A blog about everything about teaching the Bible. "And still I will show you a more excellent way..." (1 Corinthians 12:31).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

PHILEO

Another Greek word translated love in the New Testament in phileo. I’ve found this word for love very interesting, and before I’m done with today’s thought, you may as well. It is love, but it carries a different connotation than agape. It is the love of familiarity. The love we most often associate with family relationships and friends.

In his Expository Dictionary, W.E. vine wrote, “It is to be distinguished from agapao in this, that phileo more tenderly represents tender affection.” The two words (agapao and phileo) are used for the love of the Father for the son, John 3:35 (agapao) and 5:20 (phileo), so there is overlap between the meanings of the two words. They do both mean love! And like agape, phileo is used in the New Testament to represent God’s love for his children, and Jesus’ for his disciples. However, the two words were used in Koine Greek distinctly, so we should observe the nuances of meaning that differ between them in each passage in which they’re used, respectively.

Vine went on to say, “Phileo is never used in a command to men to love God.” I’ve heard sermons repeating this, and I imagine Mr. Vine was the source, but I don’t exactly agree. I see Matthew 10:37 as equal to a commandment to love Jesus with this kind of love, and we are certainly commanded to love our brothers and sisters in Christ with a phileo kind of love. Romans 12:10 says, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (ESV). There are two terms for love there, the first is “philadelphia,” which, you guessed it, means brotherly love, and then there’s “philostorgoi,” a combination of phileo along with the only instance of storge (another Greek word for love) in the Bible (that I know of). I think in this instance the old KJV rendering is better, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love…” (KJV).

So, here’s the interesting twist that many do not suspect. We’ve often heard it said in the church we have to love each other, but we don’t have to like each other. I don’t think that is consistent with Romans 12:10. We’ve got to try not only to “love” each other, but also to be close, like real brothers, and even get to where we “like” each other. We’re never asked to like bad character traits, odious personal habits, and the like, but if we’re called to “love the sinner and hate the sin” of those outside of Christ, then I think it’s safe to say we ought at least to “like the brother even if we dislike a trait or two.” Something to think about… feel free to comment!

Image: xedos4 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

AGAPE

It goes without saying; the Bible has a lot to say about love. The New Testament was written in Koine Greek, which basically means “common Greek.” It wasn’t “Classical Greek,” the language of poets. It was the Greek spoken by average people on any average street in the ancient world. Like modern English, ancient Greek had several ways of talking about love. For today, I offer you some thoughts about one of them.

Agape. You may be familiar with it. It’s the noun form of the Greek word most commonly translated love in your New Testament. The basic verb form is agapao. W.E. Vine called it “the characteristic word of Christianity.” I’m inclined to agree, and anyone who studies the New Testament thoroughly will as well. Agape is love that does. It’s love that does what love ought to do. It’s probably the word for love in the Bible most closely related to our term “unconditional love.” Selfishness negates it. Materialism suffocates it. Impurity stains it. It seeks the good of all. It’s the love of God the Father for Jesus his Son (John 17:26). It’s the love of God for mankind (John 3:16). It’s the love of Jesus for believers (John 14:21). It’s the “love” of the “love chapter” (1Corinthians 13). Christians are commanded to express it toward each other (John 13:34). Christians are commanded to express it toward everyone (1Thessalonians 3:12).

It isn’t anything if it’s just an abstract thought. The concept of love is great, but an act of love is greater! Love your Maker with all your being! Seek the well-being of everyone in the world without selfish motivations, in all purity of body and mind, with wisdom and knowledge ever increasing through prayerful meditation in the Scriptures. That’s agape!

Image: xedos4 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, March 28, 2011

Love in Seven Words

Love is as much “why” as it is “what.” Just think about it! If we’re talking about love and define it as “what,” at least we have a definition. However, if we forget the “why,” the “what” soon gets forgotten too. Get it? So, it’s safe to say love is as much why it is as it is what it is and if I “love” someone selfishly or lustfully it’s not really love at all, because love won’t grow in that kind of soil.

Unconditional love is really a misnomer. There’s no such thing as love without any conditions or reasons. For instance, someone might say he loves a member of his family unconditionally. What he means is because the person meets the condition of being family he will always love this person no matter what. God loves us all on the condition we’re his offspring (Acts 17:28). So, the reason why we love is as important as the fact that we do. The reason why is as important as how we do. The reason why we love, or the basic condition leading to our love, will determine whether we love, how we love, and if we’ll keep on loving forever. It’s very important!

Why do you love your family? Why do you love your spouse; your children? Examine your heart honestly and it could change your life for the better, and incidentally, change the lives of your loved ones as well. Do you love Jesus? That’s the most important question! Only those of us who love Jesus will receive the gift of eternal life! (2Timothy 4:8). Why should you? I could offer a lot of reasons. I could say you’ll never learn how to really love your spouse, children, or friends unless you let Jesus teach you how to love. That’s true, and ought to be reason enough. But, it’s deeper than that. Jesus is love embodied, and he is the very foundation of love and the only means by which love may continue forever. So, I’ll leave you with seven reasons to love Jesus and make him your Lord: “We love because he first loved us” (1John 4:19). That’s enough for me!

Image: xedos4 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Saturday, March 26, 2011

(Family Devotional) Sow the Seed

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building” (1Corinthians 3:6-9 ESV).

Man’s first job was gardening. Genesis says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Few of us want to have to scrape out a living by the sweat of our brows, and we know gardening can be hard work, but most of us have a longing for Eden deep within our souls and love to be out enjoying the beauty of Creation.

For some, gardening is a matter of life and death, and for others it’s a hobby. Some like to raise home-grown fruits and vegetables; others like colorful landscaping with trimmed shrubs, flowers, and a manicured lawn. It was all part of Adam’s and Eve’s job in the Garden of Eden. Before they sinned, it would have been pleasant work. Hard, displeasing work came after sin as punishment for it. Genesis 3:17b-19 says, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground….”

Since Christ’s time on earth, God has been most merciful to us. Fewer of us than ever before have to toil with the soil to produce the food we eat, and those who do often have the benefit of pesticides, fertilizers, and other technology that makes it much easier than it was for previous generations. But, even if you live in a big city somewhere, the food you eat comes from the ground. All of us can relate to the concept of tilling, sowing, watering, and reaping. We all depend on it!

God wants us to understand how the earth produces fruit, because it helps us understand how to lead others to Christ. We have to “till the soil.” In Luke 8, Jesus compared people’s minds to types of soil and the gospel as seed (Luke 8:11). Some are rocky, some weedy, and others are good soil. We all know you can pick rocks and weeds out of soil to make it better. By putting spiritual things first and preparing people to expect and endure trials, we can “till the soil” of people’s hearts to make it “good soil” for receiving the word with faith. As believers, one of our main jobs is to “sow the seed,” which means we tell others the good news about Jesus. We “water the seed” by helping someone who has heard the gospel along the path to faith. When we “till the soil,” “sow the seed,” and “water the seed” in people’s hearts, the result with some will be a harvest. We’ll help the Lord to save souls! So, think of yourself as a spiritual gardener and start tilling, sowing, watering, and when God grants the growth you’ll experience the joy of reaping!

Suggestions:

Take a few minutes to talk about ways soul-winning is like gardening. Talk about ways it’s like other jobs with which your family is familiar.

Don’t forget to make one family meal this week a “memory meal”! Choose a scripture and “chew” on it together. Hopefully everyone will not only know it by heart before the last bite, but also understand it.

Close with a prayer, and to ask God to help you help others come to obedient faith in Christ and grow.

May the Lord bless your family devotionals!

“Didn't God create you to become like one person with your wife? And why did he do this? It was so you would have children, and then lead them to become God's people. Don't ever be unfaithful to your wife” (Malachi 2:15 CEV).

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Heavenly Dreaming

While it turned back a bit chilly and winter-like today, the wonderful Spring weather of the last couple of days has been wonderful. I’ve had lots to do, and have had to spend more time in the office than I’d have liked, but I enjoyed the outdoors as my boys rode their bikes a couple of times and being outside in that beautiful, breezy, sunny weather sent my heart dreaming about what the Bible talks about with many varied descriptions.

Jesus promised, “In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2-3 ESV). He was talking about the heavenly home presently being prepared for those who love Jesus to receive and enjoy at his coming forever. So, there in John he speaks of a “house” with many “rooms,” or “dwelling places.” Sounds nice, but it’s vague. The words make me think of a nice resort with a 5-star hotel, or an opulent mansion with multiple guest chambers. Frankly, I’m cool with either one!

In the book of Hebrews the reward is likened to a “city” and “country” (Hebrews 10:34, 11:14-16). Peter calls it a “new heavens and new earth” (2Peter 3:13). Of course the Book of Revelation speaks of pearly gates and streets of gold. Perhaps many of the descriptions are symbolic. I’m sure at least a few of them are quite literal. Perhaps it’s as some say, the place defies all present imagination. I like to think it will be like the present world, but better, richer, fuller. That’s what it seems our ancient Jewish brethren expected.

Bottom line: It’ll be heaven—in every sense of that word! Need we know more? No matter what trials we may face today, and whether we’re satisfied with our present lot or not, the destiny God has set before we who believe is the stuff of dreams! Go outside and enjoy the beauty of Creation this Spring, and dream of what our heavenly home will be like!

(Image (c)Arvind Balaramand (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Newness of Life

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his (Romans 6:1-5 ESV).

That’s a truly beautiful passage that speaks so plainly of what faith in Jesus is all about. It’s in the book of Romans, and I had a hard time deciding where to stop with the quote. I could easily have quoted through verse 11, or even the whole chapter. Whenever I read from Romans I don’t want to stop. I remember the first time I read through the Bible as a believing adult. I read through Romans, and at the end of the last chapter, chapter 16, I wrote the words, “Read this again!”
Being a follower of Jesus isn’t just about believing a few facts and making the good confession. It isn’t merely being baptized and attending church. It’s about being born again and living a completely new life from what you lived before coming to Christ.

Baptism represents the turning point. John wrote these words: “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’” (John 3:3-5 ESV). I’ve found no Bible scholar who denied “born of water and the Spirit” means water baptism prior to the Protestant Reformation. It’s truly parallel to Romans 6.

Romans 6 teaches us what baptism means as that point of death, burial and new birth into newness of life. Have you been born again by God’s grace through faith by going through the symbolic death and resurrection with Christ in baptism? If so, take note that the purpose is that you might walk in “newness of life.”
Newness of life is life that is constantly new (2Corinthians 4:16). It doesn’t wear out, grow old, or decay. It’s empowered by Christ and essentially eternal! Newness of life is living life in a new way. Not in the oldness of the letter of the Law of Moses (Romans 7:6). Not with the old “leaven” of worldly, sinful motivations (1Corinthians 5:8). It’s embracing the way of love, grace, and truth in Jesus (John 1:17). It is the abundant life (John 10:10). It’s a foretaste of what is to come in heaven even while still living this life. I can testify that it is the good life. I hope today's thoughts have blessed you.
(Image (c)Arvind Balaramand (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Has Sprung!

Spring is here. I’m, happy about it! God made the seasons and there’s something magical about the way they can affect mind and mood. I’ve had little desire to be outside for months, and have felt, frankly, lazy—at least about physical activity. Winter does that to me. I love it as the holidays approach, and as I look forward to a good snow or two, but after that, it’s just cold and dreary. Then Spring dawns. As breezy warmth ensues, I feel good.

It’s not just about being outside enjoying the warmth and taking in the beauty of green leaves and colorful flowers. Summer feels like time to work. Fall inspires introspection—taking note of what’s passed and passing. Winter makes me want to get together with people, and as another year approaches and dawns, it’s time for planning and looking forward. But, Spring makes me long for change, for new experiences and new heights. I want to see growth and grow myself. Spring is time for renewal. It’s about letting go of the past, not only to look forward, but to be in the now. Of all times in the year, this is when I’m most able to live in the moment.

This week, I’ll be writing about renewal, and living in the moment. I’ve got a few things to say about growth as well. With our minds on this new season, I leave you with God’s promise to Noah when he stood gazing out over the Spring of a renewed world, its former ugliness having been washed away in the worldwide flood. “Then Noah… offered burnt offerings... And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man... While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease’” (Genesis 8:20-22 ESV). Let’s live in the moment this Spring, and remember this is also a time for worship, for our God created warmth, beauty, and all the abundance and variety of life, and he gave us the changing seasons, which include this beautiful Spring!

(Image (c)Arvind Balaramand (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

(Family Devotional) Remember Your Creator

“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth…” (Ecclesiastes 12:1a ESV).

Paul had looked forward to this birthday for years. This was the one—the one that made it official! As of today he was no longer a kid! Everything went great. His parents threw a party with close family and friends and his birthday present was exactly what he wanted. The next Saturday, he woke to the sound of his father’s voice, “Wake up Paul! Son, you’re growing up; it’s time for bigger chores. C’mon son, get up and get dressed and meet me out by the shed. You’re going to learn how to mow the lawn.”

Paul hadn’t counted on growing up coming with such a cost. Saturday was always his day to sleep really late, and now he had to get up early and mow the lawn? His still half-asleep mind found the thought very unpleasant. He whined, “But dad, I’m tired. I have to get up for school all week. I want to sleep in!” Paul’s dad responded with something about responsibility, and doing his part in the family, but he wasn’t listening. Before he even though about it, Paul found himself saying, “But, dad, I’m just a kid!”

Being a kid is a state of mind. Some ten-year-olds have to handle grown-up problems, and many adults still think of themselves as kids. It doesn’t really matter how old you are, as you grow you have to step up and take more and more responsibility for yourself and to help others, especially in your family, church, and community. From the very young to the very old we should all serve and worship God.

Sometimes we think serving God is a grown-up thing to do, and we’re right, it is. But, it’s a grown-up thing that even kids can do, and should do! The Bible tells stories of great godly people like Samuel and Josiah who started serving God in big ways while they were still children, and don’t forget young Jesus wanted nothing more than to be learning about God while he was still a kid (Luke 2). While you’re young, or even young at heart, don’t get caught up is just making yourself happy and forget about God. Remember him. Seek him. Serve him while you’re still young, and you’ll have no problem sticking with it for as long as you live!

Suggestions:

Have everyone in the family suggest a way he or she can do more to “remember God” by serving him and taking responsibility.

Don’t forget to make one family meal a “memory meal”! Choose a scripture and “chew” on it together. Hopefully everyone will not only know it by heart before the last bite, but will also understand it.

Close with a prayer, and to ask God to help you all to think of him in everything you do, always.

May the Lord bless your family devotionals!

“Didn't God create you to become like one person with your wife? And why did he do this? It was so you would have children, and then lead them to become God's people. Don't ever be unfaithful to your wife” (Malachi 2:15 CEV).

Friday, March 18, 2011

Teach Us to Number Our Days

How long do you have left to live? Someone once said, “Few people are so sick that they think they cannot live one more year.” With few exceptions even the oldest among us expect to still be here in a year or more. No matter where we are on the age scale, we tend to think death is still far away. This leads to a false sense of security—the “time is on my side” state of mind. Moses prayed, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12 ESV).

Wise people “number their days.” Have you numbered yours? The Bible says, “We can expect seventy years, or maybe eighty, if we are healthy, but even our best years bring trouble and sorrow. Suddenly our time is up, and we disappear” (Psalm 90:10 CEV). The records agree; the average life span is 77.9 years in the U.S. according to the CDC. It seems God set the high limit for human life spans in response to the way the most ancient men misused their extremely long lives: “Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years” (Genesis 6:3 ESV). The world’s records bear this out. Of course, if the average lifespan is 70-80 and some of us live past 100, then a few of us are making things average out by dying young. It’s rotten, but it happens! God forbid it to happen to you or me!

Let’s number our days. If, like me, you’re 35, and by God’s grace you reach 75, you have 40 years to go. If you turn 35 today, and make it to 75 you have 14, 610 days to go (and counting). Slide your age ten years either direction and add or subtract 3, 652.5 days accordingly. Get the idea? Thousands of days may seem like a lot from one vantage, but if you consider how fast days turn into weeks, months and years, none of us have much time to go this side of eternity. Our days are numbered!

How does doing this make us wise? Well, let’s think about it. The illusion of “plenty of time” ignores the fact that one more of a finite number of boxes on a calendar is crossed off every time we hear the alarm clock! But, what’s wrong with just not thinking about it? I suppose nothing if you’re living right! The problem when we get into “plenty of time” mode is we’re tempted to say we’ll get around to good works later. “Yeah, I know I’m not living like I ought to be, but I’m a good person, and I plan to do better.” When? How much “later” do you have left? Number your days and find out how many you may have at most, but do not forget someone has to make things average out and you may not get what you expect. Don’t lay on your death bed crying, “I should have….” Do it today! May God help us to be wise, and number our days so that we all use today for all it’s worth and do all the good we possibly can before it’s too late!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Using Your Time Wisely

How do you decide how to spend your time? Are you as impulsive by nature as I am? I’ve had to learn to put boundaries in place in my world or else I’d just daydream my life away! I’m definitely a dreamer! However, because being a grown-up has forced my hand, I’ve learned to live by a planner, and while I’m still not perfect at maximizing the wise use of my time, I do pretty well most of the time. I just want to share a few tips. Take them for what they’re worth. There isn’t one right way to decide how to spend your time and discipline yourself to use it wisely, but you should find a way that works for you.

Most important is deciding what matters to you. For me it’s serving Christ and my family. You should spend as much of your time as possible doing the things that matter most. If it’s serving through the church, then make sure you’re spending at least a few hours a week doing that. If family time is important, even the busiest of us needs to set aside at least an evening a week for them. Nobody ever lay on his death bed and said, “I should have put in more over-time.”

Successful people say we should make lists of the things we have to do. I’ve found this to be good advice, especially when I get to feeling overwhelmed. Break the list down into two columns: “important,” and “not important.” Then divide it further into “pressing,” and “not pressing.” You’ll have four boxes. Important and pressing comes first, and if you get nothing else done, do those things first. Get to the things that are neither important nor pressing if and when you can, and if you can’t, don’t sweat it! After all, they’re not important. Remember, if you’re real busy, put date night, family time, and whatever else on the list. If someone wants you to do something during family time you can honestly say, “I’m sorry, I’ve already got an appointment for that time.” If my wife reads this, she may tell me to take my own advice!

“Act like people with good sense and not like fools. These are evil times, so make every minute count. Don't be stupid. Instead, find out what the Lord wants you to do” (Ephesians 5:15-17 CEV).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Time "Aint" on My Side!

Meaning no offense to “the Stones,” truth is time isn’t on any of our sides. You know it’s true. If you don’t know it yet, stick around, you’ll know it all too well real soon, and then you’ll turn around and have known it for 20 years! Time flies! We’re all getting older. We just have to deal with it.

Ah, but how? You can’t ignore it no matter how hard you try. The mirror will remind you. Aches and injuries will remind you. You can try, I suppose. There’s booze. Get deep in that and you’ll just speed things up. That won’t help. You can occupy your mind with responsibilities and try to convince yourself that having a lot to do equals a meaningful life. Does it? You can always go the escape route and live in books, movies, TV and games. The clock will still tick-tock. Ignoring it won’t change anything. I was 15 years old not long ago, now I’m 35. It’ll be just as quick and I’ll be 55, then 75 (Lord willing), and then, well, you do the math! I’m not trying to sugar coat this—the clock is ticking toward the end of your days and the beginning of eternity and what will your life have meant when you get there?

Please bear with me here, I want to really make this point. You don’t have time. You have now. Every single life hangs like a thread and is so fragile; so brief. It is so far from being about career and house and car and money, and isn’t even about fun or being happy. This life is the prelude to eternity, and if your present ways are a foretaste of the real show, will the show be more like heaven or hell? Think it through if you dare!

Jesus’ brother says, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’-- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:13-14 ESV).

Right, what is your life—my life? Paul says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:2-4 ESV). What if someone hasn’t “died” to self and been born again in Christ? Simple, no life, and even the life he seems to have will be taken away (Matthew 13:12).

So, how is this “good news”? Well, it isn’t. Not everything in the Bible is good news. Some of it’s bad news, but it’s truth. However, the Bible is honest about the bad news we all already know anyway and are trying to ignore. God wants us to wake up and make a sober reality check, and if we will, the good news can shine into our lives and make even a short one by human standards rich and worthy through Jesus. That’s it for today.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Saving Daylight

We all lost an hour of sleep between Saturday night and Sunday morning. Maybe you felt the difference, maybe you didn’t. Did you show up an hour late for church? We all welcome the old “fall back” thing, cause a free extra hour of sleep never hurt anybody, but the “spring forward” thing makes me question the need for daylight savings time every year on the year, and I end up saying, “I wish they’d just pick one and stick with it.”

Speaking of “daylight savings,” my family had a discussion about time the other day in the car. My boys have been made aware that the older you get the faster time seems to pass you by. The younger one said, “If you were old a month would seem like a week.” I must be old. The old hymn has never been truer for me: “Time is filled with swift transition….” I regularly burn the candle at both ends—how about you? I find myself in need of extra hours every day, and I’m never able to get everything done. Sound familiar? It’s become something of an inside joke between me, myself, and I: “I’ve got to get these four pressing tasks done then I’ll have some peace and can rest for a little while.” Like I said, it’s a joke. Many of us are too busy these days, but it’s not as new a thing as we sometimes think.

Close to twenty centuries ago, Paul wrote, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV). Barnes made these comments: “The word rendered here as ‘redeeming,’ means ‘to purchase; to buy up’ from the possession or power of anyone; and then to redeem, to set free - as from service or bondage... Here it means to rescue or recover our time from waste; to improve it for great and important purposes.” I appreciate those insights. As Jesus-followers, we need to embrace an entirely different concept of “saving daylight.” When all is said and done, it doesn’t matter if the clock is set an hour ahead or behind. What matters is whether we use the limited time we have on this earth to do really worthwhile things. It’s high time we all bought back the time from excess work, sports, and entertainment, and spring forward into using much more of it for “great and important purposes.”

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Family Devotional: Peer Pressure

“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’” (1Corinthians 15:33 ESV). “You shall not fall in with the many to do evil” (Exodus 23:2a ESV).

Everybody wants to be cool don’t they? At least everyone wants to be liked and have friends. That’s a good thing! Having a close network of family and friends means we have the support we all need to make it through tough times, and it means we can be that shoulder to lean on for someone else. So, wanting to be cool is great, but we all need to be careful to remember who it’s most important to be cool with: God!

There are two types of peer pressure, well, there’s really just one type of peer pressure, but depending on who’s applying the pressure it can be either good or bad. If you look for the wrong kinds of friends and want to be cool with them, they’re going to pressure you to do bad things. On the other hand, when you seek relationships with people who want to please God more than anything else, they’re going to influence you to do right. Whether most people think Christians are “cool” or not, Jesus’ crowd is going to be the “cool” crowd in eternity, and people who want to be like the loving Son of God are better friends in a pinch than someone who’s pleasing Satan ever will be!

So, God made us for relationships; first, to be his friends and family, second, to have pure and wholesome relationships with each other. It’s wise to remember the kinds of pressure our friends are putting on us. The ones who want you to follow Jesus are the only real friends you have! But, don’t think it’s only about how people influence you. You are somebody’s peer, and you can be either a good or bad influence on them. If you’re a true friend, you’ll try to help them get to heaven along with you!

Talk about what the people around you consider cool. Discuss which things are in line with Jesus’ way, and which ones aren’t. Encourage each other to put “being cool” with Jesus first.

Suggestions:

Don’t forget to make one family meal a “memory meal”! Choose a scripture and “chew” on it together. Hopefully everyone will not only know it by heart before the last bite, but will also understand it.

Close with a prayer, and remember to ask God to help you all to be the right kind of friend.

May the Lord bless your family devotionals!

“Didn't God create you to become like one person with your wife? And why did he do this? It was so you would have children, and then lead them to become God's people. Don't ever be unfaithful to your wife” (Malachi 2:15 CEV).

Friday, March 11, 2011

Don't Put Me in a Box!

Because of the general cultural frown toward it, nobody wants to be an “in-the-box” thinker. Nobody boasts, “I’m an in-the-box kind of guy—you can expect nothing unexpected from me!” Lots of us boast something like, “You know me, I’m an outside-the-box kind of guy—like to look at things in a fresh way!” You know what I’m talking about.

If you’ll bear with me, I think most of it’s vanity. We all have a little pride and like to think even if just in some small way we’re trailblazers—boldly going where no one has gone before—and so on. There’s rarely if ever such a thing as an original thought anymore. It’s actually been this way for thousands of years now already so it shouldn’t surprise us. Around 900 B.C. Solomon wrote, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’? It has been already in the ages before us” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 ESV). He got right to the heart of the matter in the next verse: “There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after” (V.11). Because we don’t know history, we think things are brand new. They’re not.

There’s another way we think in boxes. We don’t want anyone to “put us in a box” so to speak. And this is a fair desire. Every person is who he/she is due to a complicated network of inborn qualities, past experiences, needs/desires, and beliefs. I’ve never met anyone who after getting to know them I could neatly fit into any one category (i.e. “box”). So, get ready for it, which side are you on?

Aren’t you on one side or another? Aren’t you in one box or another? I hope you’re in Jesus’ “box.” If not, your future doesn’t look bright! There are many ways that we ought to be securely “inside the box” and happy about it! However, we like to over simplify the world in our minds—makes things nice and neat if we can put everything in a box, tie it up with a pretty little bow, and file it away. “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt!” Right? How about this: Are you conservative or liberal? Well, the answer depends on who’s asking. In the eyes of some I’m “as liberal as the day is long.” From others’ point of view I may be, as one dear brother likes to say, “To the right of Genghis Kahn.”

I’ve written enough to spark some thought I think. Feel free to comment and start a discussion if you like. I’ll close with a word of advice: Be careful how you box people. They’re fragile and heavy and tend to flip over in transit!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Don't Cry Wolf!

While heading to face the “wolves” in Jerusalem, the aging apostle Paul had what would be his last meeting with the elders of the Ephesus church of Christ this side of eternity. He tearfully warned them,

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears (Acts 20:29-31 ESV).

I can only imagine how those men felt when they heard such unpleasant words. Did they look around at each other like the apostles did during the Last Supper when Jesus announced one of them would betray him? I don’t know. I do know they took the warning seriously, so seriously in fact that a couple of decades later they had made exposing and rejecting false teachers mission number one, even to the extreme of abandoning love (Revelation 2:1-7). Jesus criticized them: “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (V.4 ESV).

Gospel preachers must “preach the word” even if the hearers don’t like it (2Timothy 4:1-5). Shepherds must protect the flock and rebuke those who contradict the truth (1Peter 5:2; Titus 1:9). These tasks represent the unpleasant side of ministry, but necessary. However, in times when there are disagreements among God’s people there is always the “Ephesian Danger” of viewing brothers with whom we disagree as enemies. That is strictly forbidden by the Scriptures (2thessalonians 3:15).

Most of us are familiar with the old story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. He shouted out the wolf alarm when there were no wolves, and so he lost the confidence of his people. You know the rest of the story. When the wolf really did come, no one would listen and tragedy struck.

Here’s the message: Just cause someone disagrees with you about some matter of religion, doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If you read through the list of passages I offered in yesterday’s posts, wolves are first and foremost dividers. They want to lead followers after themselves, or force unnecessary changes that alienate, and exclude those who disagree (See 3John). Some are immoral, and either teach others to be, or excuse immoral practices. Others contradict doctrines fundamental to the Christian message, specific examples in the New Testament (NT) include forcing rituals from the Law of Moses, or denying core truths of the gospel like the incarnation of Christ and his bodily death and resurrection. While the specific examples aren’t meant to be understood as the only essential doctrines, we must remember that the churches to whom the letters in the NT were written were confused and mistaken about a great many things. They were given grace to grow and space to ask questions, engage in debate, and think things through. Only when one rejected core truths, boldly practiced immorality, or showed himself unloving and self-willed was he labeled a wolf, and excluded from Christian fellowship.

When you find you don’t agree with someone in the church, think of how you want to be treated if someone disagrees with you (Matthew 7:12). Don’t cry wolf unless there really is one!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Keep Away from Wolves!

Good advice right? Keep away from wolves—especially packs of them! Today’s and tomorrow’s posts (Lord willing) are about how to deal with wolves among the sheep, or in other words, false prophets/teachers among the faithful. Listen to Paul’s warning:

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve (Romans 16:17-18 ESV).

Just because someone claims to be a Christian doesn’t mean she’s the genuine article! Just because someone claims to be a preacher or pastor, doesn’t mean you should entrust your soul into his care. There have always been false prophets among God’s people teaching falsely for the sake of some cause other than God’s. Jesus warned about them in Matthew 7:15-21.

If you read the New Testament from Matthew 7 on, you’ll find further specific reference to and instruction about false teachers in Matthew 23, 24:11, 23-24; Mark 13:21-22; Luke 6:26; Acts 13:6; 1Corinthians 14:37-38; 2Corinthians 11:3-15, 26, 12:11ff; Galatians 2:4; 2Thessalonians 2:9, 11, 3:14-15; 1Timothy 6:3-5; James 3:14; 2Peter 2:1, 3; 1John 4:1, 20-21; 2John 6-11; Revelation 2:2, 20:10, 21:27, and a couple other references in Revelation to the symbolic “false prophet.”

Dealing with false teachers is obviously something the Lord is seriously concerned about. You need to beware of them! When you have time, I urge you to skim through your Bible and read the above references and see what God has to say for yourself.

Romans 16:17-18 (quoted above) offers us two things to watch for: divisions and obstacles. “Divisions” is self-explanatory. False teachers always cause division. They deceive some and win a following, but those who know the truth eventually realize what’s going on and refuse to go that way. If (God forbid) division occurs, look for its true cause. Often the true dividers will blame those who sounded the alarm as if they’re the problem. When a leader introduces something he knows many of the brethren will not like, and he knows it’s either unnecessary or unscriptural, and then (as was foreseeable) brethren get upset, it’s deeply hypocritical to blame those who are upset as if they’re the problem. Let him who has ears, hear!

“Obstacles” refers to things that make serving Christ more difficult—threats that get in the way of true ministry. The key word here is “contrary to what you’ve been taught,” in other words, “contrary to Biblical teaching.” Jesus came not to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34). Not a literal sword of course, but he knew his teaching would, in a sense, cause divisions among people (Luke 12:49-53). The ones who refuse to obey him are the problem. So it is if faithful believers point out a wolf among the sheep, their alarm may precede division, but the wolf is the problem, not the ones who pointed him out, and their alarm merely brings to light a division that already occurred in the past, when the false teacher led the naive astray (1John 2:19). The last line of the passage is “avoid them,” simple as that. Keep away from wolves!
---JLP

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Seek and You WILL Find!

The nature of things in the present age ensures the possibility of deception. Truth is right thinking, right speaking, and right living—in harmony with God’s nature. Demonstrated by Jesus who is the living embodiment of truth, all who would be God’s true humanity have to abandon our own ways of living and accept Jesus’. This is the true meaning of repentance (Acts 17:30-31).

I only know of a few ways we can communicate truth to one another. We can just outright say something’s right or wrong. We can demonstrate through a story or by example. We imply a lot of things we leave unsaid. (I know that last one can be complicated, and it warrants deeper discussion at some point, but for now it’ll just have to stand as written.)

My point is this: Paul was the last person to become an eye-witness of Jesus’ resurrection (1Corinthians 15:8), so none of us know Christ through personal experience (yet). We know him by faith through the written word (John 20:30-31). The written word (the Bible) teaches us truth in propositional statements. For example, as recorded in John 8:24b, Jesus said, “Unless you believe that I am he (i.e. the Messiah –JLP) you will die in your sins” (ESV). Understanding truth communicated in propositional statements requires a common framework of understanding terms, an accurate grasp of context, intellectual honesty, freedom from prejudices, and so on. That makes the task of getting any 10 people to understand the entire Bible exactly alike very difficult!

However, though God ultimately wants all believers to understand everything alike (John 17:20-23; 1Corinthians 1:10) he doesn’t absolutely require it. In fact, a couple of passages show us God doesn’t expect that at all (Romans 14-15)! But there are foundational truths we must all believe, and concerning which we must maintain unity if we are to be saved (2John 9, etc.). How can I be sure I’m building my faith on such a sound foundation? Jesus promised, “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10 ESV).

Paul taught Timothy to take pains and be absorbed with his studies of Scripture and to persist in it (1Timothy 4:15-16). He later wrote further urging him to careful diligent study (2Timothy 2:15). The Bible is God’s word given to guide us to Jesus and protect our souls safely within the bounds of his care, kept safe from Satan by the bulwarks of sound doctrine. Study the Bible prayerfully and practice what it says. Maintain an open mind to the possibility you’ve misunderstood things and test your beliefs constantly, but do so with full respect for the reality of unchanging, eternal truth, and when you study and come to conviction, stand firm in it unless good reason leads you to believe you’ve been mistaken. When that happens, and sometime it will, abandon error and cling to the truth with as much conviction, or more than you had before! Seek—really seek him with all your heart—and you WILL find!
---JLP

Monday, March 7, 2011

Do Not Be Deceived

The phrase, “Do not be deceived,” occurs four times in the New Testament. It’s an imperative, meaning it’s something we have to do. So, we have to be the ones to make sure we’re not deceived. We can expect God to offer providential guidance if we ask in prayer, but we have to take responsibility for our thoughts and actions. God will always help us, but he won’t do our thinking for us or force us to accept or reject something. We’re all “free moral agents.” Bottom line: These six passages teach Christians (and everyone) it’s possible for us to be deceived. We’ve got to be alert to the possibility.

1Corinthians 6:9 warns not to be deceived regarding the eternal destiny of the impenitently immoral. They’re not heaven bound! The CEV Bible puts it bluntly: “No one who is immoral or worships idols or is unfaithful in marriage or is a pervert or behaves like a homosexual will share in God's kingdom. Neither will any thief or greedy person or drunkard or anyone who curses and cheats others.” And hear the warning of 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Do not be tricked by false words: evil company does damage to good behavior” (BBE). It seems “one bad apple can spoil the bunch!” Galatians warns us, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (6:7 ESV). Never expect to do evil supposing it won’t come back to you. The old proverb, “What comes around goes around” is entirely biblical. (By the way, it has nothing to do with the Hindu concept of Karma and everything to do with the nature of life and justice of God.) James warns us not to be deceived about God’s consistent will for us and the source of sin (1:16).

So, how do we do it? How do we stick to the truth and steer clear of deception? Is it possible? In our day and age it seems the common answer is no. Folks are hesitant to affirm they know anything to be universally and unchangeably true. But, we’ve got to be able to do exactly that! The health and security of our families, communities, nations and world depend upon a solid foundation of moral truth! Not to mention our eternal destiny will be decided based on the truth (2Thessalonians 2:9-10). This is the aim of this week’s blog posts. Stay tuned...
---JLP

Saturday, March 5, 2011

(Family Devotional) Home: God's Plan A for Education

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7 ESV).

It’s natural for children to watch their parents and imitate them. That’s how kids learn. A good math teacher explains solving equations as she works one on the board. The students watch, listen, and with a little work, pick it up. Really all learning is based on imitation. As parents we try to be good so our children have someone they can try to be like that will make them good people. That’s the way God intended it to be. Parents love to see their children copying their good qualities, and it’s one of the ways children show their parents how much they look up to them.

The same thing is true with older kids and younger kids, and big and little brothers and sisters. Brothers and sisters may not always see eye to eye, but little kids are always watching the big kids and they learn a lot from it. That’s why we all need to be thoughtful about our actions, and do the right things so that whoever’s looking up to us will have a good example to follow.

The most important example for all of us to follow is Jesus! Jesus is the perfect person. He shows us how we’re supposed to live, and if we imitate him, everything in our life will work out alright in the end. He wants us to be pure and holy, truthful, faithful and full of love. As we read our Bibles, listen to lessons and sermons, and thing about all Jesus said and did, let’s all think of ways we can be like him.

Try it now. Let each in the family suggest a way to imitate Jesus. Then discuss what your lives will be like when everyone in the family does the good thing they thought of.

Suggestions:

Singing a hymn together at home is a great way to build family spirituality. Jesus and the apostles sang a hymn together after celebrating their last Passover together when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. It was a special day, but the point is they were in a house together worshiping God, not at the Temple or in the Synagogue. Our homes need to be places of worship so that our assembling with fellow believers in church is a natural expression of who we really are, and not something unnatural, possibly even insincere that we just sit through. But, if you're not comfortable with it, or just don't know many hymns or "devo" songs, don't worry about it.

Memorizing Scripture is an important spiritual discipline. Having God's word in our hearts protects us from being led down the wrong path. I recently heard a good idea to make memorizing Scripture as a family more fun, and maybe more successful. Choose one meal together each week for a memorizing meal. Everybody in the family can take turns reciting the passage until everyone can say it by heart. Have fun with it!

Close with a prayer, and remember to ask God to help you all to be more and more like Jesus every day.

Great men and women of God are usually made at home (Malachi 2:25).

---JLP

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Not Everyone Will Relate to This

I know not everyone does, but I love to study the Bible!

This love I have has grown over a lifetime. My dad read Bible stories to us as small children and prepared us for challenges we would face from a world that’s hostile to the faith. Both my parents modeled a sincere devotion to Christ. There was never, never, never a question—we were at church every single time the doors were open! As I grew up the depth of the Bible conversations deepened. I fondly remember occasions talking with my parents; Bibles open in their laps as they explained the Scriptures. Even when I was living in rebellion, my thoughts were ever drawn back to the word of God. (Guilt isn’t a bad thing when you ought to feel guilty!) I’m a living example of the truth of Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (ESV). Where else could I go now? It will take your lifetime to get everything from the Scriptures you can, and it may take a long time to develop an appropriate appreciation for it.

I’m writing to say loving to study the Bible is a love you grow into. It isn’t flashy and the scenery doesn’t change every three to five seconds, so it isn’t going to excite and satisfy a shallow person. But if that person wants to be deeper, a little discipline over time will make all the difference. The joy, and dare I say, even fun from studying the Bible is different than magazines, music, and movies. It’s subtler, more serious, more profound, and has far more power for positive change. It has the answers straight from God through inspired apostles and prophets. But, it’s more than knowledge. It's God's manual for life and answers the questions that matter. But it’s more than knowledge. The Bible is your gateway into something that “surpasses knowledge.” Read this passage:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV).

Only God can set things right in your spirit, and the only way that will happen is for you to seek him through prayer and studying his word. If you seek him you'll find him (Acts 17:24-28).

Maybe you can’t relate, but I dearly love to study the Bible, because it’s opened up my mind to the great truth of our lives, and it’s given me a peace that passes all understanding. It serves as light for this journey that leads through dark valleys, and wisdom to see what’s coming. I have so much more to learn from our Father’s good book.

So do you.

---JLP

The Makings of a Bible Teacher

Jesus’ half-brother and disciple, James, wrote, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1 ESV). Those are sobering words. In the heart of the Bible Belt, pastors and teachers seem to be a dime-a-dozen! That’s overstating it a little, but I look around town and there are churches all over the place and still, every time a school gym is free on Sundays a new church is popping up. Don’t get me wrong, I am so glad that there are as many people interested in church in the south as there are—my concern isn’t with them, may their tribe increase exponentially! My concern is with these little online ads hawking some fly-by-night seminary or another, and this army of would-be preachers who think church is all about a praise band and a catchy object lesson that leaves everyone feeling good. What Paul wrote to the young preacher Timothy applies with full force and ought to throw a splash of cold water in all our faces:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV).

That speaks to all of us who teach and preach the word of God! God will hold us accountable for what we say! That is something I strive always to keep on my mind. I have to approach whatever occasion I have to speak for the Lord with the utmost of caution and reverence. Lives and souls are at stake!

So, what are the makings of a faithful and worthy preacher or teacher of God’s word? Consider just these two: (1) Knowing God. One cannot hope to serve the Lord as a teacher unless he actually is a servant of the Lord. One of my teachers once said, “Don’t speak to God’s people until you’ve knelt in his presence.” The faithful teacher’s task is to work with God’s Spirit through the inspired word to form Christ in the hearts of those who hear (Ephesians 4:11-15; Galatians 4:19; 2Timothy 2:2). You can’t impart what isn’t yours to give! (2) Teaching what the Bible says and refusing to go beyond it. In three places the Bible warns against adding to or taking from its words: Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18-19, and right in the middle of the English Bible, Proverbs 30:6, “Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar” (ESV). Just two all-important things to keep in mind. Stick to these, and you may just make a worthy teacher of God’s truth. Fail in this and Judgment awaits! ---JLP

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

It's Not Just for Kids!

Sunday School is an outdated term. I never use it in conversation unless I’m doing so accommodatively. Part of my ministry at Highland Heights is to direct the “Education Program.” That’s what we call it, or just Bible class or Bible study. Sunday Schools started in churches a long time ago (late 1700s) to teach basic literacy to poor folks who had no other means of obtaining an education—so that they could read the Bible. With the advent of public school systems the need to teach literacy began to wane, and churches shifted attention to spiritual formation almost exclusively. The old term “Sunday School” makes people think of something that’s really just for kids, but nothing could be farther from the truth about the Bible “education program” I direct.

What we do is as much for adults as it is for children. It’s for everyone of every age and life stage. We teach the Scriptures for what they actually are: the words of the Creator to his creatures—relevant, accurate, powerful, transformational…. The Bible won’t leave you alone if you start to delve into it. It will pierce your heart. It will hold up a mirror to your soul and show you who you really are. It has the scoop on what’s to come in time and about the end of time and what you can look forward to in eternity. It can teach you how to love and be loved. It can strengthen you to overcome vices, faults, weaknesses and sins, and lead you to transform into something truly great; made worthy of the affections of a holy God. “All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23). The gospel of Christ is the power of God for salvation! (Romans 1:16).

What I’m saying is that there’s something for everyone in Bible class, and you really are the worse for not participating. At the very least everyone ought to study the Bible for him or herself, but to study it in groups together with the local church adds the element of fellowship, discussion, debate, and support that helps bring it all to life in exciting ways.

Before I finish this, let me say not all churches, study groups, classes, or teachers are created equal. Every group has a group dynamic, and even if a class is welcoming to a new seeker, its way of going about the task may not meet his or her needs. That’s fine! If you come to a church like Highland Heights you can float around from class to class until you find a good fit, and we’re always changing things up to keep it fresh. Our new quarter starts tonight, and new Sunday classes start this Sunday. Consider yourself invited, and if you ever have any questions send ‘em my way!
---JLP

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's For the Kids!

I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I’ve talked to someone about coming to church—specifically Bible class—and they’ve said, “Yeah, I really need to get the kids in Sunday School.” First off, there’s something deeply wrong with that reply, but I’ll tackle that tomorrow. Today I just want to say, “Yes, you do need to get your kids in Sunday School!”

Familiar with where we’re saying something’s going if we follow it with “in a hand-basket”? Well, handle that how you must, but the world’s a messy place full of challenges. Politically correct or not, that little three-letter word “sin” is behind it all. Today our kids have eyes wide open, and ears perked up to learn life’s lessons and they’re being lied to on almost every front! Television tells them disrespect, laziness, and lewdness are par for the course. Pop music says homosexuality is a-ok. Video games instill a lust for violence (and more and more, illicit sex), and promote a need for instant gratification that will hold them back from every attempt at fulfilling their dreams in life. And then there’s the news of the day with its reports of war, violence, famines, earthquakes, budget crises, pictures of a nation deeply divided, the rise of Islam, terrorism, and the list goes on and on. What’s a kid to do?

Nobody’s ever had the answers, but Jesus! Concerned about your kids’ morals? Jesus offers cleansing from past mistakes and a pure path to pursue (John 8:3-11). Concerned about violence? Jesus’ way is the way of peace! (Matthew 5:43-47). What about instant gratification? Read Matthew 16:19-21 and see what Jesus has to say. The news of the day got you worried for their future? Jesus knows what’s to come, and through him your kids can gain access through prayer in his name to the ear of the one who is capable of giving us deliverance and victory, and eternal security (John 16:23). So, will you leave your children to the wolves? Think about that! Hear Jesus, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14 ESV).

Tomorrow night starts a new quarter of classes at Highland Heights in Smyrna. Sunday’s the first of the new Spring quarter for Sunday School. It would be a great time for a new start. Bring your children to the Lord. Help them get what they need to face a rough world, and find the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). The “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6)is the only one who can give it to them.
---JLP