Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Motivation for Unity

Our Strategy and Building Teams are reading the book  The Great Evangelical Recession, by John Dickerson. He points out that one of the areas hurting the church today is the lack of unity.  Remembering this is how believers will impact the world for Christ, unity is one of the things Christ prayed for in His High Priestly prayer in John 17.  Paul urged us to keep this unity in Ephesians 4 and then we are reminded in 1st John that one of the tests of our salvation is our love for one another. In his book, Dickerson gives an illustration via a youtube clip and what unity can really do.  This link has had millions of hits and you may have seen it, but I want to encourage you to look at this through the lens of unity and remembering that we have a real enemy who is like a lion -  his desire is to devour. One of the ways he does this is through isolation and division. I hope this serves as motivation for us as believers to be united against our enemy and be unified for the glory of our Father!




Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Working Toward a Godly Marriage

Well, Michele and I are approaching our 20th wedding anniversary next month and, as we get closer to that date, I have been looking at and appreciating our marriage in a new way.  While we have recently taken some time away to reflect on the last 20 years and where we have grown as a couple, we have made that a regular practice in our marriage since the very beginning.  As a matter of fact, we have spent a great deal of time lately talking about, celebrating and strengthening our marriage.   I think all of us need a tune up, tweak, and review every now and then - marriages don't stay healthy on their own or just with the mindset of "it will take care of itself."  While having a godly, happy marriage may be your goal, it will never be accomplished if you don't work toward achieving it!  I thank God for our marriage and our commitment to one another, but I also recommit myself daily to loving my wife in a way that pleases and honors God and the marriage He has given me. 

Use these tips from the blog below to review and evaluate where your marriage is at, not waiting until trouble, apathy or indifference has set in.  Or, if your marriage is already characterized by these adjectives, then use these tips to set goals and take action!  Determine to make a difference. 


10 Things You Won’t Find In A Godly Marriage

 10 Things You Won't Find in a Godly Marriage
Could you stand up in a room and say, without embarrassment, “We’re not perfect but even so, I encourage you to follow our example in marriage?”
A godly couple can say this because of what’s missing from their marriage (and because of what’s there, but that’s another article). Sometimes it’s good when certain things go missing.

Here are 10 that have no place in a godly relationship:  

1.     A Sharp Tongue
It can be easy to cut with words when things don’t go our way but, in a godly marriage, neither spouse yields to this ungodly impulse. (James 3:8)
2.     A Good Memory (when it comes to offenses).
A good memory can be very bad. After we repent of our sins before God, He doesn’t then commit them to memory so they can be thrown in our faces the next time we need to repent. The Bible says that God forgets our sins. When we repent and ask forgiveness of each other, they should never be referenced again. Remembering and repeating past wrongs will prevent the true fellowship that always follows true forgiveness. We are called to forgive as God has forgiven. (Col. 3:13)
3.     A neglect of the Bibilical order in  marriage.
In today’s culture, it’s practically hate speech by now, but if you desire to have a marriage ordered according to God’s structure and standards, read and live by Ephesians chapter 5.
4.     A lack of care for how each other is doing.
Godly love engenders a genuine concern for one’s spouse. Communicating that love is as easy as, “Hey, how are you doing . . . really?” Love is kind. (1 Cor. 13:4)
5.     A short temper or easily offended.
Godly couples are slow to become angry. (1 Cor. 13:5)
6.     An unwillingness to sustain difficulty.
Godly couples have settled in for the long haul. Remember the old vow, “In sickness and in health?” Godly love bears all things. (1 Cor. 13:7)
7.     Pride.
Pride says, “Notice me, talk about me, and focus on me.” The first thing you’ll hear or notice from a godly spouse is, “It’s not about me.” (1 Cor. 13:4)
8.    A tearing down of one another.
Godly couples are busy . . . too busy lifting each other up to have the time to tear each other down by speaking negatively to others.
9.     Thinking less than the best of each other.
Godly couples love first and ask questions later. They assume the best of the other person. (1 Cor. 13:7)
10.    Taking pleasure in each other’s failings.
Love doesn’t rejoice when someone sins or falls, but rejoices in the truth. (1 Cor. 13:6)
It’s easy to get busy with life and treat marriage like it is something that is happening to us, instead of something we are doing. Maybe you’ve removed all of these negative, sinful behaviors  from your marriage. If so, great! But, if not, take responsibility for what you are bringing to the relationship and take action to ensure these things are “missing” from your marriage – at least for the part of the relationship God entrusted to you . . . your part.
~ Matthew

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Praying for Your Children

This is a great blog from Kirk Cameron that should help parents think through how to pray for our children biblically.  We tend to focus on the physical and protective - but do we think about and pray biblically significant things for our children's lives? 


Four Things to Pray for Your Children

I pray for my children every day and all throughout the day. But I have a confession to make: most of my prayers are for immediate needs.
“God, please help my children not to reach out and touch the priceless works of art at the museum.”
“Please don’t let the tummy ache be a virus we all catch.”
“Please give me patience in homeschool today.”
You get the idea.
Prayer is often misunderstood, underused, and often doubted. Yet God uses our prayers to bring about his will. Some of the most remarkable answers to prayer include prisoners set free (Acts 12), the blind healed (Mark 10), and a thief given new life (Luke 23). John Piper wrote in A Godward Life that some things God ordains to come to pass only through the agency of prayer. If that something is not prayed for, it will not happen.
This is sobering for us as parents. Though praying for the health of our children or for behavioral concerns is good, it is also so much more. The options of things we could pray about for our children are endless, but here are four things we should never cease to pray:
1. That God Would Make Them Alive in Christ
Only the Holy Spirit can breathe new life into our children. We need to pray that the Spirit would be at work in them, opening their eyes to see, know, trust, and believe in Christ for their salvation.
2. That They Would Hunger and Thirst After God’s Word
Jesus prayed for the disciples that God would sanctify them by the truth, for his word is the truth (John 17: 17). The word of God is powerful and effective to change us. We need to pray our children would always want to study and learn God’s word so that they might know him better. God’s word is like manna to the soul. Without it, we wander in the wilderness, starving and feeding off of the tasteless and worthless morsels the world has to offer. We need to pray that our children would always find their soul filled and satisfied with the word of God.
3. That They Would Rely on the Gospel of Grace in Each and Every Moment
We live in a society where independence is valued. Scripture teaches otherwise. It teaches us to depend on Christ and his grace in everything. Prayer for our children should include prayers that they would depend and rely upon the gospel in all things, including sins, temptations, trials, hurts, fears, spiritual growth, and their work.
4. That They Would Know God’s Love
Paul prayed for the Ephesians, “that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge” (3:17-19). This should be our prayer as well. When our children know the depths of God’s love for them in Christ, they will live like adopted children rather than orphans. They will rest and trust in what Christ has done for them. They will have confidence that Christ is all they need.
To paraphrase the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5, may we pray without ceasing for our children.

Read more at http://kirkcameron.com/four-things-pray-children/#vq7Zr5oysBw6hwFP.99

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Is Happiness the Truth?

There is a hit song today by the artist Pharrell Williams entitled “Happy.” Some of the reason the song is such a hit is that it is also one of the songs in the movie, Despicable Me 2. Both the song and movie are very fun, and let me state I have no issue with either.  We have listened to the song and watched the movie and enjoy both of them. However, this past week I saw a post from someone whose church opened their service with a rendition of this song. Now, from what I saw they changed some of the words but they kept the chorus. The chorus is this:

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if feel like that’s what you wanna do.

Now, I know some may say, “Well, if you listen to it but won’t sing it in church, that is hypocritical.” That thinking is wrong on so many levels. When my boys were growing up we sang a lot of silly songs that were fun, some made no sense at all but they were fun to sing.  These songs were not gushing with truth. When we gather as a body to worship God, that means what we say about Him must be truth:  we worship "in spirit and in truth."  I say quite often that it is just as wrong to sing a lie as it is for me to preach a lie. Everything we do should be centered around the truth of God. As I watched this song being sung and the words on the screen I couldn’t help but wonder how Job would have felt if he walked into that service looking for some truth to hold to in the midst of pain. To make things more relevant, I thought about the lady in our church, broken over her marriage or the man in our church fighting cancer whose wife is ministering to him. 

Is happiness the truth? Is it really? Does that call to “worship" coincide with, I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33)?  Lest I misinterpret something in that passage, I looked a bit further and found, We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).  Paul says,Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses (2 Corinthians 6:4). I have said on multiple occasions that truth transcends culture. The truth of the Gospel is not truth only in America, it is truth world wide. I just can’t help but think that many of those people who were singing that probably would be quick to distance themselves from a Joel Osteen and well we should, but is there a dime's worth of difference between what they were singing and what Joel preaches? We damage our people when we equate a song like this to biblical truth. Life is going to hit them hard at times and, if what I teach them when our focus should be centered around God and the truth of the Word as we worship Him, is the lie that “happiness is the truth” then...we are setting them up for happiness to actually be their god.  When that happiness leaves and is replaced by heartache, they will be disillusioned by the false picture I have painted.  When I have called a lie “truth,” it is not keeping watch over their soul but rather it is harming them with a lie that is only true in America or a cartoon. I find it ironic that the name of the cartoon that this song is originally played in probably has more truth than a church singing this type of song in worship! “Despicable Me” - that title alone is a cold hard truth about who we are apart from Him. Outside of Christ we are unclean, we are despicable.  But, a song like that isn’t going to be a hit on your local radio station. 

Our goal isn’t to be a hit in the world but rather, our goal is to glorify Christ in our happy times and in my heartache - when life hurts, when the marriage is a mess, when I am wondering where God is.   I have to know then that “Happiness” is not the truth, the Word of God is. It’s okay to think “Happy” is a fun song the same way a cartoon is a fun watch, but neither of them give me truth. When we worship, when we sing we are proclaiming truth that will transform us and glorify God. We live in a day, that “Happy” doesn’t cut it. That doesn’t sound nice, but it certainly is truth.