Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Great Thing about Sunday

Recently, I had the joy of beginning another New Member’s Class. I often tell our church and the class, that teaching this particular class and subject is one of my favorite things to do. There are many churches today that recommend people participate in their New Member’s Class, but for us at Trinity it is a requirement for membership. When I first came, thankfully this was already a part of our by-laws. Now it wasn’t really enforced, in fact, we had some that were in leadership that had never taken the New Member’s Class and therefore, were still classified as a “Membership in Waiting.” Some of these individuals refused to take the class and wanted to stay in their position! As bizarre as this sounds to Trinity today, it should bring up the question… “Why is this class so important?” Well, below let me ask you to consider just three reasons we discuss in our class.

1. To preserve church unity: The best way to help the unity of the church is for her members to understand what is expected of them. We live in a day in which it is more difficult to join a gym than it is to covenant with the people of God to walk faithfully in His statutes. The result is we have churches who have many unconverted people as “members” of their church, many people who harm the testimony of Christ with their lifestyle, and many that have their names in a machine but never come, never serve and never give to the body of which they claim to be a part. I promise you that those who join Trinity they know who we are, and what is expected biblically of our membership after our 5 to 6 week class. This helps everyone!

2. To help new members fit in the body: Being members of a body means you serve the body. Being a member means you actually show up when the rest of the body parts show up. When we talk about the ministries and opportunities we have to serve Christ at Trinity, it gives our new members an opportunity to see where they would fit in to serve. I know this may be a novel idea, but when people join this body we believe God places them here to give, not to get. Now, in giving they receive, but as believers we are created to serve Christ first, and love the Bride of Christ with a white hot passion. Having a New Member’s Class gives us the ability to explain this in detail.

3. To help new members understand the structure and direction of Trinity: It gives me an opportunity to walk through the Word of God and explain why we are structured the way we are. It gives me an opportunity to discuss doctrine and why we are so passionate about it. We can explain our view about everything from missions to children. When this class is over, about 95% of those who attend join Trinity, but the other 5% know they need to be somewhere else. Either way, it clarifies the direction the Lord has for them.

All of this to say, I am thrilled that the Lord is allowing me to teach another New Member’s Class and I am so excited to share with you how God is working in the life of our church and our new members.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Reasons to Rejoice

I have shared with our church before that, each Monday one of the first things we do as a staff is discuss “evidences of grace” going on in our fellowship. This not only allows us to rejoice in what the Lord is doing in the lives of our church family, but it also reminds us to look for ways that God is working around us. Each year on our Deacon’s Retreat, I have an opportunity to discuss the “Scoreboard” of Trinity. We, as Baptist pastors, have so many people confused as to what success is in the body of Christ, and what should we look for when trying to determine if a church is successful. In short, success is faithfulness! If we are faithful stewards of the gifts, opportunities and time God has given us for His Kingdom work, then that is success. If we are faithful in preaching the Word of God, if we are faithful in carrying forth the Great Commission, if we are faithful in loving one another, we will be successful as a church. Recently, in preparing for a meeting, we began to discuss the “scoreboards” at Trinity and, to be honest, it was a great time of sharing evidences of God’s amazing grace on Trinity. I thought it would be a blessing for our fellowship to see a few of the things that we mentioned (of course time and space will not allow for everything).

• We are involved in, or in the initial stages of getting involved with, a total of 20 different local, national and international mission projects. Of these, we were only involved in 2 three years ago. This ranges from dealing with reaching an “unreached” people group in Africa, to help in planting a church in Vancouver, to helping provide supplies and minister to those in our local Care Pregnancy Center. The passion of the people of God to carry out the Great Commission, not just with our money but with our actions is a great “scoreboard” to look at.

• Spiritual Growth and increased accountability: We have over 60 men in our Men’s Bible Study on Thursday mornings at 6 am. Of these men, there are multiple mentoring/discipleship relationships that have taken root and are meeting throughout the month. We have several senior adult ladies mentoring some younger ladies and we know of at least 4 young ladies who have a total of 8 other ladies they are mentoring. We have over 20 people involved in a Systematic Theology class each Sunday afternoon because they are committed to studying the theology that undergirds our faith.  Each staff member has a minimum of 3 other people in church leadership with whom they have a discipleship relationship, and we currently have 24 students involved in evangelistic training. In our Parents meeting earlier this year we had as many as 50 parents coming together to walk through “The Heart Of Anger” and encourage one another in their calling to disciple their children. We have more children involved in AWANA this year than last year! When we had VBS this year, it was the first year (at least since I have been here) that we had all our volunteers in place several weeks out; they were signed up, attended training and were faithful to this outreach.

• We had 109 visitors register since January and we had a total of 77 join our fellowship.  
Now, we have no way of knowing how many actual visitors we have had come in our church, but 109 filled out a card, and this means that over 70% of those that we have registered actually come to join our fellowship. This means they come in desiring membership and go through a six week New Member’s Class. Of the new members that have joined, 80% of them are involved in a ministry and are giving.

All of this to say, that these are things that God is doing through our people. These are things that matter! What KINGDOM work is going on? Are we more accountable? Is there real discipleship going on? THIS is what we, as a church, are called to do. Thank you for your love for Christ, and thank God for His wonderful grace!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Gospel and the Titus 2 Woman

When I came across the blog below, I felt it is so relevant for our ladies and men to see how the gospel gives us acceptance, and the joy of being sanctified. I hope this blesses all of you today, but especially our dear sweet ladies at Trinity!

Titus 2 is Not Just a Woman's To-Do List

Jen Smidt » God Study Scripture Heart Gospel Justification Holy Spirit

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. -- Titus 2:3-5

I think we may have put the cart before the horse.

Titus 2 is an excellent passage of Scripture for women looking to understand the call of a godly woman. The first few verses have been sliced, diced, and examined from every angle to comprehend what it is that a godly woman looks like. How should she act? What does she do?

First, She Must Be

After years of honing in on the beginning of this chapter as my “godly guide for women,” I actually took the time to finish reading the chapter and my eyes were opened to the fullness of truth that left me encouraged and equipped to actually live out the call of the opening verses.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.   - Titus 2:11-14

What a relief! These verses change everything!

“ The list of already accomplished truths from these verses puts the focus squarely where it belongs: on Christ.”

Receiver, not Achiever

If I am only looking at verses 3-5 through the religious lens of, “I’ve got to do these things,” I will fail every time. It is an impossible list of tasks that cannot be accomplished.

A to-do list of this magnitude leaves even the best-intentioned of us feeling ashamed of our shortcomings. For every hour read through these verses, spend an hour basking in the identity that verses 11-14 lavishes upon you.

The list of already accomplished truths from these verses puts the focus squarely where it belongs: on Christ. It labels me a recipient of God’s grace and not an achiever of it.

• He is the Grace of God - I am given grace

• He brings salvation - I am saved

• He trains us - I am being trained

• He is Hope and Glory worth waiting for - I must wait

• He gave Himself - I will receive

• He redeems us - I am redeemed

• He purifies us - I am purified

Then, She Can Do

Because of Jesus’ love for me, I am excited to live out the actions of verses 3-5. I can be reverent, teach, train younger women, show self-control, kindness and love to my family. I have joy when working hard at home and submitting to my husband because I am humbled and amazed at the kindness and grace Christ showed me.

When read in its entirety, Titus 2 releases us from the treadmill of accomplishing as godly women and welcomes us into accessing the riches of Christ’s godliness to be all that a devoted female disciple is called to be.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Wish you people would just shut up....

This title may be a bit harsh, but it is how I sincerely feel when it comes to Pat Robertson’s recent comments on divorcing someone who has Alzheimer’s. You can see his comments here   but, in short they state that it would be okay to divorce your spouse if they have this terrible disease because it is “a type of death.” Really, Mr. Robertson? So, are we now redefining death? Can you not see Pandora’s box in this situation? I mean if are “types” of death, then really is no life, if there is no life, then let’s end their life early. For that matter, when a disease is terminal, let’s not wait around - let’s just kill them now so those that are healthy at this time can get on with their life. Let’s not demonstrate to our children, to a lost world what the whole idea of what “in sickness and health” looks like. I know this is a very strange idea for you, and some members of your staff, but let’s take a look at what the Word of God says.

Malachi 2:14-16: “Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the Lord has been witness between you and wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion. And your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks a godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. ‘For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence….”

God calls this a “covenant” when he speaks of divorce and says that it “covers one’s garment with violence” – in short, it is the murder of marriage….not something to be taken lightly. So, why is it that Mr. Robertson is the only one who recognizes this disease as a type of death? After all, when a persons contracts this dreaded disease the medical bills and care can be astronomical! Why is it that they are not issued a death certificate and the life insurance company pays up? Why? Because they are not dead! Why is it when a person contracts Alzheimer’s we don’t go ahead and have a funeral? Because there is still a preciousness to life, even if the individual can remember nothing, there is an opportunity for the spouse and family to glorify God in what is surely, the worse of circumstances.

We have a dear family who brings their loved one to church periodically, who has Alzheimer’s. To watch these sweet ladies deal with this man as they worship, while their heart is breaking, is also God honoring. It displays the fact that we are still one in Christ, and marriage is still a beautiful thing even in dark times. Marriage is not about me! Marriage is a living illustration of the love Christ has for His bride. His Bride who forgets his love, His Bride who forgets his statutes, His Bride who forgets His grace, but His Bride who, in spite of her forgetfulness, in spite of the results of sin that stain her, HE NEVER LEAVES HER OR FORSAKES HER. That is real love – that, Mr. Robertson is God’s idea of what marriage really is!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Be Thinking Christians

Even in believers there is a tendency to make something “gospel centric” that isn’t part of the gospel at all. Being raised in church, I have watched a variety “movements” and “legalism” come and go and, in truth participated in some of this. I mean, I have watched everything from Christians sitting at home with their lights off, hiding during Halloween, to Churches competing and outdoing much of the world with “Fall Festivals” during Halloween… but, don’t get me started on that because even when they go “all in” for the Fall Festivals, then you have the “no costumes allowed” churches and the “costumes welcome” churches. There are several members of Trinity that were raised in churches much like me - churches that preached the Word and loved Jesus (and I thank God for them), but most certainly added some “laws” that were seen as taboo. From the “no card playing” to the “ladies don’t wear pants,” to my favorite growing up…one that actually encouraged hypocrisy, the rule of “No Shorts on the Church Bus.” Oh, don’t get me wrong! We could wear shorts on the trip, we would go to the beach on a retreat, BUT under NO circumstances should you wear shorts on the bus! I wasn’t raised in the 70’s - I was in the student group in the late 80’s - and some of those years “jams” were still in (you remember “jams” right? the longer shorts that went all the way to your knee?) But you better not dare to show up on the bus with this on! I say this promoted hypocrisy because we could wear shorts under our sweat pants, jeans, parachute pants (have I mentioned that I miss parachute pants!?) or what have you, and we could take them off when we stopped to go eat in the mall, BUT when you got on the Church bus, yes that Greyhound that the A/C never worked dare not take those sweat pants off and expose your knee. Oh, those were the days!

I say all of this not to offend those adults who made those ridiculous rules. I say all of this because we still see such nonsense today and, in truth there is a high probability all of us as believers may hold to things as our convictions, which we want to force on others. A conviction is something that the Holy Spirit places in my life as a standard in my life - my behavior, attitude and boundaries. It is something I can and should live by and guide my family by…but it is not something that I can judge others by or impose on them. One of them that I have mentioned several times is that of music. I have heard on more than one occasion, incredible artists with doctrinal lyrics (that say as much as any of our cherished hymns and choruses) being accused of singing music that sounds worldly because of the beat of the music or the style. Is there someone that can define a “worldly sound?” I mean, I have heard worldly lyrics – but, I imagine if you ask the early Puritans, your grandmother, and some of our young seminary graduates of today what worldly music sounds like, you would get an amazing difference in answers. When I hear guys like Tripp Lee or Shai Linne, I am thankful that God has gifted them to rap such amazing God honoring lyrics. If you believe the problem is that it sounds “worldly,” then I would challenge you to listen to the beat of some of our choruses and ask grandma if she ever heard keyboard music and drums like that in the “Bar-rooms.”

I get on this soapbox of music only to ask if you have ever heard a song, chorus, or hymn, that gave a biography of the Prince of Preacher’s life? No, me either until now! Enjoy this incredible clip detailing the life of Charles Spurgeon….

Monday, September 12, 2011

Are You Toxic?

When I began this blog there were a couple purposes: (1) to keep open communication with our church members and, (2) to teach and/or give resources that cause us to think Biblically. These goals leave options open to do everything from talking about the latest issues in the news, recommending a good book, or highlighting a helpful blog I read recently. Well, in this blog I want to highlight a wonderful blog that speaks of “toxic” church members – I hope it serves as a encouragement, or for some, even a rebuke.

Those Toxic Non-Attenders

By Matt Schmucker
Growing up I always heard that it was better to be accused of committing a sin of omission than a sin of commission. That way, you could always chalk your sin up to forgetfulness, ignorance or thoughtlessness. The sin of commission was the bigger no-no since it appeared deliberate and calculated.


I fear too many Christians think that not attending church on a regular basis is a sin of omission; if it's a sin at all, it would be a little one. No big deal. "Don't bring that legalism over here!" Apparently, this is what many pastors, elders, deacons and whole congregations think, since they have done little to address the staggering numbers of non-attenders.

For example, in my own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, just one-third of the formal membership of over forty thousand churches in the U.S. actually attend on any given Sunday. That means that about ten million so-called Christians are actually no-shows.


Since not all non-attenders are the same, churches should treat different kinds of non-attenders differently. Here are four different kinds:

• Those who live in the area and are unable to attend: age or health prevent them. Such elderly or physically suffering members should be treated with special care. This article isn't about them.

• Those who live (temporarily) outside the area and are unable to attend: military or business assignments prevent them. Such (temporary) non-attenders should also be treated with special care since their travel for work places unique burdens on them and their family. This article isn't about them.

• Those who live outside the area and choose to keep their membership with your local church: distance prevents them. Such non-attenders should be encouraged to join a local church they can attend. This article is about them.

• Those who live in the area and sporadically, infrequently attend: nothing really prevents them except their own choice. This article is especially about them.


These last two types of non-attenders have a toxic effect on the local church because they render membership in the body of Christ meaningless.

In 1 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul speaks of the body and its parts as a metaphor for the church:

"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body." (1 Cor 12:12)

"Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." (1 Cor 12:27)

Between these two verses, Paul exhorts the members of the church in Corinth to see themselves as a part of the whole, in need of what every other member contributes. The parts have different functions (some are apostles, some are prophets, and so on), but they all come together to strengthen the whole. This is God's design for the body of Christ: when each member contributes something unique to the whole, God's own multifaceted glory will be put on display. Thus, when so-called members (parts) of Christ's body decide to detach themselves from the rest of the body, they threaten the body's integrity. If Christians are detached from a church body, what you have is no longer a body, but scattered limbs.

When I take the pendulum out of my grandfather's clock, it can still do certain things, such as open sealed paint can lids. But that's a mis-use of the pendulum. The pendulum (a part) was designed to fit inside the clock, join the other parts, and provide the weight to put in motion the cogs which turn the hands which allow us to tell time. That's how Christians are meant to function within the body of Christ. A Christian who cuts himself off from a local body of Christians is like a pendulum opening a paint can, not a pendulum that makes a clock run.

But non-attenders don't merely harm themselves; in fact they have a toxic effect on the local church to which they nominally belong. I would argue non-attenders have a toxic effect in four ways.


1. They Make Evangelism Harder

First, non-attenders make evangelism harder. Your church is called to be an outpost of God's kingdom in your community, a small but meaningful display of God's glory as you love one another and mature in Christ. Therefore, everyone who bears the name of Christ, as affirmed by your church, yet who willingly chooses to live their lives apart from the covenanted community of believers is practicing identity theft. They've taken Christ's name, but they don't honestly identify with his body, the local church.

To borrow Jonathan Leeman's metaphor, they wear your team's jersey, but they don't practice with or compete for your team. That confuses your witness to the unbelieving community around you. Non-Christians see your jersey on a guy who looks like he's playing for the other team. It's like a man who wears a Redskins jersey but who only cheers for the Cowboys, goes to Cowboys games, talks about the blue and silver and dreams of living in Dallas someday. It's inconsistent, confusing, and misleading. To go back to more biblical language, Christians have been adopted into the body of Christ. Non-attenders act as if they are orphans. This makes it all the more difficult for your church's corporate life to bear witness to the gospel.

2. They Confuse New Believers

Second, non-attenders confuse new believers. New believers are often a mess. Everything they thought was up is down, and everything they thought was down is up. There is great confusion in the first weeks and months and even years of a new believer's life. They need to be taught well.

But not only that, they need good models. When the doctrine they're taught doesn't sync with the models they see, they become confused. Non-attenders are not only reverse-witnesses, they're reverse models. They disregard and disobey countless passages of Scripture and fail to image God's character in even the most basic ways, even though they claim to be his adopted children.

In their arrogance, non-attenders are effectively saying to new believers, "All that stuff you're reading in the Bible isn't really necessary. You can live without encouragement from other Christians. You can live without sacrificing yourself to serve and love other Christians. You can live without teaching and preaching. You can live without shepherds."

3. They Discourage Regular Attenders

Third, non-attenders discourage regular attenders. Regular attenders sacrifice to keep their covenant with their local church. They give their money and their time to meet the needs of other members of the body, which is not easy to say the least. Non-attenders don't do these things, at least not with any regularity. So when a church allows non-attenders to remain members, they effectively gut the meaning of membership, which hurts and discourages the faithful.

Further, non-attenders rob the church of their needed service, which also tends to discourage more faithful attenders. Surely a church of 100 members, all of whom are laboring for God's glory with the gifts God has given them, is exponentially stronger than a church of 35 attenders and 65 non-attenders. Non-attenders unwittingly shift the entire burden to a few, a burden those few are not meant to carry alone.

4. They Worry Their Leaders

Fourth, non-attenders worry their leaders. Hebrews 13:17 says, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account." In light of this verse, a faithful pastor or elder should feel responsible for the spiritual state of every member of his flock. Like a father worried about his son who hasn't yet come home late at night, a good shepherd doesn't rest until all his sheep are accounted for. Non-attenders makes this task nearly impossible.

While time and courage are needed to address the problem of non-attenders, every pastor or elder should feel a burden to remove these no-shows and cure the toxic effect they have on evangelism, on new believers, on the faithful attenders, and on the church's shepherds. The payoff? As the church's membership increasingly consists only in those who faithfully attend and contribute to the life of the body, the church will begin to resemble the body God intended: a display of his wisdom that brings glory to the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ.

Matt Schmucker is executive director of 9Marks.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Who are We Worshipping?

A friend of mine posted this on his facebook page and, while you hear laughter in the background, the sad thing is I wonder how much of this our Lord really hears from our hearts each and every week. I have heard enough “preferences” about music to last a life time, and I think that most of these can be boiled down to the fact that we sing to ourselves more than to the Lord!

Monday, September 5, 2011

On the Heels of the Parent Summit

A couple of weeks ago we had a wonderful time at our Parent Summit. We discussed the teen culture of today, as well as speaking to the heart of the issues facing our families. We even had a bonus session on courtship vs. dating. In light of that, I came across this wonderful blog that should remind all of us the importance of the work of the Spirit of God in our child’s heart. I hope it blesses and encourages you.

Do Not Neglect the Holy Spirit in Parenting

“You have nothing to worry about with your kids,” she told me one day, “because you’re doing everything right.” These words from a pastor’s wife were meant to encourage but actually provoked more questions than answers. The women was well-meaning. She was saying there was no earthly way our kids could fail because my wife and I had been raised so well, we are grounded so deeply in our faith, and we subscribe to the “right” parenting techniques.

It was a lot of pressure. Our first daughter, Grace, had just turned 1. By all accounts we were doing a credible job. She was a good kid. The parental prophecy from our friend was often repeated in that first year of parenting. Dan and Angela are such great parents, aren’t they?

Fast forward two years and everything changed. Grace was in the throes of rebellion. Terrible 2s turned into terrible 3s. Even though our parenting paradigm had not changed, and we were subscribing to all of those same “right” methods, the same well-meaning women pulled my wife aside and issued an apocalyptic warning about Grace. If we didn’t “get her under control,” she’d end up profligate child. Then she named some infamous rebels we both knew well. Others told us that Grace was “going to end up in jail if we didn’t do something, that she was “one of the worst kids we’ve seen.” So in a matter of a few years we moved from parenting savants to parenting dunces.

In the years since, we’ve moved on. Looking back, that early criticism, while hurtful and often misguided, had elements of truth we adopted. We’ve matured and discovered additional techniques that have helped Grace grow into a delightful, radiant 6-year old girl.

While the advice we were given may be extreme and not normative for most parents, it does fit with a child-training paradigm that often seems more man-centered than Spirit-led.

Train Up a Child

If you were to survey evangelical parents and ask them to quote their foundational child-raising Scripture, the answer would likely be Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

This verse has become the basis for Christian parenting because we’ve been told, for generations now, that it is both a promise and a command. We think it’s a promise because it seems to guarantee success. The formula is rather simple: Do things God’s way and your kids will turn out right.

It’s also assumed to be a command. If your kids don’t turn out right, you must have disobeyed Scripture at some point. This has to be the case, because Scripture doesn’t lie, right?

Here’s the problem with this interpretation. It’s neither biblically accurate nor helpful. Worse yet, it has led to all kinds of unnecessary guilt on the part of Christian parents and perhaps led them to adopt a man-centered, results-oriented system for raising children.

Proverbs 22:6 is great wisdom. It’s in the inspired canon of Scripture. Still, the basic principles for biblical interpretation tell us to consider the genre. The proverbs are the best collection of wisdom anywhere in the world. They are thoughts from the Almighty on how to live and glorify God in the most practical areas of life. Ultimately they point us to Jesus Christ, the only one who perfectly illustrated the wise life. He is the wisdom of God personified (1 Cor. 1:24, 30; Col. 2:3).

While Proverbs are wisdom, they are not promises. Consider other well-known proverbs, such as Proverbs 15:1, which reminds us that a “gentle answer” turns away anger. This is generally true, but not always. I imagine that if I take my gentle answer to the gritty urban streets near where I live, my gentle answer might stir up wrath. Or consider Proverbs 17:17, which says a “friend loves at all times.” Generally speaking, you can count on your friends to love at all times. But then there are times when a friend betrays. Consider David’s words in Psalm 41:9: “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”

You could easily point out quite a few other instances where Proverbs taken as promises fall short of expectations. Which bring us back to Proverbs 22:6. To interpret this as biblical wisdom is, well, wise. Generally speaking, if you follow biblical parenting and discipleship models in the Scriptures, you’ll raise children who turn out well. But as a promise, this verse falls woefully short.

If Proverbs 22:6 were a promise (and by extension) a command, you have serious theological problems. God often referred to himself as the “parent” of the nation of Israel (Ex. 4:22-23; Jer. 3:19). And yet, you don’t have to be a Bible scholar to observe that Israel was a most rebellious child. Was God, therefore, a bad parent? Was Jesus a bad “parent” because Judas, one of his disciples, rejected him?

This illustrates the folly of such a formula-driven application of Proverbs 22:6. It reduces the Scriptures to a sanctified formula, a more spiritual-sounding version of Dr. Phil. This man-centeredness eliminates the only agent for human change: the Holy Spirit.

Enter the Holy Spirit

A better parenting paradigm is faithfulness-driven rather than results-led. Our role as parents is not to “produce” children who exhibit certain behavior criteria, but to be mere instruments in the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work in the heart of our children. We highly value and adhere to the wisdom of Proverbs, Deuteronomy, Hebrews, and other child-training passages in the Scriptures and realize only God transforms the hearts of our children.

Our first priority then becomes salvation, so the regenerating work of the Spirit can begin, both making the parenting job easier and also pointing toward lasting change. We look for signs of inner heart change rather than focusing primarily on external conformity.

I’ve seen this at work in my daughter, Grace. We believe she came to faith in Christ at the age of 5, not simply because she mouthed the “right words” in Awana or Sunday school, but because we have begun to witness the fruit of the Spirit’s work in her life. We often see this after she rebels. She has often approached us, many hours and even days after receiving discipline, and has expressed genuine remorse. We’ve also seen an increased hunger for spiritual content and recognition of theological ideas such as salvation, regeneration, and other aspects of the gospel message.

Recognition of the Holy Spirit’s pre-eminent role in changing hearts reshapes our parenting priorities. Removing the unnecessary weight of producing results helps us see our kids, not as a reflection of who we are, but as a unique creation in the image of the Creator. Instead of pushing our kids to abide by our standards as a way of conforming and producing their own righteousness, we might offer the disciplined life as gracious obedience to the Spirit, who empowers them to live the life of Christ.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Reaching Our World - Part 2

We have some families in our church that do a wonderful job of sharing Christ with their neighbors. Most of us spend a great number of hours on our jobs and we know our co-workers well - and we should have a real desire to see those that do not know Christ, turn to Him. But even though it doesn’t feel like it at times, most still spend more hours at home than at work and sadly, most of us come home and really do not know our neighbors at all. So, the web site I mentioned last week gave some incredible advice as to how to get to know those who live around us, with the ultimate goal of sharing the truth of the Gospel with them. Just as I challenged us last week, I hope your family will just take even one of these ideas and put it into practice.

1. Stay outside in the front yard longer while watering the yard

2. Walk your dog regularly around the same time in your neighborhood

3. Sit on the front porch and letting kids play in the front yard

4. Pass out baked goods (fresh bread, cookies, brownies, etc.)

5. Invite neighbors over for dinner

6. Attend and participate in HOA functions

7. Attend the parties invited to by neighbors

8. Do a food drive or coat drive in winter and get neighbors involved

9. Have a game night (yard games outside, or board games inside)

10. Art swap night - bring out what you’re tired of and trade with neighbors

11. Grow a garden and give out extra produce to neighbors

12. Have an Easter egg hunt on your block and invite neighbors use their front yards

13. Start a weekly open meal night in your home

14. Do a summer BBQ every Friday night and invite others to contribute

15. Create a block/ street email and phone contact list for safety

16. Host a sports game watching party

17. Host a coffee and dessert night

18. Organize and host a ladies artistic creation night

19. Organize a tasting tour on your street (everyone sets up food and table on front porch)\

20. Host a movie night and discussion afterwards

21. Start a walking/running group in the neighborhood

22. Start hosting a play date weekly for other stay at home parents

23. Organize a carpool for your neighborhood to help save gas

24. Volunteer to coach a local little league sports team

25. Have a front yard ice cream party in the summer