Foundations

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” – Jesus (Matthew 7:24 – 27).

I had the advantage of growing up in Sunday School. My earliest memories are holding my Papa’s hand and climbing the steps to Sunday School while my dad was away with the Army in Korea. I loved the flannel graphs and singing silly songs. One of my favorites was, “The wise man built his house upon the rock,” because it had such grand gestures. I remember making a fist out of each hand, and beating them together while singing the building verses, but the best part came when “the rains came down, and the floods came up!” It finished with, “and the foolish man’s house went splat!” I was determined to “build my life on the Lord Jesus Christ!” And I pray that’s just what I’ve done.

Foundations are essential. If you’ve ever watched a skyscraper go up, you know how long they take to dig down and prepare a proper one. We’ve been studying 1 Peter 5:10,

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Our final word of restoration is “establish” (themelioo θεμελιόω). It describes laying a foundation, the base for a structure. Jesus uses this word in Matthew 7:24 – 27. The Lord laid the foundation for the world (Hebrews 1:10). When Christ dwells in our “hearts through faith,” we are “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17; see also Colossians 1:23). 

Once more, tornado season is upon us in Kansas. St. John has been blessed and has never experienced a twister. Of course, some people quip, “Well, I guess we’re do.” I pray, not!

 I’ve been crawling around under the house this week. (It’s a long story involving a hose nib I hit with a riding lawn mower, a plumber, and chasing an ornery, little grey kitten.) As I looked at the foundation in the darkness, I wondered how our house could withstand a cyclone. (I pray I never have to find out!) Spiritually though, we don’t need to worry. God himself has laid our foundation. The storms, trials, and tribulations we face will not move us!

Be a Blessing!

Should You Force Your Children to Go to Church?

Yesterday’s column about “Why Bother?” really touched a note with a lot of people. One dear sister (who is more honest than most) wrote, “I am exhausted and so tired of being tired.” Still, she pushes herself to get up and get going – especially for the sake of her teenage daughter. That brings up another discussion. “Should you force your children to go to church?”
 
Sadly, I know one father who turned his children away from church through his anger. He actually broke down the door of his teenager’s room and dragged her to church! Of course, the problem began many years before. His hypocrisy turned his children away long before that.
 
What are some of the reasons kids don’t want to go to church? All of the reasons we give, our children give too, but here are some more:

  1. “Church is boring.” The great sin of our age is to be boring, and yes, compared to a rock concert, church may appear boring, but the answer isn’t adding pyrotechnics or a band. I think the problem is with us. If we don’t understand the dynamic, transcendent quality of an encounter with God (worship), how can we expect our children to?
  2. “I don’t get anything out of it.” Our answer has been to divide the assembly into smaller and smaller groups that can “meet their needs on their level.” Terry Ellis wrote, “We need children and youth ministries with plenty of activities, but one hour a week teens need to stand next to senior adults and singles with married families. All God’s children need to sing “Worship the King” and hear a message from an ancient and timeless book. The young need our wisdom, and the elders need the energy and imagination of youth, just as much as the eye needs the ear and the head needs the feet. Worship is the best way to give expression to our unity in Christ.” 

Should we force our children to worship the Lord? What kind of a parent would I be if I never made my children brush their teeth or take a bath? Isn’t spiritual hygiene as important as physical hygiene? Think of what our children will miss if we don’t bring them to worship?

  1. Community. Michael Kelly observes, “The church family can create a wonderful second family, sometimes closer than our blood family!  Over the years our church family has blessed us so much with prayer, meals, love, and more.  This can be a wonderful experience for our children.”
  2. Morality. Our children are being forced to make moral decisions that only adults use to have to make. What framework will they use to make those decisions if they don’t know the Lord? Give them a place to stand and they can stand against the world!
  3. Transcendence. We all need to find our place in the universe. To understand the world doesn’t revolve around us is a critical activity for any human being, but especially children.
  4. The Lord. God commanded our presence in worship and it wasn’t to feed someone’s cosmic ego. We need God – and so do our children. 

Exercise
Did you attend church when you were a child? I worry, with all of the publicity about the horrible things that have been done to children in churches recently, that fewer and fewer parents will bring their children to the Lord. Are you concerned?
 
Some people believe, “Children aren’t capable of making religious decisions. They can go to church when they’re older if they want.” How would you answer those people?

Be a Blessing!

Do You Really Believe That?

I am not a scientist. I am not a biologist or a mathematician, but I do believe ideas have consequences. If you believe it is going to rain, you will take an umbrella. If you believe you don’t have to work today, you can sleep in.

The same is true in the moral world. There is a whole field of apologetics devoted to presuppositions — if you believe this is true, then this is also true. For our devotional today, let’s look at four logical consequences of not believing in God.

Contingency — That means that everything that is was caused by some natural phenomenon that preceded it. If you leave God out of the picture, the apparent implication of this account is that the world and all of its inhabitants were accidents. There is no purpose in life period. 

Autonomy — Contingency leads to the belief in the second element of secularity — autonomy. People are free to determine their own destiny. People determine their own meaning. “That may be your truth.”

Relativity — If people are their own creators, then the social environment, destiny, and meaning of existence created by one group of people, in one place and time, are not necessarily relevant to another group of people in a different historical context. This is particularly true in the realm of morals. Morality becomes just personal preference statements.

Temporality — Reality is limited to what exists in time and space. There is no afterlife or it’s irrelevant. Death is the end of everything, and everything must die.

Exercise

Are you thoroughly depressed? You will be if you consider the consequences of believing there is no God! So let’s praise the Lord today and thank him for his many blessings! We have hope and purpose. I am grateful and an attitude of gratitude is the basis of my actions!

On the Side of a Mountain

The last six months of my military service were some of the best times of my life. I left Berlin and worked as a mountain guide for Armed Forces Recreational Services in Berchtesgaden, Germany. Every day I taught mountaineering or kayaking in the Alps!

Most of the time it was fantastic, but sometimes the Army bean counters got in the way. Once they decided it would be more profitable if I led a dozen people up a very dangerous mountain instead of the usual four or five. It was a disaster as you can well imagine. We didn’t make the summit and we ended up having to spend the night out on the side of the mountain praying for daylight.

It was very cold. We huddled together for warmth. Earlier in the day, it looked like any other summer day, so the guests decided to lighten their rucksacks and leave behind the extra sweaters and food I told them to bring. 

When we were forced to bivouac on the side of the mountain, they paid a dear price. All we could do was wait, pray for dawn and pass the time talking. Eventually, the conversation got around to me. They knew I was getting out of the Army and I was getting ready to go home. 

“So, what will you do back in the States?” they asked. I told them I was going to study to become a preacher. One of the men, a very well-educated neurologist, snapped, “I don’t believe in God.” He then proceeded to launch into a very well-practiced lecture outlining the reasons he didn’t believe in God. He was delighted and had obviously given this speech many times before.

I tried to think of all the arguments I knew for proving the existence of God. I remembered some from my Sunday School classes: the Ontological Argument, the Teleological Argument, the Argument from Design – I could remember the names but I couldn’t remember the arguments themselves! I felt like I had to say something, but I was wrong. God spoke in his own defense and his voice was overwhelming.

In the midst of a sentence, in the midst of a word, it was almost as if this man’s tongue had swollen up and silenced him. In a man-made classroom surrounded by fluorescent lights and linoleum floors, his arguments might have made sense, but here, on the side of a mountain, secured by only the tiniest of ropes beneath a star-filled sky, my poor friend met his match. Perhaps for the very first time, he heard what he was saying and it made no sense at all on our airy perch. God’s voice thundered. The stars, the mountains, the valley far below, they all shouted back. Our God, He is alive!

All By Chance

Of course, the alternative to creation is chance. There was a bang and everything that followed happened by accident. What are the odds? Try this simple experiment. Pull out 10 pennies and mark each one, 1 through 10. Now put them back in your pocket. Reach in and pull out a single penny. What are the odds you will pull out penny number 1? 1 in 10 right? Now put them back in your pocket and pull out the one marked 2. The odds of first pulling out 1 and then pulling out 2 are 1 in 100. Doing the same thing, putting the penny back in your pocket, and pulling out number three next is 1 in 1,000. What are your chances of pulling them out in order (after returning the pennies to your pocket) number 1 through 10? Our mathematicians will answer 110, or 1 chance in 10 BILLION. That’s with only 10 variables! How many variables are in an eye or a pituitary gland? 

So which is harder to believe? Creation or chance? I’m not a scientist and I’m not a mathematician, but I am impressed by this, the Argument from Order. It’s something to think about.

Exercise

Is it possible to prove the existence of God? Perhaps not in the absolute sense. If a person has closed their mind, it is impossible, but if you look at the hand of a baby or gaze into the night sky, you will probably agree with “Kepler – the founder of modern astronomy, discoverer of the ‘Three Planetary Laws of Motion,’ and originator of the term satellite—[who] said, ‘The undevout astronomer is mad.’” (R.K. Hughes, Hebrews: an anchor for the soul). Tonight, look deep into the night sky and marvel at the work of God. (Keep those pennies in your pocket. You never know when you’ll run into a skeptic.)

Apologetics

Apologetics isn’t apologizing for anything. The Greek word means a defense. We have good reasons to believe in God. We might argue about the fine points of what God has revealed, but there is no doubt God exists and has reached out to us!

I recently received an email from one of our readers who shared a terrible story. He’s been estranged from his grandchildren because he believes in God. This problem is real and it’s growing!

Today I mentioned God made everything to my six-year-old grandson. God made all the animals, plants, and the first people. My little love snapped, “He did not! He made the fish and the sea and the fish grew feet and walked out and became different animals.”

I sat down and cried when I read this letter. 

“Lord! I am so sorry. We have failed not only to take the good news to the world; we are not even able to convince people you really do exist! Forgive us, Lord. Give us wisdom to answer the skeptics, courage to speak, and love to speak in a way people will listen.”

Exercise

Have you had a similar experience? The world is not only turning away from Christianity – they are turning away from God. Help me understand why this is happening? What can I do as a minister, as a father, as a grandfather, to help my loved ones believe?

Some Things to Think About

Ah! It’s the end of the workweek and the weekend is coming. For most of us, it will be time to relax. Don’t feel guilty! Remember, God created the weekend. The Sabbath was his idea! So what should we think about?

I was cleaning off my hard drive and looking over old files and seminars from the past. I once did a discussion workshop on “Finding Your Passion!” and I thought some of the questions were worth sharing. Tomorrow is the Sabbath, and although Christians are never commanded to “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy,” the Sabbath as a day of rest and reflection is still a good idea.

I am a strong advocate of a “Techno-Sabbath” (taking a day to unplug from anything with buttons or batteries). Turn off your cell phone, your internet, and your television. Instead, think about your passion. Here are some questions to ponder:

  • If money and time were no object, what would you do every day?
  • Have you found your passion yet? Has it changed over time?
  • Is there a difference between your spiritual gift and your passion?
  • What would Paul have been like if he …
    • Was an engineer?
    • Was a professor?
    • Was an accountant?
    • Worked at In and Out Burger?
    • Won the Publishers’ Clearinghouse Sweepstakes?
    • Made tents for a living
  • You may not have found your true passion yet. If not, what’s on your bucket list?

Be a Blessing!

The Hardest Part is Getting Started

Jan and Dixie were away in England visiting our daughter’s family, so this seemed like a great opportunity to whip this old body back into shape. It was time to eat right and exercise, but I was finding it hard to get up in the morning. The house was quiet and the pillow was soft. Hanging clothes covered the treadmill and the Total Gym was buried under boxes. Lying in bed, was easier than pulling on my dirty sweats. It was a matter of motivation.

Eventually, the dog and the cat conspired to get me out of bed. They wouldn’t take no for an answer. The dog scratched at the door to get out and the cat sat on my face until I finally got up to fix their breakfast. Perhaps it was the second cup of coffee, or it might have been the shock of stepping on the scales, but eventually, I began working out and discovered two things. First, I actually enjoyed it, and, second, I discovered it was easier the next morning to get up and start again. Isn’t that surprising? I discovered it is easier to become motivated after you begin than before. Once you start, it’s easier to keep going, so the key must be to make it easy to start.

We all want to be better Christians. We want to spend more time with the Lord, but it can be hard to begin. Here is the key:

Make It Easy to Start

First, put your decision making on autopilot: schedule the time. Don’t waste time wondering, “Should I read my Bible this morning or wait until tonight?” Nail it down! “It’s 6:30. Time to study and pray!”

Second, use the power of ritual. I suspect when you step into the shower, you don’t wonder where you should begin! The power of a ritual takes away the need to make a decision. You don’t have to think about getting started. My friend wakes up every morning and his wife hands him a cup of coffee as he steps out of the shower. Then he sits down at the same place every day and opens his Bible. One, two, three.

James Clear notes: “The key to any good ritual is that it removes the need to make a decision: What should I do first? When should I do this? How should I do this? Most people never get moving because they can’t decide how to get started. You want starting a behavior to be easy and automatic so you have the strength to finish it when it becomes difficult and challenging.”[1]

Exercise

Do you have a set time for Bible study or any rituals that help you practice the spiritual disciplines? Please share them here.

Be a Blessing!

Prayers of Thanksgiving

It’s often been said that an “attitude of gratitude” is the heart of worship. Too often our prayers treat God like Santa Claus: “I want, I want, I want.” Perhaps before we jump into our desires, we need to take a moment to say, “Thank you.” 

James the brother of Jesus reminds us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change,” (James 1:17). The most common Christian name for God is “Father.” The Holy Spirit within us cries “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6 – see Romans 8:15; Mark 14:36). Fathers excel at gift giving and our heavenly Father is no exception. Think about all that He provides and give thanks! 

David’s Song of Thanks

    8     Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; 

make known his deeds among the peoples! 

    9     Sing to him, sing praises to him; 

tell of all his wondrous works! 

    10     Glory in his holy name; 

let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! 

    11     Seek the Lord and his strength; 

seek his presence continually! 

    12     Remember the wondrous works that he has done, 

his miracles and the judgments he uttered, 

    13     O offspring of Israel his servant, 

children of Jacob, his chosen ones!

 (1 Chronicles 16:8–13)

Blessings,

Variety in Prayer

Let’s be honest. Do you ever become “bored” with prayer? Sometimes it seems like our prayers are always the same, but it shouldn’t be that way! As we study the Bible, we discover an amazing variety of prayers. Some are very solemn and formal. Some are simple cries for help. Some are exciting requests for boldness or courage.

This week, as we prepare for our worship next Sunday, we are going to explore some of the many different types of prayer. Let’s begin by thinking about Who we are talking with. These prayers put things into spiritual perspective. Little children, learning to say grace over meals often begin, as we should, “God is great! God is good! …” A prayer of adoration recognizes the majesty and power of our God.

John MacArthur makes this helpful observation:

“Each of the many Old Testament names and titles of God shows a different facet of His character and its expression in His will. He is called, for example, Elohim, “the Creator God”; El Elyon, “possessor of heaven and earth”; Jehovah-Jireh, “the Lord will provide”; Jehovah-Nissi, “the Lord our banner”; Jehovah-Rapha, “the Lord that healeth”; Jehovah-Shalom, “the Lord our peace”; Jehovah-Raah, “the Lord our Shepherd”; Jehovah-Tsidkenu, “the Lord our righteousness”; Jehovah-Sabaoth, “the Lord of hosts”; Jehovah-Shama, “the Lord is present and near”; and Jehovah-Maqodeshkim, which means “the Lord sanctifieth thee.” All those names speak of God’s attributes. Thus they tell us not only who He is, but also what He is like.”[1]

Exercise

For our first minute today, let’s think about the names of God and what they tell us about His nature. Spend the second minute adding your own names for God. Why is He worthy of praise? Now close by praising our Creator, Provider, Peace, Shepherd, Righteous God! “God is great! God is good!”

Blessings,