“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.”
Proverbs 22:15 (NIV)
If ever there was a verse that seemed outdated in today’s supposedly “progressive” society, this is it. Most parents of young children I know don’t spank their kids and consider spanking to be borderline abuse. It seems like the popular parenting strategy these days is “empower the child” to make decisions they are unable to make and become ever more entrenched in the belief that the universe really does revolve around their precious little faces.
However, this blog post isn’t about spanking, or even how we should raise our kids. When I read Pr. 22:15, God plucked a string in my soul that harmonized with several other things I’ve recently been learning–but not about parenting.
A few weeks ago I read The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero. His thesis in the book is “it’s impossible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.” This is a simple, yet profound truth. God is not just interested in my (or your) spiritual growth, but in my growth and development as a whole person. If I only focus on spiritual development, yet remain emotionally immature, I become a Christian full of knowledge with the appearance of being a mature disciple, but I am prideful, petty, selfish, insecure, passive-aggressive, and filled with vain ambition. In many ways, I have only been empowered to think that I’m indispensable and the church bubble really does revolve around my precious little face. I am childish in my faith (childish faith is not the same as childlike faith, but that’s a different post).
While children can be sweet and funny, we all know how embarrassing it is to see a teenager act like a toddler. A little discipline helps our kids learn and grow, and teaches them to make wise decisions. It’s no different with us. Childish Christians abound in churches today, but our Father loves us too much to let us stay the way we are. Unfortunately, this often involves disciplining us to make us aware of the folly bound up in our childish hearts, and to help us mature not just spiritually, but emotionally, intellectually, and socially.
All of us will be disciplined at some point if we are indeed God’s children. My prayer for the week is we will learn and grow, even when it hurts.
“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.” (Proverbs 17:1, NIV)
Thinking back over Thanksgiving, my guess is that most of us enjoyed a house full of feasting. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans, pumpkin pie–you name it, we ate it! Sadly, for many the feast was accompanied with strife.
While we can all relate to a little strife in the home from time to time, Proverbs 17:1 struck a chord with me beyond just family. At some point in our lives, we’ve probably all had to deal with a relative, a neighbor, a classmate, a co-worker, or a brother/sister in Christ who was (or is), shall we say, melodramatic. Melodramatic is an adjective that means exaggerated, overly emotional, or overdramatic. And while we make every effort to treat our drama queens with love, patience, and grace, after a while the words Solomon penned in Proverbs 17 ring true.
As I was reflecting on this verse, I began to think of all the other people I know who tend to be a little melodramatic. Then God gently reminded me that I needed to examine my own heart first. Am I overly emotional, overdramatic, or easily offended? Do I exaggerate to downplay my own faults or play up the “woe is me” line? Sometimes I am, and sometimes I do. Thank God for his grace and forgiveness.
When I tend to the melodramatic, it’s usually because somewhere deep within, insecurity is rearing its ugly head, causing me to question my value, question my contribution, and be threatened by others. So, I overcompensate. I become hypercritical. I turn into a serial complainer. I exaggerate. I stir the pot. I draw attention to myself because I need you to like me and approve of me so that I can feel secure in myself.
But the truth is, I’m not secure in myself; I’m secure in Christ. And that makes all the difference.
I don’t need to perform to be accepted and loved. I just need to remember who it is that loves me, accepts me, has called me, and takes care of me. When God is your Father and he loves you with an infinite, unconditional love… that’s security–who cares about anything else? My prayer for the week is that we will all remember just how much God loves us, we’ll rest in him and leave the melodrama to someone else.
Enjoy this song by Tauren Wells, and enjoy God’s love for you!
“Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.” (Proverbs 4:13, NIV).
As I sat down to read through Proverbs 4, I asked the Lord, “What do You have for me in this chapter this morning?” He replied directly (which is pretty rare for me), It’s not for you. Pray this for your sons.
I read through the chapter a couple times to get a sense for its flow and meaning and then prayed through each verse, putting in the names of Asher, Jack, Elliot, and Graham. What a beautiful prayer for my boys, and what a great lesson that God loves my children and has specific things He wants me to pray for them! Too often I get into a rut with my prayers for my family, and this was a reminder to use God’s words more often when I pray for them.
As I prayed through these verses, I noticed something I’d missed in previous readings (sometimes praying a passage brings new insight). Five times in this one chapter we’re instructed not to forget, forsake, or let go of wisdom, instruction, understanding, etc. I love to learn new things, have new experiences, go on new adventures, and explore new places. Sometimes in my passion for discovery, I get frustrated with rehashing what I “already know.”
But through directing me to pray for my boys, God also reminded me that sometimes I don’t need to learn something new, I need to hold onto what I already know. And, here’s the kicker, knowing is of no value if we don’t apply it to our lives. Maybe it’s not a fresh revelation I need; maybe I need to apply the revelation I already have received. It’s our fallen human nature to loosen our grip on God’s instruction over time, to lose our focus and stray to the right or to the left. Sometimes we need to be reminded to live according to the Word we’ve been given. My prayer for this week is that God will show you where you can you refocus your heart on His Word, and renew your commitment to live it out every day.
“Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me. Let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling place. Then I will come to the altar of God, to God, my greatest joy.” (Psalm 43:3-4, HCSB)
How often do I pray this? How often do I ask for God’s light and His truth to guide me in the decisions I make day in and day out? I’ve found that when I’m faced with a large, life-changing decision (like whether to move my family to a new community and take on a new role as a lead pastor) I tend to ask for wisdom more often. But in those in-between-years, when life seems manageable and there are no world-altering decisions staring me in the face, my tendency is to run with my own ideas, thoughts, and plans without asking for light and truth from God first.
And, even when I do ask for wisdom from God, do I seek it? Do I ask God to just download light and truth into my brain like an app update, or do I ask God for guidance as I seek His light and His truth in His Word? Sometimes we ask God to speak or give us direction and wonder why He doesn’t answer when in reality, He put that wisdom just in front of us if we’ll look for it. Have your kids ever asked you for something, and you put it just out of their reach, so they’ll have to work to get it? Why do you do you that? Because when they work to get what you have given, it’s more meaningful; and sometimes it sticks more than if you just hand it to them.
God has given us tools to seek His wisdom. He has given us His Word. He has given us the ability to reason and think rationally. He allows us to have experiences that shape us and should teach us more about life. And, most importantly, He has given us His Holy Spirit who will “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). But that truth doesn’t just come as an update or a new operating system. It’s not downloaded and installed in our brains while we sleep. When we pray for light and wisdom, we need to look for God’s answer using the tools, gifts, and opportunities He’s blessed us with. And as we seek Him, He will guide us into all truth.
My prayer for us this week as that God will send His light and His truth to lead us each day, and that we will have the discernment to see and hear His voice.
This week at LakeView Church we started a new series from the Book of Proverbs called Wisdom for the New Year. Proverbs 4:20-27 has a message written by King Solomon over 3,000 years ago—a message that is still relevant today. The Bible is filled with wisdom that will help us discover God’s design for life and live according to His plan.
They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat (Luke 8:53-55, NIV).
I love this story of how Jesus was interrupted by a woman who’d been sick for 12 years while on His way to heal a very sick little 12-year-old girl (I’ve always thought it interesting that the girl’s age was the same amount of time the woman had been sick–12 years, but it’s probably just a coincidence). The interruption delayed Jesus long enough that the little girl actually died. Undeterred, Jesus went and raised her from the dead.
Wait… He did what?!? Yes, He raised her from the dead! Wow! What an amazing miracle! And then after performing one of the most incredible, miraculous acts in human history… He told them to fix her supper. Jesus is so practical! If I’d just seen my own child raised from the dead, supper would be the last thing I’d be thinking about! But no doubt this little girl was hungry, and Jesus doesn’t just look after supernatural needs, but everyday ones, too.
This brought to my mind the question of how well do I look after my own everyday needs, like, say, sleep! Or rest, or relaxation, or eating healthier, or… exercise (yes, I used the “e-word”). If Jesus cares about me eating supper, maybe I should, too! And if Jesus is concerned for the practical needs of others, so should we be. Sometimes people don’t need a miraculous intervention, they just need a cup of coffee with a friend who will pray for them. My prayer for us this week is that we will remember to eat, sleep, and wrestle with our kids, do the everyday, practical things that Jesus cares about, and have a very normal, “mundane” conversation with someone who just needs a friend.
What is the foundation of your life? And what do we want to be the foundation of the life and ministry of LakeView Church? Laying the proper foundation is a critical element of building anything, whether a home, a family, a life or a ministry. I had the privilege of delivering this message at LakeView Church on September 10, 2017.
The average American throws away more stuff in a year than most of the rest of the people in the world will own in their entire lifetime. Yet, we don’t feel like we have enough. In this message, we take a biblical perspective on contentment and examine five ways to cultivate contentment. Those five ways are:
And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’ ”
~ Luke 4:8
“The church service is the most important, momentous and majestic thing which can possibly take place on earth…”
~ Karl Barth
There is no higher calling, no greater pursuit in life than worship. Yet, according to a recent study by the Barna Group, the average “active” church member attends church 1.7 times a month… that’s not even half the time! And those are the “active” members! There are some legitimately good reasons for a person to occasionally miss church, but the reality is many Christians simply fail to make worship a priority–we’re just too busy to be bothered with going to church (thankfully, Jesus wasn’t too busy to be bothered with going to the cross!). So, as a little incentive at the start of a new year, here are six reasons why it’s important to worship together, in church, as the church.
1. It’s important to worship together because we’re commanded to.
Many times the Scriptures call us to come together to worship the Lord. Consider Psalm 95, which begins, “Come, let us sing for joy…” Everything in the entire Psalm is written in the plural. In fact, it’s impossible to practice Psalm 95 by yourself, because Psalm 95 calls God’s people to gather together and worship Him. So, we have a simple choice. Either we will choose to be obedient to God’s Word, and make worshiping together a priority; or we will choose to be disobedient to God’s Word and skip church. Which way will you choose?
2. It’s important to worship together because it drives our beliefs down deep into our souls.
I’ve had many conversations with people who tell me they don’t think Christianity has any real impact in their lives. They don’t sense God’s presence with them ever, and they don’t have any connection to the power of God in their daily lives. I wonder if this might be because their beliefs are little more than ideas in their heads? See, beliefs don’t really change your life until they drop from your head to your heart. It’s not enough to simply think things, you need to hold those beliefs in the depths of your soul. And, corporate worship is designed to engage your entire being–heart, soul, mind, and strength. When we sing our beliefs, pray our beliefs, study our beliefs, discuss our beliefs, and interact with other Christians who share our beliefs, those beliefs become more than just ideas in our heads. They become life-transforming truths driven deeply into our souls and expressed daily in how we live.
3. It’s important to worship together because you can’t truly know God as He is by yourself.
I’ve talked with many, many people who say, “I don’t have to go to church to know God.” The fact is, they’re wrong. God is not just your God or my God–He is our God. Through my study, and my experience, and my relationship with God, I have a different knowledge of Him than you do. And you have experienced God in ways I haven’t. If I want to truly know God as He is, I need to be with other Christians and learn from their stories, their worship, and their experiences. When I hear sermons from other pastors, I learn more about God than I would just by studying those verses by myself. When I hear other Christians pray, I see what God means to them and how He’s worked in their lives, and I get a bigger picture of God than I ever would have just praying by myself. On my own, I have one tiny perspective on God–a drop in the ocean. If I truly desire to know more of God, I must be together with other Christians in worship.
“You will never know God as He is unless you are in a worshiping community.”
~ Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City
4. It’s important to worship together because it’s where life together begins.
There’s no such thing as a Lone Ranger Christian. The Christian faith is personal, but it is neverprivate. We do not have a private faith! Everywhere the gospel went, it formed Christian congregations, churches, where Christians would gather. The Christian life is a life together, and that life together begins with worship.
“The whole common life of the Christian fellowship oscillates between Word and Sacrament, it begins and ends in worship.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
5. It’s important to worship together because it reminds us what’s really important in life.
Guess what? Your kids’ sports are not really what’s important in life. How much money you make isn’t really the ultimate value of life. Sleeping in doesn’t rank super high on the list of what matters most in this world. What is really important in life is knowing God, hearing His voice and responding to it in worship. We were created to “glorify God and to enjoy Him forever,” as the Westminster Shorter Catechism says. When we make going to church to worship together a priority, we proclaim to ourselves, our kids, our friends, and the world around us that we are not the center of the Universe–God is.
When I was a kid, we were not allowed to play sports that caused us to miss church. If there was a game Sunday afternoon and we could play after church, that was fine. But we didn’t miss church to play ball because how many points you score on the field isn’t really what’s important in life. And let’s be honest, I wasn’t going to be a professional athlete (and neither will your kids). I can’t remember a single Sunday when we woke up, sat around in our PJ’s and asked, “Do you think we should go to church this morning?” Was it Sunday? Were we breathing? Then we were going to worship God. When I was old enough to have a job, my dad told me I wasn’t allowed to work on Sunday mornings and skip church. My high school job wasn’t important enough to take me away from the worship of God!
Parents, when you allow your kids to skip church because of sports, working at McDonald’s, and just being too tired to get up, you are teaching them that God is only worthy of our worship when it’s convenient for us. If you allow your kids to be the center of your family’s Universe, they will grow up thinking the world revolves around them. But, your kids are not awesome… God is awesome. They are not the center of the Universe–God is. Making church a priority reminds us and teaches others around us of what’s really important in life, namely, God.
6. It’s important to worship together because we need to “rest” in Christ.
In the Old Testament, the people of Israel observed the Sabbath Day. Every Saturday, they stopped what they normally did the rest of the week and physically rested. They stopped their work and worshiped God. They acknowledged that God was truly the One who provided for them, cared for them, and worked for them. As Christians, we are not bound by the Sabbath law, like the Israelites were. However, through Jesus Christ’s work on the cross, He offers us a spiritual Sabbath. We don’t celebrate our “Sabbath” on Saturday, but we “rest” in Christ on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the day when Jesus rose again. And, we need that spiritual rest.
An aircraft carrier carries planes across the ocean. Those planes fly out on their mission, but they can’t stay out forever. If they don’t come back to land on the carrier, they will run out of fuel and crash. They need to come back, be refueled, refitted, repaired, and relaunched to accomplish their mission. That’s exactly what worship does for us. You are out there Monday through Saturday, trying to live a godly life in a godless society. If you stay out too long, you’ll run out of fuel and crash. You need to stop, come back and rest in God’s sanctuary, and be refreshed. You need to be reminded of what’s most important in life. You need to be refocused on God’s Word, and you need to be encouraged by other Christians. Then you need to be relaunched back into the world, full of the Spirit and ready to accomplish God’s mission for you.
Going to church on a Sunday morning is important. It’s not just some meaningless activity Christians do, but it’s a vital part of your life as a believer. We need to worship together, and God is worthy of our worship. He gave His one and only Son to die on the cross in our place. He forgives all our sin. He provides for all our needs. The least we can do is give Him a couple hours one day a week!
On Sunday, September 18, 2016, I had the opportunity to preach at Pontiac Bible Church, where I currently serve as Associate Pastor. The series is in Daniel, and I got to share Daniel 3, the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and the fiery furnace! I love God’s Word. I hope you enjoy this message.
Ahhh, Christmas is finally over! Now you can relax and… wait for all the bills to start dropping in! For many people, the pressure of post-Christmas bills is greater the stress of the busy holiday season itself. Credit card payments from Christmas spending pile onto the car payments, utilities, data plans, TV packages, mortgage (or rent), and all the other bills you already feel buried under. Time for a change! The Bible is immensely practical (among other things), and one of the most practical books in the Bible is Proverbs.
Proverbs, the book of wisdom, has much to teach anyone willing to learn about how to use money wisely. Consider, for instance, Proverbs 27:23-27. Verse 23 instructs a farmer, “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds.” In this little passage of Scripture, the flocks and herds are the farmer’s livelihood. It is wise for him to know how his flocks are doing. How many sheep are there? How many lambs will there be this year? Do they have enough food? How much wool will they produce this year?
Why is it important for the farmer to know the condition of his flocks? Verse 24 gives us the answer. “For riches do not last forever, and does a crown endure to all generations?” What the farmer has today may be gone tomorrow. Who knows whether a drought will wipe out his crops or a new king will tax him into the ground? Verse 25 teaches the farmer to carefully manage his pastureland and crops in order to ensure his flocks have enough food to last the winter. And verses 26-27 describe the benefits of his work: when the future comes–whatever it brings, the flocks will provide wool, milk, and meat (think income).
In these verses, we find three very important principles for how to use money wisely. (1) Know your spending. (2) Plan your spending. (3) Control your spending.
Know your spending.
I’m always a little amazed at how many people don’t “know well the condition” of their finances. So many people have no idea how much money they spend on gas, TV, groceries, coffee, eating out, entertainment, etc. They get to the end of the month and wonder, “Where did it all go?” The first time I monitored my spending I was shocked. I had no idea how much money I was wasting on little things, and quickly realized why I was struggling to pay my bills. One of the most valuable things you can do financially is track your spending.
Plan your spending.
You will either control your money or your money (and your bills) will control you. Knowing what you spend your money on is good, but it’s not much help unless you also “give attention” to how you’re going to spend your money. You need a budget (yes, I said the “b-” word). If you don’t create a budget, you’ll waste money, and when life throws you a curveball, you won’t have any resources to get you through. There are many budgeting tools available, and I use a program called “You Need A Budget” that both tracks my spending and helps me plan it each month.
Control your spending.
This third principle is super-simple, yet almost no one does it (especially the government). The basic idea is this: spend less than you make. If I bring home a paycheck of $1500, and I spend $2000, what happens? I end up $500 short, which I probably end up putting on a credit card. If I do that every paycheck, pretty soon I’m going to be thousands of dollars in debt with little hope of ever digging out. But what if I make $1500 and I only spend $1250? I end up $250 ahead. Do that for a little while and pretty soon I’ll have thousands of dollars in the bank! As simple as it is, it’s not easy. It means saying no to some things you want. It means saving to pay cash for something instead of putting it on a credit card. It might mean canceling your ESPN package so you can pay your water bill, or downgrading your data plan so you can actually give a tithe (10% of your income) to your church.
Here’s my challenge to you as we approach the New Year. Consider the practical wisdom of the Book of Proverbs when it comes to money. Either you will master your money or your money will master you. In a notebook, track and know all your spending this month, even little purchases. Mark which items were unnecessary expenses, and prioritize. Download a budget worksheet from Google and plan your spending for the next month. Then, stick to your budget. Control your spending and it won’t control you! And, when you get the chance, give a little of what God has blessed you with to someone in need (ask your pastor for ideas).