Monday, September 28, 2015

The World Starts Them Young

The other day I turned on the TV and it was set to a channel my boys were watching before they left for school. The show that happened to be on was a cartoon they watch called Teen Titans Go! This is a comic book cartoon based off Robin, of Batman and Robin fame, and his friends. It's a funny cartoon that kids, my boys included, enjoy watching. As I scanned through the DVR to find what I wanted to watch, I heard Robin make a comment that surprised me. Robin was talking about what he wanted to happen between him and the girl he has a crush on. He said they would do this and that as they started dating but then he said "And after a few years we will move in together." He proceeded to quickly tell all the things they would do as a "couple." It caused me to wonder what other comments are made, in that show and others, that blatantly contradict what we are teaching our kids to be true from the Word of God.

It shouldn't be surprising that our children are bombarded by the world with images and words that are contrary to what Christian parents should be teaching them as truth. If you hear cursing in Disney Movies (How to Train your Dragon), do you really expect the rest of the world to be any different? What parents need to realize is that the world starts early teaching your children things that are contrary to God's Word. It may be a curse word, a suggestive image, or an attempt to normalize actions that God says is sin. Regardless of what it is the world starts early and doesn't let up when it comes to pushing sin as normal or okay.

Knowing that the world starts young means we need to make sure that we start young as well. You can't start early enough in training your child in sound biblical disciplines that will firmly ground them in their faith. Teach them early to spend time in prayer. Teach them to read their Bible so they know the truths of God's Word. Show them what it means to serve God through the local church. Teach them to worship God in their daily life and in the church. When we do they will be one saying "I don't know if I should be watching this because..." When you hear comments like that from your kids, then you'll know you've grounded them in a way that will stay with them as they grow into adulthood.

I realize it is impossible to weed out every last comment or image in the world that goes against God's Word and still keep your TV on. But we can take a stand against it by taking the opportunity to refute the comment or the image with the truth. When we do we will live out Deuteronomy 6:6-9 and show our kids that we take our faith seriously and that they should too.

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Get the hard stuff because it's better!

Last week I helped get hay up out of a field that we had cut earlier in the week. But this isn't just any field. This particular part of our hay fields is the most challenging to harvest. The reason it is so challenging is because it is in a holler (that is Southern American for a "hollow" or place between two hills). This particular holler is steep on both sides and has a drainage ditch in the bottom. There are holes along that ditch that will ruin the front end of a tractor. Needless to say, but one would question why a farmer would go after such challenging hay. The answer is simple, the hay is better than any other we grow. In that holler that measures about 1.3 acres we rolled up 6 bales of hay. That is huge compared to 1 bale per acre that we harvested from other fields that suffered from the same lack of rain. As I rode around holes and ditches I couldn't help but see how this difficult-to-harvest field reflects both the challenge and the reward of growing in our faith.

If a believer in Christ wants to grow in their faith it requires real work. I mean it takes real effort if you want to see real results. If a believer is content to limit their only interaction with God to Sunday mornings for one hour, then there is no effort being put forth and therefore no real results will be seen. They may feel better after a church service, but let's get serious, that won't grow your faith like it needs to grow.

If you want to grow your faith and live the victorious life that Jesus promises (John 10:10), then you are going to have to work hard to harvest it. That means putting in the time it takes to deepen your relationship with God. That means reading God's Word and tackling the difficult and deep truths, not just the feel good verses. That means spending time in prayer where you do more than just ask for stuff, instead praising God, thanking Him, and confessing your sins. That means doing all you can to avoid the holes and ditches that can so easily ensnare you and keep you from focusing on God. That means finding a place of service in your church where you can serve God and serve others.

If you want to see real results in your spiritual life, then you have to put in real work. You have to go into the difficult-to-harvest areas of faith and work to bring out those beneficial truths and disciplines. When you do, your harvest will be noticeable to God, to others, and especially to you. Get started today and watch how God will bless your hard work as you seek to grow in your faith and your relationship with Him.

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Monday, September 14, 2015

Don't always go for the flash.

Back at Christmas my wife bought me an iPad as a gift. For the first few months all I used it for was to display my sermon notes while preaching and to play a Marvel video game called Contest of Champions. The video game advances through levels as you assemble a team that takes turns in a one-on-one match up between Marvel superheroes like Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, and Ironman. The video game is addictive and my boys have played it whenever they've had the chance. Recently I picked up my iPad after one of my boys had played the game. I couldn't figure out why they had picked Ironman and a few other players for a particular level that would have called for different superheroes. Once I realized what they had done I couldn't help but notice the problem. They had gone for Ironman and some of the more well known superheroes that had a lot of flash. Instead they should have selected less flashy heroes and put the right pieces in place regardless of how popular or flashy they were.

This same principle translates over to the spiritual development of a Christian. Some times Christians sacrifice sound, biblical growth for something much less enduring. Rather than practicing solid disciplines, such as prayer, bible study, etc., they will settle for the flash of a Sunday morning worship service. They believe that they can grow into spiritual maturity by living off the spiritual snacks gleaned from an hour long service that generally requires no effort on their part. This idea is the equivalent of feeding a child nothing but chicken nuggets for every meal, every day of their life. No one in their right mind would expect that child to grow up to be a healthy teen or adult. Then why in the world would a Christian expect to grow into spiritual adulthood by living off nothing but the chicken nuggets they get from a one hour service on Sundays? Don't think this issue is new to the world of faith because it's not. The writer of Hebrews addressed the same exact issue 2,000 years ago in Hebrews 5:11-14. He wrote, "We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" (NIV). The writer describes people who ought to have matured to the point of being teachers, but instead are still infants in their faith. And here we are, 2,000 years later with the same problem affecting Christians. 

So how does one fix this problem in their own life? First they have to be committed to growing in their faith or else they won't put in the necessary work. Commit to making prayer, bible study, and other biblical disciplines a part of your daily life. Then schedule the time to practice them. Find a regular time in your routine where you have time to practice these disciplines. If it means getting up earlier, get up earlier. If it means not watching as much TV of an evening, then turn the TV off. Each person is different, so don't think you and your spouse or friend have to have the same prayer time or bible reading habits. The important thing is to make the commitment, make it a part of your daily routine, and watch God grow you spiritually.

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