Friday, May 12, 2023

A Bleeding Heart


Jesus not only taught about the importance of love, compassion, and forgiveness, but it is also how he lived. He spent time helping others and showing compassion to those who needed healing, help, and hope. Jesus’s mission of compassion was an important part of how he ushered God’s Kingdom into the world, because it was a visible demonstration of what life in the Kingdom was like.

 Throughout the Gospels, we read about examples of how Jesus showed compassion to people, especially to people on the outside of community. It is interesting to note that most of the Jesus’ healings allowed people to return to being part of community life. Their healings moved them from being on the outside of the community to the inside of community. 

One of the best examples of this reality is seen in John 8:2-11. In this passage we read about a woman caught in adultery.  The religious leaders brought this woman to Jesus, after catching her in the act of adultery (apparently the man vanished into thin air). They asked Jesus what should be done with her. After all, the Law demanded that a person (both the man and the woman) in her situation should be stoned to death. 

Jesus, wanting people to rethink how the Law should be applied, said, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7, CSB) Jesus' words not only revealed his compassion for a woman who was unfairly treated, but these words also highlighted the hypocrisy of the religious leaders who were quick to judge and condemn others without acknowledging their sin.

Another example of Jesus' compassion is found in the healing of the leper found in Mark 1. Leprosy in the first century was a feared disease since it was untreatable and made a person unclean. Since lepers were viewed as unclean they were forced to live in physical and social isolation. 

In Mark 1:40-45, we read how Jesus cleansed this man with leprosy by touching him, despite the social taboo of touching a leper. Jesus not only showed compassion for the man's physical suffering, but Jesus also restored his social standing by cleansing him of leprosy, which allowed the man to return to the community. 

Another example of Jesus showing compassion to those who were outcasts or and marginalized by society is found in Luke 7:36-50. In this passage Jesus is invited to dinner by a Pharisee named Simon. At dinner a woman known for her sinful life came in uninvited. She made a spectacle of herself as she cried and kissed Jesus’ feet. Simon was disgusted by her presence, but Jesus praised her and forgave her sins. This story reveals Jesus’ compassionate and gracious character as he makes room in the Kingdom for those the religious culture had rejected. Jesus makes room for the outcasts by offering them hope and forgiveness.

Without a doubt, Jesus' life was marked by compassion for others. He reached out to those who were suffering, whether physically, emotionally, or socially, and offered them hope and healing. Jesus' compassion for people provides us with an example to follow.

Given that reality, it makes me wonder about the motivation behind statements like this.

I think this a good example of being so committed to a theological and political worldview that it distorts the true image God and true character of Jesus. As I just demonstrated, reading of the Gospels reveals this as an incorrect understanding of Jesus and his mission.

The Bible clearly teaches that God saved us because of His love (John 3:16). Pity, mercy, and compassion all flow out of love. God saves us because He loves us. This is crucial because it is love that forms the foundation for how we are to live.

John wrote:
1 John 3:16-17 (NLT)
We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?

Sacrificial love is the opposite of promoting your own glory. It is doing what is best for the person in need, regardless of the cost to you.

Paul emphasizes this very point in Philippians 2.
Philippians 2:3-8 (NLT)
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

We are to be humble, because Jesus was humble. It was the humility of Jesus that led him to set aside his divine rights and sacrifice himself for us. Yes, the passage goes on to say that Jesus will be raised to the place of highest honor, but that was not what motivated him. His motivation was love and that required humility and sacrifice.

The write of Hebrews wrote:
Hebrews 1:3 (NLT)
The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.

In Jesus we see both the glory of God and the character of God, and what we discover is that at the very heart of who God is is love. We can’t separate God’s glory from love, and therefore, compassion is at the very heart of salvation.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

What is Purpose?

Purpose is a concept that has intrigued human beings for centuries. This reality is seen in the ancient question, “Why am I here?”

The fact that we exist isn’t enough. We want to know that there is meaning behind our existence. Many people will spend their entire lives searching for that meaning, trying to understand what their purpose in this world is.

If we are going to start this search we need to ask two clarifying questions: “What is purpose and where does purpose come from?”

At its core, purpose provides the meaning to our existence. It is the driving force that gives our lives direction and worth. It helps answer to the question, "Why am I here?"

Some people will tie their purpose their career, while for others, it will be related to their relationships, faith, charity work, or community involvement. Many people want to have a purpose that is greater than themselves.

From a Biblical perspective, purpose is discovered in the reason behind the creation of humankind. This is what we read in Genesis 1:26-28 (CSB),
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”

This passage is key to understanding the Bible since it tells us the reason for humankind’s existence: to bear God’s image. The most important idea behind bearing God’s image is that we are to represent Him in the world. I like to say that we are created to demonstrate God’s character. We are to join God in ruling and caring for His good creation. Whatever our purpose is in life is tied to this reality.

If we are going to demonstrate God’s character, then we need to know who God is and what His will for creation is. The Apostle Paul wrote:
For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9-10, CSB)

Paul’s pray for the Colossians was that God would grant them a knowledge of His will AND spiritual wisdom and understanding. We need to both. The knowledge of God’s will is ultimately a gift from Him. Only He can reveal what His will is for creation and for our lives.

Not only do we need to know God’s will, but we also need to know how to live that will out in our lives. That is what spiritual wisdom and understanding is all about. My definition for wisdom is “the knowledge for living life well in God’s good world.” Again, only God can give us this wisdom and understanding, it is not something that we can discern on our own.

Notice that Paul went on to say that we are to live in a way that is worthy of Jesus, in way that pleases God. In other words, our purpose is found in representing (this brings us back to Genesis 1:26-27) Jesus in how we live (bearing good works) and in spiritual formation (growing in the knowledge of God).

Our purpose isn’t found in our specific work or achievement, rather it is how bear God’s image in the various areas of life. On the one hand this means everyone has the same purpose, but on the other hand it means that our purpose is unique to our situations and experiences.

We can only answer the question, “Why am I here?”, by turning to God. He is our Creator and He created us to bear His image. As we demonstrate God’s character to the world around us we discover the purpose of our lives.

Monday, May 8, 2023

Community and Personal Faith

“From the beginning it was clear that Christianity is something people do together. Having said that, the earliest writers were also concerned that all members of the Body of Christ should be awake and active in personal faith; should know their own responsibilities and make real for themselves the privilege of worship. That way, when the whole assembly gathers together, each will have his or her own joy and sorrow, insight and question, to bring.” 
N.T. Wright, Simply Christian, p. 157

Acts 2:42 shows us that from the beginning that Church understood the importance of being together. These first followers of Jesus devoted themselves to learning and living out their faith together. Christianity is, at its core, a communal faith. The Bible teaches the importance of gathering together, of being in fellowship with one another, and of working together for the Kingdom.

Yet, we cannot separate the importance of Christian community from the personal faith of individuals. The writers of the New Testament understood that while the Church is the “Body of Christ” and the “Family of God”, each individual member of the Body must also have their own personal faith. This means each person needs to know their own responsibilities and take an active role in the ministry of the church community.

In our modern Christian culture, it is easy to see our faith as something that is purely personal. Many Christians view faith as a private matter, something that they practice on their own. While there is certainly value in personal faith and the spiritual disciplines that we do on our own, this idea overlooks the importance of living out our faith in community. When we gather together as a church family, we are able to encourage each other, to learn from one another, and to grow together in our faith.

The early Church understood this well. They knew that the faith could not be lived out on privately. They committed themselves to  gather  regularly to worship, to study the scriptures, and to pray. In these gatherings, these followers of Jesus were able to share their joys and sorrows, to ask questions and seek answers, and to offer support one another in their spiritual formation.

Being committed to a church family was not just about gathering together. The New Testament writers and other early Christian writers also emphasized the importance of personal faith. There was an expectation that each disciple was to take an active role in their own spiritual growth. They were encouraged to meditate scriptures, to pray, to fast, to serve, to give generously, and to seek God's will for their lives.

This personal faith was essential because it allowed each disciple of Jesus to develop their own personal relationship with Jesus, and the unique experience and perspective of each person would strengthen the community as a whole. 

While we have lost the importance of this ideal it is  still something we should encourage in our modern church context. When we gather together as a community of believers, we each bring something unique to the table. We each have our own experiences, our own questions, and our own insights to share. By coming together, we are able to learn from one another, to grow together, partner with one another for the work of ministry, and encourage each other in various ways.

Christianity is both a communal and a personal faith. From the beginning, it was clear that the faith could not be lived out in isolation. The early Christian communities gathered together regularly to worship, to study the scriptures, and to pray. At the same time, they also emphasized the importance of personal faith. Each individual member of the community was expected to take responsibility for their personal spiritual formation.

If we are going to model our modern expressions of faith after the New Testament example we need to recapture the truth the following Jesus is both a communal and an individual activity. We need to commit to doing those activities that will grow our personal faith and we do to commit to participating in the life of a local church family.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Sunday Prayer: Making Disciples

Dear Heavenly Father,

We come before you today with hearts filled with gratitude for the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, and for the privilege of being called to make disciples for Him.

Lord, we know that making disciples is not an easy task, but we also know that it is a commandment that we cannot ignore. We pray for the wisdom, courage, and strength to obey your commandment and make disciples of all nations.

Help us to be effective witnesses for you, to share the good news of your love and grace with those who do not know you, and to teach them to obey all that you have commanded.

Lord, we pray that you would give us a heart for the lost, a heart that beats with the same love that you have for all people. Help us to see people the way that you see them, to love them the way that you love them, and to reach out to them with the same compassion that you have for them.

We pray that as we make disciples, we would be faithful to your word and your teachings. Help us to be patient and persistent in our efforts, and to trust in your power and grace to bring about the transformation that only you can accomplish.

May our lives be a living testimony of your love and grace, and may the fruit of our labors bring glory and honor to your name.

In Jesus' name, we pray,



Saturday, May 6, 2023

Cling to Hope

1 Peter 1:6-9 (CSB)
You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith — more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

The Apostle Peter wrote the book we know as 1 Peter to encourage and strengthen the persecuted Christians who were dispersed throughout various provinces in the Roman Empire. In this passage, 1 Peter 1:6-9, Peter taught about the importance of enduring trials in order to strengthen our faith and receive the ultimate reward of salvation.

Peter began by acknowledging that the trials we face in life can be difficult and painful, which often causes us to feel grief and sorrow. However, in spite of these trials it is important for us to rejoice because we know God will not waste our pain. Instead, God will use them for our benefit and growth. Through our trials, Peter wrote, our faith is tested and refined, just like gold is refined by fire. This refining process strengthens our character and prepares us for life in the Kingdom.

It's important to note that Peter didn’t say that suffering is optional for Christians. In fact, he wrote that trials are "necessary" for our growth and development. This is difficult to hear, especially when we're in the midst of a particularly when we are growing though a trial. However, it's crucial to remember that God is able to use all our experiences, good and bad, to form us in the image of Jesus.

Peter goes on to say that faith refined by the fire of trials and hardships is more valuable than gold. While gold is precious and desired for many purpose, including jewelry and money, it is still perishable and can be destroyed. Our faith, on the other hand, is eternal and cannot be taken away from us. It is through our faith that we receive salvation. This salvation, and eternal relationship with God, is the most important goal of our lives.

It is interesting that Peter acknowledged the reality that we have not physically seen Jesus, but that reality hasn’t stopped us from trusting and loving him. Our faith is not based on our physical interaction with Jesus, but on the truth taught to us, the example of other Christians, and the difference following Jesus made in our lives. This faith brings us both joy and hope, even in the midst of our trials.

It's important to note that Peter doesn’t say that we should be happy about our trials themselves. Instead, he encouraged us to find joy God’s love as He uses our trials to refine our faith and form us in the image of Jesus. This joy is not a surface-level happiness that comes and goes with our circumstances, rather it is a deep and abiding sense of peace that comes from knowing that we are loved and cared for by our Heavenly Father.

1 Peter 1:6-9 teaches us that our trials serve a greater purpose in our lives. They are not meaningless or purposeless, but are opportunities for us to grow and develop as Christians. As we endure  the trials of life with faith and perseverance, we can trust that God is using them to refine our character and to strengthen our hope. We should rejoice, even in the midst of our suffering, knowing that God is with us and working all things together for our good.

Friday, May 5, 2023

Guarding Your Heart

Biblically, the heart isn’t just an organ that pumps blood through our bodies; the heart is the center of our being. The heart is the seat of emotions and thoughts. It is determines our motivations and desires. To be spiritually healthy requires taking care of our heart, just like being physically healthy requires taking care of our physical heart.

From our western perspective we often equate the heart with our emotions, but to the original readers of the Bible, the heart represented a person's true self. This is why it is important to keep our hearts healthy. As Erwin McManus wrote, "When your heart is sick, it can spread everywhere. Like cancer, despair in the human soul can cause all kinds of malfunctions" (Uprising; p. 133).

A sick heart makes life more difficult and it can overwhelm the joy and hope we have for life. A sick heart allows depression, anger, confusion, and fear to flourish, which prevents us from experiencing the life God wants us to enjoy. Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Solomon taught that the condition of our hearts is essential, that an healthy heart is so important that we must do what we can to guard them.

However, in our busy lives we take our heart health for granted, neglecting the importance of guarding our hearts. If we are not intentional about what comes into our minds and heart then we will let the wrong things slip in. As cliché as it sounds, social media, movies, binge watching TV, and podcast put thoughts, ideas, and images into our heart that affect our motivations and imaginations. When we do not guard our hearts, by maintaining standards on what comes in, our hearts get damaged or become sick.

So, how do we guard our hearts? 

We guard our hearts by faith. The most basic way we demonstrate our faith in God is through prayer. Through prayer we trust God with our worries and to work out our problems for good. Sometimes, all we need is to verbally confess our problems, struggles, sin to gain a proper perspective on things. Other times, we need God's supernatural intervention. Praying helps guard our hearts.

We guard our hearts by thinking good thoughts. When we put garbage into our hearts, our hearts will be consumed by that garbage. Our media consumption matters! We need to be vigilant with what we are fueling our thoughts with. It is not possible to concentrate on the things of God if our minds and hearts are filled with junk. It is essential to take note of what we are putting in our hearts and then make the appropriate changes.

We guard our hearts by surrounding ourselves with positive influences. Spending time with people who uplift and encourage us is important to maintaining joy and hope in our lives. Mature faithful Christians also help us grow spiritually, which it turns helps guard our hearts. Like everything else we need to be intentional in choosing our friends, not just settling for anyone who comes into our lives.

We guard our hearts by obeying God's commands. The Bible is full of instructions on how to live a healthy and righteous life. The foundation of these commands is loving God and loving our neighbor. When we follow these commands, we protect our hearts from the dangers of sin and temptation, because we set the desire of our heart to love our Heavenly Father and honor Him.

In Philippians 4:6-9, the apostle Paul gives us a practical guide to guarding our hearts. He said that we are not be anxious about nothing but instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell our requests to God. When we do this, the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Paul also taught about the importance of focusing our thoughts on what is true, worthy of respect, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or praiseworthy. He wrote that we are to imitate him and put into practice the lessons that he taught. When we do this, we can be confident that the God of peace will be with us.

But what does it mean to focus our thoughts on these things? To focus our thoughts means that we intentionally choose to dwell on positive and uplifting thoughts, rather than negative and discouraging ones. It means being mindful of the media we consume, the conversations we engage in, and the company we keep.

In a world that is filled with negativity and sin, it can be easy to become consumed by those things. Our society is constantly bombarded with bad news, social media drama, and toxic relationships. If we want to guard our hearts, maintain our emotional and mental health, and continue in our discipleship, we must learn to filter out the bad and focus on the good.

We can focus on the good by practicing gratitude. When we intentionally focus on the good things in our lives and thank God for them, it shifts our perspective and helps us to see the world in a more positive light. It also helps to cultivate a sense of contentment and joy, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Another way to guard our hearts is by cultivating healthy relationships. We should surround ourselves with other Christians who encourage us, challenge us to grow, and bring out the best in us. This requires us to be intentional about the company we keep and to set boundaries with people who are toxic and draining.

It is also crucial to be mindful of the media we consume. This includes everything from the books we read to the TV shows we watch to the music we listen to. If we are filling our minds with messages of hate, violence, sex, or despair, it will inevitably affect our hearts and our emotional well-being. Instead, we should seek out media that uplifts us, inspires us, and leads us to worship to worship God.

Finally, we need to be intentional about our spiritual lives. This means prioritizing prayer, worship, and Bible study. When we are connected to God and grounded in our faith, it helps us to maintain perspective and stay focused on what truly matters. It also gives us the strength and resilience to face whatever challenges come our way.

If we want to guard our hearts and maintain our emotional and mental health, we must be intentional about what we think, what we say, and what we do. We must focus on what is true, worthy of respect, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or praiseworthy, and we must actively seek out these things in our lives. By doing so, we can cultivate a sense of peace, joy, and contentment that will sustain us through even the toughest of times.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Foundations for Christian Parenting


Parents want to do what is best for our children. We want to create an environment where our children can thrive and mature into responsible, compassionate, and faithful people.

The task of raising children to be disciples of Jesus is a difficult one. We often find that the culture that we live in is not supportive in our desire to pass our faith to our children. TV shows, movies, social media influencers, peers, and even family and friends often teach or model values and beliefs to our children that are out of alignment with what we believe.

The Bible provides the wisdom and the guidance we need to faithfully parent our children well as we live in a culture that is opposed to our beliefs and values.

Here are seven biblical principles that will help form the foundations for our parenting:

1. Love

Love is the central command of Christianity. Jesus said, “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, CSB)

While we love our children, we don’t always show that love the best. Rather than loving them well we can take out our anger and frustrations on them. It is crucial that we remember that our love for the world starts at home.

It is important to remember that sacrificially loving our children lays teaches them that they are loved. Our children experience God’s love through our love for them. It also teaches them how to love people. Our loving behavior will teach our children how to love more than anything we will say. As parents, we can love our children sacrificially by giving them our time, attention, and money to provide for their needs and create a loving environment that will help them grow.

2. Respect

We often talk about showing respect to people in authority. From a biblical perspective everyone is deserving of respect. James taught this truth in James 2:1-7 when he talked about the evil of showing favoritism for the rich over the poor.

Since everyone is created in God’s image, everyone deserves respect, that includes our children. We are to treat them as fellow image bearers. This means that we consider their feelings, we encourage them in their interests, and we nurture their talents.

Showing respect to our children creates an environment of safety and trust, where everyone feels heard and valued. It is this type of environment provides the space a child needs to discover their unique personality and allows them to be put on the right path to become the people God created them to be.

When we show respect to our children, we teach them to respect us and others. This is an essential skill to have in a world of diversity because it allows them to see the best in others.

3. Intentionality

In a world that is hectic and busy, it is easy to put things on auto pilot. To get a few minutes of rest allowing our children to watch TV or play on their devices is simple. Yet, we are missing valuable time interacting with our children and we are allowing other people or things to influence them.

It is crucial that we are intentional in our parenting. We can’t afford to be passive. In order to be intentional we need to create and environment that promotes good things, that benefits learning and development, and that is founded on faith. The discipleship of our children, just like our personal discipleship, requires intention and effort.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (CSB) states, “These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” As parents, we need to make the commitment to intentionally teach and model our faith and values in our daily activities.

4. Boundaries

All of us need boundaries. We need deadlines to know when our work needs to be finished, we need budgets to know how much money we can spend, and need schedules to know where we need to be and what we need to do.

Setting godly boundaries creates a loving and safe environment where children can succeed as they grow in wisdom and faith. The right environment is crucial. This is why the Apostle Paul wrote, “Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4; CSB) Any Family where one or both parents are angry, worried, or fearful is an environment that discourages children. Instead, Paul wrote, parents are to create proper boundaries for their children so they can become the people God created them to be.

Boundaries are necessary in every family to create a secure and nurturing environment. By setting godly boundaries, we teach our children self-control and discipline. Proverbs 22:6 teaches, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Setting boundaries that align with our Christian values and priorities help our children develop faith and a strong sense of character.

5. Gratitude

Gratitude is a crucial quality for emotionally healthy people. Being grateful helps us to appreciate the blessings of life and to see everything as a gift from God. In a culture that teaches entitlement, gratitude reminds us to be thankful for what we have and to give thanks to God for the blessings He has given.

This means teaching our children to be grateful is one of the most important thing we can do. And like everything else, the best way to teach our children to be grateful, is to model gratitude in our lives. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude requires us to show gratitude first to God and then to each other. This happens as by saying thank you to people who do nice things for us and it happens as we point out the good deeds each other does.

Being grateful helps us see the good in the world, opens our eyes to the good things people do, and reminds us of the graciousness of God. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (CSB) the Apostle Paul wrote, "Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." As parents, we can model gratitude by expressing appreciation for our children, pointing out to them God’s blessing, say thank you to people who bless us, and encouraging them to do the same.

6. Patience and Encouragement

I would bet the one thing every parent would say that would like to improve it would be patience. Because we forget our children are still learning and growing, it is easy to loose patience with them when they don’t listen, when they make a mess, or they do anything that throws a wrench into our plans.

Patience is a choice that we make. It requires us stopping, taking a deep breath, and praying. If we don’t make this choice we will find ourselves getting angry at the littlest things.

Colossians 3:21 (CSB) reads, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they won’t become discouraged.” When we lose patience with our children we create an environment where it is easy for them become discouraged. Paul’s warning to parents here is that a family environment that lacks patience, love, and understanding will lead to children becoming discouraged. When people, children included, feel discouraged they will stop caring and quiet.

Patience and encouragement are essential components of building a strong and healthy family. As parents, we need to be patient with our children as they learn what it means to follow Jesus and mature in their faith.

In Galatians 6:9, we are reminded, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." When we are patient and encouraging, we help our children develop perseverance rather than discouragement.

7. Forgiveness

Forgiveness is an important part of building healthy relationships and dealing with hurt and pain in our families. As imperfect people, we all make mistakes, and forgiveness allows us to move forward and restore relationships.

Colossians 3:12-13 (CSB) says “Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.”

As parents, we need to model forgiveness and teach our children how to forgive others. This happens in two ways. First, it happens when our children do something wrong and we tell them that we forgive them. This helps them to know that while we may be upset, that we still love them. Second, it happens when we do something wrong, and we treat our children unfairly, and we ask them for forgiveness. This helps teach them that it is important to own up to your mistakes and take the first step in making things right.

Forgiveness is necessary for a loving family and it an essential skill to teach our children.

Christian Parents seek to raise their children to have a personal faith in God and to teach them what it means to follow Jesus. To do this in a culture that is not supportive requires faith, sacrifice, and commitment. To help us in this process it is crucial that we follow the biblical principles of love, respect, intentionality, boundaries, gratitude, patience and encouragement, and forgiveness. This is how we create an environment where our children can flourish and develop into the people God created them to be. As parents, we help build for God’s kingdom by discipling our children well, and that requires that we turn to God for help and guidance.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

EDC Wednesday: The Perfect EDC Knife?

I have been asked several times the question, “If you can only carry one knife, what knife would it be?” 

My answer ia: “It would be a stockman pocket knife.”

I think a stockman pocket knife is a great choice for an everyday carry knife, especially if a person has never carried a knife before. The stockman knife is a classic design that has been around for over a century and has stood the test of time. It was a knife that was carried by working men, ranchers and farmers, to help them in their daily tasks.

Let me explain the reasons why I think a stockman pocket knife is a great choice for an everyday carry knife.

First and foremost, a stockman knife is incredibly versatile. The stockman has three blades: a clip point blade, a spey blade, and a sheepfoot blade. The clip point blade is great for general cutting tasks, the spey blade (which was originally used for castrating livestock and skinning small game) is good for precise cutting tasks, and the sheepfoot blade is excellent for carving and slicing. With these three blades, a stockman pocket knife is well-suited to handle a wide range of cutting tasks, from opening packages and cutting rope to preparing food and even carving wood.

Another advantage of a stockman pocket knife is its compact size. It is designed to fit comfortably in your pocket, making it easy to carry with you wherever you go. Unlike larger knives, a stockman pocket knife won't weigh you down or get in the way. Because of the small size and traditional look the stockman it is not an intimidating looking knife when used around other people. Since it carries nicely in a pocket, it's always within reach, you'll be ready to tackle any cutting task that comes your way.

In addition, a stockman pocket knife is built to last. It is typically made from high-quality materials like stainless steel and durable handle materials such as bone, wood, or synthetic materials like G-10 or micarta. With proper care and maintenance, a stockman pocket knife can last for years, even decades, making it a great value for the money.

My small collection of stockman knives. The Boy Scout knife is the first knife I bought with my own money.

One of the best things about a stockman pocket knife is that it is a traditional and timeless design. It has been around for over a century and is still popular today. This means that it is a knife that you can pass down to future generations as a family heirloom. And because it is a classic design, there will always be people who want one, simple out of nostalgia.

Finally, a stockman pocket knife is a great choice for those who appreciate the art of knife-making. Many manufacturers offer a range of options for customizing your knife, including different handle materials, blade steels, and blade finishes. You can also choose from a range of sizes and colors to make your knife uniquely yours.

A stockman pocket knife is a versatile, compact, and durable knife that is a great choice for an everyday carry knife. With its classic design and timeless appeal, it is a knife that you can be proud to carry and pass down to your son or grandson. So if you're looking for a reliable and versatile knife for everyday use, a stockman pocket knife is definitely worth considering.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Living a Quiet Life

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (NLT)
Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.

Sometimes, even as Christians, we wonder what practical wisdom the Bible has for our daily lives. Too often we don’t value the Bible enough because it seems outdated in our technologically driven world.

I believe the Bible has much wisdom to offer us in our hectic and busy lives. One example of this is found in an often neglected book, 1 Thessalonians.  The teaching the Apostle Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, encouraged believers to live a quiet life, mind their own business, and work with their hands. This type of life, according to Paul,  will earn the respect of those who do not share their faith, and they will not have to depend on others.

How does this teaching apply to our lives?

Living a quiet life is not about being silent or isolated from other people. Rather, it is about living in a way that is not characterized by loud and boisterous, drama-causing, or attention-seeking behavior. A quiet life is about being content with what you have rather than constantly scheming to get more. This doesn’t mean that you should not have goals or aspirations, but it does mean that you should pursue them in a way that honors Jesus.

Minding your own business means you don’t stick your nose in other people’s affairs unnecessarily. This doesn’t mean that you should not care about others or help them when they need it. Rather, it means we are not going out of our way to tell people what to do or to judge them harshly for not living up to our standard. Remember, Jesus taught that you need to deal with the log in your eye before helping your neighbor with the speak in their eye. Instead, you should concentrate on becoming the person God created you to be.

Working with your hands is about being productive and contributing to society. It is about using your skills and talents to create something of value, whether it is a product, a service, or a piece of art. By working with your hands, you can take pride in what you do and provide for yourself and your family. The other benefit of being productive is that it allows you to be generous. The number one way you can join in the God is doing is through your giving.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 also emphasizes the importance of earning the respect of those who are not believers. As Christians, we are called to be ambassadors for Christ, and our actions and attitudes should demonstrate his character of love, grace, and truth. By living a quiet life, minding our own business, and working with our hands, we are able to demonstrate the qualities of diligence, honesty, and integrity that are valued by people of all faiths and backgrounds. We can also show them, that in spite of our differences, God still loves them.

When we earn the respect of non-believers, we are able to create opportunities to share the gospel with them. When people see that our faith is not just a set of beliefs, but a way of life that makes life better, they may be more open to hearing about our relationship with Jesus. As the Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:15, "Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it." (NLT)

Finally, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 emphasizes the importance of self-sufficiency. By living a quiet life, minding our own business, and working with our hands, we can avoid becoming dependent on others for our basic needs. This does not mean that we should never ask for help or accept assistance when it is offered. What it does mean is that we want to be generous and compassionate to others rathe than being a burden others unnecessarily.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 offers valuable wisdom for life in an hectic and busy world. This wisdom will help us live a life that is pleasing to God and beneficial to others. By living a quiet life, minding our own business, and working with our hands, we can live a life that is respected by all people, regardless of their faith background. We can also earn the respect of those who do not share our faith, and create opportunities to share the gospel with them. Finally, we can avoid becoming dependent on others for our basic needs, and strive to be people are generous and compassionate with the blessings God has given to us.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Facing Our Fears

“When we lack the courage to live the lives we have, when we are overwhelmed by the challenges we face, when we have no strength to make it through the day, we turn to outside sources just to help us survive. We try to sedate, medicate, and intoxicate our fears — anything for a little relief.” 
Erwin McManus, Uprising, p. 90

In a world full of challenges and uncertainties, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. According to Erwin McManus in his book Uprising, we often turn to external sources for relief when we lack the courage to face our challenges head-on. However, the problem with trying to self-medicate in order to cope with our fears is that it only masks the issue. This prevents us from discovering real helps in facing our facing and it becomes an obstacle to taking any action that can create lasting change.

As Christians, we are called to face our fears with courage and perseverance. In Psalm 27:1, David wrote, “The LORD is my light and my salvation — whom should I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— whom should I dread?” (CSB) 

With God on our side, we have the strength and courage to face any challenge that comes our way.

Recognizing that we have fears and not trying to suppress them is the first step towards in developing perseverance. It takes real courage and strength to face our fears and overcome them, and that is an essential part of the growth process. As we learn to live uncomfortable feelings without allowing them to control us, we become stronger and more resilient.

The Apostle Paul encouraged disciples of Jesus to develop perseverance in Romans 5:3-5 when he wrote:
And not only that, but we also boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (CSB)

It is important that we learn to confront our fears head-on. This is one of. the best way to build the courage, strength, and perseverance needed to overcome our fears. In order to do this well requires using other skills such as visualization (imagining ourselves successfully facing our fears), self-compassion (not being hard on ourselves), and assertiveness (being intentional in facing our face). By building these skills, we can create a better way of coping with the problems and fears we face and we can get out of the rut of the ineffective patterns of avoidance or paralysis that we have been in.

By building perseverance, we develop a deeper understanding of our personal strengths, which also helps us tackle other obstacles with renewed strength and courage. We also become better equipped to handle the challenges of life and we are able to approach them with a sense of purpose and determination.

Ultimately, the problems we encounter in our lives provide us with an opportunity to learn, grow, and develop our character and discover new strengths. When we turn to God and rely on His strength through prayer and fellowship with other Christians, we can face our challenges with courage and perseverance. As we learn to overcome our fears and we are empowered to rise to challenges, we are able to strengthen our character by faith in God’s transforming work and hope in His promises. 

We must learn to face our fears with courage and perseverance, relying on God's strength to overcome the challenges we encounter. By adding perseverance to our character, we can approach the problems of life with purpose and determination, which empowers us to grow into the people that God has created us to be. As we face life’s challenges with faith, courage, and perseverance, we discover that our character is strengthened by purpose and hope.

The Spiritually Mature Life: Having the Fruit

On Sunday, April 7, 2024, I started a new sermon series at Bethlehem Church called A Spiritually Mature Life. This sermon series is focused ...