Children are not casual guests in our home. They have been loaned to us temporarily for the purpose of loving them and instilling a foundation of values on which their future lives will be built.
Begin With the End in Mind
This is advice I swiped from a book on blogging, but it really really applies to parenting as a Christian parent.
You’ve gotta begin with the end in mind.
When you think about your kids as grownups what words pop into your head?
Successful. Happy. Kind. Loved and loving.
Nothing wrong with any of those, but do they capture your deepest aspirations for your kids?
Do they describe your biggest dreams for them?
How about this, a friend of God?
I’ve been thinking and teaching about Christian parenting for over 30 years and this idea captures the highest goal any parent can reach for with their children, to raise a child that grows up to be a friend of God.
The phrase describes Abraham and we find it in James 2:23
And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.
Is there any higher loftier more spiritual ambition than to be a friend of God?
I don’t think so. I can’t come up with one.
So was Abraham perfect?
He was a flawed human who began as an idol worshipper.
But, when God spoke to him, he listened and responded.
He believed God. And we know he believed because he responded.
That’s a big significant step. Don’t rush past it. Instead, let’s turn it into a question.
How do we to get from that beautiful bundle of baby in our arms to a growing child that’s emotionally and spiritually prepared to listen and respond to God?
A child who wants to be a friend of God.
Create A Roadmap to Relationship
Know where you want to go!
Before the days of iPhones and apps like Waze, before the days of Garmin there were roadmaps. Large printed maps that showed highways and small roads so that you could figure out how to get to where you wanted to go. You could plan a route.
Your route as a Christian parent is something like this:
Baby in your arms—————————–A child who wants to be God’s friend
In the coming weeks we’ll build out our roadmap.
We’ll take it step by step and travel in short spurts so the little ones can enjoy the journey as it unfolds.
Our starting point is God Himself.
Let’s begin to introduce God to your kids.
You’re gonna be surprised at how easy this is.
Let me ask you how would you introduce God to someone?
What would you say about Him?
We all overthink this!!! We don’t have to figure this out on our own. We just need to see how God did it.
How does God introduce Himself? I mean, He wrote us a big old book full of letters. How does it start?
In the beginning God made everything.
Genesis 1:1 (my own paraphrase for kids)
Short and sweet. To the point. No wasted words. No big theological explanation.
AND—it is in fact the very first thing we all need to know about God if we’re gonna want to be His friend. Who wouldn’t want to be friends with the One who created everything?
Here’s the companion truth from the New Testament.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
Whisper it to that babe in your arms.
“God made everything. It’s all good. It’s all perfect. It’s all a gift from God to you and to all of us.”
Point back to God constantly as the Creator and the giver of good things. This is the first thing you want your child to ever remember knowing about God.
He created everything.
Every good gift and every perfect gift comes down from Him.
And He never changes.
The soft cotton of baby’s blanket is a gift. The strawberries of summer are a gift. A squirmy puppy covered in warm fur is a gift. Daddy’s strong arms are a gift. Mommy’s soft kisses are a gift.
Every good gift.
Every perfect gift is from God.
Do you want to lead your children into a lifelong meaningful relationship with the true and living God?
Then start with this truth. Begin today and keep bringing God into the conversation.
Introduce God as He introduces Himself, the Creator and the giver of every good and every perfect gift.
This week start the introduction by talking about God as Creator. You could wrap up your child’s favorite fruit or a favorite toy and talk about the gifts God has given to us to richly enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17).
I’m praying that God will help you and begin to reveal Himself to your kids.
This is exciting!!! 🙂
One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts.
I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty,
And on Your wondrous works.
Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts,
And I will declare Your greatness.
They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness,
And shall sing of Your righteousness.
Why I’m writing this series on an old blog I kind of forgot I even had.
If you look at this blog you’ll discover that I haven’t added a post in about 3 years.
So why start this up again?
The short answer is that I have a broken heart and I’m on a mission.
Here’s what’s broken my heart: Pew Research came out with a study that found between 82%-88% of kids raised in church attending Christian homes never go back to church once they leave home at 18 for school or work.
What it means is that we haven’t been able to lead our children into a meaningful relationship with God. They didn’t fall in love with Him. They weren’t captivated by Who He is and what He’s done. They aren’t excited to be part of His plan and purposes.
Plainly put, we dropped the ball. We let them down. We failed in our God appointed mission to help our kids forge a lasting relationship with God Almighty.
I know that sounds harsh or depressing, or both.
But I believe in grace.
I believe in God working continually to redeem the lost. I believe He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, I believe it’s never too late to start again.
For the past three years I’ve been praying about this problem, studying the subject and interacting with young Christian parents who are in the middle of raising their kids.
And I’m on a mission to do whatever I can to help them be successful in leading their kids into a vibrant faith and a lifelong friendship with God.
Parenting is a big job made up of a million little jobs. Some of those jobs are far more crucial to a child’s faith and friendship with God. Those are the things we’re gonna focus on.
Years ago when I started this blog I called it ‘A Really Full Life’.
The name comes from John 10:10 where Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
That’s A Really Full Life. It’s a quality of life that flows from knowing God. It’s what I pray for every child, that they’ll come to know God and find in Him abundant life ~ A Really Full Life.
If you’re a Christian parent I want you to know I’m pulling for you.
The challenges you face are different and probably more difficult than the ones I faced while raising my kids.
But, God never changes. His word is always true and powerful and the Holy Spirit is still dwelling in every child of God and leading us into truth, empowering us to live it out in our everyday lives and if God is for us, who can be against us.
Today we talked about Introducing God as Creator and the giver of every good and every perfect gift.
Next week we’re exploring how we can ‘Trigger the WOW’ in a child’s heart and plant the seeds of true worship that will bind his heart to God in an outpouring of love and thanksgiving.
Now I want to hear from you.
Does any of this resonate with you? Are you already worried about a Tween or Teen? Are you wondering how you’re gonna fit anything else into your day? Do you think your kids are still too young for this?
What anxiety or concerns surface when you think about your kids growing up in the world today? What have you found that’s opened the door to a spiritual conversation with your kids?
In His love,
Which saying best describes your marriage?
My spouse brings out the best in me.
My spouse brings out the worst in me.
If you’re human, and I bet you are, both have been true from time to time.
We have such unreasonable expectations at the beginning of marriage. Perpetual happiness and deep fulfillment, a whole life ahead with a ‘you complete me’ partner.
Then we discover, as my husband did one Saturday when I made a sandwich for myself and didn’t make one for him, that said spouse not only can’t read our mind, but they aren’t always thinking of us—sometimes they just think of themselves.
My bad 😳
That fateful Saturday was 31 years ago.
We survived it and lots of other episodes since.
While going through the photos from a recent Anniversary trip to the Grand Canyon, I found myself thinking that the Canyon is a metaphor for marriage.
Two forces that act on each other in ways that both alter and define both.
Looking at the picture of us with the canyon and the river in the background three truths, lessons in geology and marriage, occurred to me.
(1) The Grand Canyon is carved by the Colorado River, but the river is defined by the canyon.
There’s a symbiotic relationship between the two. Each one has an influence, an affect on the other. There’s no way to know what one would have been like without the other. Each is, in some measure, a creation of the other.
(2) The change is slow.
We saw a film from the National Park Service while we were there. Did you know that The Grand Canyon gets deeper each year by about the thickness of a piece of paper? Think of that in terms of your own marriage. Change is incremental, but constant. For good or bad, the way we are with each other has a slow but ongoing influence.
(3) In the end, the canyon and the river are each more beautiful because of the other.
Aristotle was right; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The various deep layers of sediment so vivid in the golden light of sunset are only visible because the river has revealed them. And the river’s course is shaped by the varying density and porosity of the canyon’s geological composition.
The canyon wouldn’t be grand without the river.
The river would lose its dramatic setting without the canyon walls to serve as a scenic backdrop.
I want to have the best possible influence on my husband.
I hope he aspires to the same thing where I’m concerned.
The potential is there for us each to be better because of the other.
I think that’s what God intended 🙂
I recently taught on grace for a Women’s study.
God’s grace came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus is at the heart of a marriage that grace infuses the relationship with love and a desire for God’s best in each other’s life.
My husband’s influence has tempered my ‘hot’ reactions.
His good humor and steady cheerfulness have had a cooling effect on me. When we traveled in France we stayed in a boutique hotel run by a charming Vietnamese gentleman. When my husband asked if we could get some glasses for wine in our room he replied, “Why Not?” Anything we asked he would smile and say, “Of course, why not?” In a way, that’s my husband’s outlook on life. Genial, optimistic, and ‘why not’. It’s hard to resist that kind of force for good.
I think I’ve helped him find the light again when he’s been deeply wounded by others.
Even just being a sounding board when he’s been working through the hurt and confusion. I confess I think I’ve received more than I’ve given, but then I’m clearly the more needy in the character department 🙂
How would you say you’ve been a good influence on your partner?
In what ways have you been ‘changed for the better’ because of your relationship with your spouse?
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
The following diagram of John 3:16 was shared by James Montgomery Boice in a devotional called How Great Thou Art. It gives perspective to the simple and familiar words of the best known of all Bible verses. It takes a black and white truth and paints it with vivid color.
You might want to read through it a few times over.
God ~ the greatest Lover
so loved ~ the greatest degree
the world ~ the greatest company
that He gave ~ the greatest act
His only begotten Son ~ the greatest gift
that whosoever ~ the greatest opportunity
believes ~ the greatest simplicity
in Him ~ the greatest attraction
should not perish ~ the greatest promise
but ~ the greatest difference
have ~ the greatest certainty
everlasting life ~ the greatest possession
Do you find yourself responding to one of the ‘greatest’ more than the others? Why do you think that one resonates with you?
For you visual people—I tried, I really tried to make the ‘the’s line up, but like Ariel in The Little Mermaid it was hopeless, completely hopeless!!!
This is a lazy Saturday morning!
Saturday’s are different if you’re retired.
You don’t have to cram errands and household chores into a few hours of your free time. You can go to the cleaners at 2:22 PM on Tuesday or hit Trader Joe’s Thursday at 3:07 PM before the moms arrive with kids and the aisles fill with little people driving little carts right into your shins 🙂
When you’re retired every day becomes Saturday.
So what are you gonna do with all that time? All that freedom?
Pastor John Piper shares about stoking our zeal and making sure we write some stellar final chapters to the later years of life.
Please, please, please click this link and read this. It’s not political, it’s deeply spiritual and empowering.
Break free from the spirit of this age. See the world — see your life — the way God sees it.
That was the take home point for me.
See your life the way God sees it.
It’s a challenge to ignore the world’s message. It’s not easy because that message plays into our own desires and even our inner dialogue that says we’ve earned our time on the bench.
But is that really where we want to be, on the bench?
Sidelined from our calling. Wasting the years of hard-gleaned wisdom and hard-earned experience? Squandering a prime opportunity to be a doer in the kingdom of God.
“God chooses to be helpless apart from cooperation with man.”
G. Campbell Morgan (evangelist, preacher, and Bible scholar)
Why doesn’t God use angels, or writing in the sky?
Why would He include us in His purposes? We’re just dust.
We can ask why.
We can claim our lives and time as our own.
We can stay on the bench.
Let’s choose not and see where God leads.
Photo: Mikael Kristenson
Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.
Sometimes when you sense a special moment you gotta stop and get out of the car!
Driving home one late afternoon I saw a huge gathering of birds flying in an amazing formation over the Apple campus. It was an aerial ballet and I decided if I was gonna catch the show and fully enjoy the choreography, I better not do it while driving in rush hour traffic. The spectacle only lasted a few minutes, but its beauty raised the hair on my arms, left me with a lump in my throat and a fresh shot of joy in my heart.
A friend mentioned later on Facebook that he’d seen the same phenomenon a few days before.
And then I saw this on Youtube and had to share it with you. You have to get 30 seconds into this video to get to the good stuff 🙂
The science behind how these birds do this is interesting, but the mystery of it and its deeper meaning are what fascinate me.
God is into abundance.
In the world He made we see it in the starry skies and teeming oceans. When these birds get together in massive numbers it reminds me of that truth. We are inching up on 7 billion people on earth, but there are very few identical twins 🙂 We all share similar vessels, but with infinite variety in the details. And each one of us matters. We’re not interchangeable and substitutable.
God adds layers of perfection in everything He makes.
Tangerines are nourishing. They also taste and smell delicious. Bonus ~ they are beautiful shiny orange globes. What does that say about God? Why do we have taste buds and tangerines? If you believe God made both, then take the escalator down another level and ask yourself why. Why is there still so much beauty in a fallen world? How can softly falling rain quiet our anxiousness? Or a little lavender oil on the nightstand soothe us to sleep? Why does a child’s laughter make us laugh, or birdsong illicit a smile?
God is constantly speaking to us.
I’ve never understood the theory of a far-removed maker who jump-started the world and took off for greener pastures. There’s too much intrinsic design for that kind of detached abandonment. He Is There and He Is Not Silent, she said while snagging a good line from Francis Schaeffer’s book title 🙂
So what is He saying? Here’s some of what I’ve been hearing.
No one is redundant, we’re each uniquely integral to His plan and purpose.
- Don’t believe Satan’s rumor that you don’t matter.
You do, we all do. In our families, in our communities, at work, or just getting our nails done, God wants us to carry Him into all those relationships, all those one-on-one encounters. The everyday, the mundane encounter contains the potential of a divine appointment. Routine interactions become moments of destiny.
- Don’t discount your value and intended contribution.
God has brought you this far. Through all kinds of experiences, good and bad, uplifting and soul-crushing. Don’t waste any of it. What you have to share—only YOU have to share. Be led by the Holy Spirit. Look around and ask Him if there’s anybody you can smile at, talk with or gently encourage.
God is constantly inviting us to be more like Him.
- When fruit matures it soaks up the sun and turns it into mouth-watering sweetness.
As we walk through days with Jesus, we soak up the Son and His character adds something that sweetens us. I feel like He makes us ‘divinely appetizing’ to those He surrounds us with. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit making each of us more like Jesus.
God’s fingers can touch nothing but to mold it into loveliness.
God fits the mouthpiece to the message. Working in us love and kindness, offering through us His grace and truth to hungry yearning hearts. He makes us palatable 🙂 We have this treasure in earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7).
We have to keep the lines of communication open. We have to learn to make listening a daily habit.
Tell me in the morning about your love, because I trust you. Show me what I should do, because my prayers go up to you.
Psalm 143:8 NCV
He is there and He is not silent.
God wants to tell each of us how much He loves us and invite us to enjoy all He’s made and shared with us. And I know He wants to include each of us in His plans and give us the joy of taking part in His purposes.
Nothing kicks boredom to the curb faster than realizing God is using you to touch someone’s life.
We all get lots of messages every day. Full Inboxes, pinging text notifications, and vibrating phones. If we’re not careful they’ll gobble up all of our attention.
God’s voice is the still small one.
He has a pre-set volume. We have to turn down all the other noise to hear Him 🙂
I can’t tell you what His message to you personally is, but I know He has something to say to every one of us.
The question is, are we getting the message?
Sure, there’s plenty about God we don’t understand or comprehend. But I don’t want to miss the glimpses of glory, the moments of majesty, and the soft whispers. If we look and if we listen we’ll see and hear ~ and know a little more of Him tomorrow than we do today.
Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways,
And how small a whisper we hear of Him!
But the thunder of His power who can understand?
. . .the mere edges of His ways.
Ohhh, that’s the perfect description of the starling murmuration ~ the edges of His ways.
Let’s stop thinking that only people like Moses or Abraham heard from God. He recorded plenty of truth about Himself in the world He made.
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
Psalm 19:1-6 ESV
And Jesus said His sheep hear His voice.
I’m working on my listening skills.
How about you?
What have you been hearing lately?
Last night trying to do downward facing dog I thought to myself, “You’re too old for this”!
But that just can’t be true.
I was reading through the early chapters of Genesis this morning, stiff muscles and all, and I saw that Noah was like 500 years old when he started building the ark and 600 when he finished it and the rain began.
What if Noah had thought, “I’m too old for this”?
Where would we all be?
Well, we wouldn’t be at all, or ever, but that’s not the point.
Grandma Moses started ‘painting in earnest at 78’ when her arthritis made embroidery too painful. 1500 canvases according to Wikipedia.
I have two friends who both got their PhD’s at 60. Freaky overachievers 🙂
Today we are the perfect age for whatever God has for us to do.
How do I know that?
Because we’ve reached today.
You can’t argue with that logic.
And why would you want to? With a whole world out there of stuff to do we’ll find plenty of nay-sayers and plenty of adversity.
I’m just saying, let’s not let something as meaningless as the number of candles on a cake limit us.
Life is a great big canvas; throw all the paint on it you can.
We all have the same 24 hours in every single day.
That’s what I read in a lot of books and articles on productivity.
And I’ve let it drive me not motivate me.
At the heart of that statement is our fear of failure and our constant urge to measure ourselves against others.
As though what somebody else does has any bearing at all on my life, my path. Seriously, it’s absurd and destructive.
The little clock pictured above is a travel souvenir. I’ve loved it well, but it began slowing down. It kept time erratically until one day it decided to be something other than a clock. Lately it’s become a reminder “That life is so urgent it necessitates living slow”. That’s a quote from Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, a book I can’t stop reading.
In a beautiful chapter called A Sanctuary of Time she pleads the case against hurry.
It’s a chronic condition for some of us. A wasting disease that strips us of vitality and joy leaving us frustrated, irritable, and dissatisfied with life. In our rush to fit more into every minute and hour, we lose the ability to simply be in any single moment. In trying to stretch our time we lose it altogether. Like the bubbles we blew with our little pink rectangle of Bazooka—we’ve over-reached and all the breath seeped out through the spot that could stretch no further.
The solution is to quit being amateurs.
“On every level of life, from housework to heights of prayer, in all judgment and efforts to get things done, hurry and impatience are sure marks of the amateur.”
That’s from a woman named Evelyn Underhill that Voskamp quotes. What an encouraging challenge that is to me at the beginning of a new year.
What will it take to quit living like an amateur? Hurrying from one thing to another, living life in a mindless blur of activity. I’m craving guidance from God and the clarity that comes from time spent with Him. In my ‘mother years’ I didn’t think, I just did. Now without those constant demands I can be easily diverted. Lots of beginnings and fewer finishes.
Some days I feel like this Golden Retriever.
I want to savor the life God has given me, but I want to live it well.
To do the things that should be done in this—my life. To work, to love, to share, to create, to give thanks, to worship God and seek Him with earnest focus.
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. Eccles. 3:1
Now it’s your turn 🙂
Who are you reading that inspires you?
Is it possible you can make 2016 a better year by creating a list of New Year’s Resolutions?
I don’t know, but I’m gonna try.
Whether you see it as motivation, inspiration, or an exercise in futility—The New Year’s Resolutions List has made its annual appearance here there and everywhere. That’s a Beatles reference for those of you who don’t have an AARP membership.
Right up front I want to let you know that there’s an official opt-out day if you decide you don’t want to play anymore.
National Ditch Your Resolutions Day is January 17th.
I could find zilch about the origins of the day, but we all know its origins are in our general lameness at keeping resolutions. By day 17 discipline-fatigue sets in and so some wise soul knew we needed an official day to get out from under the blame and shame.
Like Google analytics, I love lists, but I opted instead for poetry form in my personal version of The Ubiquitous 2016 New Year’s Resolutions List.
Like the best lists of this kind it’s aspirational and improbable.
It’s a blend of high-minded goals and low-brow ambition, it’s a veritable latte of fun and faith, and it’s the best I can manage and still get the sheets changed.
*This is important because my whole self-worth is strangely attached to the regular changing of linens ;). I know better than to waste countless $$$$ and hours trying to discover in psychotherapy the source of this attachment or try to affect a detachment.
Who knows what my fickle self-worth would glom onto if I was ever successful???
Without further preamble, ceremony, or ado, here are my 2016 New Year’s Resolutions.
To stop and smell the roses
To do my very best
To work as hard as I can
To finally get some rest
To eat more greens
To take more steps
To brush and floss
To tidy and toss
To sort and file
To read and think
To eat less sugar
To more water drink
To write more letters
To see more friends
To turn off the TV
To make amends
To curb my temper
To hold my tongue
To tone up my abs
To work till it’s done
To talk to Jesus every day
To listen when He speaks
To give Him every burden
To first His Kingdom seek
To count up all His blessings
To write them down in ink
To pray for little children
To recall that in a blink
I’ll one day change completely
Mystery in a moment of time
A heavenly body will clothe me
Immortal by Jesus’ design
Then I’ll live with God forever
And with all on His name who believe
In a place He is now preparing
His children to Himself He’ll receive
I’ll see Him as He is, as we say, face to face
All my sin, my weakness, and disgrace
Blessedly gone and forgotten
Thankfully and at last
And New Year’s Resolutions definitely a thing of the past!
Happy New Year 🙂
As always I’d love to hear from you.
Have you made your list? Do you feel having goals written down has helped you to make desired changes?
If you could change just one thing in 2016 what would it be?
And if you liked this, feel free to share with friends on FB or Twitter.
photo by Michael Hull
We all have flaws. His was that he was a leper.
But this story isn’t about him, it’s about her.
About a little girl child, part of the spoils of war, who without hostility or bitterness, without meanness or vengeful spite wanted to see him healed.
How does a child, abducted from her family and taken hostage, cling to God in faith and care one bit about the health or well-being of her captor?
There is more than one miracle in this old story.
Whatever she knew of the God of Israel she remembered it even in her captivity. She carried it away with her to Syria and right into the house of a military commander and his wife.
Compassion flowed out from her child-heart.
Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
2 Kings 5:1-3
I can’t imagine how this child, this little girl, can want something good, something redemptive, something whole-making for this man.
But she does.
It’s godly to want good for others. To care about people and want blessings and a touch from God to come into their lives.
In the circumstances of her life, she finds the intersection of compassion and faith.
Compassion and faith.
That dynamic combination made her an evangelist.
She knew her master’s need and she knew that the prophet, the man of God, could cure him of his leprosy. She actually cares, has love, for this man and his wife.
She cares enough to share what she knows.
Do You Care Enough to Share What You Know?
We’re talking about evangelism at church.
We’re talking about talking about it in January.
I can’t wait that long because I know people with needs.
Picture someone you know who doesn’t know Christ, they’re not a believer, not a Christian.
What do you think is that person’s greatest need?
How would believing on Christ as Savior meet that need?
How would coming to know God in a personal way heal that soul, mend that life, meet that need?
That’s the lesson we learn from this child.
Look for the need in a person’s life and you’ll find the place where they can meet God.
*Read through 2 Kings 5:15 to see Naaman’s confession of faith in God.
The Jesus Style
Take any of the gospel accounts and examine how Jesus interacts with people.
In Capernaum He heals a man in the synagogue who is demon possessed and then He goes to Peter’s house for dinner, but first heals Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever. In another city He healed a man with leprosy and on another day a paralytic whose friends let him down through the roof. First he forgave the man’s sins, but went on to heal his physical malady to demonstrate to the religious leaders that He had authority to pronounce sins forgiven.
Jesus saw needs.
Spiritual needs, physical needs, emotional needs, the sins that mar us and the wounds that scar us!
He sees them all. He wants us to care enough to see the needs of people. Then He’ll give us the opportunity to evangelize. To bring good tidings of great joy to people. The deepest most divinely beautiful aspect of the gospel message is that God loves and has demonstrated His love in sending His Son.
~ A relationship with God can meet every need of the human heart.
Do you believe that?
~ God loves every single person.
Do you believe that?
If you do it will make you an evangelist.
Jesus mentions the story of Naaman the leper when He visited Nazareth, the village where He was brought up.
“. . . And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
He includes it as part of a rebuke for their lack of faith and their scorn for Him.
They became furious with Him and tried to throw Him off the edge of a cliff.
But look at the first part of His message that morning in the synagogue:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
A Spirit filled messenger with a message of good news from God for the poor.
A message of liberty for the captives.
A message that gives sight to the blind and freedom.
A message of deliverance for the oppressed.
The example we should follow, if we are serious about winning souls for the kingdom of God, is the example given us by Jesus as He walked among us.
See people in their need.
Let God’s love be the anointing that commissions you.
Let God’s Spirit be the power that animates your message.
Proclaim with assurance God’s love and favor toward all.
Share with clarity and simplicity the heart of the gospel:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Declare with conviction the person of Jesus Christ as God and Savior.
And then ask if they want to come and have their need met in Him.
I have a friend who went with a group on a short-term missions trip. She said most people she talked with prayed to receive Christ as Savior. Others on that trip shared the same truth, but didn’t find the same response from the ones they spoke to. As the group members talked about their experiences at the end of the day my friend realized that she had actually asked people to make a decision.
Others shared the gospel, but didn’t invite a decision.
They hesitated and the moment passed.
Again, Jesus is our example. Look at what He says to Martha in this passage from John 11:25-27.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
“Do you believe this?”
Jesus is asking Martha for a decision.
Don’t hesitate to ask for a decision.
Don’t sow the seed and walk on as the Enemy snatches it away.
Make sure the person you’re sharing with understands the truth and the importance of responding to it.
Ask if they believe what the Bible says about Jesus?
Ask if they want a friendship with God?
Do they want forgiveness of sin?
Do they want deliverance from bondage?
Do they desire spiritual life and union with God?
Would they like their life to count for eternity?
“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.
I received Christ without anyone asking me if I wanted to pray a sinner’s prayer.
I heard the gospel and believed it that very moment. But a few days later the friend who had invited me to the Bible Study asked me if I was a Christian. I told her I hadn’t been, but that I was when I left her home after the study. I didn’t know I was suppose to say something. It never occurred to me. I had heard the good news and my heart couldn’t wait to say Yes!
We’re not alone in this!!!
In fact we’re just a mouthpiece.
It’s the Holy Spirit Who does the real work in a human heart and mind.
But there is Romans10:9-10
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
That passage encourages me to give a person the opportunity to say it out loud.
To respond in the moment.
To pray a prayer that’s witnessed by another.
Remember that little girl.
Open your eyes to the people around you. Let God show you their need and fill your heart with love and compassion. Pray for them. Pray for an opportunity to be used by God in their life, to bring healing and whole-ness, to bring truth and salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This afternoon a young man and woman will get married.
They’ll join their lives, as the old words say, for better or worse.
It’ll be some of both; married life always is.
Having found a great dress on sale for their special day, I’m now contemplating the weightier issues of matrimony.
First, it has the power to show us who we really are.
It unmasks, it peels back the outer layers, it lays bare the timbers of character.
At some point there’s no convenient hiding place, no ducking behind the furniture, or slinking behind the door. Sooner or later the real us shows up and says hello, or something much less friendly and civilized. We’ve been provoked by all that oneness, all that sharing of life. Which by that point we’ve all figured out means less of ‘my way’ in deference to the preferences of the one time object of our affection.
Too late, or maybe just at the right time, we discover that most frequently we ourselves are the object of our affection.
Second, marriage is both testing ground and factory floor for character.
It’s a crucible set over the flame that shows us the stuff we are made of. It’s a refinery for burning off the impurities and less than desirable components of our ‘all too human’ nature. You want to be a better person? Get married and stay married. Learn to give up having things your own way. Care about another the way you care about yourself. Let your spouse choose what to watch on TV, or where to go for pizza. It sounds trivial right?
But it’s not.
This is one of the hardest things most of us ever do in this life: learn to give up having our own way.
So yes, it’s much harder than this young couple can imagine it will be.
We women want the Fairy Tale
And the dress.
We want babies.
I know, it makes no sense to want to bring a totally selfish, demanding, and completely helpless individual into your life, but we do.
And we want our man to want that too.
What do I know of why men want to marry?
For pot roast? Beef stew? Sex? Filing jointly on tax returns? Someone to remind you of dental appointments?
Probably not those things or not in that order.
I’m just guessing here?????
Please help me out here guys and share the real deal in the comments section. . .
Third, good marriages require regular maintenance
My husband once shared with me a comment made by the groom’s father. They were at a Men’s Bible study and discussing Proverbs 27:15.
A continual dripping on a very rainy day
And a contentious woman are alike;
After a few typical jokes about nagging wives and dripping faucets our friend spoke up. He said he knew a thing or two about dripping faucets and one thing it always showed was a lack of proper maintenance. The other guys got quiet and he said, “I think a woman resorts to nagging because she knows she’s not been heard or responded to properly.”
There’s truth in that.
Not that I endorse or recommend nagging.
I tried it and it totally doesn’t work.
I suggest clarity, conciseness, and a disciplined lack of emotion when communicating about anything problematic in your marriage.
And Billy Graham’s wife Ruth always said a woman was never in a strong negotiating position with curlers in her hair.
Also, every woman should watch this scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
I remember another wedding we attended at the same beautiful venue where we’ll go later today.
The thing I recall most vividly is the thoughts shared by the father of the bride.
This was his advice to a couple beginning life together.
I went past the field of a sluggard,
past the vineyard of someone who has no sense;
thorns had come up everywhere,
the ground was covered with weeds,
and the stone wall was in ruins.
I applied my heart to what I observed
and learned a lesson from what I saw:
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.
Marriage is something two people build together.
It’s something they nurture with love or starve with neglect.
It can be a shelter or a storm front, a garden or a wasteland.
The vows are just words.
The ceremony just the public witness to the words.
Marriage is a sacred endeavor that shapes and molds two people into one.
What advice would you give to a young couple on their wedding day?
UPDATE: I just discovered this article called 12 Things Marriage Is and 12 Things It Isn’t