Category Archives: Seriously

Love or Duty?

Think back to those days of falling in love with your wife. How you enjoyed getting to know her heart and soul. There was no quick way. It took time. Spending time with her was a delight. Hopefully, it still is.

Spending time in the Word everyday is edifying to our souls. Whether new or old in the faith, time in the Word helps us know and love Jesus better (John 1:14). Then while His Word is still fresh in our minds, we pray. We communicate with the One we love. ”We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

I believe the most important aspect of daily Bible time is “falling” deeper in love with the Lord Jesus Christ as we get to know Him better. Think about how wonderful it is to be in love with the Savior. Then time in the Word is not an “I suppose I should” but “Yay. I get to.” 

If you don’t love the Lord, time in the Word everyday takes effort. However, the goal and result of time in the Word and meditating on it, is a love for the Lord so great, you won’t want to miss a day. 

“But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2). “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (Deut 6:5).

No Longer United

Satan doesn’t usually come asking for an enormous compromise, but he starts with something seemingly innocent that likely our flesh will agree with. “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” Or maybe, “You deserve some relaxation (extra sleep),” or “Why not stay up and enjoy the movie,” or “You already had your Bible reading 5 days this week, it won’t hurt to miss it. Don’t be legalistic.” We are crazy legalistic about eating every day. Our time with our Lord’s Word is vital to our spiritual health, (walk with Christ), my brothers.

Over these last two decades, Teri and I have had a lot of visibility into lives and usually, those who are struggling with their walk are the ones who aren’t spending quality time reading their Bible every morning. Either the disciplines/habits weren’t developed or compromise got to them.

Our country began with “One nation under God.” One compromise after another brought us to where we are today. Oh, my brothers, be steadfast in feeding your souls and nurturing your relationships with the Lord Jesus. If you don’t, sadly, you will find lots of company. 

“It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

“For to be carnally minded is death: but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). 

To be continued. 

Let’s Get Serious

Have you ever admired someone who seems to have a deep, sincere relationship with the Lord Jesus? Have you secretly yearned for that too? My brothers, it can (must) be like that, but it starts with a choice. Make having a close, loving, on-fire relationship with Jesus Christ, the holy, righteous God of creation, your commitment. Any piddly cost to us is NOTHING compared to what Jesus “paid” in emptying Himself, taking on human flesh, and dying to purchase us with His blood. In light of His sacrifice, anything it costs us is NOTHING. 

It begins with commitment and action. I suggest you set in stone the following:

  1. Your wakeup and bedtime is the same every day. 
  2. Then before the distractions can begin, read your Bible for thirty minutes.** Usually, wrong priorities might make one think that isn’t possible. (Seriously, you don’t have thirty minutes a day for the One Who purchased you with His blood?)
  3. Read His Word with the commitment of living out (obeying) what you read. Systematically ingest His holy Word with the commitment to live it.
  4. Then pray for at least 15 minutes**. I suggest having bullet items written out. 

Almost everyone I talk to seldom misses a meal. How much more committed should we be to our Lord? 

** (It is possible that during some seasons or due to circumstances, that amount of time isn’t possible. If you want an objective perspective, let’s talk.) 

“And all the people came early in the morning to Him in the temple, for to hear Him” (Luke 21:38).

(To be continued) 

Clean on the outside but

You walk into church and give a warm smile and a handshake or hug to the brothers. Some of you are greeted as “Pastor.” Whatever your role, it’s another Sunday and time to assemble together to worship our righteous and most holy God. But if only we had “idiot lights” like a car dashboard on our foreheads warning if the heart is dirty. Then someone could come alongside and offer a word of exhortation, challenge, or even rebuke. God, however, doesn’t need those indicator lights since He sees our hearts. What’s He seeing on yours and mine?

“Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them” (Ezekiel 14:1-3)?

Man can set up his own private temple of idol worship in his heart which is hidden from others but not God. These might include but are not limited to: mental adultery, covetousness, wickedness, love of self and entertainment/pleasure of every sort. Jesus Christ is to have first place over everything. 

“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18). 

Blah Blah Blah

We all have had a conversation with a boy who proclaimed he was going to do great and mighty things. Listening, you smiled, affirmed, and encouraged him as he spoke, but inwardly you wondered, “Will he actually do it?”

Have you noticed that doesn’t just apply to boys? A few months back, I was visiting with my son, Nathan, and his wife, Melanie, on the driveway when they were dropping something off. At one point in the conversation, I commented that I still wanted to lose ten more pounds, and I was going to do it. They responded with appropriate smiles and encouragement. Well, three months later, not only have I not lost those pounds, I have packed on a few more.

Aren’t we glad Noah, Moses, and Paul were men of God who put action to their words? What if Jesus, when in the garden, had called down legions of angels to avoid going to the cross? We all would be headed for eternity in hell. “Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).

What have you said you would do and haven’t? First in priority is our relationship with Christ (Col. 1:18) — in the Word every morning and praying (1 Peter 2:2). Make sure you are involved in a Bible-believing/preaching church each week (Hebrews 10:25). What about investing in your marriage (Eph. 5:25) and relationships with your children (Deut. 6:7)? (Don’t believe the quality versus quantity lie!) May we be men of our word.

Committed to Training Our Children

God gives us untrained children. From then on, everything we do or don’t do—our passions, subtile pleasures, self-discipline, reactions, what we hate, what we love —are all imprinted on our children. Whatever measure of rebellion, disrespect, or lack of self-control in our children that we accept is part of the “training process.” To top it off, how the child perceives our love of God, our worship, and time in His Word, can affect him for eternity. Self-control is one of the most important things for our children to learn.  

One tool that facilitates the whole family learning self-control is a daily, home schedule. Not only are needed things accomplished, but it helps a child (everyone for that matter) develop self-control. To submit to boundaries and structure is critical for life. The flesh wants freedom and nothing external telling it what to do. However, we are bought with a price. All of our time and our whole life is owned by our God. His yoke is easy for the obedient but not for the rebel. There are times to sit still and be attentive (church) and times to be active. Each must learn to rule over himself in order to submit to the One Who owns us.  

If you would like help in this area these resources have proven beneficial in tens of thousands of lives: Managers of Their Homes and Redeeming the Time.   

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).

SUCCESS ORIENTED

 Most parents would love for their children to sit still and be attentive at church. The question is how many are willing to invest in their children to achieve that end. If you are, it’s achievable, and family Bible time is the ideal training vehicle with the side benefit of them learning self control.

Begin with a mental checklist of Bibletime-behavior goals for your children. Make your guidelines achievable, and explain them to all the children when you begin. Don’t resort to the bad idea of allowing children to play with toys during this time as it teaches them to think about things other than God’s Word. 

Even little ones love how good it “feels” when they are praised by the family at the end for sitting still and having been quiet. Encourage/remind the older children that their example influences the “youngers.”

I watched my son, Christopher(six children ages 1 to 8), improve upon what we did in our home for family Bible time. I am blessed by his faithfulness and diligence in this. To help the little ones when beginning Bible time, he holds up one hand and then sequentially points to each finger associating a behavior with it. 

o Hands busy (hands clasped together)
o Sit up
o Feet down
o Be quiet
o Listen carefully

Over time, he no longer needed to rehearse these each night. Often, when they have done exceptionally well, Christopher will reward them with something active a little one would enjoy.

“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments” (Psalm 119:9,10).

Starting

To get it right, start early. However, infants are too young for church-type training so parents will do well to preemptively manage the child’s sleep, feeding, and hygiene needs. In the event that plan fails, head for the cry room.

As he gets older, training can begin. Using every opportunity, once a baby can sit in a high chair to eat, meal prayer times are perfect for simple training. Teach your children these three basic rules for praying: hands folded, eyes down, sit still. Of course, it will be funnier than effective at first, but you’re committed, remember? 

Start with short prayers and over time, move to progressively longer ones. If you are implementing this with toddlers, tell them you will be praying with your eyes open so you can make sure theirs are closed. If they aren’t successful, they can practice longer while others are being served their meal first. 

Don’t underestimate your child’s ability to understand when his behavior is pleasing you. Tones and smiles communicate a lot to your small children before they can speak. More next time on other opportunities to help your children develop self control. 

“Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right” (Proverbs 11:20).

How Embarrassing

Most Christian parents have been embarrassed at church by a young, noisy child who disturbs the worship service. A decision is made to not let that happen again. Sadly, many choose the short-term, easy option of putting their child in the nursery because the longterm, good fruit option is too costly, or they don’t even know of another option. 

Seldom do worthwhile things in life come quickly at no cost. In this case, sacrificial love and investment are required by the parents. The benefits of the “costly” option require purposing to train children to sit quietly and attentively in church. But how?

The secret, my brothers, is consistent, loving, gentle training every day. From our experience and observation of other families, daily family Bible time is the first great opportunity. The second would be any time the child is being fed, and the third would be using a consistent, daily schedule. 

Remember the goal isn’t simply quiet children, but children who are able to maintain self-control and be attentive, whether it be the voice of their parents or the precious Word of God. This should be an agreed upon, fundamental commitment of both parents. 

Whatever the age of the child, you must start. Don’t blame anyone else (including your wife), but begin now. (Continued next week.)

“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible” (1 Corinthians 9:25).

Dulling the Sword

I wonder how many well-meaning parents are unknowingly harming, with potentially eternal consequences, their children every week when they take them to church? Have you noticed them? They bring their children to church (a good thing), but then during the service, the children do every imaginable quiet (mostly) thing, except listen to the message. Instead of teaching them to sit still and listen so as to obey God’s Word, the children are “taught” how to ignore God’s Word—not on purpose—but that is the result. While the children occupy themselves, they become skilled at deflecting the Word from their minds and hearts.  

Many times we read where Jesus instructs those that “hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matt 11:15, 13:9, 13:43, Mark 4:9, 4:23, 7:16, Luke 8:8 and 14:35). That would mean, open your mind to what is coming into your ears. It is an intentional, learned process to train the mind to first concentrate with the goal of understanding so as to ultimately obey what is coming into the ears. 

We listen intently because God’s Word is priceless and not to be treated like crummy background music that is played in a store where we are shopping. May we not be guilty of dulling the sword. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).