Monday, February 26, 2018

2 Questions Every Parent Should Ask

As a pastor I meet many different kinds of people and have the opportunity to see people in different stages of life. I see how they carry themselves, how they treat other people, and how they lead their families. The ones I find myself thinking about more than others are parents and the children they are raising. Maybe it is because I'm a parent with Middle School age boys. Maybe it is because I'm a pastor and I minister to families. Maybe its because of the world we see developing in front of our eyes. I really think it is a little bit of all of these. As I watch parents interacting with their children, dropping them off at school, sitting in a restaurant, playing in their yards, or any other number of activities, I can't help but wonder if those parents have asked themselves the two questions I think every parent should ask themselves. I wonder how their lives would be different if they did ask these two simple questions and then took seriously the answers they gave. How would their child's life and the lives of generations to come be different all because they asked, answered, and then took seriously the way they responded. Call me naive but I believe the world we live in, where kids are eating dish detergent and kids are killing other kids, could be vastly different if parents would ask themselves these two questions and then live a life according to the way they should be answered.

Before I share with you the two questions I believe every parent should ask themselves, I want to kindly encourage you not to read any further if you are not willing to do some self inspection. It is pointless for you to read the rest of this post and then scroll to the next item in your Facebook News Feed if you aren't willing to seriously ask these questions of yourself. So if you are willing to examine yourself and the way you are raising your child, then by all means continue to read this post.

Question #1: Am I a Christian?
This question is simple to answer and is either a "yes" or a "no." Either you have received the forgiveness of your sins through putting your faith in Jesus Christ or you have not. If you are a born-again Christian and have experienced salvation, then you know you can answer yes to this question. If you do answer yes to this question then jump to the next question but be prepared for a much deeper level of self inspection.

If you answered "no" to this question I would encourage you to consider putting your faith in Christ. God wants a personal relationship with you and can help you be the best version of a parent, husband, wife, friend, co-worker, and everything else you are. We all have disobeyed God's rules and because of that we are spiritually separated from Him and need to fix our relationship with Him. The only way to do this is through what Jesus Christ did by dying on the cross for you and me. I truly believe the best way to parent a child is from the perspective of one who has had their life changed by Jesus. The reason is we never truly understand love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness, which all parents must show, until we've received it from God. Check out this link or this link to learn more about how you can start a relationship with Christ.

Question #2: Am I doing all I can to raise my child to have a strong faith in Christ?
If you answered "no" to the first question, then obviously your answer to this one will be "no" as well. I encourage you to read further and I pray it challenges you to consider more about giving your life to Christ.

If you answered "yes" to this question I want to commend and encourage you. It is not easy to raise our children to have a strong faith in Christ in the world we live in today. Keep up the good work. It won't be easy, but it will be worth it. God will reward your faithfulness.

If you answered "no" to this question, I hope the rest of this post will challenge you to make necessary and long-lasting changes to the way you are raising your child. In more than 12 years of ministry and a lifetime in church, I have watched as parents have at times been on fire for God and their children have reaped the benefits of it. I've also watched as some of these same parents have quit attending church and essentially jerked the spiritual rug right out from under their own children. Do not hear me saying greater church attendance equates to greater spirituality because it doesn't. Just because you sit in a building at a certain time each week does not mean you are growing spiritually. But weekly being a part of a church is giving your child more tools to build a strong faith in Christ. That being said, chances are if you aren't attending church, then matters of faith, such as prayer, discipleship, worship, service, and evangelism, are not being accomplished in the life of your family. This means your child is being robbed of the things that could help them develop a faith in Christ that will help them weather the storms of life.

Consider this, if you are a Christian and your child is too, then when this life is over for both of you, there will be a reunion in heaven. You can rest assured of your child's eternal destination and you can breathe a little easier. But what about the next 70-80 years of their life? How will they make it? Are you raising your child spiritually to reflect a kid who has been passed along through school and graduated but can't even read? Will your child, who put their faith in Christ as a young person, not really know the God they stand before in heaven? Will your child's first real worship experience be when they stand before the throne of God? If your child is a Christian, then are you doing everything you can to raise your child to have a strong faith in Christ?

One more thing to consider. If you are a Christian and your child is not, then you know what the future holds for them. The Bible is clear that those without faith in Christ do not go to heaven, but instead go to hell. Are you doing everything right now to expose them to the gospel so they can put their faith in Christ, receive eternal life, and go to heaven? Do you have them involved in discipleship and worship, missions and service, so they might understand how much God loves them and wants a relationship with them? One of the greatest travesties in the world right now is the number of children being raised without the same faith in God their parents have because mom and/or dad doesn't see matters of faith as a priority. That's not being judgmental. It is simply the truth. When mom and/or dad have faith in Christ but don't live it out, they say to their child "Don't worry about Jesus because He's not all that important to me." When we give our kids that message, we set them up for spiritual failure. And not just them, but generations to come.

I will close with this. I am very concerned about the world my boys are being raised in today. I could not imagine what it would be like to know that I have not done everything within my power to prepare my sons to face this world. Have Misty and I done everything perfectly, no we haven't. Have we worked hard to make sure they are prepared spiritually to face a world that is running off the spiritual rails, yes we have. Regardless of how you answered the second question mentioned above, it is never too late to make the necessary changes to start equipping your child to have a strong faith in Christ. I hope today's post has encouraged you to take seriously not only your own spiritual walk with Christ, but the spiritual future of your child.

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Which version of the Bible should I use?

Several years ago I got into the habit of reading a different translation of the Bible as I have gone through my personal Bible reading. I started out with what I was most familiar and really what I grew up on which was the New King James Version (NKJV). Then I went to what I now deem my favorite translation, the New International Version (NIV). In recent years, I've read through the New American Standard Bible (NASB), as well as the New Living Translation (NLT). Just last week I finished reading through the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). The latest translation I've began to read through is the English Standard Version (ESV). Don’t misunderstand what I just shared with you. This isn’t about getting attention for having read through the Bible a few times or the number of translations I’ve read. This is about getting into a subject that is very personal to followers of Christ. The subject is translations of the Bible. Is there only one correct one to use? Which is best? Is it wrong to only use one translation?

There are some followers of Christ out there that will tell you that if you do not use a particular translation of the Bible then you aren’t using “the” Bible. I actually heard this from a fellow pastor once. The translation that is usually most adamantly defended as being “the one and only Bible” is the King James Version (KJV). Now before anyone gets upset with me, my first Bible was a KJV and I still have it on the shelf in my office, along with two other copies. But the problem is with the narrow view that the KJV is the only version that should be used, not the version itself. Many times those that argue so strongly for the KJV forget to mention that the Biblical texts were originally written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, not in 17th Century English. So technically, "the" Bible was written in languages most Christians can't even read today. Again don’t hear me bashing the KJV or any other specific translation. Do hear me say this; it’s not right to put down believers who do not prefer your preferred translation.The reason why is simple. All translations of the Bible use the same sources, the original manuscripts in Hebrew, Greek, & Aramaic. If they all use the same sources, then you can't discount one with out discounting them all!

In more than 12 years of ministry I’ve used KJV, NKJV, NIV, NASB, ESV, HCSB, and NLT from the pulpit. If you can’t tell by now I am a big proponent of using varied translations to help us get a better picture of what God is revealing to us through the text. A former chairman of Deacons once reminded me that different translations bring a different perspective. He was right. If you enjoy the language of the KJV and don’t want to use another translation, I understand. If you prefer a translation in modern English like the NIV, NLT, or others (such as the CEV or ESV), then by all means use them. I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and try a different translation and see how God will speak to you in a new way. If you do try a different translation, don’t give up on it quickly or easily. Variety is said to be the spice of life, but the important thing is to be in the Word regardless of what translation you use!

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Monday, February 5, 2018

Should you go see Fifty Shades Freed?

With the third and, thankfully, final installment in The Fifty Shades Trilogy set to be released this week on February 9, it seemed like as good a time as any to republish this post. It was written in 2015 at the time the first installment, Fifty Shades of Grey, was released. The truths contained in the post doesn't change with time or with which installment is released. If nothing else, I hope this post will cause you to carefully consider whether you should see Fifty Shades Freed and what value any of these movies add to your spiritual life and marriage.


Originally Posted: 2/9/2015

I want to preface what I am about to say with this little fact. I've not read the book 50 Shades of Grey and I have no plans to see the movie. So I have limited knowledge about the content of the book or what the movie will contain. That being said I've read enough about the book and movie to understand the gist of what the story entails. With that in mind, let's get started!

Misty and I were talking a few nights ago after seeing the trailer for 50 Shades of Grey on TV. She said she was going to see the movie and wanted to know what I thought. I told her I didn't think it was a movie she would want to see, but she needed to read reviews and then decide for herself if it was a movie she ought to see. I told her I could no more tell her not to see the movie than I could tell her to wash my clothes or cook my supper. But my wife has a twisted sense of humor in the fact that she likes to make comments from time to time to see what kind of rise she can get out of me. You'd think after nearly 13 years of marriage I'd be able to spot these set ups but I can't. She's good at them. She made a comment that endeared her to me all the more after she didn't get quite the rise she expected from me. She basically said she didn't need to see that movie because she respected me as her husband and because of what I mean to her. To me that comment showed me that she wants to avoid one big gray area by skipping 50 Shades of Grey.

Now this post isn't about guilt tripping a person into not seeing 50 Shades of Grey. It's not about saying you don't respect your spouse if you do see it. What I want is for a person to read this post and consider whether they should see 50 Shades of Grey or similar movies. I will be honest with you I have watched movies and witnessed scenes that I had no business watching. Those images are scenes that cannot be unseen. Misty and I watched a movie a few weeks ago that surprised us with scenes that caught us off guard. Unfortunately Hollywood believes that what sells a movie is sex and foul language. It's almost unavoidable when you watch a movie nowadays. But what about movies that blatantly push a distorted view of sex, much less God's intentions for sex. When it comes to a movie like this you have to ask, "What is the reason for going to see 50 Shades of Grey?" Some will say because they read the book or because their friends are going to see it. Some will say they are taking their spouse to see it so its okay. In the end it's not about the justification we give for seeing the movie. It's about what viewing the movie does to us. 

Most will say they can compartmentalize the movie from their normal way of thinking but you really can't. What we take in affects our view of the world around us. In the end we are led towards a place of compromise when we watch a movie that blatantly distorts and perverts something that God created as good. We find ourselves in a gray area between upholding the purity of mind that God expects from us and the obvious acceptance of sin as being okay. The catch is that Satan doesn't have to get you to the dark side. He just needs to get you into the gray area. When he does've already lost. 

So the real question to ask is what is the benefit of watching 50 Shades of Grey? How does it benefit you as a person (or even as a Christian)? How does it benefit your marriage? The truthful answer is it won't benefit anything. You as a believer will only have watched something that will tear at the holiness God intends for you to pursue. As for your marriage, it won't help anything there either. Just ask yourself honestly whether you should see the movie and I think the answer will be pretty clear. 

I'll close with this. I'm sure some read this wanting to hear me tell them why they can't go see this movie. I can no more tell you not to see this movie than I can tell you that you have to read this blog. In the end the decision is yours, not mine. I just want you to consider whether you should see it or not. If you expected to read a post full of Bible verses condemning 50 Shades of Grey and other movies with pornographic images in it then you've read the wrong post. Although I don't think anyone would necessarily need it but if you want some verses that will help you decide whether you should watch it or not, here are a few to consider.

Job 31:1 - It's up to us what we choose to look at.
1 Corinthians 10:23 - Just because it's available to watch doesn't mean it benefits us.
1 Peter 1:15-16 - We are to pursue holiness in all we do.
Psalm 51:10 - Do you desire the purity of heart that God desires for you?

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