Thursday, July 20, 2017

Behavior Modification VS. Heart Change

Growing up in the church and having attended a Christian school, I was encouraged to exhibit good behavior that would honor God.  My behavior was also expected to honor my parents, my church, my school, and of course others. Many young people I grew up with struggled performing or producing the desired obedience that was expected of them by the church or the Christian school.  Often times, very negative attitudes developed in their lives because of the insistence and the pressure that was placed on them (they would be labeled as having a BA or “bad attitude”).  The unfortunate thing was that many of those who complied with the outward behavior had hearts that were very negative towards authority.  Which one was better—the desired behavior or a negative heart?  It may depend on what we are using as our measuring stick.
I believe that too often parents and teachers miss the mark when shaping the lives of young people.  I believe that we should desire more than a certain behavior but hearts that are fixed on doing the right thing out of a love for God.  Some would call focusing only on the behavior~~legalism.  It only focuses on the external obedience and not the heart issue.  Some insist on everyone just doing the same thing for the sake of compliance and unity.  I’m all for compliance and unity but I do believe that God’s Holy Spirit makes a better instructor than my forced rules that serve as the standard for everyone else.  God’s holiness should be the standard for all living.
I’ve heard it said before that parenting is not just hard work but it is “HEART-work”.  What does God look at~~He looks at our hearts!  1 Sam. 16:7 says, “man looketh on the outward appearance but God looketh on the heart.”  He created us to love, serve, and obey Him.   As parents, our job is to raise “spiritual champions” who live to please God alone.  This does not mean we are supposed to ignore the significance of developing our children’s intellectual, emotional, and physical dimensions. But, it suggests that we have to see the bigger picture of God’s priorities and raise our children in light of His standards and not our preferences.

Most of us focus on “behavior modification” that looks for immediate results.  In fact it’s an outcome-based approach to parenting.  It usually works quickly, relieving the immediate tension.  For example, a child whines so the parent requires him to stop and then rewards him by giving him the cookie he wanted.  Although the surface problem of whining is temporarily stopped, the underlying problem of demandingness is not clearly addressed.  The heart of the matter is never addressed.

The heart is a wrestling place. The heart chooses values to hold and convictions to live by.  Those convictions become the moral pillars in our lives that keep us on track.  Moses told the people in Deuteronomy 6:6 to put the commands of God “on your hearts.”  When David describes the righteous person in Psalm 37:31 he says, “The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip.”  “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat.” (Dan. 1:8)  When Jeremiah describes the New Covenant that God will establish with us, he says that it will be different than the Old Covenant with tablets of stone.  “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” (Jer. 31:33).  

I would suggest to parents that we take parenting to the heart level and loosen our grip purely on behavior modification.  When God has our children’s hearts He gets the rest of them as well.   I understand that we want immediate obedience but even more important are hearts that understand why obedience is important.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Why Do We Fail to Share the Gospel with the Lost?

I read this blog post yesterday from one of my favorite bloggers, Thom Rainer.  It deals with what it will cost me to share the Gospel with others.  As your pastor, please know that it is my desire to serve as an example to you when it comes to sharing my faith.  It is always work and it is definitely spiritual warfare.  I don’t know of anybody who would say that sharing their faith just comes easy.  However, there is no greater joy than leading another person to Jesus Christ apart from personally coming to Jesus Christ.
“The topic of evangelism has grown strangely quiet in many churches. Pastors are not talking about it.  Other church leaders aren’t talking about it.  Members aren’t talking about it.  And if we aren’t talking about evangelism, you can be assured many of us aren’t doing evangelism.
There are likely many explanations for the death of evangelism in our churches. Among them is the stark reality that many of our church leaders, pastors and others, are not intentionally evangelistic.  Why is that?
Though it is not an excuse, we must acknowledge that the pastors and other church leaders pay a high cost when they become intentionally evangelistic.  Sometimes it just seems easier to keep our mouths shut about the gospel.  Look at these costs to being an evangelistic leader in a local church.”
  1. It is spiritual warfare. Satan and his demonic horde do not want people to know the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though the manifestations of demonic opposition are many, you can be assured the evangelistic leader will confront such opposition again and again.
  2. You will be viewed as narrowed minded. John 14:6 does not sit well with culture. Though Jesus Himself said He was the only way, truth, and life, leaders will be rejected and opposed for such “narrow-minded” thinking.
  3. Something else must be sacrificed when you are an evangelistic leader. Your time is limited. You have sermons to prepare. You have hospital visits to make. You have counseling appointments. You have way too many meetings. And hardly a day goes by without a new and unexpected crisis arising. You must sacrifice something else to take time to share the gospel with others.
  4. Some of your members will complain. You have some church members who will complain about anything that does not serve them personally. It may be headed under the passive-aggressive guise of “I’m not being fed,” but you can be assured some of your members will oppose your leadership in evangelism.
  5. New converts will be seen as threats or inconveniences in your church. True story. In one of the churches I served as pastor, a lady tried to get me fired because the “new people” were “messing up our church.” New Christians are needy. Some longer-term members don’t like to give up their comforts for others.
  6. Discussing theology is easier than doing theology. I wish we spent an equal amount of time sharing the gospel as we do talking and debating theology. Yes, we need to take bold stands for the truth. But we don’t need just to stand there; we need to do and go.
  7. You will have to break out of your holy huddles. It’s more comfortable hanging out with people who are like us and who believe like we do. But you will not have that luxury if you become an intentional evangelistic leader in your church. You will discover new relationships with non-Christians, which means you can’t spend all your time with Christians.
When was the last time we verbally shared the Gospel of
Jesus Christ with a lost person?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Visit Israel With Us

A little over two years ago I had the privilege of visiting Israel for the very first time.  I have studied theology for many years in a Christian school, Bible college, and seminary but I've only studied the Biblical setting from textbooks.  The opportunity to visit was phenomenal as it painted a backdrop for me to actually see, feel, and witness the land of the Bible.  Many of the places that I visited brought life to the Biblical narratives. Seeing the various locations and typography gave fresh insight and understanding to many Bible passages.  The journey allowed me to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ's earthly ministry that led to His crucifixion.

While there I was able to visit Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem where Christ would be charged and ultimately crucified.  I walked through the Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.  Later I journeyed through Jericho to the Dead Sea where I floated in the highly concentrated salt water.  Another highlight was taking part in a special baptism in the Jordan River.  Two very special moments were sightseeing on the Sea of Galilee and walking the streets of Jerusalem to the Temple Mount.  There are too many places to list but I want to share more with you.

It was my desire for my wife and me to take a group from the church (and any others who would like to join in) back to Israel and share my experience but it was necessary to wait until I completed school--school is now done!  I would like to lead, prepare, and educate a team to take the journey back to Israel.  It will indeed be a trip like none other.  I will take time at the various sights to explain the significance of those sights and we will also have a professional guide with us.  The food was excellent and the accommodations were extremely nice at the hotel.  The charter bus provided great comfort by getting us right to the spot we were going to visit and staying cool at the same time.  I can honestly say that the entire time while visiting I felt safe and secure.

Please consider joining us as we prepare for the next trip to Israel on April 9-17, 2018.  Information can be picked up at the Welcome Center while registration / payment is all online (installment payments can even be made).  Contact the church office if you are unable to pick up a form and we will mail you the information.  My wife and I will be hosting a special evening for those interested in this trip to learn more.  I'll be able to answer more questions and share photos of my experience.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Great Liberty Demands a Great Price

Having grown up with so many privileges in this great country, I often fail to see what others don't have because I carry the incorrect thought that everyone has the same blessings that I have.  I truly know that this is not the case.  I along with so many others fail to acknowledge, honor, and give thanks for those who have gone on before us and have walked with a firm conviction that our freedom was worth sacrificing and dying for.  It has been 241 years since our country was founded and today, despite our weaknesses, we still remain the most  influential country in the world.  Their fighting, tears, and deaths were not in vain.  Though some would disagree, God was placed at the center of most of life during those founding years.  I personally feel that many blessings that we have reaped today have been a direct result of our nation's faithfulness to God.  The tide has been shifting for many years as our country has dethroned God from the courtroom down to the classroom.  Shamefully, many churches even strive to be politically correct and they dethrone God from the one place where God and Truth should never be questioned or removed--His church!

Spiritually, due to the sacrifice and death of Christ, we have been set free from the bondage and slavery of sin.  Our spiritual freedom demanded a horrific sacrifice--the death of the Son of God on our behalf.  Once again, this blessing is taken for granted by many of us as we have gotten used to that freedom.  Since we are so far removed from the initial sacrifice we often forget what was necessary for our freedom.  As Christians, we should wave the banner of Christ high in the sky and recognize that we have every reason to be spiritually patriotic towards Christ.  We certainly have no reason to hide the fact that we are citizens of Heaven purchased by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.  We are blessed with American citizenship and a Heavenly citizenship all at the same time.  Both come as blessings from God and both should be prized and valued.

Don't be ashamed to say to whom you belong.  Our identity is found first and foremost in Jesus Christ.  I would also like to suggest that Christians should be the most appreciative and patriotic citizens of all--knowing that it is God alone who is the giver of all blessings and freedom.

Colossians 1:13-14, "For He rescued 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." ~~Praise God!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Framing Our Words with Truth

Sometimes we are very good at framing questions or comments  as not to offend another person.  Our intent of asking or stating something might be very different from the words we choose to represent those thoughts.  In other words we can mask our true motives by choosing words that may not represent what we are truly trying to say.  This can be a form of deceit and yet God knows our motives.  Nothing is truly hid from Him.  We can strive to not allow others to see the real us but God always knows what is taking place deep within our hearts.  Sometimes we can use our words in such a way to assure others that we really didn't mean what they thought they heard us say.  The words we choose, the way we say things, and the attitude in which we say things says a lot about our relationship with Christ.

Scripture says in Ephesians 4:25, "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body."  We are also told in Hebrews 4:13, "And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account."

We can attempt to make light of our comments but God truly knows the intent  of our hearts and we have to live knowing that.   Christ says that we will give an account for every idle word that we speak.  He also tells that out of the abundance of our hearts our mouths speak.  We can try to frame our words so that they always looks sweet and accepting to others.  However, the frame around our words may not truly reflect what is being said or taking place in our hearts.  It is the strong Christian who walks with a genuine heart and is able to speak the truth in Christian love.  This is a life long practice and discipline for all of us.  May Jesus Christ be seen at the center of all of our conversations.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Fathers Forever

For many of us our child rearing days have passed.  Some of our most exhausting days have been being a father or mother.  Answering the questions of why or why not seemed to have no end--yikes.  Discipline issues with the children were more challenging than going to work for hours and swinging a hammer or working behind a computer--at least they did not talk back to you.

Both mothers and fathers are extremely important in raising God-fearing children that love the Lord and serve Him for a lifetime.  As a father, I'm aware of the temptation to allow our wives to maintain order with the children.  Too often, we as men remain passive in our responsibilities and fail to understand the crucial role that God has given us when it comes to bringing up little boys and girls.  After all, they long to have our attention and love.

Fathers serve a large role and do a job that only a father is equipped to do.  By choosing not to step up to our calling as a father we forfeit that privilege and responsibility to someone else.  It may be to our wives, grandparents, or a child's friend.  Many men have great intentions of stepping up but due to failure to make the time, the job of fathering is forfeited.  Young boys never truly learn what it means to grow into a man because dad never took the time to show them.  Young girls fail to understand what it means to be treated like a lady because dad never took the time to show them. 

Many of us call ourselves fathers; however, I wonder if a better term is to say that we are dads.  A father takes the time to nurture, discipline, shape, correct, and train our children even at the most inopportune times.  He lives out his life as an example to his children, even during the most difficult times in life.  He understands that his calling is a gift from God.  Perhaps this Father's Day we could recommit our own lives to be better fathers to our children--regardless of their age.  Approach your children, seek their forgiveness for lost days and opportunities.   Make the most of the days and moments that God gifts you with, to be a godly example to them and keep investing into them.

Being a father is a never ending job--as long as you are alive.  Why not consider trying to be a father to another young person who may not have the privelege of having a father in his or her life.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Trusting God in Deep Waters

Does our faith in God have borders?  I'm not sure that I know a Christian that would claim that they don't trust God.  However, most of us will trust God when it makes complete sense to ourselves.  We often like it when our experience tells us that we are safe to trust Him--but is that really trusting God or is that living safely within borders that we have established?

Many times God calls us to step out, sacrifice, and trust Him in ways and times that are not convenient for us.  His call upon our lives may not fit our personal, current-life dynamics.  Could we honestly look Christ in the face and tell Him that we would follow Him anywhere, speak of Him to anyone, and do whatever He wants us to do?

I believe that we as Christians fail to understand what complete and immediate obedience truly looks like.  Sometimes we even try to negotiate with God.  We have listened to the lies and voices of doubt way to long.  The greatest blessings and satisfaction in this life come when we walk by faith into the the things that Christ has called us to do.  Pray for the grace to trust God more in order to follow Him into the deep waters of obedience and blessings.  Take the time to read Luke 5:1-11 in preparation for Sunday's message.

I love the following song called~~ Oceans.  Listen to it on You Tube and read  some of the Lyrics carefully.

"You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now"