Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Nine Steps to Disciple Your Children in the Home

How can parents effectively disciple their children, leading them to full devotion to Jesus Christ?

1) Embrace your role.  To be effective, you must be convicted that it is your responsibility to disciple your kids.  That this task cannot be delegated.  You can employ the help of the church, but you must not rely on the church.  I have heard two of the most popular pastors in America admit that they never have family devotions with their children -- without shame or regret.  This is a sin.  A dereliction of duty.  You must disciple your children at home. 

2) Pick a time.  Choose the day and time for family devotions (we call it Bible Time in my house).  For me, it is Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, right after dinner.  Don't just try to do Bible Time during your spare time.  You must make an appointment.  And then make a personal commitment to keep your appointment with your children.  Consistency is key.

3) Choose a curriculum.  When your kids are very young, the best curriculum is a Bible storybook.  There are an abundance of Bible storybooks on the market.  Kenneth Taylor, the author the Living Bible, has written a number of great Bible storybooks.  Another great book for young children is Leading Little Ones to God, by Mariam Schoolland.  I also recommend my own Home Discipleship Catechism.  As your children get older, the best curriculum may be simply reading the Bible together, one or two chapters at a time, and then discussing it.

4) Lead your children to be actively involved in church.  Even though it is your responsibility to disciple your children, you can't do it alone.  You need the support of a church family.  A church will give your child Christian friendships, godly role models, practical teaching, opportunities for worship, service, and giving, and much more.  If you do not have a church home, I invite you to Church Acadiana, where it is our vision to equip parents to disciple their children.  Get your child to church on Sundays.  Let them serve with you in a ministry.  Bring them with you to Home Group.  Teach them to tithe.

5) Set a godly example.  Christianity is caught, not just taught.  Your kids will be profoundly impacted by your example.  What kind of example are you setting?  Be the kind of Christian you want your children to be.  Let your example match your exhortation.

6) Teach them private spiritual disciplines.  Teach your child to have a daily appointment with God -- a quiet time.  Help them develop the habit of spending the first thirty minutes to an hour of the day alone with God, in prayer, Bible reading, and journaling for reflection.  Before Lydia and the kids begin the school day, everyone gathers together for prayer, and then they each find a corner of the house for a thirty-minute quiet time.

7) Protect them from ungodly influences.  Bad company corrupts good character.  Evil influences at school, in the neighborhood, on TV, on the team, on social media, in music, and in books can undo all the work that you've done.  I recently read a book by a pastor who was speaking negatively about home schooling because he said Christian kids should be sent to public school as missionaries.  He has good intentions, but bad thinking.  Should our kids join street gangs so they can reach the hoodlums?  Should we send our kids to the Muslim schools to reach the Muslim kids?  Should we let our kids hang out on Instagram and Snapchat as missionaries?  Several pastors have gotten caught hanging out in strip clubs.  Maybe they were just there as missionaries.

8) Beware of presumption.  Don't think that your kids will become Christians just because you are a Christian.  Don't think that your kids will turn out well just because you mean well.  Don't think that your kids will stay engaged in church when they grow up just because you drag them to church as kids.  Don't think that your kids are saved just because they prayed a prayer and got baptized.  Don't think your kids are born again just because they are well-behaved and make good grades.  You need to know your kids.  You need to watch them closely.  You need to look at their heart-orientation.  Listen to their conversation.  Look closely for the fruit of the Spirit.  Ask them often about the state of their heart; about their relationship with God.

9) Apply both discipline and instruction.  "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4, ESV)."  Teaching your kids the Bible and bringing them to church is not enough.  They need diligent instruction and discipline.  Instruction is teaching your children what to believe and how to behave.  Discipline is correcting them when they go wrong with verbal rebukes and the rod.

May God use you to lead your kids to become lifetime followers of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

How to Lead Your Kids to Spiritual Maturity

Yesterday I was thumbing through an old book that I read over fifteen years ago called Rediscovering Church, by Bill Hybels.  The book is about the story and vision of Willow Creek Community Church.  While I don't agree with everything in the book, the Willow story is fascinating and inspiring.  

In the first half of the book, Bill's wife, Lynne, recounts the story of how Willow Creek started and grew to become one of the largest and most influential churches in the country.  In the second half of the book, Bill explains the philosophy of the church.

Hybels explains that the mission of the church is to turn irreligious people into fully-devoted followers of Jesus.  That's the mission of every church.  That's also the mission of every Christian parent.  He then explains their strategy for accomplishing this task -- by leading people to become what they call "Five G" Christians.  This can also be applied to parents.  To lead your children to become fully-devoted to Jesus Christ, help them to become Five G Christians.  

1) Grace.  Your child understands the gospel of God's grace and has accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  They have made the decision to repent and trust in Christ as God's payment for their sins.  They have gone public with this decision in Baptism. 

2) Growth.  Your child is committed to spiritual growth.  They desire to become like Christ, and to fully glorify God in every arena of their lives.  Their desire for growth is seen in their commitment to spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible-reading.  

3) Group.  They understand the importance of church membership, and they participate in a small group where they are known, cared for, and held accountable by other committed Christians.  

4) Gifts.  They believe they are called and gifted to serve in the church, and they volunteer regularly in a church ministry.  

5) Good stewardship.  They believe that everything they have belongs to God.  They are faithful give a tithe of their income to the local church, and they cheerfully give when they encounter worthy causes.  

Bill Hybels wrote, "These are five specific qualities that describe a Christian who is progressing toward full devotion to Jesus.  The Five Gs aren’t a finish line or a rigid checklist to be achieved through legalistic efforts.  They’re more like a baseline of maturity that indicates a person has appropriated God’s grace and is cooperating as the Holy Spirit conforms him or her, over time, into the image of Christ."

The Five Gs are a helpful way to assess the spiritual health of your child, as well as a useful tool for leading your child to take their next steps as a Christian.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Four Reasons to be Encouraged Today

Whenever you feel discouraged, one of the best things you can do is to count your blessings.  In Colossians 2:9-15, the Bible mentions four benefits of being a Christian.  

1. You are freed from the power of sin.  Colossians 2:11 “You were also circumcised in him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of Christ."  When you get saved you receive the circumcision of Christ.  He frees you from your slavery to sin, giving you the desire and power to please God.  You can overcome any sinful addiction.  You don't have to commit deliberate sins.  You can become more and more like Jesus.  

2.  You are fashioned with eternal life.  Colossians 2:12 “when you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.”  When God saved you, He raised you to newness of life -- eternal life.  God promises to give you an eternal home in the paradise of heaven.  

3.  You are forgiven of the penalty of sin.  Colossians 2:13-14 “And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive with him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.”  When God saved you, your relationship with Him changed.  He is no longer your Judge, but your Heavenly Father.  You are no longer a child of wrath, but a child of God.  Your debt has been paid.  Your sins are forgiven.

4.  You are fortified from Satan's dominion.  Colossians 2:15 “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; he triumphed over them in him."  When God saved you He transferred you from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His Son.  The devil can longer possess you or control you.  He can no longer make you do anything wrong.  You are God's property.  You are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  The devil can't touch you.  

Be encouraged.  Take time to thank God and praise Him for His benefits.  It is good to be a Christian!  

Friday, February 14, 2020

How to Get The Most Out of Life

"The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.  My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life."  -- Jesus Christ, John 10:10 (NLT)

We only have so much time before we die.  How can we get the most out of life?  There are several different approaches. 

First, some focus on pleasure.  Make your life all about fun and games.  Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.  Living for the weekend.  But a focus on pleasure is selfish, and selfishness ultimately leads to isolation and unhappiness.  And then when you die, you go to hell.  A lifetime of pleasure is not worth an eternity in hell.

Second, some focus on achievement.  Make such a name for yourself that people remember you for generations to come.  Be the very best.  Win the awards.  Earn the honors.  Do what no man has done before.  Get your name etched in the record books.  But this is nothing but plain-old selfishness.  It is making your life all about you.  It reminds me of the Robert Redford movie "The Natural."  His ambition was to be the best baseball player of all time.  Several times he was asked, "And then what?"  He replied, "And then when I walk down the street and people see me they will say, 'There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was.'"  Lame.  The praise of men feels good, but it does nothing for your soul.  When you die, all your achievements will mean nothing.  Only what was done for Christ will matter. 

Third, some focus on activism.  Live your life to make the world a better place.  Make a positive difference.  But a life of good deeds and positive activism will not benefit you when you die if you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Good deeds don't save.  Hell is filled "good" people who rejected Christ.

Fourth, some focus on Jesus Christ.  Love and serve Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Trust in Him for salvation.  Cling to Him for joy, peace, and comfort.  Look to Him for meaning and purpose.  Live for His fame.  Live for His pleasure.  Live to further His mission.  Imitate His character, conduct, and convictions.  Make your life all about Jesus.  This is the way to make the most out of life.  It is the most joy-filled life.  The most meaningful life.  The most satisfying life.  And it is the wisest way to live, because you will have the hope of eternal life, and your life will be spent building up eternal treasures in heaven. 

Far from ruining your life, Jesus gives you a life worth living.  He called Himself the way, the truth, and THE LIFE (Jn 14:6).  He came to give you a rich and satisfying life (Jn 10:10).  He came to give you rest (Mt 11:28).  To give you joy and peace and contentment (Phil 4:4, 7, 12-13).  He will meet your needs (Phil 4:19).  He will carry your burdens (1 Pt 5:7).  He will give you wisdom and guidance for every decision (Ps 25:12-13).  He will give you freedom from self-defeating sins (Rm 6:6).  He will give you forgiveness and a clear conscience (Col 1:14).  And He will give you a purpose to live for (Mt 28:19-20).

If you have not given your life to Jesus Christ, then do it today.  Make today best day of your life.  The start of your new life in Christ.  Stop wasting your days, and start making the most out of your life.  Make your life all about Jesus.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Six Facts About Salvation

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 "13 But we ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, so that you might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."

This passage teaches us six wonderful facts about our salvation.

1) God saves us because He loves us.  Verse 13, "brothers and sisters loved by the Lord."  God loves you.  He feels deep affection for you.  He wants what is best for you.  This love is unearned, unfailing, and unconditional.  He loves us not because we are worthy, but because He is love.  He created us to be objects of His love.  You can't make God love you more, nor love you any less.  His love is not small.  He sent His Son to die for your sins, and those of the whole world (Jn 3:16).

2) God chose to save us from the beginning.  Verse 13, "from the beginning God has chosen you for salvation."  From the very beginning, before the creation of the universe, God knew that sin would come into the earth.  And He chose to save us.  Not only us, but everyone.  God chose to save the entire world through Christ (Jn 3:16).

3) We are saved through sanctification by the Spirit.  Verse 13, "through sanctification by the Spirit."  Salvation is only possible through the Holy Spirit.  He opens our eyes and hearts, giving us the ability to understand and respond to the gospel.  This can be called prevenient grace, or grace that goes before salvation (Jn 6:44).  When we trust in Christ, the Spirit gives us a new heart (regeneration).  He delivers us from the power and slavery of sin.  Then the Holy Spirit begins the lifelong process of sanctification, delivering us from presence of sin.

4) We are saved through belief in the truth.  Verse 13, "and through belief in the truth."  God has chosen everyone for salvation, but only those who believe in the truth are saved.  Salvation is conditional.  The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to accept Christ, but God's grace is not irresistible.  We must choose to receive and believe in Jesus (Jn 1:12).  We are not saved through mere belief, but through belief in the truth.  The truth about God and Christ.

5) God calls us to salvation through the preaching of the gospel.  Verse 14, "He called you to this through our gospel."  By "preaching," I mean the proclamation of the gospel, not a sermon.  Every Christian is called to proclaim the gospel to the lost (evangelism).  It is only when someone hears and believes in the gospel truth that they are saved.  God does His saving work through His sinful messengers.  Amazing!

6) Through salvation we obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Verse 14, "so that you might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."  When we turn to Christ in faith for salvation, God promises us the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  What is this glory?  It is an eternal, perfect, glorious body that will be given to believers when Christ returns (Phil 3:20-21).

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

How to Keep Your Kids From Leaving The Church

It's widely known by pastors that most students who grow up in church end up leaving the church and becoming spiritually disengaged after high school (no longer praying, reading the Bible, or attending church).  But for years the research has shown that these young people usually find their way back to church when they reach their thirties and forties.  New research, however, shows that this trend is reversing.  Ryan Burge of Eastern Illinois University says that students who leave the church are no longer returning.

So what can we do to keep our young people in church and spiritually engaged after high school?  I believe the family-integrated church model can help. 

In a typical age-segregated church, high school students are part of youth group, which is a church within a church.  They have their own small groups.  They have their own worship service.  They have their own pastors and worship leaders.  They have their own activities, such as retreats and camps.  And then when they graduate high school, they are kicked out of the youth group.  Without a deep connection to the church-at-large, it is easy for them to drop out of church.  I remember when I graduated from high school.  I felt completely lost at church.  Where did I fit in?  I wasn't a part of the youth group, but I didn't feel like I could hang out with the adults.  I was shoved into a "College and Career" Sunday school class, and that was just weird.  Some of those people had been in the College and Career class for ten years! 

The family-integrated church model can fix this.  From the beginning kids are integrated into the church-at-large.  They attend small groups with the adults.  They attend worship with the adults.  They volunteer with the adults.  They become deeply entrenched into the church.  And when they graduate high school, there is no shift.  They will still attend the same small group, sit in the same worship service, and volunteer in the same ministries.  They will be used to doing church with people of multiple generations.  They will already belong.  They will not have to find something new.  They will not have to transition.  Their life outside of church will change, but church will remain the same. 

Most kids leave the church after high school, and they don't return.  Church-as-usual just isn't cutting it.  It's not getting the job done.  Are we willing to think outside the box and try something different?

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Reasons for Fasting

What is fasting?  Fasting is going without food for a period of time to add power to your prayers.  The following are examples of fasting in the Bible:
  1. David fasted for his newborn son to be healed of a deadly illness.  2 Sam 12:15-19
  2. Jehoshaphat led the nation of Judah to fast for protection from their enemies.  2 Chron 20:1-4
  3. Ezra and the Jews fasted for safety as they traveled from Babylon to Jerusalem.  Ezra 8:21-23
  4. Nehemiah fasted for the remnant in Jerusalem, as well as for favor in the eyes of the king of Persia.  Neh 1:4, 11
  5. The nation of Israel fasted to rededicate themselves to God.  Neh 9:1-4
  6. Mordecai and the Jews fasted for God's help when they heard about the king's edict that all the Jews throughout the kingdom were to be annihilated.  Est 4:1-4
  7. Esther, Mordecai, and all the Jews fasted for the king of Persia to show them favor and help them against their enemies.  Est 4:15-16
  8. David fasted for his friends when they were sick.  Ps 35:13-14
  9. King Darius spent the night fasting for Daniel's safety when he was in the lion's den.  Dan 6:18
  10. God commanded the people of Israel to repent and turn to God with "fasting, weeping, and mourning."  Joel 2:13-15
  11. The people of Nineveh fasted and dressed in sackcloth in a spirit of repentance, seeking God's mercy.  Jonah 3:5
  12. Jesus said that some things are only possible by prayer and fasting, such as the exorcism of certain demons.  Mark 9:29
  13. The early church fasted for God to bless the work of their missionaries.  Acts 14:23
As you can see, there are many reasons to fast.  You can fast for any reason.  Any time you want to add more power to your prayer, try fasting.  Any time you are in desperate need for God to move, add fasting to your prayers.

Beginning with the week of Ash Wednesday (Feb 26, the first day of Lent), I am inviting Church Acadiana to join me in fasting one day a week until Easter Sunday.  We will praying for our church's health and for the Easter Outreach.  If you are a part of Church Acadiana, I encourage to participate with us.