lot. He loves both of us. He loves our family. He forgives us of our sins. He will forgive us of all our sins.”

-“And Lili, I want my love for you as your daddy to show you how much God loves you.”

It was truly a special moment for the two of us. We were both so happy. We were both smiling and laughing a lot. We bonded that day in that moment!

I told the full story at the close of my sermon on Sunday. You can listen to it here. (The whole sermon is 43 minutes. But you can here this story beginning at the 39:45 mark.)

5 Simple Ways to Pray with Your Family

Two of my biggest desires in life are to be a praying man and a family man.

I want to pray more because I know that I am completely dependent upon God. I want to be a family man because I know that God has given me my wife and children. I want to lead my wife and kids to know the Lord!

I enjoy praying with my children, and my children have grown to enjoy that I pray regularly with them. With that said, I sometimes fail at being a family man and praying man. I know that God is patient with me to give me endurance and encouragement to keep striving to be a faithful man. Over the years, I have found these 5 Simple Ways to Pray more often with my family:

  1. Before School
    I have the great opportunity to take my sons to school each morning. Each morning as we approach the school, we turn the radio off and I pray for them. I pray about all kinds of things: schoolwork, classmates, teachers, safety, athletics, projects, new students, friends, field trips, etc.  This routine has become such a key piece to our mornings together. Beginning your day by seeking the Lord is wise.
  2. Big Events
    As the kids grow, life gets more and more full. This season of life and parenting is so much fun. It seems we are always headed to some special event. We have been to spelling bees, speech meets, ball games, tryouts, tournaments, programs, dance recitals, services, etc. Before we hop out of the car, I like to stop my family or child and pray with them – Asking God to lead us and use us. Often times we are walking into the event, and I pray as we walk with my arm around their shoulder.
  3. Before Meals
    This is a common prayer time for many people, but I want to remind us that it is still meaningful. Praying before your meal should not be neglected. Whether at home or out at a restaurant, we pause to pray and thank God for the food. We pray for the food wherever we are – in a gas station, at a park for a picnic, in the school cafeteria, in the car for a drive-thru, etc. If God has provided the meal, we want to Thank Him.
  4. At Bedtime
    Life is busy and fast-paced, and there are many nights when the kids are getting into bed too late. Honestly, there are many nights where I carry them to bed because they have already fallen asleep. However, as often as I am able, I love to pray with them before they go to sleep. Nearly every night, I will talk to them and then turn out the lights. Then I pray with them. Before bedtime is also one of the best times to teach them to pray and to lead them in prayers of their own. Ending your day by seeking the Lord with Thankfulness is special.
  5. In the Car
    We pray in the car all the time! On the way to an event; beginning a road-trip; ending a road-trip; thanking God for food; passing a bad accident; etc. When life is busy, there are not many times when we are together with peace and quiet. In the car is an excellent time to settle down and re-group. The car rides together have become a joy to our family.

The Importance of Young People

We cannot overstate the importance of young people!

JJ party

We need to invest in the younger generation, and I am leading our church in this effort.

Take a moment to think on these few verses. Notice the difference!

Psalm 71:18 “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God,  do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.”

Exodus 13:8 “You shall tell your son on that day ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me.'”

Judges 2:10 “All that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.”

Yesterday, April 2, 2017, I preached a message from Mark 10 on “The Importance of Young People.” You can listen to that message here.

In this message, I talk about the priority of BRINGING kids to Jesus; the problem with NOT BRINGING kids to Jesus and Jesus therefore REBUKING us; and the reward of kids BELONGING to Jesus. There is nothing more important than teaching young people about God!

In this message, I also mentioned a similar sermon that I preached a couple years ago. That message was from 2 Timothy 2:2 and  called “Why all the emphasis on Young People?” You can listen to that message here.

In this message, I talk about the REACH, the REALITY, the RISK and the REWARD of investing in Young People.

I hope and pray that you will listen to these messages and that God will move you to invest in the next generation!

 

That’s Shameful!

“You should be ashamed of yourself!”

Im sure we have all heard someone make that statement!

What actually is shameful? What type of thinking or living is shameful?

In Romans 10:11 God’s word says “For everyone who believes in Him (Jesus) will not be put to shame.”

So it is shameful to not believe in Jesus Christ.

It is shameful because life is about God, and until we are wanting to be forgiven of our sins because we know that our sins are against God then we do not love God sincerely. Through Jesus we can be forgiven of our sins. To not believe in Jesus is shameful because it ultimately is saying that we don’t want to love God sincerely.

But it goes much deeper than just this one verse. Follow along.

So we started with that expression in Romans 10:11. But Paul had already stated that in Romans 9:33 “Behold I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

And in Romans 9:33 Paul is actually quoting from two places: 1 Peter 2:4-7 and Isaiah 28:16. And then those verses also have come from Psalm 118:22.

Once you see that Paul in Romans, Peter in 1 Peter, Isaiah in Isaiah, and the Psalmist of Psalm 118 all play a part in this powerful statement on Shame and Faith in Christ, you can then begin to understand the seriousness of it.

We need God’s forgiveness. It is shameful to not seek it through Jesus!

If you want to study this a bit further, look at Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10,11; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11 and Ephesians 2:20. All five of those passages are quoting the Bible passages I mentioned earlier. Jesus is the Cornerstone. Jesus is the answer. There is no salvation without forgiveness. There is no forgiveness apart from faith in Christ!

Lets make sure we understand what is shameful! Don’t be Ashamed!

when you pray?

Often times there are some common habits or characteristics among admirable people. Some are early-risers, some are committed to exercise, some are high-energy, some are serious readers, some are caffeine dependent, some are introverts, some are extraverts and so on and so on. I find it fascinating to look into the lives and practices of people that I look up to.

There is no one I admire and adore more than Jesus Christ. He is the most complete man. He is the most worthy man of any and all emulation. In short, Jesus is the one we all should be like. Jesus is the standard. With that said, we should look to Jesus and his way of life. We should want to know what He was like.

Recently I was looking into just how often Jesus prayed. Wow! I knew he prayed. I knew he was faithfully committed to prayer. And I knew he prayed often. But I was totally taken back by just how much Jesus prayed. He prayed all the time. He prayed about everything.

As I look to Jesus’s life as an example to follow, I am convicted and encouraged to be more committed to prayer. I want to pray like Jesus. I want to be a praying man.

I want to be a praying husband. I want to be a praying father. I want to be a praying pastor. I want my church people to know that I am praying for them. I want them to be sure of that!

In Matthew 6:5, Jesus says “And when you pray …”

Jesus teaches us to pray, asks us to pray, commands us to pray, and even expects us to pray.

Not only do I want to be like Jesus, but I really want to be what Jesus wants me to be.

Again, I want to be a praying man. And that desire for myself is the same desire that I have for our church.

Let me, along with God’s word, encourage you to begin praying!

Andrew Peterson’s song “Family Man”

The older I get and the more committed to parenting that I have become, the more this song means to me. I am not sure if you know this song, but I thank God so much for all that He is teaching me about Himself, myself and family.

Different Season. Same Reason.

Like many people, my family spent a lot of time this past December reading through the Christmas story in the Bible. And while I enjoy all angles of the story, this year I was gripped most by the Wise Men. Their intention was so crystal clear. Matthew 2:2 states “we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” And then Matthew 2:11 states “And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.”

The Wise Men came from the East for one reason – to worship Jesus.

In the week after Christmas as the new year rolled around, I was reading the Great Commission in Matthew 28 (always seems fitting to re-read it at the beginning of each new year), and I noticed something fascinating. Matthew 28:16-17 states “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him…”

The disciples followed Jesus for one reason – to worship him.

Both passages say the same thing – they worshiped him.

Matthew’s gospel begins with the birth of Jesus and people worshipping him.

Matthew’s gospel ends with the death, burial & resurrection of Jesus and people worshipping him.

The Wise Men didn’t know him personally yet but they knew he was King. They came to worship the new born King.

The disciples did know him personally, and they worshiped him.

The Wise Men were seeing him for the very first time, and they worshiped him.

The disciples had been with him daily for the past three years, and they worshiped him.

Matthew wants us to understand our purpose – to worship Jesus!

It may be a different season, but people still have the same reason.

As we get busy looking to make 2017 have more purpose than ever, lets focus on worshipping Jesus!

 

God & Laziness: 4 ways that we are lazy

I continue to be impressed and inspired by God’s Word. While many make the excuse that it is boring or hard to understand, I find it engaging and very applicable to life.

Just last week, while reading Proverbs 26 on October the 26th, I noticed this again. God talks about laziness. Being lazy is a necessary topic for so many people. God knows how to connect with us. God knows how to deal with us. Not only does God address lazy people, but he gives the lazy person a name. God calls the lazy person the sluggard!

Here are characteristics of the sluggard – 4 ways that we are lazy:

  1. The lazy person makes excuses. (26:13) The sluggard should be out doing something but instead he says there is “a lion in the streets.” That is an excuse. There is no lion in the streets. That is a lazy excuse for why he is not doing what he should be doing.
  2. The lazy person wastes time. (26:14) The sluggard should be up and at it. The sluggard should be out of bed but instead he is just lying in bed turning over like a door on a hinge. That is lazy and a waste of time. There are things to do.
  3. The lazy person is not fit for good works. (26:15) The sluggard tries to do something but is unable.  He puts his hand in the dish to bring the snack back to his mouth but is unable to. He is too lazy to do the deed. Many of us wish to do better. We want to exercise more, give more, eat less, sleep less and so forth. But we are not fit for it. We want to do it, but we have not put ourselves in position to do the thing we want to do. That is being lazy.
  4. The lazy person thinks he knows best. (26:16) The sluggard thinks he knows better than everyone else.  Even though many people with more knowledge, more experience, and more effort are telling him what he needs to do, the sluggard will not listen. He thinks he knows best. You cannot tell the sluggard anything that he doesn’t already know.

The Word of God is awesome. And it is profitable for us. In Proverbs 26 it addresses laziness. May we not be lazy. Lets live for God’s glory!

3 Questions to Ask Before Your Funeral

Once we get to our funerals, there are several things that are too late. Several things that are lost.
We cannot go back and make any changes.
Life is short. Life is precious. Life is heavy. And we must be ready.casket

Being ready means that we take time to consider the brevity, beauty and weight of life long before it is gone.

There are several things that need to be considered before we die.

Here are 3 questions to ask before your funeral (hopefully, way before your funeral):

  1. WHO WILL BE THERE?
    -Will there be any young people at your funeral because you had invested in them?
    -Will there be any older people at your funeral because you were so respectful to them?
    -Will any of your co-workers attend your funeral?
    -Will any of your neighbors come to your funeral?
    -Will there be any diversity at your funeral?  Anybody from a different race? Any international people?
    -Who will be at your funeral?
  2. WHAT WILL THEY SAY?
    -Will people speak about your interests or your interest in them?
    -Will people reminisce about the time they spent in your home?
    -Will people speak about how kind and loving you were?
    -Will people tell stories about that time you went out of your way to help them?
    -Will people recall how you sacrificed your time and energy for their sake?
    -Will people speak about the way your life impacted theirs?
    -Will anyone speak about how your faith in Christ impacted them?
    -Will anyone speak about how you faithfully prayed for them?
    -Will anyone tell about how they came to know God through their relationship with you?
  3. WILL THEY KNOW WHERE YOU WENT?
    -Will people wonder whether you knew God or not?
    -Will people question if you were religious?
    -Will people be comforted knowing that you are in heaven?
    -Will people fear that you are in hell?
    -Will people be curious about whether you were a Christian or not?

 

Don’t be scared!

I remember being a teenager when I began to see people wearing t-shirts that said Ain’t Skeered.’ Then shortly after that I remember seeing guys put that same phrase on their vehicles’ rear windows. I always thought that was a little odd.

aint skeered

In my mind, boldly asserting not being scared is not necessary if you aren’t scared. Unless you are a little scared, then why feel the need to say it? But we will leave that conversation for another time.

Confidence in the face of fear is a better subject. It is needed. Honestly, we need to be able to find courage & strength in times we could and even should be afraid.

God speaks to this time and time again. The phrase “do not be afraid” is found nearly 40 times in the Bible. And numerous similar phrases are found throughout the whole Bible.

Think of God speaking to Israel/Jacob in Genesis 46 about their family going down into Egypt with Joseph: “Do not be afraid.”
Think of God commissioning Joshua in Joshua 1 to be the next leader of the people of Israel after Moses’ death: “Do not be frightened.”
Think of Jesus calling His first disciples in Luke 5 when he says to them: “Do not be afraid: from now on you will be catching men.”
Think of Jesus immediately after His resurrection in Matthew 28 when he says to Mary: “Do not be afraid; go and tell.”
Think of Paul in Acts 18 when God encourages him to continue speaking the truth: “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent.”

One of the resounding commands from God to His people throughout God’s word, and indeed throughout history, is Do Not Be Afraid! 

But life is hard and uncertain and heavy and troubling, and there are times when people are afraid. So where does the confidence to not be afraid come from when we are inclined to be afraid? Or what can we do when we are honestly afraid?

It comes from God. His presence. His being with us. God never tells us to not be afraid without also telling us why we shouldn’t be afraid. God never tells us to not be afraid without giving us a strong reason why we shouldn’t be afraid. And God will not tell us to not be afraid if we really and truly should be afraid. God can be trusted.

Listen to His words to Joshua in Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

When you know Jesus and His being with you, then your fears are handled much differently!

Be strong and courageous! Don’t be scared!