Monday, May 11, 2009


Pastor Tom Kyle used to talk about the "speck of belief" - think he nailed it.

* Jesus said, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you."

* The father brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus. "If you can help us....", he began - Jesus challenged his "if" - "Lord I believe, help my unbelief!" And Jesus did.

What do you have facing you next? How much faith do you need for the first step?

Maybe just a little....

Friday, May 8, 2009

The "HER Principle" (Sunday Sermon)

God gave the Jewish people ten fundamental commands, the fifth (or bridge commandment between relationship with God and relationship with others) was “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)

Jesus reemphasized this command on at least two occasions, “For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.” (Matthew 15:4)

Paul applied it directly to the church in Ephesians 6:2, “Honor your father and mother” – “which is the first commandment with a promise….”

When God speaks, His followers need to listen. When He repeats Himself, we need to sit up, take notice, and obey. What was He saying to them, and is He saying to us? I see the ‘HER Principle” in scripture:

Honor Mom

Let’s talk about honor for a moment. The Hebrew root means “heavy”; the word is often used for giving God glory; it means to esteem, respect, reverence. When we honor our parents we are lifting them up to their rightful place, giving them the glory they deserve.

Note that the command does not say to “honor the honorable”. Honor is not a judgment call, does not require our evaluation of the worth of our parents. God gave a certain woman the role of mother in our lives, and we should honor her for it. It’s similar to the biblical command to respect our husbands, whether they’re respectable or not; and to honor and obey governmental authorities, whether we agree with them or not. Sometimes such honor and respect can actually begin to change the one being honored (repeat). Think about it, God does this with us; first declaring us righteous, then working out this declaration in our lives, molding and changing us.

Note that the command is much more important than we would think, being a key to successful living. Initially this may have meant that the Jews could stay in the Promised Land if they honored their parents; then it came to mean that children who honor parents will be blessed. The reverse was also true, it shocks us to realize that, under the OT law, gross disobedience to, cursing or attacking of one’s parents carried the death penalty. God holds the office of parent in very high esteem – perhaps because there we learn how to honor Him.

Encourage Mom

Proverbs 31 is a key passage for godly women to meditate upon. Verses 28 & 29 state, “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’”

It’s significant that encouragement here comes from the husband. We hold such a key to our wives’ hearts, and to their motherly ministry. Our discouragement can bring such chains, our encouragement can help set them free, becoming the women that God intended.

Encouragement is commanded or ‘encouraged’ 59 times in scripture – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit each have a ministry of encouragement to God’s people – preaching ministries are to include encouragement – Romans 1:12 states we are mutually encouraged by each others’ faith – Romans 15:4 reminds us that the encouragement of the scriptures brings hope – Hebrews 3:13 states, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” This is such a vital tool in our relationship toolbox; husbands and children, don’t let it sit in there and gather dust.

Reward Mom

Proverbs 31:31 concludes, “Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

We reward our children for being good. We reward athletes and teams for success. We reward excellence in the workplace with promotions. But, for some reason, we talk about not needing rewards in the church or in our relationships. Interestingly, God doesn’t see things this way.

28 times in the New Testament God talks about rewards. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1) Mark reminds us, “I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.” Paul states, “because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.” And one of the last verses in the Bible, "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.” If rewards are so critical to Christian service that God mentions it 28 times, doesn’t it make sense that we should reward each other, particularly mothers who tend to have so much on their plate yet labor in obscurity?

Let’s get very practical and personal here. This week I emailed a number of our mothers, asking for their input on how to honor, encourage and reward them. Here are some of their responses in conclusion:

“words of encouragement can do wonders – that’s a great supper – it’s so nice to have clean clothes to wear – wow, it smells great in here….” “Do something for me, carry in groceries, put the shoes away, clear the table….”

“Simply a thanks for all you do…”

“…appreciation expressed TO us, by actions and words!!’

“To have my husband tell my son (while I am standing there), ‘You have such a great mother.’” “…Daddy dates without the kids.”

“I’m delighted to hear anything nice, but I’d happily settle for no complaining.”

“I love what my husband helps with cooking supper, giving the kids baths, waking up with the little ones during the night (so I can get my sleep).”

“A handwritten note about what I mean to them or a special time we had together…could be on toilet paper.” “A picnic that I don’t have to plan or pack for.” “Time in a bathroom uninterrupted….” “Watch a movie of my own choosing…can be anything other than animated, scary, gory, wartime or involving a purple dinosaur, Spanish speaking girl or a big yellow bird.”

So use the HER principle with your moms and wives! It’s not copyrighted, won’t cost you anything, except your love and time.

Let’s pray.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Changing Others (from Peacemaker Ministries)

Is There Someone You're Trying To Change?

Whenever you are trying to show someone his fault, remember that there are limits to what you can accomplish. You can raise concerns, suggest solutions, and encourage reasonable thinking, but you cannot force change. God may use you as a spokesperson to bring certain issues to the attention of another person, but only God can penetrate the other person's heart and bring about repentance. Paul clearly describes this division of labor in 2 Timothy 2:24-26: "And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will" (emphasis added).

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflictby Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 182.

Food for Thought

Is there someone you're trying to change? Here's some biblical counsel: Stop! You may want to take a moment to write these words down on a note card and tape it to your mirror so that you see it every morning:

MY JOB: To speak the truth in love

GOD'S JOB: To change people

Our sense of what's "workable" or "practical" may be our biggest enemy in biblical peacemaking. God doesn't call us to be peacemakers in a given situation because it "works" (though often it does--even in ways we can never imagine); God calls us to be peacemakers so that people can see Christ in us. So next time you're in a conflict and in thinking about peacemaking you find yourself tempted to say, "Well, that'll never work in this case!", remember the difference between God's job description and your own.

PeaceMeal is a publication of Peacemaker® Ministries. Copyright 2009. Reprinted with permission. To sign up for this free weekly email publication, go to the Peacemaker Ministries website at

Monday, May 4, 2009

When Good Becomes Evil

Grieving is a natural, God-given part of life. The release of emotion enables us to begin to move forward in life without a loved one.

99% of the time, avoiding grief is the wrong reaction. Once in a while, it's necessary.

2 Samuel 15-19 (which we will be discussing in class on Sunday morning) relates a tragic story: King David's son, Absalom, leads a coup to take over Israel while his father is still living. He is fully intent on killing his father and men to accomplish this.

Naturally, but reluctantly, David sends his army out to meet Absalom's army. His orders to "be gentle with the young man Absalom" are heard by the entire army.

David's army is successful, and the commander (Joab) kills Absalom. David's grief is so overwhelming that his army sneaks back into town, rather than arriving triumphantly - he could lose his kingdom by the next morning if he continues to grieve. Joab throws ice water on his soul (see 2 Samuel 19:5-7) to get David back where he belongs, leading his men.

This is probably an example of the law of the greater good - sometimes that which is normally good becomes evil if a greater good is lost. Life requires so much wisdom!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Parenting Myths (Sunday's Sermon)

The earth is flat. Mankind did not land on the moon. The Jews did not suffer and die in concentration camps during World War II. Aliens have visited our world on numerous occasions, and much of the evidence is concealed in Area 51. The Illuminati is a secret society that has been in existence for hundreds of years, and want to take over the world.

Although some may believe that one or more of these are true – and may even belong to an organization like the Flat Earth Society – most of us would recognize these statements as myths or urban legends. We might be tempted to laugh at people that do believe these. Yet – as we discovered last summer in our MythBuster series – we all tend to believe a few myths – and today I’d like to examine a few about parenting.

My Children are Basically Good

- The Bible calls children a blessing and reward from the Lord, wonderfully made, a source of joy, recipients of God’s kingdom. Newborn babies (perhaps after a bit of clean up) are cute and cuddly. Their first smiles melt our hearts, their first laughs reach deep into our souls. Each developmental step brings joy. Their sincerity, their wholeheartedness, their curiosity, much of our experience with them may cause us to view them as basically good. Scripture would disagree.

- Romans 3:23 reminds us. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Romans 3:10, “There is no one righteous, not even one”. Ecclesiastes 7:20 is very clear, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.”

- We might contend that these verses are talking about adults. However, David shocks us in Psalm 51:5, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Romans 7 & 8 remind us that each of us are born with a sinful nature, one that we cannot overcome without Jesus Christ.

- So what are the practical applications of this truth? Do I need to treat my children as filthy, rotten sinners, unworthy of anything except punishment and condemnation? Of course not. But we do need to follow God the Father’s example of parenting us, showing us love, blessing us, training us, but also disciplining us so that we follow Him more closely. And we need to be very careful of parenting or teaching programs that start with the “man is basically good” foundation, which are often long on kindness but short on practical discipline. Many of us were raised under such a philosophy, and struggle to accept God’s truth or work in our lives, living under the deception that we are good, that all we need is a break or some education, all evidence to the contrary.

My Children Don’t Require Much Discipline

- Some of our children are compliant. Some of us, due to our personalities or past experiences, hate the idea of disciplining our children. The world teaches us that spanking, stern words, allowing children to suffer the consequences of their actions and/or depriving children of something they like are all examples of child abuse, or at least poor parenting. We see images of child abuse or hear about children that are taken away from their parents. Put these factors together, and we tend to hold off.

- And our children suffer for it.

- The most perfect child in the universe was Jesus Christ. He did not have a sin nature, and did not sin. Yet Hebrews 2:10 tells us that God the Father worked with His Son while here on earth, bringing Him to perfection through suffering.

- Hebrews 12 teaches us that God disciplines all His children, just as we should ours. Proverbs 13:24 is very blunt: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” Proverbs 23:14 reminds us that discipline saves a child’s soul from death. Need I continue?

- So, discipline your children. Utilize a variety of methods that are in accordance with His word (I don’t recommend thumb screws or screaming at the top of your lungs!). Keep it private (as God often does with us, see Matthew 18), keep it loving, avoid selfish anger or motivations whenever possible. But discipline!

I Need to Be Totally Involved in My Children’s Lives

- I wish to publicly thank H. Norman Wright for sharing this in his book, “The Power of a Parent’s Words.” His point is that some parents over-involve themselves in their children’s lives, making them the center of attention every day, living their lives out through them, burning themselves out. He suggests that we may believe this myth if we:

** Insist that our child eat everything on his plate
** Restrict our child from some activities because we’re afraid they might get hurt
** Dress our child, tie his shoes, do other things from him/her that they are capable of doing themselves
** Continue to remind our child or teen to wear warm clothes on a cold day
** Regularly do homework for the child
** Give child no household responsibilities
** Walk an older child to school every day
** Have our lives dominated by external, child-centered activities
** Don’t allow others to care for or baby-sit the child
** Only allow our teens to spend time with friends we select from them
** Always pick up after the child, including his room

- I tell you, one or two of these got my attention – and I’m not sure they’re all true. The list certainly is not scripture, but it does make us think.

- Proper balance is found in a passage we studied a few weeks back, Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Love God passionately first (not make idols of our children), keep His word on our hearts. Teach our children about Him and His word as we’re on our way (not necessarily theirs) – as we sit together at home, as we walk on the road, as we get up and go to bed. This doesn’t mean we can’t have special activities for them, rather, that our lives cannot be dominated by 7x24 parenting, running ourselves (and them) into the ground.

I Need to Protect My Children from Bad Circumstances

- I want to be very careful here. This myth contains much truth. We do need to protect our children from people who would harm and exploit them, from circumstances that they are too young to understand or too weak to handle. We’re probably all agreed here.

- But we can become overprotective, particularly with older children and teens. One of the ways to learn is to suffer the consequences of a bad decision. As we noted earlier, God taught His Son through difficult circumstances & suffering. Sometimes we hold a child back from going to a funeral, but do they need to learn about death? Sometimes we keep children away from sickness and suffering, but will they then avoid suffering family and friends when they get older? Sometimes we’re scared to let them go on a missions trip, will they then learn to avoid adventures of faith later in life? Sometimes we bail a teenager or young adult child out of self-caused financial problems, will they then learn to depend on bailouts (corporate or otherwise) later in life? Such questions require wisdom, and don’t have 100% answers. James 1:5 reminds us that, if we lack wisdom, we can ask God and He will supply it. Sometimes God is teaching our children through difficult circumstances, and we’re standing in His way.

I Am Totally Responsible for My Child

- Here’s a myth that many parents believe, frankly, it’s almost instinctive. We tend to internally believe – although it sounds a bit strong or absurd when we state it aloud – that a child’s success or failure depends entirely on our parenting.

- The myth is reinforced by our viewpoint that Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” – is a divine guarantee – we do our job, and all our children will turn out.

- Let me ask a few questions. What happened to a child’s freedom of will? What happened to adult children’s choices as they move away from home? What happened to the sin nature that each of us has? What happened to the viewpoint that Proverbs 22:6 may be a general principle, rather than a universal promise? What happened to God the Father’s (the perfect parent, if there ever was one) parenting of Adam and Eve, and the whole human race in general?

- There is a part of this myth that is true: if we parent poorly, our children certainly can be impacted. If we have sinned against our children, particularly over a significant period of time, we need to deal with it by confession and repentance, to God and to them. If they are still home, we need to change directions in our parenting approaches, moving away from selfishness and pride.

- But then we need to move through the guilt, through the frustration, through the self-condemnation into the freedom and peace that God gives. We need to realize that our children also have responsibility, and need to be interacted with accordingly.

Don’t take my word for it, examine scripture, discover how God wants you to parent. Don’t just believe what you were taught, or what you picked up along the way. Allow myths to fall by the wayside. Proactively parent. Let’s pray.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


As I was studying for Sunday's sermon & discipleship class, wandered off a bit. Read about a number of Christian singer's divorces, and Ray Boltz's coming out about his homosexuality.

This led me to wonder, should we listen to songs sung by those who have experienced significant moral failures? Does it matter whether they recorded them before or after the failure? Does it matter whether they've publicly repented or not? What do you think?

This is not necessarily a modern question, for example, "It is Well with My Soul" has a later negative story as well.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Disabled and Loved

There is an exquisite story in 2 Samuel 9.

David, probably thinking of his past strong friendship with King Saul’s son, Jonathan, wonders aloud whether any of Saul’s relatives remain that he could show kindness to. Through one of Saul’s former servants, he learns about Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, crippled in both feet. He calls Mephibosheth in, return’s Saul’s lands to him, and invites him to partake at the royal table like any of the king’s sons. Mephibosheth is overwhelmed.

This story succeeds at many levels:

David’s compassion towards a former enemy’s family (standard policy at this point was to eliminate all potential rivals to the throne, not bless them)

David’s compassion towards the disabled. No matter how many policies and regulations are set up, no matter how “enlightened” a culture becomes, disabled/disadvantaged people are often treated poorly or ignored.

Mephibosheth’s humility, but acceptance of the royal gifts. Please read the passage for more details.

Parallels to the Christian experience. We are all sinners, all disabled by our sin, all enemies of God before salvation; God not only saves us from our sin and situation but also blesses us abundantly and invites us to the table as one of His children, His royal princes. Totally undeserved grace needing to be totally accepted.

Have a great week reveling in His goodness!