How to BLESS Other People

On November 7, Scott talked about how we can be a blessing to other people. The base passage was Genesis 12:1-3 but we found a lot of Scripture to support this blessing lifestyle.

1 Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed. – Genesis 12:1-3

The B in BLESS means Begin with Prayer – make a list of those for whom you are praying on a regular basis – And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” – Luke 10:2

The L in BLESS is for Listen – discover who they are and where they are by asking questions and listening – This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; – James 1:19

The E in BLESS is for Eat – share a meal with someone each week in hopes of getting to know them better – And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. – Mark 2:15

The First S in BLESS is for Serve – seeks ways to serve them in some way, demonstrating your love for them – For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. – Mark 10:45

The Second S in BLESS is for Story – you have two stories to share: YOUR story (which is your testimony) and HIS story (which is the gospel, the plan of salvation) – but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. – Acts 1:8

The Masks We Wear

On October 31, Scott talked about the Masks We Wear, from Romans 12:9-13. It’s fun to pretend to be something we know we are not in real life. However, pretending to be someone or something we are not must never be a way of life, especially in the church. We tend to hide behind the masks we wear, because if you knew the real me, you wouldn’t like me, and I’m not ready to take the risk of the pain of rejection.

M is for MEETING – we must be connected to one another relationally, socially, emotionally, and spiritually, and this is best done in the context of a small group experience.

A is for ACCOUNTABILITY – we must be connected to other followers of Christ who will hold us accountable for our spiritual life, marriage, and integrity.

S is for SACRIFICE – we know it will cost us something to live out our Christian faith. We live out our faith inside the church and outside in the community.

K is for KNOWLEDGE – we must seek to know all we can about living faithfully as a member of the body of Christ rather than believing that old saying, “ignorance is bliss.”

S is for SALVATION – we must embrace the fact that when we are saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross, we now have a responsibility to act on that faith (to live it out) in front of a lost and dying world.

 

We showed this video at the beginning of the message:

Strengthening Your Mind


As Ken has been teaching in this series, we are reminded that the mind is the ultimate battlefield in this life. The Lord, our own flesh (that negative base side of who we are) and the enemy (the devil or Satan) are all battling for control of our mind. Why does the battle rage here in the mind? Because the Bible says, “For as a person thinks in his heart, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7, NASB.

We need to understand that the battle that’s raging in the mind is a spiritual battle. Ultimately, it’s a battle between good and evil for the control of our lives. Since this is a spiritual battle, we cannot fight in our own strength or use the common weapons of warfare, we must fight with spiritual resources, like what we find in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-18.

Today, I want you to know that…

  1. You don’t have to LOSE this battle for your mind!
  2. You don’t have to be DEFEATED in your walk with Christ.
  3. You don’t have to BE A SLAVE of worry, anxiety, your thoughts, feelings, or fear.
  4. You don’t have to BE CONTROLLED by the desires of the body!
  5. However, you CAN live your life under the control of the Holy Spirit, which allows you to win this battle for your mind!

How, might you ask? The first thing you need to know is that it doesn’t happen automatically! You have to take certain steps that will ALLOW IT to happen in your life, (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23; 1 Peter 1:13).

As we take the steps in 1 Peter 1:13 to “think clearly and exercise self-control,” we put ourselves in a position where the Lord can renew the mind. The word “transform” in Romans 12:2 and the word “renewed” in Ephesians 4:23 are both in the passive voice. They are something done TO and IN the child of God.

Secondly, we need to know that we don’t have to do this alone. We have the Lord’s promise in 2 Timothy 1:7, that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind, (or discipline). So, today, I want to take these few verses in Philippians 4 to show you Paul’s plan for victory in the battlefield of the mind.

I want to share with you five simple steps that teach us all about Strengthening the Mind. If followed, these steps will help us to build a wall of protection around our minds. These steps will help us to achieve victory in the daily struggles that we all face.

  1. BUILD THE WALL OF PRAISE (Philippians 4:4) – Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

This repeated phrase in Philippians is Paul’s command for believers to “rejoice.” He uses this word in the imperative form, and it’s also important to note that he immediately repeats the command. This word means, “to be glad.” While not a Greek scholar, I discovered that this word is in the present tense, active voice, and imperative mood. All that means is, the believer is commanded to “keep on being glad in the Lord.”

Now, let’s face it, life is tough, and the events of modern life don’t bring much happiness! But let’s put this into context. When Paul penned these words, he was chained up between two Romans soldiers while in a prison cell. Even in the midst of this hardship, Paul knew that regardless of the circumstances of life, God never changes, God never leaves, and God never forsakes us. That’s why we are told to “rejoice in the Lord.” We don’t rejoice in the circumstances, he says to rejoice “in the Lord.” You see, people will change, circumstances will change, and life constantly changes, but the Lord never changes! He is constant, he is faithful, and he will always walk through this life right beside us.

Since this is true, we can learn to rejoice in who He is, what He has done for us, and what He is doing in our lives. Even if the road is hard, remember these facts…

  1. God has a detailed plan for your life, Psalm 37:23.
  2. God has promised to make all things work for good, Romans 8:28.
  3. God has promised to go with you through everything in life, Hebrews 13:5.
  4. God has promised you abiding victory, 1 Corinthians 15:57; Romans 8:37.
  5. God has promised you that the destination will be worth every step of the way, Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17.

Therefore, even when you can’t be happy about your life, learn to be happy in the Lord! Build this wall of praise around your mind! So our first step is to build a wall of PRAISE.

  1. BUILD THE WALL OF PATIENCE (Philippians 4:5) – Let your gentle spirit be known to all men...

The word “gentle” literally means “considerate or gracious spirit.” It has been translated in a variety of ways:

  • New Living translates the word “considerate”
  • Holman translates the word “graciousness”
  • King James translates the word “moderation”
  • The ESV translates the word “reasonableness”

This word has the idea of being patient with other people; or yielding to the rights and wishes of others. It does NOT mean we make compromises in our doctrinal beliefs in the name of tolerance, but it does mean that you have a willingness to take the back seat in favor of other people. This is the same idea that Paul introduces back in Philippians 2:4 – thinking of others as more important than yourself.

Paul is saying that the reality of our faith should be demonstrated in how we treat other people. If the focus of our lives is all about US, then when people hurt us, we’ll have a desire to retaliate and get even.

Paul wants us to take the focus off ourselves and put it onto other people. When we are focused on the people around us, we’ll be less likely to be hurt by what other people do. What they say won’t sting us so badly because we are not focused on ourselves. How they act can be passed over more easily when we focus on THEIR hurts, their situation, or their well-being. It has been said that “hurting people hurt people.” So, when people hurt us, we ought to seek to discover what is happening in THEIR life to have behaved the way they did. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is the right thing to do.

When we adopt the mentality of self-love (which is all around us) we will always look at the things people do and say, as a personal attack. It will cause us to wear our feelings on our sleeves and to be more easily hurt by the words and actions of others.

This will also cause us problems in the mind because we dwell on WHAT was done or WHAT was said. If we can learn to accept other people just as they are and overlook what they have done to hurt us, it will protect our mind from dwelling in negative areas. It will build a wall of protection around the mind that others cannot penetrate!

The bottom line is this, if we can learn to live in genuine contentment, as in Philippians 4:11, then it won’t matter what anyone says or does to us. The mind will be protected from the evil that it likes to find in others. The devil loves nothing better than to get your eyes off Jesus and onto the faults of other people! The flesh loves nothing better than to go along with the devil in accusing others and judging others. When this happens, the mind is in danger! So, our second step is to build the wall of PATIENCE.

  1. BUILD THE WALL OF PRAYER (Philippians 4:5b-7) – The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6 warns us against the dangers of worry. The word used for anxiety in the NASB, is translated in other places as “careful” or “worry.” The idea of “anxiety” comes from the term, “to be troubled with cares.” It refers to a state of mind that is agitated over the events and circumstances of life. There is nothing wrong with HAVING concerns (we all have them) but it’s when your concerns have YOU, that’s when the problems begin to spring up!

Worry is so dangerous because it allows the mind to create false ideas about God, others, and the world around us. Worry says, “God is dead!” or, “If there is a God, he obviously doesn’t care about me and my situation.” Both of those statements are false! God is certainly alive, Hebrews 7:25, and God does care, Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 5:7.

When the problems of life come our way, we are given some wonderful help in these verses.

  1. The Lord is near (Philippians 4:5b) – This refers NOT only to his second coming, but that He is always near to His children – Hebrews 13:5-6.
  2. Exercise the tool of prayer (Philippians 4:6) – Paul speaks of prayer, supplication, and requests. These might be thought of as, 1) general praying, 2) specific praying, and 3) detailed praying. The main point of this verse is that instead of worrying, the believer is to demonstrate his faith in the POWER and the WILL of God by seeking the Lord in prayer!
  3. Develop a thankful heart (Philippians 4:6) – Regardless of the situations you face in life, learn to praise the Lord through ALL of them. Nothing brings God nearer (or drives the devil away any faster) than a genuinely thankful heart!

The Lord’s promise to us is that He will replace our worries with HIS PEACE when we come before Him in trusting, humble prayer. The word “keep” or “guard” in Philippians 4:7 means “to garrison, or build a fort around, or to post a military guard.” The Lord promises to post a guard around the heart and mind of the person who trusts Him with the needs of everyday life. Instead of worrying yourself sick about things you can’t change, learn to lean on the Lord in prayer! Build this wall of prayer!

  1. BUILD THE WALL OF PURITY (Philippians 4:8) – Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Ken talked about this verse at the beginning of this series, so I won’t go too far into this point, but all of these words Paul uses in this verse are a clear picture of the Word of God. God’s Word is true – John 17:17. Since the Bible is true, everything it says fits within these categories mentioned by Paul. It is honorable, it is right, it is pure (holy, clean), it is lovely, it’s of a good report (good reputation), it is full of virtue (excellence) and worthy of praise (meaning, that which leans toward worship).

We must fix our minds upon the things of God. The SOURCE for discovering these things worthy of filling our minds is the Word of God. In other words, if we will fill our minds with the Words of God, there will be no room left for evil, no room for worry, no room for fear, no room for vengeance, no room for immorality, no room for confusion or trouble. A mind filled with the Word of God, and a mind led by the Word of God, is a stable, fortified, and strong mind!

So, if you want a stable, strong, and godly mind, the best place to get it done is with the Bible. We must take the initiative and challenge our mind to dwell on God’s Word and what it says, instead of allowing the mind to run toward evil, or gossip, or slander, or sexuality, or immorality, or other people and what they are doing, or even our problems. A mind saturated with Scripture and fixed upon the Word of God is a strong mind.

This is something that you have to do for yourself!

  • The church cannot strengthen your mind.
  • The church cannot keep you from dwelling on negative thoughts.
  • A Sunday School class or a small group cannot build a wall of protection around you.

No one is ever transformed when the motivation is external. Just like running a marathon, I can surround myself with encouragers cheering me on toward the finish line, but if I am not inwardly motivated to finish the race, I will give up, and will stop short.

The Christian life is very similar. If I am told what to do in order to grow spiritually yet fail to have the inward motivation of pleasing God in all that I do, or if I fail to walk in a manner worthy of being called a child of God, I WILL live a mediocre life.

How long will I be obedient to God if my motivation for Christianity is to avoid hell rather than loving and serving God out of a grateful heart and renewed mind? Strengthening your mind is something that YOU do to yourself, it is not something done TO you or FOR you. So, build the wall of PURITY.

  1. BUILD THE WALL OF PRACTICE (Philippians 4:9) – The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Do you notice how relational this verse is? Sometimes we think it reads, “If you want the peace of God, do the things I taught you.” This is not like a class or a sermon where we take notes; it involves walking through this life with other people. The Christian faith is caught more than it is taught. We grow and live within a faith community.

Paul tells the Philippians to practice the things they had seen and heard in his life. For us, it’s NOT that we have it all together, like we’re perfect in this life. Perfection is a goal, because it will never happen this side of heaven.

You’ve heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect?” Well, that statement is wrong. If you practice it wrong, you will NOT get it right. Ask any musician. The real truth is in a modified phrase, “Practice makes permanent.” As you practice the rift on the guitar or the violin, you may start out slow, even at half speed, but you HAVE to get it right before you practice, practice, and practice some more. If you learn it wrong, you will always play it wrong.

If you want permanent change in your life, you may start out slowly, but the more you practice it under the accountability of a trusted mentor or friend, the more permanent the transformation will become.

So, we have spent the past few minutes building walls in order to strengthen our minds:

  1. THE WALL OF PRAISE (Philippians 4:4)
  2. THE WALL OF PATIENCE (Philippians 4:5)
  3. THE WALL OF PRAYER (Philippians 4:5b-7)
  4. THE WALL OF PURITY (Philippians 4:8)
  5. THE WALL OF PRACTICE (Philippians 4:9)

So, let’s have some time for reflection. Maybe bow your head in the quiet of this moment and let God’s Spirit speak to your heart and mind. What are your next steps?

NEXT STEPS: Consider these questions…

  1. Which wall is needed most in your life right now?
  2. Name a person who is spiritually mature that you will seek out this week to help you grow in that area.
  3. How will you begin to make changes in your life so you can strengthen your mind?
  4. WHO will you tell about this personal commitment, and the need for accountability?
  5. WHEN will you seek out this accountability person?

Your mind is a precious gift from God. It can be used for good or for evil, and all the forces of good and evil are battling for your mind all the time. Who wins the battle is always determined by YOU! No one can control your mind, but YOU. We are told in the Bible that we need to strengthen our mind, it is OUR job, individually, and it cannot be passed off to another person. We are in cooperation with the Holy Spirit to conform to the image of Christ. We can’t outsource that responsibility.

This is a very critical matter, because how you THINK determines how you will LIVE your life, Proverbs 23:7 (As a person thinks within himself, so is he, NASB). Until the mind is settled, all of life is out of control – remember the words of James 1:8. (a double-minded man is unstable in his ways), so I challenge you to strengthen your mind!

Let’s Pray About It: Lord Jesus, you know better than anyone that I need a stronger mind. I recognize that apart from you, I can do nothing, so please, help me to grow in my faith, renew my mind, and become more effective in my Christian walk. I confess my failures and seek your forgiveness. Lord, help me submit to your lordship, embrace your ways, and do your will.

Father, for those who have not yet begun their journey of discipleship, let them seek you earnestly, because your Word tells us that you WILL be found when we seek for you with all out heart.

Father, this time is yours. Help us to make commitments and give us the strength to follow through, especially when life get hard. We pray this in Jesus’ name, AMEN

CLOSING: Thank you for joining us today. If you made any commitments this morning, let us know about it. You can contact us using the church website (kgbc.us/more). Know that your staff prays for you, and we hope that you’ll make prayer for one another a regular activity each week.

Raising the Next Generation

Conversations With Jesus – Luke 6:40

Welcome to part 5 of Ken’s teaching series called Conversations. Today I am going to talk about The Greatest Teacher – Jesus’ conversation about raising the next generation. – Luke 6:40 (this is also my tribute to moms on Mother’s Day)

Let’s take a look at what Jesus is teaching his disciples in Luke 6. Beginning in verse 20, Luke records his equivalence of the sermon on the mount, with his version of the beatitudes (Luke 6:20-26).

And THEN Jesus spoke a parable to them in Luke 6:39-40, when he tells us that the blind cannot guide the blind. Why? Because they will both fall into the pit. You know what this tells me? Since I am all about discipleship, I think that it is accurate to say that we CANNOT lead someone in discipleship to a place that we have not yet gone. That’s not an excuse to never attempt to disciple someone but it IS a strong challenge to lead by example. As followers of Christ, we are called to lead people to greater depths of devotion to Jesus and to spend our lives in the pursuit of conforming to the image of Christ. We must be willing and committed to do whatever it takes to look more like Jesus. It doesn’t happen by accident but on purpose with determined intentionality.

OK, let me get to my intended verse because Luke 6:40 is the starting point for my message today… “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.”

So, this message today is going to focus on what Jesus said about raising the next generation. In context, Jesus is talking about the rabbi-follower relationship, discipler-disciplee, mentor-mentee, but on this Mother’s Day, I think this verse can speak to us about what parents do for their children. If we don’t do anything else, our kids will generally turn out much like us. They follow our example, it’s NOT just what we SAY but what we DO.

I remember a commercial when I was a kid, a dad and his son were in the front yard washing the car. The little boy of 5 or 6 does exactly what the dad does… washing the fender, scrubbing the tires, wearing the baseball cap, all with the narrator repeating the phrase, “like father, like son.” Then they sit down at the base of a tree in the front yard and dad grabs a pack of cigarettes, and as the son reaches for the pack that daddy just laid down, the narrator asks the question, “Like father, like son?”

Our kids are watching us. Moms and dad not only have the awesome responsibility of raising the next generation of citizen in America, but they are raising the next generation of Christians in America. As we look around our country today, what sort of followers of Jesus are we producing? Are we making disciples or do we settle for making good little church attenders? Are the kids in the church today just learning moral lessons from the Bible or are they encountering and learning about the God of the Bible? Do they know the reason they were created and the responsibility they have for reaching those who are far from God and even those who have little or no access to the gospel?

Remember what I said a moment ago, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to take someone to a place we have not yet gone ourselves. We cannot pass on that which we don’t embrace. Our kids will never learn how to have a quiet time if they don’t see us having regular times for devotional reading and praying. They won’t learn how to share the gospel if we don’t share the gospel. They won’t learn how to disciple someone else if no one ever discipled them.

Maybe this sounds familiar… when asked in a social situation, “what do you do?” I’ve heard some moms say something like, “I’m just an at-home mom.” Well, let me remind you what mom’s do at home…

  • First, let’s give mom a creative title. Domestic engineer? Household CEO? Director of child development? And how about the activities an at-home mom does?
  • Teacher: Mothers teach children their first words, colors and shapes. They continue to enrich their learning by helping them with their homework and school projects.
  • Chef: The Bureau of Labor Statistics describes the role of a chef as one who develops recipes, plans menus, orders food inventory, and ensures sanitary kitchen conditions. That certainly sounds like a mom.
  • Event Planner: Even the busiest mom squeezes in time for fun. Whether it’s planning a themed birthday celebration, coordinating schedules with extended family for the holidays, or signing kids up for recreational activities, moms constantly have something to do and somewhere to be.
  • Housekeeper: Maintaining an orderly house can be quite the daunting task for a mother. There is no shortage of things to clean or organize, whether the children are toddlers or teenagers.
  • Accountant: In most households, moms perform many accounting functions such as creating and balancing a budget, paying bills and identifying cost-saving opportunities.
  • Chauffeur: Moms also serve as chauffeurs by providing hours of transportation for kids to and from doctor appointments, school, shopping, and play dates.
  • I read a statistic that if moms received an annual salary for all of their responsibilities, they would earn an estimated $78,000 a year.

But, let’s refocus on Christian moms and dads. Luke 6:40 reminds us that a pupil (or child), after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher. How do we as parents invest in our kids for the kingdom’s sake. Aside from any teaching and training that will turn our kids into socially acceptable citizens and productive members of our community, let me suggest these 6 things to be a part of ANY parental curriculum. Here is my acrostic for the day. M.O.T.H.E.R.

Mission – Acts 1:8but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Think about your goal as a Christian parent. It’s not about raising a socially acceptable and productive member of the community. Your goal is not for your kids to have a great education. It’s not to be a great athlete. It’s not to have them participate in wholesome dating. It’s not to have a great career. It’s not about getting them out of the house on their own, making lots of money.

The goal of Christian parenting is for your kids to embrace the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and live out the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40). We teach our kids to love God with their whole being and to love others as themselves. The Great Commandment leads to the Great Commission and the fact that God uses ordinary people like US to spread the love of Jesus to those with little or no access to the gospel.

I love Acts 1:8 because we don’t do any of this alone, we have received the power of the Holy Spirit to be his witnesses. This verse reminds us that our mission field is in our own city, state, country, and the world. It’s not about one place over another but doing all four at the same time. Notice Jesus used the word, “both” in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. We tend to see the command as a buffet line… Jerusalem or Judea or Samaria, or the ends of the earth. Pick one.

Jesus told the disciples, and tells us, that they WILL be his witnesses,” meaning if you carry the name of Jesus, you are his witness. We don’t go out and DO witnessing, but we ARE witnesses. If you’re a believer, you’re a witness and can tell others what Jesus has done for you. The only choice we have is between these two options… will we be a GOOD witness or a BAD witness?

As parents, our first priority is to instill in our children that we are on mission with God, no matter what our vocation, marital status, or personal hobbies or interests. Once we understand our mission, it leads us to the next part of raising the next generation…

Obedience – John 14:21He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.

We teach our kids about obeying us (as parents) and obeying teachers, and those in authority (like police) but we often find ourselves telling our kids that obedience to God is optional. Perhaps we justify it by thinking like this… the standard of Jesus is perfection, we can never be perfect, so why try? Or maybe we say, my salvation is not based on my performance (like my obedience) but on the work of Christ on the cross, so obedience must therefore be optional.

Read John 14:21 again… keeping his commandments is a sign of our love for God. If you love God, you WILL keep is commands. When we love God, we will be loved by the Father. Jesus said that if we keep his commands, HE will love us and he will disclose himself to us. If you don’t feel like Jesus is revealing himself to you, try obedience! When we obey his word, Jesus will disclose himself to us.

Walking through life in obedience is something that is caught more than it is taught. We have heard the phrase, “do as I say and not as I do” but our kids see how we are living. They know if we simply put on the mask of Christianity on Sundays or they see that we’re fully committed to Christ and his mission throughout the week.  

Teaching – Matthew 7:28-29 – When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

If parents don’t do anything else, teaching is the thing that they do the most. It seems that day after day, all we do is teach our kids about life, relationships, dating, work ethic, trade skills, vocational skills, study skills, sports skills, coaching, board games, fishing, household chores, homework, you name it. We teach all the time.

But how do we prepare our kids for life’s ultimate final exam? When you stop learning, you stop growing, and all living things grow. Parents must make it a priority to teach their children the WILL and WAYS of God. Nothing will draw a child closer to God than seeing mom and dad taking steps of faith, walking in obedience, especially when it is difficult or uncomfortable. Actions really do speak louder than words.

You’ve heard it said that we should never let a crisis go to waste. It is through the crises of life that we find the greatest teaching opportunities. Take advantage of difficult times to help your kids walk in faith and trust God. Lead by example. Set the pace for your family.

Humility – Mark 10:45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

The culture and the world will teach your children to look out for Number One. They justify this type of teaching to emphasize and develop a positive self-esteem in children. Now, if YOUR kids were anything like MY kids, I didn’t have to teach them how to be selfish, that seemed to come naturally. Kids think the world revolves around them. It’s part of the fall of mankind. We make ourselves to be most important and we desire to be the master of our own destiny, the center of the universe, and sit upon the throne of our own lives. But is that the example of Jesus?

Our Lord and Savior did not seek power, prestige, or position so he could manage or rule over others. Jesus taught that we are supposed to serve others rather than serve ourselves or have others serve us. This is the essence of humility.

We must teach our kids to look out for the interests of others more than themselves. Just how do kids learn this? By seeing the example of their parents. Again, set the pace for humility in your household. Give your life in service to others.

Evangelism – Mark 3:13-14And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. 14 And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach

Jesus spent the whole night in prayer before he called his 12 closest men to be his disciples. We often think of these guys as super-Christians and we can’t expect to live up to the standard they set, especially in the areas of ministry and mission. I love this Mark passage because of what Jesus called them to do.

We often focus on the last section, that he called them to send them out to preach, which is an important part of their mission, but notice the phrase just before that. He called them “to be with him” and THEN he sent them out to preach. This is the “with him” principle.

We need to walk through this life with Jesus, learn from him, and then pass on what we have learned to others, especially to our kids and those within our circle of influence. We learn from him, then we go out to make a difference in the world around us. Make a difference for the kingdom of God. All this leads up to our final point, which is…

Relationship – Luke 24:14-15And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them.

Christianity is nothing if not about relationships. First there is our relationship with the Father through the Son. This relationship is all about salvation. Our next relationship is with other believers. This relationship is all about fellowship. Our third relationship is with a lost and dying world. This relationship is all about evangelism and mission, which we have previously covered today.

We can teach our kids to be successful in the world but unless they understand these key relationships in life, they are no different than your average lost person. Notice what is included in the Luke 24 passage…

In context, this story is part of the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Look what takes place…

They were talking with each other about the things that had taken place. How often do you talk with your kids about spiritual matters? About how you came to faith in Christ? About how God has moved in your life this week? About how Jesus gave you opportunities to make a difference in someone else’s life? About ministry opportunities or a mission experience? Faith is caught more than it is taught, and it is caught by talking about life together.

Along with talking about and discussing spiritual matters, Jesus approached them and began traveling with them. He took the initiative. The Christian life is not so much about the destination (heaven when we die) as it is about the journey and the path we walk. We go through life as a family, whether in our physical family of blood relatives or our family of faith (or what I like to call them, my forever family).

In Christianity, there are no “lone ranger” disciples. We are in this thing together. The body is made up of many parts and we all work together for the body to function properly. Christianity is about community, and at its core, this means relationships. We need to be connected with one another.

I think this has been the hardest part of this year of COVID. Our relationships have suffered. We have drifted apart. I feel many people have come to the conclusion that gathering together as the church or a small group or a Sunday school class was not really as important as we had made it out to be all these years.

“I have made it just fine without getting together.” I can have my “worship on demand,” any time I want; when it’s convenient for me. I don’t need for my class to get together; e-mail is just fine for me to keep up.

So, what does Jesus teach about raising the next generation? Look over these 6 areas. Which one do you need to focus on first? What can you do this week that will help you get back on track? How will you pray differently this week?

When we realize that the life we have been given is not about US, then we find freedom. We are called to be a good steward of the life we have, as one who will give an account for what we have done with that which we have been entrusted.

On this Mother’s Day, let us all remember why we are on this planet. If you are a follower of Christ, your life is NOT about YOU, but it’s all about being an ambassador for Christ and being his witnesses locally, and even around the world. Let’s reflect on what God may be saying to us right now.

PRAY: Lord Jesus, we recognize that life is hard, and without question, it is distracting from what you have called us to do for the kingdom’s sake. Father, open our eyes to the opportunities all around us as we go through this life. May we see you at work and seek to join you in in your mission to reach through who are far from you. Help us to seek the one who is lost. Help us to raise the next generation to love you extravagantly. May we set the pace for our families and our community. May we run the race set before us and not grow weary. May we fight the good fight and finish well. Father, we know we fall short but plead your mercy and grace, to encourage us to stand strong in our calling to salvation and our calling to be your hands and feet in this world. May we be salt and light. In Jesus name. Amen.

The Knowledge of God – F260

2 Peter 1:2-4 – “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 for His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 Through these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world on account of lust.” 

Today I want to focus on knowledge, the knowledge of God which is a foundational principle of our spiritual growth. So, how do we gain knowledge about God? That’s where the Bible comes in. 

1. George Muller, who established many orphanages throughout England, said… “I believe that the one chief reason that I have been kept in happy useful service is that I have been a lover of Holy Scripture. It has been my habit to read the Bible through four times a year; in a prayerful spirit, to apply it to my heart, and practice what I find there. I have been for sixty-nine years a happy man; happy, happy, happy.” 

2. Ronald Reagan said, “Within the covers of one single book, the Bible, are all the answers to all the problems that face us today—if only we would read and believe.” 

3. Missionary Amy Carmichael said, “Never let good books take the place of the Bible. Drink from the Well, not from the streams that flow from the Well.” 

4. And this may be the most direct, author unknown, “A Bible in the hand is worth two in the bookcase.” 

If you don’t hear anything else I say today, get this: Let’s make 2021 the best year ever in your spiritual growth by reading the entire New Testament. That is the reason I have organized this Foundation 260 initiative. Let’s read the New Testament together. 

I don’t think there is anything more basic to knowing and loving Christ, and obeying him, than to hear God speak to us though his Word and then to speak back to him with the prayers and praises and obedience which flows from our hearts. 

The reason for that is because it is so plain that today God reveals himself to us by the Word.  

  1. The living Christ in his bodily form is not here. He has ascended and taken his place at the right hand of God.  
  1. Neither are his inspired prophets and apostles here. God has ordained for himself to be known primarily by the Word that was recorded from those prophets and apostles—especially those who knew the Lord himself in his physical form—and preserved what we need to know in this book. 

But let’s face it, reading through the entire Bible or even committing to reading a daily portion can be difficult. It can be a struggle to stay with it every day. That’s the way it is with most new things that we make a commitment to start; fitness, exercise, college, dieting. We begin with enthusiasm but somewhere along the way we give up. We lose focus, the excitement wanes. 

We may feel that we don’t have the time for reading the Bible every day.  But Dr. Tony Evans reminds us that we always have time for what is first on our list. The question then becomes: Is the Bible first on our list? 

Why is the Bible important? 

1) The Bible is enduring and lasting. (Because God is enduring) – Psalm 119:89 says: “Your Word, Oh Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” Isaiah 40:8 tells us, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever.” 

We live in changing times. Fads come and go, social mores change and we tend to drift away from God’s Word and lean more toward society and the culture around us.  

But the Word of God is enduring! Isaiah contrasts it with flowers and grass. Flowers and grass may be here today and we enjoy them, but we know that they are short-lived. Their beauty is fleeting. The same is true of us, our time on earth is short. Our earthly “wisdom” is usually shortsighted. God’s Word endures and stands firm in the ups and downs of life. 

The purposes of God, as published in these sacred writings, will never be stopped (cf. Matt. 5:18; 24:25; Mark 13:3; Luke 16:17). Remember the words in Isaiah 55:11, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” So, the Bible is enduring, but it is also trustworthy… 

2) The Bible is trustworthy (Because God is trustworthy) – Psalm 111:7 says, “All he does is just and good, and all his commandments are trustworthy.” In Ezekiel 12:25, “For I am the Lord! If I say it, it will happen.”  

God will fulfill what he says. He will honor his promises. He is faithful and just and we can depend on what he says. You can build your life upon the foundation of the Bible. 

In our world it can sometimes be very difficult to find a trustworthy and reliable person. Whether a car mechanic or a doctor or a plumber, a trustworthy person can be hard to find. People often go back on their word. They fail to live up to their commitments. Have YOU ever been burned by an unreliable person? Have you put your trust in something or someone and they let you down? Most of us have and that makes us a little hesitant to trust. But God has always been and always will be faithful, and because he is faithful, his word can be trusted. Since he has been faithful in the past, he can be trusted to be faith in the present.  

Why am I challenging you to read the Bible? 

Let’s start with the negative: we don’t want to be ignorant of what God has told us.  

  1. Paul often warned his readers that he did not want them to be ignorant about important subjects, like when he wrote to the Romans in 11:25 pleading with them not to be ignorant regarding the dealings of God with Gentiles and the nation of Israel. 
  1. He warned the Corinthians repeatedly about not being ignorant of several different theological subjects. He said in 1 Corinthians 12:1 “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.” He was also disappointed with them regarding their divisions in the church and he was saddened that they were still needing milk like infants when they should have been pressing on to more substantial “meaty subjects.” 
  1. He warned then not to be ignorant concerning the schemes of Satan (2 Corinthians 2:11).  
  1. He warned the Thessalonians to not be ignorant concerning Christ’s second coming (1 Thessalonians 4:13) 

The writer to the Hebrews grieved over their lack of spiritual progress in Hebrews 5:11-12 – “There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.” 

Jesus rebuked the Sadducees for their lack of Bible knowledge, like in Matthew 22:29 – “Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God.” 

Likewise, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees in Matthew 12:3 by saying, “Have you not read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry?” 

God speaks to us through his Word and we dont want to be unaware of what he is saying to us. That is why it is important that we spend time reading His Word. 

Now let’s look at some positive reasons: 

Reading God’s word gives us: Education, Endurance, Encouragement and Hope. 

Look at Romans 15:4 – “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” 

The Scripture is given for our EDUCATION. That presupposes that we will not only be reading the Bible regularly but that we will also be studying it for ourselves. We can’t rely exclusively on the teaching of others. We need to be in the Word ourselves. Reading, meditating, and memorizing, and digging into the parables and the narrative sections and the doctrine and the theology. We need to be listening to God speaking through his Word. 

The Bible is given for us to ENDURE – We need to read God’s Word in difficult times. When the news is bad. When things are not working out like we had hoped. We don’t need endurance when times are good. Contained within the pages of the Bible are stories of endurance. Check our Hebrews 11 and read about the Hall of Faithfulness.  

These are stories of men and women whose faith endured in the midst of difficult times. We have wonderful records of the prophets who endured all sorts of treatment and lack of results for their effort.  

And coming to the New Testament we see Jesus who endured ill-treatment and abuse and yet he endured. And going further we observe the Apostles and the early church who through faith in God and his Word, they were able to persevere when the whole world seemed against them. 

Knowing the Bible gives us ENCOURAGEMENT – Many times I have been encouraged by the Scriptures and I’m sure that you have as well. There have been times when it seemed like just the right verse came along at the right time to lift me up and to help me keep going. I don’t see how lost people are able to deal with tragedy and difficulty. How does a person who does not know God deal with loss, suffering, and hardship? Many turn to alcohol or drugs or other forms of abuse to deaden the pain. But those things don’t solve the problems, do they? In fact, they make the problems worse. 

When I am feeling down, I know that I can turn to God’s Word and be lifted up out of that pit. But I need to be regularly in that Word in order for the Holy Spirit to bring out the help that I need.  

Finally, knowing the Bible gives us HOPE – You can live for weeks without food. You can go for days without water. But how long can you live without hope? Ken recently reminded us of the words of Dostoevsky who said, “To live without hope is to cease to live.” Shakespeare said, “The miserable have no other medicine, but only hope”  

Theologian Ken Boa wrote, “People cannot live without hope. Throughout history, human beings have endured the loss of many things. People have lost their health, their finances, their reputations, their careers, even their loved ones, and yet have endured. The pages of history books are filled with those who suffered pain, rejection, isolation, persecution, and abuse; there have been people who faced concentration camps with unbroken spirits and unbowed heads, people who have been devastated by Job-like trials and yet found the strength to go on without cursing God and dying. Humans can survive the loss of almost anything – but not without hope.” 

We live by hope, and when hope is gone, endurance and joy and energy and courage just evaporate. Life itself begins to fade. When hope goes, we start to die. One of the most profound proverbs of the Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12). 

Romans 15:13 says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit..” 

Maybe you agree that having the habit of daily Bible reading is a good idea. Maybe you struggle with being able to carry it out long term. In the past maybe you have started out well only to struggle somewhere along the path. 

In previous years, we have challenged you to read the whole Bible in a year. That may be nothing new for you; I’ve begun to read the whole Bible in a year on many occasions… the emphasis is on “begun.” But with all the best intentions, we sometimes aren’t able to finish the whole Bible in a year.  

This year, let’s try something different. Rather than focusing on reading through the Bible in a year, let’s focus on getting to know the God of the Bible. Let’s not read these chapters to check it off our reading list but focus on what God wants to teach us through our daily reading.  

Foundation 260 is all about reading a chapter a day, focusing on that one verse a day that jumps off the page for you, reading Monday through Friday. The New Testament has 260 chapters, and when we read 5 chapters a week, we cover the entire New Testament in the 52 weeks of 2021.  

You can do this on your own, if you choose. I have a few helpful tools in the foyer.  

Or, you might prefer the accountability of reading with other people who will challenge and encourage you to keep up with your reading, and also rejoice with you as you share how God is speaking to you through reading the Bible. Here is a link to join my Monday group.

There is a YouVersion App with an F260 reading plan, what could be easier? You can invite your friends to read with you and to hold each other accountable. I have also developed a few tools to help you succeed. 

1) This one explains the process and gives a lot of information to help you dig into the text.  

2) This one is the reading plan itself, reminding you what you will read each week to stay on track, and  

3) This one is the monthly reading and application guide to record your reading and actually write down what God is teaching you each day.  

This next year, won’t you join me in reading through the New Testament? We all understand that Bible study is so important, but hearing God speak is even greater.  

Let’s do this in 2021. Will you make the commitment to be a part of Foundation 260? Will you read the text each day? Will you join or start a group to discuss what God is teaching you?  

Let’s pray about it. 

Lord Jesus, we need to hear from you. We confess that we have not advanced toward maturity as we first hoped, and that we have become distracted and stagnant in the worries and cares of this life. Father, help us to make this commitment in good faith, and help us to trust you to keep us on track, because you have said through your Word that, “…I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” Father, we cannot do this on our own, and it would be futile to try to make it happen, but with all praise going to YOU, we can do this together with your help. Lord Jesus, speak to us, and make our lives useful to you. AMEN 

During this next song, seek God’s direction about your involvement in the challenge. 

I won’t shame anyone who is not ready to make this commitment, but perhaps you have been waiting for such an opportunity to do something like this. So, if you are on board with F260, would you stand up right now and show this congregation the desire of your heart to take on this challenge.  

Seriously, if you’re not ready to do this, I understand, people around you understand. Please don’t stand up if you need more time to consider this commitment.  

Closing Remarks: Find out more at the church website, come up and talk to me about it, join the group through the church groups app, and let’s make 2021 the best year ever for your spiritual growth.