4 Posts from April 2011

God Has No Grandchildren

God has no grandchildren. He only has children.

As much as we would love it, there is no automatic transfer of God’s truth to others. Everyone must make his or her own spiritual journey. (That includes pastor’s kids.)

Moses knew that. The mighty leader of one of history’s most amazing journeys spent his last words telling the Israelites how to pass on God’s truth to their children. Deuteronomy 6:2 tells us that Moses was talking to people who had sons and grandsons, so he was talking to parents. Do you have a son, a daughter, or a grandchild? If so, in effect, Moses was writing to you about hearing the truth and passing it along.

To get the full impact of his words, you must understand where the Israelites were. After wandering for 40 years, they finally stood on the banks of the Jordan River . . . at the very edge of the Promised Land. That new territory before them would be the place where their children and grandchildren would grow up.

At the beginning of this new life for God’s people, Moses gave a number of directives. I want to highlight one in particular for us as pastors:

You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up.  (Deuteronomy 6:7)

Forget for the next few moments that you’ve preached on this verse. Let the verse preach to you. This command is not about parents learning theology and stopping there; it is about parents transferring their theology to their children. What you have heard and what you have grown to love, now teach to your children.

I like how the NIV renders it: “Talk about [God’s commands].” Look at how natural Moses made it! Talk, don’t deliver a sermon. Don’t try to force a whole lecture into your dinnertime prayer! Don’t force feed big chunks of the truth down their throats. Instead, live the truth on a day-to-day basis . . . and let it flow naturally.

If we’re not careful, ministry gets busy and complicated, causing teachable moments to sail past without a word. Don’t let that happen! Moses’s warning in Deuteronomy 6 is as fresh today as it was the day he wrote it. Remember, our first ministry (even as pastors) is to our family members. Our primary disciples are our kids.

Want your children to live godly, courageous lives? It won’t occur automatically! Assure your children that your relationship with God is your first priority, that you love Him with all your heart, all your soul, and all your might and that you want to pass these truths to them . . . then live differently.

You’ll need to tell them that God has no grandchildren. Make it clear that this is one decision they must make for themselves. Help them make it early by living it personally.


The One Essential Ingredient

The conflict between the urgent and the important is inescapable. How easy to get the two confused!

It is common for us to think that by staying busy and working hard we’re dealing with the important things. But that is not necessarily the case. Those things most urgent rarely represent things that are most important. And therein lies the reason so many people today feel such a lack of satisfaction after working so hard and for so many hours each day.

Not only is that frustration true in the world in which we live, it is all-the-more true in the church. When we substitute the urgent for the important in the church of Jesus Christ, we emphasize work, activity, involvement, doing, producing, impressing, and accomplishing. But it often leaves us feeling flat and empty. Exhaustion replaces satisfaction. Furthermore, it smacks of the secularized world in which we work. Who knows how many people have been turned away from Christianity, longing for the true, living God but encountering at their church a secularized substitute?

Perhaps this helps explain why so many activities in so many churches distract from the one essential ingredient that makes a church unique in this postmodern society: worship.

When we look at life with a horizontal perspective, the urgent takes center stage. It is loud. It is popular. It is product-oriented. The horizontal highlights all things human . . . like human achievement, human importance, human logic, human significance, human opinion, human efficiency, human results. It demands our time and attention. As that ever-present tyranny screams at us, the most natural reaction is to yield, giving it our first priority. After all, it’s urgent! We’re all-too familiar with its voice.

The important things, however, are different. They are quiet and deep. They are vertical in their perspective. They highlight the things of God—God’s Word, God’s will, God’s plan, God’s timing, God’s people, God’s way, God’s glory, and God’s honor. And the goal of all these? The worship of God.

The underlying objective of a church committed to the important things—rather than the urgent—is the cultivation of a body of worshipers whose sole focus is on the Lord our God.


Living with God’s Priorities

Recently, someone asked me on the blog what I meant when I wrote in an earlier post: “God never wants you to substitute the good for the very best.” Allow me to explain. As pastors, we need to understand this distinction very clearly.

There’s an old saying I often repeat. “Life is like a coin; you can spend it any way you wish, but you can only spend it once.” That means life is filled with choices. The choice between bad and good is relatively easy. It’s a lot harder when we have to choose between the good and the better . . . and especially between the better and the best.

Those choices are closely related. What’s worse, we may find most of them satisfying. But in the final analysis, it’s our choice that makes the difference between pleasing God and pleasing our egos. In a word, the crucial issue is this: What is your priority?

You don’t have to look long or hard to find Jesus’s instruction on priorities. He states it clearly in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” Above and beyond everything else, seek this first.

That command is so clear, we don’t even have to pray about our top priority. If I am to seek God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness first and foremost, then whatever I do ought to relate to that. How should I spend my time? Whom should I marry (if you’re single)—or should I marry at all? What church should I serve?

Sometimes all of our choices are good. So how do we tell the difference between what’s good and God’s best?

It helps me to determine priorities by asking pointed questions like: Why should I do this? Is it for His kingdom? What’s my main motive? Will this choice uphold His righteousness? Will this church, or person, or decision allow me to be strategic for His kingdom?

Let’s dig even deeper. Are you ready for some thoughtful questions? Brace yourself. Don’t just glance through them. Be courageous to pause and address each one:

  • What is robbing God of first place in your life? What are you gripping too tightly? An important relationship? Your reputation? Your position? Some dream or objective?
  • Look at your calendar. Have you reserved time each day to be with God?
  • Look at your relationships. Does interaction with your spouse center on God’s priorities? Are you leading your family with God’s will in first place?
  • Look at your checkbook. Are you investing in God-honoring ministries (outside of your own)—ones that are biblically centered, focused fully on reaching the world?

If I could give Matthew 6:33 to you in one succinct sentence it would be this: Our choice of priorities determines the level of our commitment to Christ. Whoever or whatever is in first place in your life, if it isn’t the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s in the wrong place.

Often the good things we’re tempted to say “yes” to are those activities that boost our glory rather than God’s. Not always, mind you . . . but often. It’s worth serious evaluation.

Life is like a coin; you can spend it any way you wish, but you can only spend it once. How are you spending it?


The Ministry of Marriage

Because marriage is under siege, it’s natural for us to forget that strong families grow from strong marriages. Thus, we often make building strong families the end-all goal.

Marriage is the foundation of family life, and marriage is one of God’s greatest tools for ministry. Let me say that again . . . marriage is one of God’s greatest tools for ministry. Our goal isn’t to build stronger marriages—as an end in itself. It’s to build stronger marriages for a purpose—ministry.

Somewhere in the streets of Corinth, Priscilla and Aquila stumbled across a man down on his luck. Paul, weary, homeless, alone, and fresh off a demoralizing trip in Athens, needed a place to stay. They cleared out a room. Not for one night, not for one week, but until Paul was called to move on.

Then an up-and-coming young evangelist breezed into town. After his eloquent sermon, Priscilla and Aquila invited him over for dinner. Acts 18:24–25 states that Apollos was gifted and passionate. Though he was accurate in his teaching, he was incomplete in his theology. This couple corrected his doctrine without quelling his desire.

Priscilla and Aquila simply opened up a room for Paul and a seat at the table for Apollos. Through their hospitality and instruction, they impacted two of the greatest early church leaders.

What about us? Who could we impact that may in turn impact the world?

Time spent building our marriages is essential. But take it a step further. Build into your marriage a purpose—ministry.

Is it risky? Yes. Is it uncomfortable? At times. Is it rewarding? Absolutely. There’s nothing better. So what does it take?

I’ll be really gutsy here. Find an individual in need. Just look around. How about a struggling single parent? How about an unwed mother? How about an emotionally hurting friend? Now, they may mess up your life a little. They may get your carpet dirty, but you’ll have the joy of turning their life around.

If you’re not careful, it may just revolutionize your marriage and strengthen the very foundation of your family.