Children should be seen and not heard. Remember that old adage? Whoever made up that expression obviously had not read what Jesus himself said about children. I’m glad God put this passage in the Bible. I smile at it every time.
It is recorded in the gospel of Luke 18:15-17 Picture the setting. Jesus is teaching in His parable style for understanding, and the disciples are with him. On this day parents brought their little children to Jesus to simply touch them and receive His blessing.
The disciples saw this and scolded the parents for doing this. They quickly decided they would speak for Jesus and told the parents that the children were a bother!
Jesus continued with a powerful teaching moment. Jesus called for the children to come to Him. He said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.” He went on to bring full understanding, “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”
Well, Jesus words cleared up the misunderstanding. Children do have something to say and I completely agree. I’ve been involved in children’s ministries for over 30years. I can say first hand that children teach me more than I ever teach them. Their humble, sincere and fully trusting faith speaks to me every time.
We as adults can easily forget to express a child’s kind of humility. We can get full of our knowledge and experience and forget what it is to receive God’s goodness with humble joy and faithfulness.
How helpful it is to remember this teaching! Do you want to know for sure that Heaven will be your eternal home after death? Then simply believe like Jesus said, with full faith like a child, that He died on the cross for your sins. If there were any other way to eternal life there would be no need of Christ death on the cross. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life no one comes to the Father except through me.” In believing you can have eternal life as promised in John 3:16. There is no other way. A child understands this and believes. Why do so many “adults” stumble over this truth and try to follow their own way to God.
It helps to remember this teaching of childlike faith after salvation. As a child of God I need His help in living by faith in obedience every day! This world gives us all kinds of trials daily. Jesus said, “In this world you will have troubles, but I have overcome the world.” If I trust the Lord just like a child, then I can be the overcomer that Jesus describes.
The next time we face anything that tries to shake our faith and seems too hard. Stop and respond like a child. Stay full with faith, and trust the love of your Heavenly Father to help you through anything. See yourself being called to His lap as in Luke 18. It will calm your spirit and allow you to live without fear. Living by faith pleases the Lord and the children in your life will show you how it’s done.
This is September 11. Today we commemorate the people fallen in the 9/11 tragedy. I would like to take a moment to encourage you to take some time to say a prayer for all the people involved; not just in the rescue and recovery efforts but also the families of the fallen.
This past week has been nothing short of exciting for Epic Youth. We have been speaking about God’s direction for your life and will soon begin a series based on, “Purpose Driven Life.” I can’t wait to see what God is going to next.
Donations: As our ministry expands, so do our needs. We are seeking gaming items for our forthcoming youth room. Game consoles, basketball games, ping-pong, foosball table and pool tables are all very welcome. All items could be considered as charitable donations and can be credited for Tax compensation. All help is greatly appreciated, thank you!
Invariably, It my pleasure to serve and inspire this generation of young people to serve and inspire the next generation, thank you for you assistants and prayers. Chad Henderson
On Father’s Day I celebrated five years in ministry. Five years is just enough time to start getting to know people in Terre Haute. It’s just enough time to start to make a difference.
What about 36 years?
In 1981 a man named Paul Gravey moved to town with his wife Sharon. Since then he has served God in Terre Haute at two churches. He started off for about 25 years as the pastor of First Baptist North Terre Haute. Then 12 years ago he started a church. His wife, Sharon is the head of one of the largest crisis pregnancy centers in the country also based here in Terre Haute.
The reason I write profiles
I’ve known Paul as long as I’ve been in town, so I thought I’d write about him today. I don’t write these profiles to lionize people but to share wisdom. Honestly, I learn so much from the people in my life that I simply need to share what I’ve learned from them. Last week I shared about newborn Silas, so this week I figure I would swing to the other end of the age spectrum for Paul. 😀
All kidding aside, here are three things I’ve learned from Paul.
Paul has really collected the experiences in his life and has a unique ability to share from what he has learned. He was a no-brainer when we were looking for the next president of the ministerial Association. And whenever we look for a “city father” to speak into a community wide event, Paul is almost always on that list.
What is it about Paul that gives him that wisdom? I see him as a person who has really taken to heart life experiences. He has allowed those experiences to grow his faith and challenge him to go deep with God.
I also see Paul is someone who has a heart for other people. He is willing to tell it like it is. He is also willing to do what it takes to show love in a wise manner. I really respect how Paul understands people and is thoughtful and how he interacts and leads.
Here’s my take away: I want to be more diligent about living life on purpose and paying attention. Life hasn’t been perfect for Paul, but he’s learned each step of the way. I want to do the same.
Whimsy (and Wit)
So Webster’s dictionary defines the word, “whimsy” as
“quaint or fanciful” sense of humor.”
Paul is not “quaint” or really “fanciful.” But he does have a sense of humor.
Webster’s dictionary also defines the word “wit” as
“mental sharpness or inventiveness; keen intelligence.”
Paul certainly is sharp as a tack with a keen intelligence. But that’s not quite what is remarkable about him. So, since I’m pretty committed to using the letter “W” for Paul I stuck with “whimsy” as one of my title words.
Paul lives as a profound mixture of a man.
He is wise in that he has learned from what has happened to him. He has walked with God and learned from that walk. Yet, he has a tremendous sense of humor. I have heard countless hilarious stories from Paul. He played so many jokes on his kids growing up, and they still turned out OK.
To know Paul well is to laugh with him.
My take away from Paul is this: for me to minister well I must maintain a strong sense of humor. I must be willing to be silly with my kids. I must be willing to laugh at life. However, to really capture what Paul has lived I need to mesh in a deep sense of growing in wisdom with a profound sense of humor.
Websters defines the word “wherewithal” in this way:
“The money or means necessary for a given purpose.”
About 13 years ago Paul’s time at first Baptist was done. He was entertaining job opportunities at churches in other towns. One day, he went to play golf. About halfway through his golf partner, Jim Evans, encouraged him to consider starting a church. Paul’s response was something like this:
“There are more than 200 churches in the Wabash Valley. Somebody might shoot me if I started another church.”
Yet, the idea didn’t die. Paul didn’t get shot. And he started another church in Terre Haute. New Life Community Church started in the basement of an old mall in town. From the beginning Paul’s heart was to make a church to reach the un-churched. 12 years later NLCC is a fixture in downtown Terre Haute. Paul’s dream has gone from a golf course to a basement to downtown. And he is reaching unchurched people.
Paul has demonstrated the ability to make things happen. I don’t know anymore of his history at First Baptist then what he has told me. But I know that for a pastor to serve for 25 years says something about his abilities.
I do know how hard it is to lead an established church for five years. Paul has birthed a church and lead it for 12 years. I can’t imagine what it takes to start a church. Paul is the man with the wherewithal to make things happen. I admire that.
FYI, Paul agreed to guest write a whopper of a post for me tomorrow about what he learned from starting a church. Read it here!
I don’t know all of what it takes to get things done like Paul and Sharon do. But I’m gonna keep bugging Paul until he explains it all to me. I do know, however, that Paul saw a vision and a need and he pursued it until it was accomplished. (And he is continuing the work.) There will always be work that needs to be done by people who are willing to step up to the plate.
I do respect Paul and I am grateful for what he has taught me. I hope that in my life I will collect wisdom from what God leads me through. I plan to live with a greater sense of whimsy or humor not taking myself too seriously. Finally, I hope to summon the wherewithal within me to get done what God lays on my heart.
In the context of serious theological discussions, it may seem trivial to write about first impressions of guests when they visit your church. But, if we could understand that a returning guest has more opportunities to hear the gospel and experience Christian love and fellowship, we might take the issue a bit more seriously.
Prior to assuming the presidency of LifeWay, I led a church consulting company. One of our first steps in the consultation was to send one or more first-time guests to the church. Those individuals would then report back to us on their experiences. Many times those we enlisted were unchurched non-Christians.
Why We Don’t See It
I am working at home today because a handyman is working on several small items around my house. I love his approach. When he first enters our home, he asks for permission to take a quick tour. Within minutes, he commented on several items that might need his attention, items that weren’t on the list I gave him. I appreciated his thoroughness, and it was good for his business as well.
The handyman did something very basic and very simple. He looked at my house through outside eyes. I am in my house everyday, so I don’t notice those things that may not be just right. The same is true for church members and church leaders. They see their church on an ongoing basis, so they don’t have the benefit of outside eyes.
What They See
After two decades of church consultation, a clear pattern emerged. These were the areas that engendered more comments and concerns from first-time guests. These areas are listed in order of frequency of response, and they deal only with physical facilities. I will address non-facility issues in next Saturday’s blog.
1. The Women’s Restrooms
Almost 100 percent of the female guests we retained addressed this issue. They noticed first and foremost the cleanliness of the restrooms. Then they noticed the convenience of getting to the restrooms. Finally, they noticed the capacity of the restrooms. Did they have to wait in line?
2. The Preschool and Nursery Areas
This area was a focus of near unanimity of young families. Is the area secure? Is it clean? How do I know someone else won’t pick up my child? Do the workers appear concerned and qualified?
Guests often commented on the difficulty or ease of finding a parking spot. Was there a covered drop off if the weather was bad? Were there guest parking spots? Were there reserved places for young mothers and expectant mothers? Were there sufficient handicapped parking places?
4. Signage and Information.
Last week my wife and I were in mall we had never visited. The first thing we did was go to a sign that had all the stores and their locations on it. Even small churches can be intimidating to first-time guests. Do you have adequate signage throughout the facilities? Is there an obvious information booth or table? Members know where to go; guests don’t.
5. Worship Seating
First time guests desire to find a place to sit as quickly as possible. They feel awkward otherwise. Is your worship center more than 80 percent full? If so, the guests perceive it is completely full. Are your members trained to move to the middle of pews or seat rows so guests don’t have to climb over them? Are their ushers or greeters available to lead guests to seats?
It Is Important
When a guest has a good experience, he or she is more likely to return. When they return they are more likely to hear about and experience the love of Christ.
When I was a pastor of a church with 70 in worship attendance, we decided to do something about our deplorable restrooms. We had a workday and almost half the church showed up. People donated materials, labor, and even toilets. At the end of the day, we had some of the nicest and cleanest restrooms in town.
I don’t know how closely it’s related, but our attendance bumped up to 90 immediately and never went back in my tenure. Maybe it was the church working together. Maybe it was the community observing the unity of the church. Or maybe we just had clean restrooms.
It is that important.
What issues are important to guests in your church? What changes has your church made? What changes should your church make?
As a boy being raised in Virginia, I witnessed racism in all its ugliness. Gas stations (called service stations in those days) still had separate water fountains and bathrooms for “colored” and whites. The idea was the failure that was “separate but equal” attempts that kept segregation alive and well in the South. And to make matters worse, I was regularly schooled by my family that “colored” people were inferior and we should not associate with “them”. Our schools finally obeyed the federal injunction to integrate when I reached 7th grade (incidentally one of the last southern states to comply). You can imagine my fear and apprehension when the white and colored schools were suddenly merged and classrooms were filled with students and teachers of all races. I was an anxious kid as a rule and this didn’t help my psyche at all!! But the experience was not as traumatic as I envisioned. In fact after a few very touchy days, all of us began to get to know each other and found out that we were all basically the same, dealing with the same apprehensions and fears.
I was a pretty good student, usually in the top few in my class academically. And though I was never what you would call a “star athlete”, I did enjoy sports and played pretty hard with the guys when we got the chance. At the end of the first grading period I had reached a pretty well thought out conclusion. I had been taught wrongly when it came to race. Students of color regularly scored much higher than I and I found myself jockeying for academic position with several really sharp, intelligent African American students. Not only that, but us white guys just couldn’t compete athletically with African American guys. We were getting out butts beaten regularly in sports, and it didn’t really matter what the game, we were inferior.
Our family always ate dinner together and discussed our days with our parents and siblings. I remember one particular moment when I thought it was time to inform my family of my new hypothesis. I stated my case, giving ample evidence that I believe our belief that people of color were inferior was not only greatly flawed but totally erroneous and wrong. You could cut the air with a knife as silence now replaced a normally jovial mood. My parents were amazing, but for this point, and respected my newfound discovery but wanted me to reserve my final judgement until more time had passed. More time passed and as it did, my opinion turned into a life truth. There was no difference in the races except the color of our skin. Any ineptitudes could be traced to dysfunctional family situations or a lack of opportunity, but these facts also showed no real consistent race. So my nature overcame my nurture and now am more convinced than ever of my conclusions.
There was also another major factor in my transformation. I began after graduation to study for ministry at a local seminary. I had read the Bible cursively but when I studied it I found that God had been fighting racism for centuries.
I found that the races as we know them today actually began with the three sons of Noah and where they settled after the flood. Shem migrated to the African continent and became the father of the Negroid peoples. Ham migrated to Asia and became the father of the mongoloid peoples and Japheth migrated to Europe and became the father of the Caucasoids. So there really Biblically are only three races, the mixture of which comprise the many current people groups . Later in Genesis we see the dispersion of these peoples even further when at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11), God confounded the languages and developed the linguistic chains that we now trace back to this point.
The Jewish peoples certainly also weren’t without their prejudices as well. During the Assyrian relocations in 722 B.C. under Esarhaddon, Jews from the central part of Israel were replaced with Arab relocated peoples from other parts of the Middle East. As these folks intermingled a new race of peoples were created in Israel called the Samaritans. “Samaritan” was a racial slur created by the Jews that meant “empty headed, worthless one”. When the pure bred Jews returned from captivity, the Samaritans were despised and even hated. Even when traveling to other parts of Israel Jews would go around Samaria and bypass their land as to not contaminate themselves or enrich them through trade.
What’s amazing is that one of the major issues that Jesus addressed was getting the Jews to accept and even minister to the Samaritans…
Jesus was called a Samaritan by the Jewish leaders… John 8:48
Disciples wanted Jesus to call fire down and kill Samaritans… Luke 9:52-55
Ten Lepers that were cleansed were Samaritans… Luke 17:16
The Good Samaritan was a Samaritan… (duh!!) Luke 15
The Woman at the Well(Jesus reverses 800 years of racism in 24 hours) John 4
Jesus purposefully goes through (not around) Samaria in John 4 (much to the disciples chagrin) to minister not only to a Samaritan but an unmarried Samaritan woman who had been married 5 times!!!
Jesus Meets the Samaritan Woman on Common Ground!!
The Samaritans believed the first 5 books of the Bible but rejected the rest of the Old Testament. (perhaps this is a result of them being descendants of Abraham through Ishmael) As such they highly revered Abraham and his family. Jacob dug this well in Sychar to water his flocks as they traveled through this arid area and this landmark was highly prized by the Samaritans. Knowing this Jesus meets the woman on this common ground to begin His faith conversation with the woman. We all have common spiritual needs that can only be met by Christ. Thank God He is willing to meet us there!! Give Me a Drink from Your Cup!!!
I don’t think anyone who has never faced this type of racism knows the significance of this statement. Jesus was going to drink from the Samaritan’s cup!!! Our prejudice must get to the point where we are willing to live life together, enjoying and appreciating cultural contributions (especially food and drink!!!)
“If you Ask Me, I Will Give You Living Water”
Jesus meets this woman at the point of her real need. Freedom from guilt over her sinful lifestyle and living water that restores and rejuvenates to wholeness!! Regardless of race, all people need forgiveness of their sin and freedom from guilt that Jesus offers through His death and resurrection.
“Go Call Your Husband…”
This woman had a sordid past… 5 previous husbands and living currently with another man. There is no mention of children, upbringing etc. Jesus did not excuse the sin that the woman was currently in, but did mention that her sinful choices need to be called into accountability in order to completely accept this “Living Water”. Past restitution of sin needs to be discussed to bring about complete healing and closure. We cannot ignore the “elephant in the room” and expect there to be complete closure and complete healing through Christ.
Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet….
The woman is amazed at Christs’ perception of her current relationship situation and immediately asks a spiritual question about the difference between the Jewish worship system (the temple in Jerusalem) and the Samaritan worship system (temple on Mount Gerizim) . Note: the Jews and Samaritans for 800 years had worshipped separately. So that means that the Samaritan tradition and teaching in their families was one of correct worship at Mount Gerizim (separate but equal??)
“Salvation is Of the Jews!!”
At this point, Jesus plainly states that the Samaritans had devised a worship that was not sanctioned by God but a substitute faith based on racism and separation. In this one statement Christ addresses the most racial issue in Israel! His motive was to once again unite the Jews under one worship system (which eventually happened after Pentecost under Christ…see Acts 1:8,9 So Jesus was stating to the woman, “What you have been taught, even for generations is wrong!!” “God has sanctioned salvation through the Jews!!” At this point the woman had to do some evaluation of the whole conversation… why would a Jew who knows everything about me, attempt to convert me from Samaritan faith (essentially the same as the Jews only in a different place..) (sidenote; it’s often been said that the most segregated hour of the week is during Sunday worship!!! ) unless He was special…
When Messiah Comes….. I that speak to you am He!!!
Jesus clearly affirms that He is the Messiah promised by God in the Old Testament!! But there is a message for us all in the fact that the woman was saying “When Messiah comes…He will straighten us all out!!!” When Jesus says “I AM HE!!” He is stating that He (the Messiah) is already HERE!!! We do this today! We look at social injustice and prejudice, among other things and “kick the can down the road” and place it all under the blanket of “When Jesus Comes He’ll straighten us all out!!!” But Christ is already here!!!!!!!!!!! He wants us to be the emissaries of His justice and peace!!
Enter the disciples…
At this point the woman leaves in excitement and goes back into the city (about 5 miles away). She is so excited she leaves her water jar on the edge of the well. When the disciples come back with lunch, they know something significant has happened.
We often have to separate ourselves from racist people to make the point…
I don’t believe the water would have ever come to Jesus’ lips from a Samaritan’s water jar if the disciples had been present!! Jesus sent them away to buy food to deliberately separate them from the situation to begin the process of teaching them to face their prejudices. By this time there was no doubt in the disciples mind that Jesus was the Messiah (and as such God and establishing God’s desires on earth and teaching by doing as well as speaking).
The Fields are White Already Unto Harvest!!
The Samaritan woman by this time was returning with apparently quite a host of people anxious to see Jesus!! Their white tunics (because of the desert heat) reflecting the sun gave an appearance of a field of grain ready to be harvested. Jesus pointed the disciples to this illustration and in essence was saying “Broaden your horizons to incorporate others not like you into the kingdom!!” This was HUGE!! Many of these disciples probably had never had a conversation let alone a meal with a Samaritan, now Jesus was saying they are welcome into His new kingdom of grace!!!
Jesus Stayed 2 (two) days with the Samaritans!
Now the very people that the Jews avoided were asking Jesus and the disciples (Jews) to stay for several days and eat, drink, sleep, talk, laugh etc with them!!! Amazing!!! Jesus did in 24 hours what we have been trying to do for centuries!!! When we realize that the same Jesus who saves us also unites us by His Spirit..we can also have great fellowship and “hang out” time together.
Often the church today overlooks the very thing that would create a drawing net to the world. Our division (racially and inwardly) alienates and offends a world that so desperately needs the message of Christ we possess. There are still many “women at the well” in need of Living water. May God give us the grace and good sense to realize that God is NOT a racist and repel this evil in all its forms so His kingdom can be one and an illustration of peace and victory to a world filled with sin.
Imagine walking up a mountain alone. But it’s no ordinary mountain. The ground beneath you is shaking, and the entire mountain is covered in smoke. At its peak is a thick cloud with lightning and thunder. God descends onto the mountain in fire, and each time you speak to him, he responds in thunder. This is what Moses experienced in Exodus 19.
Now compare that experience to your last time in prayer.
Distracted, obligatory, ordinary — I doubt any such words came across Moses’s mind as he ascended the mountain. But some three thousand years later, we rarely marvel that God permits imperfect humans into his presence.
How did the shocking become so ordinary to us? Is it even possible for our experiences with God to be that fascinating?
Going Up the Mountain
A mentor of mine lives in India. Last year, he called me on the phone crying, distraught over the state of the church in America. “It seems like the people in America would be content to take a selfie with Moses. Don’t they know they can go up the mountain themselves? Why don’t they want to go up the mountain?”
When was the last time you enjoyed meaningful time alone with God? Time so good that you didn’t want to leave. It was just you, reading God’s words, in his holy presence.
I was fifteen years old when my youth pastor taught me how to pray and read the Bible alone. Now, more than thirty years later, I still can’t find a better way to start my days. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t refocus daily by going up the mountain.
It is alone with him that I empty myself of pride, lies, and stress.
Pride: standing before a Person clothed in unapproachable light has a way of humbling you (1 Timothy 6:16).
Lies: speaking to an All-Knowing Judge tends to induce honesty (Hebrews 4:13).
Stress: kneeling before the God who causes men to fail or succeed replaces our anxiety with peace (Psalm 127:1).
We often spend a lot of time and effort gathering believers together. We’ve become experts at gathering Christians around great bands, speakers, and events. Where we have failed is in teaching believers how to be alone with God. When is the last time you heard someone rave about their time alone with Jesus in his word? Gathering believers who don’t spend time alone with God can be a dangerous thing.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in Life Together:
Whoever cannot be alone should be aware of community. Such people will only do harm to themselves and to the community. Alone you stood before God when God called you. Alone you had to obey God’s voice. Alone you had to take up your cross, struggle, and pray, and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot avoid yourself, for it is precisely God who has called you out. If you do not want to be alone, you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called.
The word community is thrown around quite a bit in Christian circles today. But our gatherings can be toxic if we do not spend time alone with God. I’ve been in many groups where people share their insights. The problem is not only that our insights are not as profound as we think they are, but that we’re so eager to share thoughts originating in our own minds, when we have a God who says,
My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8–9)
I want to know the thoughts of God. I want to gather with people who have been reading God’s words, people who have prayed and interacted with him. I want to fellowship with those who fellowship with God. I couldn’t care less if you have a doctorate in theology or sixty years of life experience. I would rather talk with a fifteen-year-old who has been in the presence of God.
Can You Love Sermons Too Much?
There is so much discussion around books, sermons, and conferences. I’m not against those. After all, I’ve given a significant portion of my life to preaching sermons and writing books and going to conferences. But sometimes I wonder if it’s time to shift our focus.
We have to look at the facts. American Christians consume more sermons and books than any other group in the history of the world, but consider the state of the church. Has the increase in resources led to greater holiness? Greater intimacy with Jesus?
You could argue that the state of our churches would be even worse without the resources. Maybe that’s the case. Or could it be that these resources (and even this article) has the potential of distracting people from the Source itself? Maybe all of these books and sermons about Jesus have actually kept people from directly interacting with him. It may sound blasphemous to suggest our prayer lives may be weakened by all of the consumption of Christian material. Nonetheless, I want to throw it out there.
We live in a time when most people have a difficult time concentrating on anything. We are constantly looking for the quick fix and for faster solutions. So the thought of sitting quietly to meditate on Scripture and praying deeply in silence can be eagerly replaced by listening to a sermon while driving to work. While it’s definitely better than nothing (considering all of the other messages we are bombarded with daily), the point of this article is to say that there is no substitute for being alone with God.
We must learn to be still again.
Something Has to Go
It was simple for Paul. He loved being with Jesus. “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Knowing Christ deeply consumed him (Philippians 3:8). There is no substitute for being alone with God. If you don’t have time, you need to quit something to make room. Skip a meal. Cancel a meeting. End some regular commitment. There is literally nothing more important you could do today.
God literally determines whether or not you take another breath. “He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). Could anything be more important than meeting with the One who decides if you live through this day? Could anything be better? How can we not make time to be with the Maker of time?
What plans do you have today that you think so important that you would race past the Creator to get to them?
The Gospels record at least three dozen miracles that Jesus performed while He walked on earth. These events demonstrated Christ’s power over nature, His power over evil spirits, over sickness, sin and death. These miracles blessed the recipients and no doubt amazed the witnesses present, but they were done to drive home one clear point: Jesus Christ is God.
Yet these events ultimately would not matter without the most important miracle recorded in Scripture: Christ’s victory over death demonstrated in the Resurrection. The apostle Paul makes this point clear: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. . . . You are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:14,17).
Christ’s victory over sin and death is the foundation of our faith. And so we may wonder, and our kids may wonder, how we can know for certain that Jesus rose from the dead. After all, if Jesus didn’t rise from the grave, if He isn’t God, then there’s no point to Christianity.
While we can’t know too many things “for certain,” there are very good reasons to believe that the Resurrection actually happened. Furthermore, understanding the evidence for and impact of that event gives us a deeper insight into our entire faith.
Witnessed and documented
Many religions have an oral tradition; events and details were handed down from generation to generation before they were written down. But the events of Christ’s ministry, death and resurrection were documented relatively soon after they happened. The Gospels are written accounts from eyewitnesses, and they form our primary understanding of Christ’s time here on earth. Other historical sources corroborate many of the major points. For example, when considering the Resurrection, even hostile testimonies from Jewish and Roman sources affirmed that Christ’s body was no longer in the tomb. (Those sources are often used to fuel speculation that Christ’s body was stolen by His disciples.)
Help your kids see that there is a huge difference between events that are recorded by witnesses and those passed down verbally from generation to generation. Even when great care is taken to pass along a story intact, each time it is retold, it could be changed slightly—exaggerated, confused, or even combined with other stories. But the foundational events of the Christian faith were written down by eyewitnesses; we can go back to those documents and read the same accounts to each succeeding generation.
Help your kids understand that the Bible isn’t just another book! This is especially important for younger children, who can find it difficult to distinguish between the “stories” in the Bible and the fantasy of fairy tales. Often, Bible stories look similar to fairy-tale books. What’s more, at the same time our kids are learning about Jesus rising from the dead and ascending to heaven, many are also hearing that Santa Claus and the Easter bunny are real. The stories and holiday traditions seem like harmless fun, but when kids start to understand that certain fantasy characters aren’t real, they may also begin to question the authenticity of biblical events—it can actually feel as if their belief system is crumbling. As parents, we have the opportunity and responsibility to help our children understand the distinction between fun, fantastic stories and the accounts of actual events found in the Bible.
Energized the early church
As Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 15, one of the most convincing arguments for the veracity of the Resurrection is that Jesus was seen by hundreds of witnesses—and that this confirmation of Christ’s victory over death literally transformed their lives. Immediately after reporting seeing Jesus alive, the previously heartbroken, even cowardly, disciples turned into passionate messengers of the Gospel. Nothing they experienced—prison, persecution, imminent death—got them to deny they had seen Jesus alive. Many doubters became Christians after Jesus’ resurrection, including both James and Paul—with Paul apparently needing some intense personal attention from the Risen Lord on the way to Damascus. What happened to change the minds of unbelievers? Simply put: They had encountered the living Christ! Ask your kids this question: “Would you be willing to be persecuted or killed for something you knew was a lie?”
The disciples’ consistent teaching that Jesus had conquered death would transform the world, with Christianity rapidly spreading from that point forward. Historical records show that Christian teaching about Christ’s divinity rapidly emerged following the Resurrection. Believing Jews changed their day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. Again, faith in the Risen Christ wasn’t easy for these early believers: Their willingness to die for the Gospel supports the claims of Christ’s literal victory over death.
Determined unbelievers have spent centuries trying to explain away the empty tomb and the explosive growth of Christianity after that event. But attempts to refute all the historical evidence have only made their theories increasingly complex. Is it not easier to accept the conclusion that God, the One who created the universe and all of life, worked a miracle—that Jesus came back to life under the power of God, just as He had promised?
Consistent with our understanding of God from Scripture
If your child believes in the other events recorded in the Bible, it will set a faith foundation to believe in the Resurrection. In other words, we must not examine the Resurrection in a vacuum. Yes, the Resurrection is the most important event in God’s pursuit of humankind, but we must always consider the context, starting with the very existence of God. As C. S. Lewis pointed out in his book on the subject, if God exists, miracles such as the Resurrection are not only possible, but to be expected. Surely we must believe that the Creator of all life can demonstrate power over death.
The Bible is the epic story of God working to initiate and accomplish the plan of salvation for the world. Consider with your family the consistency of this long plan, how God raised up the nation of Israel, gave His written Word to give hope to early generations and then, at long last, sent His Son to accomplish this triumphant victory over death for all humankind. The prophets of the Old Testament and the words of Jesus himself all point to the Crucifixion and the Resurrection as being God’s climactic victory over sin and death. The context of Scripture warrants and necessitates the Resurrection.
Do we need any further evidence? I suppose we do. We are to be the continuing witnesses of the Resurrection, living proof that we serve a living Savior and that He is working in us “to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). As we do so, and teach our children to do so, we’ll have reassurance that Christ’s victory over death is just as true today as it was on that glorious morning long ago. He is alive!
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. I Corinthians 13:4-8
February always brings our thoughts back to love! Valentine’s day splits the month with hearts, flowers, candy and cards in the hopes that cupid will ignite the passion of love in our sweethearts. But our culture is very confused about love because we don’t understand the multi-faceted characteristics of love as given to us in I Corinthians 13.
Here 16 different aspects of love are exposed. Each and explanation of the love God has for us and the love He expects us to exhibit to others. Probably the best way to illustrate this is with the common atom. Atoms are the building blocks of all matter. Their positive and negative forces form small solar systems of stability that hold everything we know together. If we were to put LOVE as the nucleus of this “atom” and the 16 characteristics of love as the rotating electrons it might look something like this:
You see God’s love and love in general is not 1 dimensional. We tend to see love as JUST romantic love and not see that love is also patient, and kind and not self-centered etc. As a result we spend our energies exhausting ourselves to find the perfect “soul mate” and not developing the character of loving. We study and put into practice all the aspects of Love as mentioned in I Corinthians 13 we begin to broaden our scope to a love that perseveres , hopes and doesn’t fail. At the root of Biblical love is action and commitment. Until we get this settled we will never sense the deep abiding love we all crave so much.
I think it is also noteworthy that the Bible says that “God is Love!!” I John 4:8,16. As we study God’s abiding love to us, and examine the love that Christ exhibited to us, we begin to see a love transcending the shallowness of cupid to an eternal care that takes an entire lifetime to appreciate. Christ’s love is atomic , the foundation and cornerstone of our faith; the anchor of our devotion. Let us this month as we celebrate love the depth of His love and devote ourselves to reflect Christ’s love to others (even our sweethearts) as He has loved us.
Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13
Oh, sure, I’ve dated a few guys and been on a few dates here and there, but I am still solidly single. Such a prolonged single season has really rocked my faith in God and my sense of worth so that I’ve had to practice self-control.
Self-control is one of those concepts that I know is a fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, etc., etc. and SELF-CONTROL. But, I always thought of self-control as being more of a theory than a practical virtue to be practiced and maintained until I needed self-control in my singleness desperately. At some point in my late 20s, I realized my thoughts were being controlled by fear and disbelief instead of faith. My sense of worth was crippled because I thought I was less than because I wasn’t married, so that negative thought pattern determined my belief about myself. Here’s the thing: God doesn’t say that everyone is going to be married at 21, so it takes self-control to not surrender to disbelief, doubting that God has a plan during the period of waiting. And Hedoes have a plan.
Self-control is mandatory if we are going to live lives that are pleasing to our God. Paul said in I Corinthians 9:24-27 that everyone who competes in athletic and spiritual competitions exercises SELF-CONTROL in ALL THINGS. The athletes he referenced were Greeks who trained their mind and bodyfor ten months to concentrate on winning their unique competition. He compares our individual, God-given destiny to running a race or boxing with aim, so that each punch, each stride, each step of your life is focused at a the target of God’s purpose. Paul disciplined his body so that he would not be disqualified because he relented to immorality, sensuality, anger, jealousy, strife, etc. I’ve almost been prey to letting the same “deeds of the flesh” disqualify ME from my God-ordained destiny, until I realized that “it was for freedom that Christ set us free” so I didn’t have to clothe myself daily in my old sins, habits, and thought patterns – I was and am free because of Jesus.
Sexual sin, lust, and negativity may be what our culture permits and even encourages in singleness, but we cannot live effective lives for the glory of God if we let our bodily passions and minds run the show.
Keep your mind strong in the power of God. Practice self-control. He has set a race before you that only you, in whatever relational season of life, can run with boldness and courage.
QUITE YOUR SOUL — Worship Song: “No Longer Slaves” by Jonathan and Melissa Helser.
“I’m no longer a slave to fear – I am a child of God.”
BE ENCOURAGED — Read these Scriptures:
I Corinthians 9:24-27–“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
Galtians 5:1 – “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
DIG DEEPER — Life Evaluating Questions:
Evaluate your mind. Do you control your thoughts or do they control you? What thought patterns have you allowed to dictate your worth?
Identify areas in your life over which you need to control yourself. Pray over these weaknesses, allowing God to strengthen you in His power and truth
Pray over yourself and for your God-given, unique purpose. What does God want YOU to accomplish with your talents and gifts for the kingdom of God, regardless of your relationship season?
Guardrails exist for our safety and protection – to keep us from driving into a dangerous area or from plunging off a cliff. Now let’s think about where these guardrails are. They are not IN the dangerous areas. They are strategically placed BEFORE those places that can really mess us up, right? The purpose of this is to help us avoid potential dangers.
When we look back on some of our own biggest wrecks it becomes obvious that we ignored those guardrails and drove straight towards the cliff. We disregarded the boundaries that were put in place to protect us and found ourselves lying in a pit or wrecked on the side of the road.
These guardrails are firm boundaries meant to keep us on the road and to keep us from losing control. Wisdom works the same way. When we have a clear understanding of consequences and the positive or negative impact our choices can have, then we can avoid unhealthy situations and steer clear of potential dangers. We need to establish guardrails (boundaries) in our relationships and in our lives as a whole.
Now we all know that certain roads lead to danger zones regardless of our many beliefs or backgrounds. That’s why society has made an attempt to set some boundaries and will say things like; “Drink Responsibly”. But that’s not really a solid guardrail is it? Because when people begin drinking they typically get past the point of being able to discern between what is responsible and what is not, don’t they? Without a solid guardrail in place, the difference between responsible and not responsible often gets blurry…literally. So this is a trendy aspiration but it is not really a guardrail. A guardrail is: don’t get drunk!
Or what about the equally well-intentioned statement; “Don’t have sex until you’re ready”. Because if you ask most guys I am sure they will tell you that they were born ready! So this is yet another attempt at setting some boundaries but it’s not a solid, immovable guardrail. It’s not something firmly planted in your conscious. It’s certainly not something that is going to keep you safe, physically, emotionally or spiritually. It’s important to put up guardrails that won’t have you looking back in regret saying; “If only I had not ignored the warnings.”
A guardrail would be to determine for yourself that you will not have friends with benefits, you won’t watch pornography, you won’t hook up with your boyfriend/girlfriend but that you will hold out for the best and enjoy a loving, lasting, regret-free relationship. Don’t allow yourself to be driven by impulses and appetites. When we let pride, lust and selfishness take the wheel, then we will find not only our own lives wrecked, but the lives of those we hurt along the way. Maybe a guardrail you need to put up in your life is to distance yourselves from people who are corrupting your character. Find friends that want to help you and encourage you to stay on track instead of leading you off the cliff.
There are many different roads we can take in life and it is up to each of us as individuals to decide whether we want to take the road full of potholes that leads to destruction and will totally wreck our lives OR the smooth-paved road that leads to fullness and freedom from regret. A wise person chooses the right road; a fool takes the wrong one.
It’s important to remember that if you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way and found yourself on a bumpy, dead-end road…it’s NEVER too late to get back on the winning road.
People are disgusting. That was my primary thought 30 minutes into a job that would ultimately take three hours. It was 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and I wasn’t in bed. I wasn’t even at home. I was at church. On my hands and knees. Vacuuming, scrubbing, and drying every one of the 400 chairs in my church’s worship center. And it was gross.
My family was still new to this church. We’d spent the past year hiding on the back row of all the churches in our area trying to find the one that would instantly feel like home. During that year “in the desert,” we hadn’t gotten involved anywhere. I hadn’t had any church responsibilities in a while, and honestly, my ministry-service muscles were pretty weak from atrophy. Maybe you’ve been there. So when the 5:45 a.m. alarm on my nightstand thrust me into our church-wide “Deep Cleaning Day,” I was … less than enthusiastic.
But here’s the weird part. I had fun. I laughed over orange juice and coffee with church members I hadn’t met yet. Together, we declared war on every stain, cobweb, and dust bunny in sight. Others joined me in my struggle against two years worth of hair, grime, and a mountain of inexplicable glitter stuck to the worship center chairs. We came together as a church to serve, and it was beautiful.
I left church after a few hours totally energized. In fact, I spent the eight hours after that doing yard work that I’d been putting off for weeks! Looking back, I was shocked at the burst of energy that propelled me through the day. Where did the energy come from? How did I get so excited about doing chores that normally send me running for the hills?
And then it struck me: God shows up when His people are joined together doing work in His name. And when God shows up, amazing things happen! I had forgotten how energizing it is to do some heavy lifting alongside other brothers and sisters joined in one mind and spirit. We weren’t just working; we were working for the Lord—and that’s exciting!
Reading through the book of Romans later, I found the secret sauce to Deep Cleaning Day: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:10–11NIV) I believe this is what enabled a small band of believers to change the world 2,000 years ago. They never lacked zeal. They always kept their spiritual fervor. They worked long and hard, but they did it together, and they did it for the Lord. And that continued act of service kept them fueled and ready to do the impossible.
But seriously, people. Stop wearing glitter to church