Resources for Parents

This past Sunday Jerry preached an amazing sermon that dealt with theology and application of parenting. For someone who is not a parent, his sermon was extremely beneficial! If you have not listened to it yet, click here to listen.

We also sold copies of a few great books to help equip parents for raising children in their home! Here are the books:

  • Praying Circles Around Your Children by Mark Batterson
  • Don’t Miss It: Parent Every Week Like It Counts by Reggie Joiner
  • Parenting by Paul David Tripp
  • Family Worship by Donald S. Whitney

We sold out of almost every one of these books! That’s awesome! If you weren’t here last Sunday and you missed it, don’t worry because we ordered more!

There are two more resources that I want reach out to you guys with. One is a podcast and the other is a book. The podcast is called: The Parent Cue. This podcast sits down with leaders in the Children’s Ministry world and talk about parenting.

Every podcast I have listened to has been extremely practical and helpful! As a matter of fact, it is transforming my ministry! If you want to subscribe to the podcast, click here. This podcast led me to find this book:

  • The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman

Most of you may know who Gary Chapman is. Most of us know how we are loving people and our children. This book begs the question, “Do my children feel loved?”

What is the difference? Your love language may be physical touch. Because of that, you know how to love that way. You love your children this way. What if your child’s love language is not physical touch? Believe it or not, your child may not feel loved even if you hug them 26 times a day.

The 5 Love Languages of Children helps us determine what our children’s love languages are and also how to apply it. We will also be selling this book on Sunday at the Next Steps Desk if anyone is interested. I cannot put this book down!

This is transformative to the way I am doing ministry with your children. Bethany and I drove to Knoxville this past weekend and almost the entire trip there talked about your children and figuring out their love languages. Knowing them will change how I approach your children on Sunday mornings, Kids Camp, CentriKid, etc.

This book will help lay a foundation for the day that I do become a father…

Wassup?

If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (ESV)  1 John 2:29

You’ve heard the expression, “She’s the spitting image of her mother” or “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” or “he’s a chip off the old block.” We have many ways of saying kids are like their parents. This is John’s point. If you practice righteousness you have a righteous father.

Last week in Africa I met Nazir. He is 4 years old, the son of Pastor Cheikhna and Esther and full of life. Like all the African kids who approach me, Nazir was fascinated with the hair on my arms. No lie! We didn’t speak the same language–he speaks Wolof, I don’t. But we communicated. I don’t know why, but one day when he was sitting on my lap and I held him up where he could see my face and said, “Nazir, say what’s up!” He did! And it sounded every bit as southern as a North Carolinian. The next day when I showed up in the village he looked at me and said, “Wassup?” I cracked up! We had to record it!

Here’s the reality. He didn’t say “Wassup?” because he’s my son–he said it because I taught him how to say it. He may soon forget it (I sure hope not!). However, if you want to know why Nazir has his winning personality, his wonderful sense of humor, his bright smile, just watch his mother, Esther. She is all of the above. You might say that Nazir is a spitting image of his mother, or a chip off the old block. The apple certainly doesn’t fall far from the tree.

nazir

I’m holding Nazir. Pastor Cheikhna is to my right and Esther is wearing the blue head wrap.

So it is with us. When you do something righteous today, it isn’t necessarily learned behavior. You have been born of the righteous one. We often forget this. When we received Christ, we were born into a new family. We got a new Father and a new nature. It is now “natural” for us to practice righteousness. As a matter of fact, if you’re not practicing righteousness you haven’t been born of him!

 

You Cannot Serve the Lord!

But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.” Joshua 24:15 (ESV)

This has been referred to by scholars as “the most shocking statement in all of Scripture!” Why would Joshua, in his final speech before his death, urge Israel to follow the Lord only to answer their promise to follow the Lord with, “You can’t!”  In order to better understand this, you have to listen to their “commitment.”

Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods, for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. And the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.” (Joshua 24:16-18)

Notice their motivation for following God. They are following God for what he has done for them!  If the only reason you’re following God is for good health, a good job, a great retirement, as soon as the trial comes you’ll be done with following God. When he doesn’t give you the spouse you thought you should’ve had, when someone fails you, you’ll blame God. Joshua knew this. He called them to task.

So what is Joshua’s motivation? God is holy. God is jealous. God is not a capricious killjoy. Neither is he a pushover. He is the holy creator of the universe. I’m convinced that music can bring us to places of seeing who God is when nothing else can. After all, the largest book of the Bible is a book of songs.

So again, in this blog, is a song. Take a few minutes to worship God for who he is. Pay close attention to these words. Do you still want to follow that God?

Shutting Down the Factory

John Calvin said that man’s nature is a “perpetual factory of idols.” Almost unnoticed idols can creep onto the throne of our hearts and before we know it, we’re worshiping at their altar. Work. Sports. Money. Accomplishments. Alcohol. Someone. Idols come in all shapes and sizes. So how do you shut down the factory? Here are a few steps:

  1. Identify your idols. What allures you may not even interest your friends. The common way of referring to this is, “he has his own demons.” But this terminology deflects the blame from the real source. We all have sinful natures that produce customized idols. How do you know when something has become an idol? Tim Keller says, “When anything in life is an absolute requirement for your happiness and self-worth, it is essentially an ‘idol,’ something you are actually worshiping.” (Counterfeit Gods)
  2. Put away your idols. Once you know what they are, take the next step to get rid of them. If you’re a workaholic, adjust your work hours. If you’re an alcoholic, quit drinking–completely. If you’re addicted to gambling, don’t carry indiscriminate cash.
  3. Get help. You will not successfully fight idols alone. You’re not equipped to battle alone. Scripture is replete with examples of people who, when left alone, self-destructed. (See Samson, King David, Esau…to name a few). Join a Life Group (email james@graceforall.org). Get counseling (Chuck Tripp is a great resource: 828-803-7281).
  4. Worship God. If the worship of God doesn’t replace whatever else you were worshiping, you will return to your idols. You are created to worship. You will trust in someone or something. Will it be God? Take 3 minutes to let the words of Lauren Daigle’s song sink in.

Regifting: 3 Gifts Worth Giving Again

Let’s face it. Every Christmas we get that gift we know we won’t use. Before we completely rip off the paper, we know who’s going to get it next. Thestreet.com lists the following as the top ten gifts most likely to be regifted: candles, picture frames, gift baskets, perfume, fruit cake, wine, cookbooks, bath soaps, books and (drumroll please), pajamas (really?).

If you know Jesus, he has given you 3 gifts you should regift. As a matter of fact, you may need to wrap them up today and give them away. Christmas isn’t the only time to do that. You can give these again and again all year long.

Grace

John, writing about his best friend and the Messiah, said, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16 ESV) Charles Spurgeon said: “Nothing but the infinite can ever satisfy me; I am such a great sinner that I must have infinite merit to wash my sin away; but we have had our sin removed, and found that there was merit to spare; we have had our hunger relieved at the feast of sacred love.” The grace that found you in your sin, drew you in, washed you clean, and put you in God’s trophy case is worth regifting.

Forgiveness

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV) Toward the end of his life, John Newton, former slave trader and ultimate author of that old hymn, Amazing Grace, said: “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” Who has hurt you, wounded you, slighted you? Will you give them the forgiveness that was freely, at a very high cost, given to you?

Patience

Maybe this one surprised you. Patience is not on most people’s short list. Thankfully, it’s on God’s. Peter, who knew very well the patience of the God who once called him Satan, wrote:  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 ESV) Who grates on your nerves, pushes your buttons, stretches you to your limit–almost every time. Ask God for the grace to be patient.

Regift. Today. Don’t wait. Seriously.

Will You Choose to Hear the Bells?

Last night after an amazing First Wednesday worship service, Greg and Jackie Stewart sent this to me from their devotional (Glimpses of God’s Grace, Donahue):

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was no stranger to the sufferings of war. During the Civil War near the Christmas of 1863, he found out that his son had been injured in battle. How could he bear being so far away from his son on Christmas Day when he desperately wanted to be at his side to help and comfort him?

In spite of his despair, Christmas bells penetrated his sorrow and made him aware of God’s gracious love–a love that could be with him and his son at the same time. As he listened to the chimes, he penned the words to “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

No matter how many wars are fought, no matter how many battles are lost or won, God is near, helping, comforting and guiding those who trust Him. There is no limit to His powerful healing and grace. There is no measure to his love. Perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned during such troubled times is that Jesus truly is our Lord of lords, our Prince of Peace.

So I have a new tradition (started it about 5 years ago actually). Every Christmas I google this Youtube video. Yesterday, in the middle of a hectic day, I stopped to listen to the bells. Since 2010, almost 49 million others have done the same! Maybe it will bring peace in the midst of your chaos.

Fattening Vegetables

vegetables

This picture does nothing for me. For some of you, you can look at this picture and wish to eat every single bite. For me, I would ask where the ranch dressing is!

Speaking of vegetables, yesterday in Kids Worship the kids talked about Daniel and his three friends: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. You probably know them as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

When the Northern and Southern Kingdoms were overtaken by Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar took all of the young men who were strong and smart to serve in his palace.

These four boys were a part of that group. They served God. They loved God. Nebuchadnezzar did not.

He wanted the boys to eat the same food that he ate. However, God had specific laws on food. One of the big takeaways from this story of Daniel and his friends is that we must always obey and worship God.

There will be people who try to convince us not to or to follow another path. But God is bigger than all of them. We are to please God, not man.

The boys would not eat what Nebuchadnezzar wanted them to eat. Daniel asked a man if he could eat other food. The man they asked feared that the king would kill him if he allowed this.

Daniel told the man that they wanted to only eat vegetables and water. He said in 10 days we will be healthier (leaner) than we were when we started. So, the man allowed it.

God truly blessed Daniel and his friends for standing up for what God wanted. God made laws for his people. The laws apply no matter where they find themselves.

Here are the Conversation Starters for this week:

  • Why are we supposed to obey God?
  • Do you think that Daniel and his friends were scared?
  • What gave them strength?
  • Has someone ever tried to convince you that you should sin?
  • Has someone ever told you that you shouldn’t follow God?
  • What was your response?
  • Are you going to eat your vegetables now?
  • Was it really the vegetables that made them strong? (No)

As always, adjust where needed. God bless!

Wake Up!

coffee-cup

Raise your hand if you need this to get up and going in the morning? (I’m raising mine!) This picture looks so good! Most of us need coffee to wake us up in the morning. You might even say that we need coffee to give us life in the morning!

Yesterday in Kids Worship, we talked about one of the craziest miracles in Scripture.

Ezekiel 37 gives us a glimpse of the vision that God gave to Ezekiel. In this vision, Ezekiel is standing in a valley that is full of dead, dry bones.

God asks Ezekiel, “Can these bones come to life?” Ezekiel answers by telling God that only He could know. God, then, tells Ezekiel to speak to the dry bones. Ezekiel does what he is asked.

All of a sudden, the bones began to move. There was a rattling sound. Bones began to come together. Tendons began to form around the bones. Then, flesh appeared on the bones. Lastly, skin formed on the flesh. But there was one thing missing: breath.

God told Ezekiel to speak to the lifeless bodies and command breath to come into them. And it did. To witness breath coming into these lifeless soldiers would have been breathtaking (pun intended).

Thousands of deceased soldiers took their first breath for the second time. Aside from creation, this gives us a clear glimpse of the fact that God gives life.

This is truly something we can all testify to. I know I can. Before Christ I was like one of those lifeless bodies laying in the valley.

After coming to know Christ, I know what it is like to take the first breath for the second time. He has given me hope, a purpose, and life.

I am praying for you as you discuss this story with your kiddos!

Here are the Conversation Starters:

  • Have you ever made something or created something?
  • Were you able to give that thing life?
  • I want you to take something you made and try to breath on it. See if it comes alive! (This may seem silly, but it will prove a point.)
  • Were you able to give it life?
  • Scripture tells us that God gave life by breathing into something. How is this possible?
  • Why can’t we give life that way?
  • Is it weird to think that God breathed life into you?
  • Do you think his breath stinks?
  • Other than when we are born, when else does God breathe life into us? (Salvation)
  • Another time when God breathes life into us is when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Have you done this?

As always, adjust where needed. God bless!

When Keeping Promises Hurt

6-kid-in-trouble-not-listening

“Alan-Michael, come here!” This is the sentence that described in full detail what was about to happen next. Every single time my mother said those words my stomach dropped.

All of you have sat on the couch just like this while your mom or dad gave you the business, right?

When we think of keeping promises, we usually think the positive side of things. Things like: “I promise I will be there on time,” or “I promise to do my homework.” What about the promises there aren’t labeled as promises?

When your mom tells you, “If you lie to me, you will get a spanking.” This is also a promise. The word “promise” doesn’t have to be in the sentence to make it a promise.

God makes similar promises to his people so many times in the Old Testament. These usually come in the forms of warnings. One of those warnings he spoke through Jeremiah. To boil it down, God told his people that they needed to turn away from their sin or the Day of the Lord would descend upon them. This day is when a great army would take them over.

Here is the thing: God always keeps his promises. Even when they hurt.

So, this great army did come through Judah and take them over. King Josiah’s sons were taken over by them. Jehoahaz was king and the king of Egypt took him away and made Jehoiakim king. Jehoiakim reigned, then Jehoiachin, and then Zedekiah. All of which were taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar. Eventually, the Babylonians captured and destroyed Jerusalem.

God’s promises seem harsh. Why?

Why is a child punished? They are punished to show right from wrong. The people of Israel continually and annoyingly turned their back on God. In order to show them the error of their ways, the punishment had to be drastic. And, he warned them, too.

Here are the Conversation Starters for this week:

  • Were you punished this week?
  • If so, why were you punished? If not, when was the last time you were punished?
  • What did you learn from that punishment?
  • Was the punishment worse than what you thought? Was it not as bad as you thought?
  • Do you think it was right for God to punish his people?
  • Do you think it was right for God to punish his people that way?
  • What would you learn being one of his children who was punished?

As always, adjust where needed. God bless!

Reaction To Every Action

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Well, I don’t think he was expecting this. Then again, I don’t think we expect a lot of things.

Some of the things we don’t expect are consequences of our sin. But here is the simple truth: Sin Has Consequences.

When you begin to read any of the Old Testament, you will begin to come to this conclusion pretty quickly. If you think about your sin in your life, you will realize the consequences of these actions.

Look at this poor guy getting hit in the face with a dodgeball. Somebody threw this ball at him. The consequences are as follows: the victim will probably have a big red spot on his face, the wife of the victim will be upset, the wife of the thrower will probably be upset, the victim may feel like nobody likes him anymore, and the list goes on.

You see how one decision causes a chain reaction of events. The consequences not only affected the one who threw the ball, but it also affected the victim and potentially more people.

Our sin has consequences. Period.

Jeremiah told the people of Judah that their sin was affecting everyone. He was telling the parents that their sin was affecting their children!

But, God was going to make a new covenant.

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33 NIV)

Here are the Conversation Starters for this week:

  • Have you sinned this week?
  • What was it, and what were the consequences of that sin?
  • Did your sin affect somebody else?
  • Did you want to take back what you did when you saw that it affected someone else?
  • Did you know that your sin directly affects God?
  • Have you asked for forgiveness this week?
  • Let’s take some time to pray.

As always, adjust where needed. God bless!