Raise Up A Child

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Andrew Cencebaugh 3If you’re a parent, you’ve probably referred back to this Scripture from Proverbs 22:6 many times, especially when you’re children do something really dumb or that drives you crazy… but that’s for another topic for another day.

While this Scripture is not necessarily a law, it is a strong principle from God’s Word that reminds us of our responsibility, as parents, that our first priority is to raise our children to love Jesus and to put Him first in their lives.

However, many who may be reading this entry right now are painfully aware that there are no guarantees. We may do everything right, modeling and leading our children on the right path of following Jesus, only for our kids to grow up and walk away from their faith that we have helped to instill in them through their early years. How does this happen? Simply put… Free will. Ultimately, each one of our kids will have to make their faith in Jesus personal; they will have to own it someday if it is ever going to endure.

You see, this reality is fresh on my mind because a couple weekends ago I had the awesome privilege of baptizing my son, making him the last of our Cencebaugh household to follow the Lord’s example in this wonderful experience. And just like the times that I baptized my three girls, I was once again overwhelmed with emotion and a deep sense of pride and gratitude as I led him through this moving encounter. It was a priceless moment that I will always remember and cherish… even as my own children grow older and begin to “walk on their own”, slowly but surely becoming more and more independent. My only prayer is “Lord, I trust that Karine and I have raised them right and that they have cultivated a faith that will endure.”

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 gives us some great steps to building this kind of strong family:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (NIV)

As you can see, it all begins with loving God with everything you’ve got, giving Him all of your passion, dedication and devotion. It all starts there.

We are also given some basic instructions as to how we can demonstrate our love for the Lord and building a solid Christian home. In verse 7, there are three golden opportunities that we can take advantage of and begin to apply every single day. But, I’m also a realist, and I understand that with today’s family schedules as they are, every single day may not be feasible. However, the following is a solid pattern. Let’s strive to instill “faith talk” in our families on a regular basis…

  1. at the dinner table,
  2. when you travel, and
  3. at bedtime.

This is a great way to raising children in “the way they should go” and creating a home that is filled with faith in God and love for one another. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

Are You Mostly Dead?

Mostly DeadIf you’ve seen the Princess Bride, then you probably remember the classic scene where Inigo Montoya brings the lifeless body of his friend, Westley, to Miracle Max (played by Billy Crystal) in order to try to attempt to revive him. When Inigo tries to explain that his friend is dead, Miracle Max says, “No, he’s not dead, he’s only mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.”

Simple, yet so profound. You see, the grim reality is that there are multitudes of people that are “mostly dead.” You possibly work with them, go to school with them, or live next door to them. They may be physically alive, but are spiritually dead. But God has a remedy!

That’s where the power of the Gospel comes in. Jesus said, 

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 (NLT)

This is the Message of Life and Hope that we have in Jesus! Those who are currently “mostly dead” still have hope. It’s the very reason He came. Here’s the deal:

JESUS DID NOT DIE TO MAKE BAD PEOPLE GOOD; HE DIED TO MAKE DEAD PEOPLE LIVE!

That’s what he does best! He takes what appears to be an impossible situation (death) and miraculously turns it around (life). That’s why He made this declaration:

“I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” John 11:25 (NLT)

One of the most alarming realities is the fact that there are those who think they are alive, but are in reality dead. This can be seen in one of the growing sub-cultures of our day which is commonly referred to as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). Many churches have even allowed this philosophy to creep into their teachings.

In a nutshell, MTD is a religious brand that seeks to be morally centered, pursuing a happy, pain-free life, and loving God from a distance, just comfortably enough to be loosely associated with Him (or church). It’s a reformatted version of religion. In other words, it’s a belief system for the “mostly dead.” It’s mantra is “Just go to church, say a few prayers, give an occasional offering, be nice to others, and you’ll be alright.” However, the Apostle Paul describes those who follow this pattern as such:

“They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” – 2 Timothy 3:5 (NLT)

What’s frightening is that you can be a really good person, never hurting anyway, always treating others with dignity and respect, and even attend church on a regular basis, and still be “mostly dead.”

The good news is if you’re “mostly dead” that obviously means that you’re slightly alive. And if you’re slightly alive, you can still make the conscious decision today to embrace new life in Jesus!

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(NIV)

As we approach this Christmas season of gift giving and receiving, let me encourage you to receive the “gift of God” by simply praying a prayer, inviting Jesus into your life, asking Him to forgive you and to give you a new start. Then, you will have crossed over from death to life (see John 5:24)! You will no longer be “mostly dead” but FULLY ALIVE!

If you would like more information on how to receive this new life in Jesus, please feel free to email me at James@BethelUpstate.com or go to the following link: ABCs of Salvation

TAKE INITIATIVE!

Take InitiativeThis past Sunday morning the news broke that Will Muschamp was out as the Florida Gators head football coach. I couldn’t help but think about a similar story that developed several years ago about the athletic director of a major university that fired their head football coach. When asked by a reporter if he was bitter, the coach replied, “Not at all, but I plan to buy a glass-bottomed car so I can watch the look on his face when I run over him.”

How do you handle seemingly unfair treatment?

To a degree, Jesus is responding in Matthew 7:12 with proper teaching on how we should respond to our critics and those who may try to cause us harm or damage our reputation.

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets” – Matthew 7:12 (NLT)

I kind of like how the Message Bible paraphrases this same verse: “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.

The point is, Jesus really is concerned with how we treat other people. It’s not enough to just love Him and say that we love others.  In fact, Jesus expects us to take the INITIATIVE by loving others with the same passion that we love Him!  After all, “The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40, NLT).

So, where do we start? We need to start by taking the lead and setting our personal feelings aside, walking in faith, trusting God to move in every situation and relationship.

INSTEAD OF WAITING FOR SOMETHING GOOD TO HAPPEN, TAKE INITIATIVE BY DOING SOMETHING GOOD!

When God’s love fills your heart you begin to change on the inside and something supernatural takes place… you begin to see people, even those who offend you, through Jesus-filtered lenses. You actually begin to see broken people, who likewise need healing, restoration and victory in their lives, with tremendous compassion and mercy. Now, when you begin to be moved with compassion, even for those who mistreat you, you really know that the Holy Spirit is doing a deeper work in your life and that you’re becoming more and more like Jesus!

Check out the Jesus model for life and ministry in Acts 10:38 (NLT):

You know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

Jesus had a reputation for being good and doing good. Can the same be said for you and me? If you want to grow in your relationship with Jesus, perhaps the next step in your faith journey is simply to TAKE INITIATIVE and do something good for someone, unprovoked and unannounced, and see what God will do.

Are you ready to take that next step? I know I am… let’s do this together!

Grace

Grace “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? Matthew 7:7-10 (NIV).

A few weeks ago, as I was studying and preparing for a message based on this particular teaching from Jesus in Matthew 7, I sensed the Holy Spirit speaking to me that I needed to pause for a moment and allow Him to reveal something to me that I hadn’t previously considered. (Don’t you just love it when He does that!)

At first glance, I had already assumed that He wanted me to talk about our need for PERSISTENCE in our prayer lives, for when Jesus said ask, seek, and knock He used the present tense, which indicates continuous, persistent prayer. In other words, He was saying, Ask and keep on asking; seek and keep on seeking; and knock and keep on knocking…” I mean, come on, this has persistence written all over it, right? Well, while this is an obvious understanding of this particular teaching, I quickly came to realize that there was more than I had anticipated.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that persistence was merely the secondary truth being communicated here; the primary truth leaped out at me from v. 11 where Jesus said, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

The focal point of Jesus’ teaching here really isn’t about how grand our prayer life is (our asking, seeking, and knocking) but about how good our heavenly Father is!

Here’s a truth you can hold onto…

THE GOD WHO CONCEIVED YOU AND I IN LOVE WILL ALSO COVER US WITH HIS AMAZING GRACE!

Psalm 84:11 says, “He gives [which means we cannot earn nor gain through human effort] us grace [favor] and glory. The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. (NLT)

He gives us good things, but also protects us by not giving us some things we may ask for. For example, if my son, Andrew (who is 9 years old) came up to me after church one day and asked for the keys to the van so he could drive us home, what do you think I’m going to say? If I say no, am I being a bad or unreasonable father? Of course not! In actuality I’m being a responsible and caring father!

HOWEVER… if Andrew somehow got the keys to our van and drove off and got in an accident, that would be called disobedience, which would very likely lead to his and possibly other’s harm.

Here’s the deal… Your heavenly Father is not only good (full of mercy and grace); He is also responsible, and will never provide something that will cause you harm!  In fact, He will cover those who follow Him with grace.

“Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor [grace] as with a shield” (Psalm 5:12, NIV).

Take comfort in knowing that you serve a good heavenly Father that is gracious and kind toward you and  who loves to provide everything that you have need of… yes, even when you don’t deserve it. After all, when have you ever deserved anything good from God? Isn’t that the very essence of GRACE?

Criticism

If we viewed others as broken people, who are JUST LIKE US–Broken, I’m convinced that there would be less criticism, condemnation, and judging in the world. Much like the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery, we would all have to drop our stones and walk away. I mean, who are we to condemn anyone?

The reality is we live in a broken world, full of broken people, who do what broken people do. And as broken people, we tend to only point out the brokenness in others, while ignoring or worse yet… denying that we ourselves are broken.

Before we can truly grow in spiritual maturity, we must all come to the same conclusion that apart from Jesus and His finished work on the cross, we are all doomed; we are undone; we are insufficient. However, I truly believe

WHEN YOU PUT GOD FIRST, YOU TEND TO SEE PEOPLE DIFFERENTLY

Putting God first, in effect, puts a lens over our eyes so that we see others through the eyes of Jesus! As a direct result, we should treat people differently; we should be more compassionate and filled with grace, understanding that we likewise are imperfect, and the benefactors of God’s great grace and compassion.

On one occasion, while pastoring in another state, I have to confess that I pre-judged another pastor who was in a neighboring town and was overly critical of his church and ministry. You see, this guy was a well-known pastor in the area that was on Christian TV, pastored the largest church in the area with more than 15,000 people, whose picture was plastered on billboards all over town… you know, “Pastor Big Shot” as I called him.

One day while meeting with another pastor/friend at Starbucks, guess who strolls in… Yep, big shot pastor guy! I thought to myself, “Oh boy, here we go. Look at him stroll in with his shades and leather jacket hanging over his shoulder.”  To my surprise, and I might add, dismay, he recognized my friend and asked if he could join us for coffee. We sat there for over an hour talking about ministry and the Kingdom of God, just encouraging one another. I walked away from that conversation with a whole new respect for this pastor, who just happened to be a “Mega church pastor on TV.” I can honestly say that he was a genuinely nice, caring pastor who had nothing but the best interest in mind for the people in our community. I know this to be true because just a few months prior he had led an initiative to help those in our community who’s homes had been flooded due to a major storm in the area. His church pumped thousands of dollars worth of clothing and water and other supplies to those in need. Sounds like something Jesus would want! This guy was Kingdom-minded par none! Not only that, but he shared some valuable insights that I took away that day at Starbucks that has molded some of my ministry thinking to this day.

I decided after that moment that I would always sow good seed and not pre-judge anyone or be too quick to criticize someone I didn’t understand or who didn’t think like me, dress like me, or talk like me.

Kind of brings to mind what the Apostle Paul said, “You will always harvest what you plant” — Galatians 6:7 (NLT).

Perhaps that’s why Jesus Himself, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged” – Matthew 7:1-2 (NLT).

Be careful not too jump to conclusions by criticizing or condemning someone, for someone else may just return the favor. Let’s walk in love as children of the Light (1 Thessalonians 5:5).

Full of Grace and Truth

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If I were to ask you the simple question, “What does Jesus represent to you?” what would be your immediate answer? Many positive descriptions would come to mind to be sure, things like love, forgiveness, healing, restoration, compassion, mercy, holiness, salvation, freedom, so on and so forth. 

In the Gospel of John, Jesus is perfectly summed up with two words; words, which by the way, often alienate Christians who hold the extreme position of one or the other. Those words? Truth and Grace! Check it out, 

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” John 1:14 (English Standard Version). 

We’re not the first generation of believers to wrestle with the tension that grace and truth pose for the church. In fact, the first century church was forced to confront this early on. [for the background on this Early Church debate, read Acts 15]. This discussion tends to make conservatives a little nervous, while it also tends to make the more liberal believers feel reined in. The apostle’s conclusion on this matter left so much open to interpretation that Paul ended up spending a great deal of his spare time acting as a referee of sorts among church people. I’m not sure that any of us fully appreciate the lengths that the early church went through to in order to keep both grace and truth front and center. And we still feel this tension in the modern church today!

The Cliff Notes version goes something like this:

The whole problem arose when, “Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: ‘Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved’” – Acts 15:1 (NIV).

It’s rather shocking, isn’t it, that after all Jesus had done to pay for the penalty of our sin, man was still trying to impose “religious regulations” on would-be seekers? Simply incredulous! Perhaps you’ve heard more recent renditions of this old song in the form of something like, “unless you cut your hair a certain length, or dress a certain way, or sing a certain style of music, or believe exactly like we do… you can’t be saved!” Big problem here: this only serves to drive people away from the Jesus whom they claim to represent.

So, after a lengthy debate, Peter finally stood up and addressed the group. He began by reminding them of his own experiences with Gentiles and the gospel. God had made it abundantly clear to Peter that salvation was to be offered to everyone on the same terms: Faith in Christ!

Notice what Peter says in Acts 15:9-10:

“He [God] did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?”

Translated: “Listen guys, who are you kidding? We don’t even keep the law all that well. Why place this burden on the Gentiles? He goes on:

“No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are” – Acts 15:11 (NIV)

If that were not compelling enough, James steps up to address the crowd and says, [this is huge]:

“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God” – Acts 15:19 (NIV)

James’ statement should be the benchmark by which all decisions are made in the local church! Churches should not do anything that makes it unnecessarily difficult for people who are turning to God! What exactly is this? This is TRUTH seasoned with GRACE! This is Jesus’ model and method for life-transformation.

May we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us in order to conform us to the image and character of Jesus… and help us to live in Truth… seasoned with Grace!

*This is a condensed version of a message I preached called, A House of Grace and Truth.
**Andy Stanley’s insightful book on this subject, Deep and Wide, is highly recommended for further study.  

Relationships Required

Bulletin CoverIn his book “Creating Community”, Andy Stanley makes the following observation: “Starbucks is using coffee to promote connection. That’s a good thing because the company knows we are a culture craving relationship.”

If you’re like most people today, you too are craving Authentic Relationships. That’s one of the primary emphases of an “R-Rated Church.” It’s all about being real and being relational. Creating a culture where authentic community takes place, and where people are given the opportunity to connect in a meaningful way with others is challenging, but worth the effort!

Thankfully, God’s Word sheds plenty of light on this subject. Check this out…

GOD NEVER INTENDED FOR YOU TO “DO LIFE” ALONE 

And the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone…” – Genesis 2:18 (NLT)

One of the great flaws of American culture today is the lack of genuine connection between people. In fact, we live in a day and age that has almost made it impossible for people to interact in meaningful ways. Consider, for a moment, the following:

    • People are working all hours of the day making it extremely difficult to integrate calendars with others,
    • We are taking our work home with us more and more, never finding time to “unplug” and “disconnect”,
    • There is an overwhelming number of TV stations these days to watch which is causing more people to stay home in the evenings, and
    • Facebook by-and-large has all but replaced public venues for conversation between friends.

Someone else has noted that at one time “the American front porch represented the ideal of community in America. For the front porch existed as a zone between the public and the private, an area that could be shared between the sanctity of the home and the community outside. It was an area where interaction with the community could take place.” (Bill Willits).

Unfortunately, what has become all-too-common in the 21st century is worn-out people retreating from the busyness and intensity of work life, going home, putting the garage door down, closing the blinds, in order to escape from the rat race of life…completely exhausted.

Stanley also writes, “It would appear that our goal is to avoid people—and what they potentially want from us—at all cost! And cost us it does, because the avoidance approach comes with a price tag.  What is that price tag?  A life spent in isolation!”

 GOD CREATED US WITH A DESIRE FOR CONNECTION

“…I will make a companion who will help him” Genesis 2:18b (NLT)

We were never meant to live in a state of functional isolation. We have been created as relational beings, hard-wired for deep, authentic connections with other people .

In his book “Everybody’s Normal…” John Ortberg writes, “I have never known anyone… who was isolated, lonely, unconnected, had no deep relationships—yet had a meaningful and joy-filled life.”

The fact is, God has wired each one of us to fit into the “bigger picture” of the Body of Christ—to be one with other believers, living a life of significance, enjoyment, and true fulfillment. We were created for deep biblical community, which brings me to my last point…

SPIRITUAL GROWTH HAPPENS BEST IN COMMUNITY

“Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” – Ephesians 4:15-16 (NLT).

Did you notice that? The Apostle Paul is equating this isolated, me-centered, self-absorbed attitude with how the ungodly act.

Look. Here’s a truth you can bank on: You will never grow more spiritually than when you are joined together with a group of believers experiencing spiritual life together—in community. Why? That’s the way God has ordered it!

When we live connected with others in spiritual community we tend to have a better perspective on life, we tend to enjoy the benefits of experiencing intimacy with others, we actually learn to enjoy serving and ministering to others, and we have an overall healthier lifestyle. Who doesn’t crave that?

What a great opportunity for the church to actually BE the Church that Jesus intended!

Let’s be R-Rated!

Keepin’ it Real!

Bulletin CoverAccording to research in a book by Thom Rainer (www.thomrainer.com) here are the top 10 reasons young Americans quit church:

10. I was only going to church to please others.

9. I want to spend more time with my friends.

8. I disagreed with the church’s stance on political or social issues.

7. I didn’t feel connected with the people in my church.

6. I became too busy.

5. I moved too far away.

4. My work responsibilities prevented me from attending.

3. I started college and stopped church.

2. Church members seemed too judgmental or hypocritical.

1. I simply wanted a break from church.

The #1 reason people quit church is tragic – “I wanted a break from church.” Why in the world would anyone want “a break from church?”  Let me rephrase that. Why in the world would anyone want a break from a church that functioned biblically and was healthy?  Have you ever heard of the philosophical term Cause-and-Effect? I believe perhaps #1 is the effect of #2.

Yet, in the early Church, true, passionate followers of Jesus were viewed a little differently.

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men who had had no special training. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus – Acts 4:13

This tells us that the onlookers, some of whom were no doubt were non-believers, could observe the lives of the early disciples and know that they had been with Jesus. In a similar way, those to whom we minister and serve—whether they be our own family, our church, or unsaved people in the community—should be able to see in our lives genuine substance of our walk with the Lord. There should be enough evidence to convict us if we’re ever accused of being a follower of Jesus!

In today’s culture, if you really want to earn the trust and the right to be heard, you need be authentic and real. How can we begin the process of becoming more REAL?

RESPECT others opinions (doesn’t mean you have to agree with them)

  • “Show respect for everyone” – 1 Peter 2:17 (NLT)

EXPRESS genuine compassion (doesn’t matter how they got in the situation they’re in)

ALLOW mistakes (And admit that you make them too)

LIVE the Scriptures (Be the same at home, school, or at work that you purport to be on Sunday mornings at church)

Jesus had some pretty intense words for the religious leaders of His day when he said, “Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28, NLT).

Not exactly “winning friends and influencing people” type stuff here, but He certainly got His message across, loud and clear. What Jesus is looking for is authentic, passionate, real followers who seek to please Him and Him alone, and who won;t place stumbling blocks before those who are wanting to come to Him!

Check it out, God uses real people, with real problems, who struggle with real-everyday-life challenges, yet who also earnestly seek to serve Him with genuine faith and authenticity.

Isn’t time we stop playing religious games and start keepin’ it real?

God of All Creation

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The fact that God created and still creates inspires me! It’s the very reason why we believe that “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Think about… if necessary, God can create whatever is needed at any given moment, in your life! He was and IS Creator God. And what’s more, Creator God absolutely loves you with amazing passion and desires to bless you and provide opportunities for your success (See Jeremiah 29:11 again). I don’t know about you, but his blows my mind!

Theologian J. Rodman Williams said it this way:

Creation is a vast mystery incomprehensible to the mind of man

Unbelievably, there are those, like scientist Tim Hawking, that still asserts that “The Big Bang was the result of the inevitable laws of physics and did not need God to spark the creation of the Universe.” 1

Through the centuries, skeptics and scholars alike have often questioned, “How could something be created out of nothing?” Even at our very best, it still remains a mystery and indeed, incomprehensible! That is where faith comes in. It takes faith to believe. It takes faith to believe in a God that we cannot see, touch, or feel (physically). It takes faith to believe that this same invisible God can create merely by speaking!

HEBREWS 11:1-3 (NLT) says:

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. 2Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation. 3By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen

It takes faith to believe that God is Creator… past, present, and future! Faith is the very essence of making sense out of any of this stuff we call life. So, once we’ve come to terms with this Truth, the next question is, “What does this mean for my life?” 

APPLY IT: Read Genesis 1, Hebrews 11 and Hebrews 13:8. Then reflect on the implications these truths have on your personal life.

  1. What is the Holy Spirit saying to you through these verses?
  2. What creative miracle will you believe God for in the coming days?
  3. How will you pray differently this week knowing that God is your creative Source? 

Now, share this Good News with someone by passing it on! 

BE INTENTIONAL

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“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do” Ephesians 5:15-17 (NLT).

You only get one shot at this home-building thing. Only one. And time is not on your side.

Have you ever had that sickening feeling that the clock has started, the race is on… and you don’t even have your shoes on yet?

As a pastor, one dream I’ve had on more than a few occasions is that I wake up, forgetting what day is it, and then realizing to my horror that it’s Sunday and I’ve completely forgotten to prepare any notes or thoughts for the service that morning… I feel completely unprepared. That’s exactly how many young parents feel—waking up one day with the responsibility of parenthood, feeling utterly unprepared and panic-stricken, beginning this parenting journey.  

Think about it… From the moment you tenderly unwrap the blanket around your first baby after the trip home from the hospital, the nagging sense in the pit of your stomach hits you like a ton of bricks.  The hourglass has been upended. You have one chance at this.

That’s why the apostle Paul instructed the church in Ephesus to give careful attention to how they lived. In essence, he was saying, “Don’t be a fool! You better wise up! Now is the time to take advantage of the present, because once it’s gone—it’s gone! You can’t get it back! 

The CEV translates it this way: “Make every minute count. Don’t be stupid. Instead, find out what the Lord wants you to do.” 

Can you sense the urgency in Paul’s admonition? 

You may already have teenagers at home, and you’re thinking, “I’m afraid it’s too late for us to instill Christian character and biblical values in our children. We haven’t been intentional in teaching them how to follow Christ by themselves. We got into this game a little later than some. Is there anything we can do now?” 

I would answer by saying a resounding “YES!” for little is much when God is invited into the mix!

If you determine in your heart today to transform your home into a rock solid Christ-centered home… it will make all the difference in the world! God is the redeemer of time and opportunities wasted! Just give Him your very best TODAY! Don’t worry about past mistakes or missed opportunities. Be the very best steward of your present and future!

Don’t underestimate the power of Almighty God in the transformation process!

It can happen… and will happen… if you will only dedicate yourself as a parent, and if you will dedicate your children (or grandchildren), and your home to serving God’s purposes from this point on! Be intentional in growing your faith at home!