Category Archives: Faith

A Father’s Birthday Wish Come True

Today’s my birthday.  Not a big deal for me, but I have a wife and 7 children, so it’s impossible not to celebrate.  But I was given one of the best presents I could ask for yesterday.

My 2nd daughter, Eva, turns 16 in 2 days.  She’s very thoughtful and kind, friendly to most strangers, and has a heart especially for disabled children.  Sometimes, I forget how much she’s grown.  Below is one of her writing assignments for her Christian Growth class.

When I read this, I was immediately reassured that we are doing something right, homeschooling our children, raising them in God’s Word, and teaching them how to express not just their thoughts but more importantly, their convictions of faith.  This is no longer her parents speaking and teaching.  This is her faith and life she’s chosen to follow.


Committing to pray without ceasing

“Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy gave this command to the church in Thessalonica. (1Thessalonians 5:17-18) Why was this command so important, and is it still just as important? They, and other believers, were suffering imprisonment and persecution for their faith and spreading the Gospel message. Though the Thessalonians could not be with them in other countries, Paul, Silvanus and Timothy all knew they could be through prayer. The same goes for us; this command is for all believers today in this dying world, and will continue to be.

Committing to pray every day is important. It’s an appointment with God in prayer every day, for us to praise and thank Him, and intercede for others. It will take you a little bit of experimenting to find the best plan for you, but there are a couple of steps that you can take that might help you ease into it.  

1. Verbally declare your commitment.

You don’t have to announce with a megaphone in a town square, but it’s important to remind yourself (aloud) that you have to, and are going to have that time set aside today. Just like any other meeting, it’s important to be on time. Why should we strive to be on time for every appointment of our day, except for our appointment with God?

2. Fight all interruptions fiercely.

There will be times when Satan will try to slip little disturbances in the way of your appointments, but don’t let him! He knows that prayer is our greatest means of defense against his plans, and you should too! 

3. Develop a practical prayer plan.

Find the best time to have as your prayer time, and how long you have to pray. I enjoy basing my prayer plan on Dick Eastmans’ Scripturally-based Hour of Prayer, but again, it takes a little experimenting and practice to find what best suits you. I recommend setting aside at least one hour a day to pray when you first start out. You may find yourself at a loss of words at first, but this will give you time to fully enjoy having this appointment with God and God alone. After some time, you may find yourself wanting more than an hour a day! (You don’t have to pray for a whole hour straight; you could divide your prayer time throughout your day. Just remember to be consistent in your timing.)

4. Recognize the importance of your daily hour
 

Romans 10:13-14 says, ”For ‘Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’ How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” Our prayers for our brothers and sisters-in-Christ, for the lost, for our leaders, and countries, make a difference. Even when you don’t know exactly what it is you’re praying for, “His (the LORD) ears are open to their (the righteous) cry” (Psalm 34:15)

Let us be “worthy of the calling” (2Thessalonians 1:11-12)! “For we are God’s fellow workers…” (1Corinthians 3:9) Let us work together to expand God’s Kingdom, and see other souls saved! Although we may lack opportunity throughout the day, there is always an opportunity to intercede for a lost soul in prayer. There is always an opportunity to pray for a friend, family member, stranger, etc. Let us take hold of this freedom and privilege to pray for others, and “pray without ceasing!” 

 

Thoughts on Father’s Day

It’s a quiet, Sunday afternoon in our home. After breakfast, the children gave me some cards they had made for me. (In a digital age, I am so thankful that my wife has taught our children the dying art of handwriting letters and making cards for loved ones.) The rest of the morning was spent gathering with the saints, worshipping our Lord and Savior Jesus. As brothers led in prayer and song, our pastor shared a couple thoughts on our Heavenly Father. In Luke 15, Jesus shares 3 parables about the lost – the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Parable of the Lost Coin, and the Parable of the Lost Son (aka the prodigal son).

In each of these parables, Jesus reveals God’s heart to seek and save the lost. The man who lost 1 of his 100 sheep was not satisfied with most of them being safe. He left the others to search for the lost sheep and when it was found, “he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!

The woman who lost 1 of her 10 silver coins, likewise, lit a lamp, swept the house, and when she found her lost coin, called her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her.

But what always cuts me to the heart is the parable of the prodigal son. A son who had all the riches and happiness he could ever desire selfishly runs off to pursue fleeting lusts and foolishness. When he finally comes to his senses, in his mind, the son was already dead to his father. Crawling back with his tail between his legs after his rebellion, his only hope was to be allowed back in as a servant.

But our Heavenly Father stands waiting, seeking, hoping for us to turn back to Him. “But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” (v 20b) He runs to us as we’re just coming over the horizon.

There are many so-called Christians that have this view of a God who is angry, bitter, and ultimately disappointed in His children and our imperfections. They live in fear that somehow they’ll lose their salvation because they fail over and over, despite the fact that Christ died, shed His blood for us, and “entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:12)

These parables show a God who rejoices at our redemption. “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10). (Incidentally, our pastor pointed out that in this verse, it is GOD who is full of joy over the repentant sinner. The angels are simply there in His presence witnessing.) God doesn’t hold a grudge against us or take us back conditionally. To do so would imply we’ve somehow earned our salvation to begin with which is clearly heresy.

Our Father in Heaven is Holy. There’s no ambiguity or doubt that He will hold sinners accountable for every sin. Like our earthly fathers, our Heavenly Father also disciplines His children.  To teach us. Out of love, not anger or wrath. (Hebrews 12:3-11). Never forget that “The Lord is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.” (Psalm 103:8) Matthew’s account of the Parable of the Lost Sheep adds – “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:14)

Salvation for the lost is freely available. It is the free gift given to all who believe on the Lord Jesus. Those who know Christ know the Father. And it is only through Christ that the Lost can be Found.

On this day when we celebrate our earthly fathers, do not forget your Father in Heaven who stands waiting, looking for you to come home, to run out to embrace you.

A Tale of Two Churches

Let’s get the housekeeping stuff out of the way.  Yes, it’s been ages since I’ve posted.  We’ve moved to South Carolina, so I’m trying to think of what to rename this blog.  Guess I could continue to be the TXFatherofSeven, but part of me wants to embrace our new surroundings.

I’ve also been working in my new job for the last 3 months.  Same company, but new manager, team and responsibilities.  It’s completely different from anything I’ve done previously in my career.  It’s exciting and different.  My personality type doesn’t necessarily go looking for change, but I do get bored if I feel like I’ve learned / accomplished all I’m going to get out of a particular team or job.  More on my job in a future post.

We’ve been able to find a buyer for our home in TX and should be closing within the next week if all goes as planned.  We’re currently renting in SC, but we’ve signed a contract to build our new home.  Amazingly, the builders are expecting to deliver in just over 4 months.  That’s unheard of in North Dallas where new construction is taking some of our friends up to 2 YEARS because of the crazy market demand.  That demand certainly helped fuel the rapid appreciation in the existing home market in TX.  I’m very pleased and grateful that we’ve been able to cash out on our 10-year investment.

The holidays have all but come and gone.  We celebrated Thanksgiving twice, had a bout of intense, but short lived, stomach flu, had both sets of parents come to visit us, enjoyed a very special Christmas Eve service and Christmas Day.  And of course, we were thrilled with the latest STAR WARS new release.  Thumbs up, J.J.

But what I was hoping to share in this post, as the title eludes to, was our experience in looking for a new church.  Firstly, our family is a non-denominational, Bible believing Christian household.  We believe that All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17).  Throughout our lives, my wife and I have attended dozens of different churches and denominations.  Some were very good in certain areas but lacking in others.  Sometimes, we’ve had to leave congregations because the Holy Spirit convicted me of Biblical principles that were being violated or ignored.  Other times, we’ve helped close the doors on dead or dying churches.

When we moved to SC, there were certainly many places of worship from which to choose.  There are huge mega churches, old churches that have been around for over a hundred years, smaller congregations meeting in rented office space or schools.  Thank goodness for the internet.  Can’t imagine having to go to each and every place of worship just to get some basic information.

On the Sunday morning the weekend before Veterans Day, we visited one Christian church that was meeting in what looked like a high school gymnasium.  There was a stage, folding chairs, and wall dividers separating the worship area from the dining tables.  As we walked in, we were greeted by several people.  Our large family always draws attention wherever we go.  In a whirlwind of handshakes and questions, I was told several times that we were in luck showing up on this particular Sunday because this was Pastor Appreciation Sunday, and they had a special lunch planned after service.  (I had never heard of Pastor Appreciation Sunday.)  One couple started telling me about the great scouting program they had on Wednesday nights for the kids.  Another was telling me about the Veterans outreach program they were supporting.

After all the excitement of greeting us, we finally made our way to our seats and prepared for worship.  A band took the stage and performed a couple modern praise type songs, though I can’t seem to recall if the name of Jesus was ever mentioned.

From there, the service turned quickly to the Veterans Appreciation time where a video glorifying the bravery of the American soldier, establishing freedom and democracy throughout the world, was played for all to oooh and aaaah.  A veteran who was there to speak on behalf of a local secular Support Center took the stage to thank the congregation for their financial support over the years.  He spoke of the bravery of the men, the shameful treatment of our soldiers by our government once they return home, the fact that he wasn’t proud of the ‘hard living choices’ he’s had to make since returning home and that he wouldn’t wish it on any of us.

Next, a guest speaker came up to transition quickly to the Pastor Appreciation portion of the service.  Can’t be certain, but I think he might have been an elder or deacon of the congregation.  Anyway, after reading a couple verses from the Easy-to-Read Translation of the Bible, (all 7 of my children simultaneously gave me a puzzled look when he began to read), he reminded us how hard a life their pastor had, in selfless dedication to his flock.

After the sermon?, the worship leader opened up the floor to anyone in the congregation that felt like sharing any memories, funny stories, or touching testimonies about their pastor.  Several people continued to laud praise and adoration over their pastor’s selflessness and dedication.

They closed the service by repeating one of the songs with which they had opened.

As soon as we were dismissed, I quickly grabbed up my family and all but ran for the door.  We were asked to stay for the Pastor Appreciation Lunch, but I could not stay in that place a minute longer.

If you could have witnessed the utter looks of confusion on my children’s faces when we got in the van . . .  I didn’t even have to say anything, but immediately they started asking questions.

“Dad, what’s the Easy-to-Read translation of the Bible?  Is that like the Children’s Bible Matthew reads?”

“Why were we watching army videos?”

“Do we have to come back again next week?”

But we all knew the most important questions on our minds – “Did we just worship Jesus Christ, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, on the Lord’s Day?  Was His Name lifted up and given Glory and Honor and Praise?  Was the worship done in awe and with reverence?

After lunch, we went home and had a short time of worship ourselves.

The following Sunday, I took our children to another church which we had driven by during the week.  The building was of modest size.  There was ample parking.  And BIBLE was in its name, so that was a good sign.

When we walked in, our family was greeted by one of the elders.  He asked a couple of general questions like whether we were from around the area and where we had attended church previously.  Before I could go too far into our history, he gentled reassured me that “as long as you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you’re in the right place.”

That was it.

He explained that worship would begin in a few minutes with a time of the Lord’s Supper.

As we entered the main room, I noticed several Christians already quietly seated.  The ladies wore coverings on their heads.  Children sat with their parents.

After a few moments of silence, one man stood up and started reading verses from Scripture.  Another would lead the congregation in a hymn.  Yet another man would offer up a prayer.  The congregation joined along, singing praises to Lord Jesus, offering up the Amen, and bowing in times of prayer together.

After about 45 minutes, words and songs and prayers began to focus on the Lord’s Supper, on remembering the reason for the bread and the juice, and preparing our hearts to partake in a thoughtful, reverent manner.  An elder came up to break and distribute the bread.  Another came to pass the juice.  There was also a time to collect offerings afterward.

All along, there was no worship leader or program prescribing each and every action or spoken word.  The Holy Spirit was allowed to move in men’s hearts to lead this congregation into worship.  This was not a performance to observe.  This was an act of worship in which we had actively participated.

Afterward, there was a short time of refreshments and fellowship in another room.  I was able to meet several members of the church including the elders.  I learned that following the fellowship time would be a time of hearing the preaching of the Word by one of the elders.  I was told that my children would be invited to join a separate Children’s Church program if they would like or that they were welcome to stay and hear the preaching.  I chose the later.

We began the preaching portion of the service with a couple more songs, led by an elder playing guitar.  Another gentleman came up to lead a couple hymns along with piano accompaniment.  Finally, the elder came forward to share God’s Word.  And it just so happened that on this Sunday, they were beginning a new series in the Gospel according to John.  The elder commented that over the last 15 years, John would mark the very last book of the Bible to be studied.  He asked rhetorically what they would do after finishing John and answered “start all over”.

Put simply, the preaching was so refreshing.  I later explained to my children that there are basically 2 methods of preaching God’s Word – 1) Topical and 2) Expository.  Topical preaching involves selecting a particular theme or topic which the preacher feels is relevant or necessary.  He searches the Scriptures to find the relevant verses and tries to frame the subject in terms of God’s Word.  Expository preaching, on the other hand, usually involves starting at Chapter 1 verse 1 of a particular book of the Bible and going through it verse by verse.  The preacher should definitely cross reference other Scriptures to help explain any context or meaning necessary, but the road map is the book selected.

Neither is right or wrong, but my personal preference is Expository preaching.  It forces the preacher to examine every verse, not to skip over the difficult or challenging ones, and to humble himself to the teaching of the Holy Spirit.

What was especially encouraging was when I looked over at my children.  I could tell that they were engaged, listening, learning, and understanding the sermon.  You know it’s a good sign when you wish you had a notebook and pen with you to take some notes.  (The following week, I bought notebooks for everyone.)

At the conclusion of the service, I gave my contact information to one of the elders and he asked if it was okay for him to call on me during the week.  I said I was looking forward to it.

When we got in the van, I turned around and asked my children “is there any doubt in any of your minds whether we spent this morning worshiping Jesus Christ?”  The answer was an enthusiastic and resounding “NO doubt!  We definitely worshiped this morning.”

When Christians preach the Word of God in spirit and in truth, when men take their prescribed roles to actively lead the corporate worship, when the Holy Spirit is given room to move in Men’s hearts rather than to take a back seat to our preferences and stylistic moods, when orderly worship is not mistaken for scripted empty ritual, and when the time of worship is approached with utmost reverence and awe – there’s no need for the glamour or glitz.  God’s Word stands on its own as it has for eternity past and will for eternity future.

In saying all that, you wonder why the walls aren’t bursting at the seams at this particular, modestly sized, congregation.  And once again, God’s Word gives us the answer.

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:2-5)

 

Where is your hope and faith?

It’s been almost a full week of a self-imposed sabbatical from Facebook and shockingly, the world continued to move forward.  I had no profound reason for taking the break other than I want to see how long I could go without the daily facepalms and pulling out my already thinning hairline.  Still, there were some big events this week worth discussing.  One event in particular, that I’m sure has been blowing up FB, was likely also a topic covered by pastors and preachers from pulpits all around the world this Sunday morning.  This is, of course, the 5-4 SCOTUS ruling that States could no longer prohibit homosexual couples from getting a marriage license.

Based on some of the conversations I’ve had with friends, I imagine that some Christians (and other believers of faith which prohibit such unions) are wallowing in the ruling, lamenting over the failure of the Right Wing to mobilize enough petitions or grass-roots community protests ahead of the vote.  Others may be asking how things got “so bad”, how our country founded on Judeo-Christian doctrine could allow such an abomination.  I’m sure there are others looking down their noses and pointing to the failure of Democrats or fathers or the church or the media or women’s lib or the Kardashians to blame for the current state of society.

As a Christian first, and a Libertarian second, I’m not surprised at the outcome of the ruling.  I can honestly say that I knew this day was coming sooner rather than later.  I also can say that this doesn’t change a single thing for me.  And if there are some of you out there that fit the description above, I think you need to re-evaluate where you put your faith.

KEEP CALM

I’ve written previously that the government should get out of the marriage licensing business altogether, which is a popular political viewpoint shared among Libertarians.  I still think grown, consenting adults should not be legally prevented from marrying whoever they want.  The State has no business sanctioning or prohibiting any kind of marriage.  Many Christians take my attitude as a cop-out or that I’m somehow watering down God’s law in place of Man’s law.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The difference is simply that I don’t think the State can or should try to prevent sin through its various mechanisms of coercion (fines, imprisonment, theft of property, life and liberty).  The State is not our judge.  That place of honor is reserved only for Christ.  And Christ does not need the local police, city council, state representatives, federal judges or the POTUS in order for His will to be done.

In Romans chapter 1, Paul writes about the depravity of man.  He lays out quite clearly that man has a sinful nature and that we ALL fall short of God’s holy standard.  For the unbelieving sinner, this is foolishness.  Why should I not fulfill every pleasure or desire I have without an ounce of guilt, simply because God is holy?

On this point, I don’t understand why more Christians don’t seem to grasp this simple concept that sinners are going to sin and do so boldly.  No laws, no policeman, no threats of violence or wars or imprisonment are going to stop that.  What’s even more perplexing to me is how Statist Christians try to legislate God’s law into Man’s courts thinking this will somehow redeem the lost.

More importantly, how does God deal with man’s sin?  Verses 24, 26, and 28 in Romans Chapter 1 clearly states that God “gave them up” or “gave them over” to their sinful natures (and those of you that study God’s word will know to pay particular attention to anything repeated not just once but twice).

What does this mean?  God is not shielding or preventing man from following their sinful natures.  We must choose to follow our own consciences whether we will follow our stomachs or follow Christ.  We must choose whether to guard our eyes and ears from watching questionable movies and pictures so readily available on the internet.  We must choose whether our mouths will spout profane language, and not just because states like Virginia that want to fine you if you do.

As a Christian, I understand that I’m saved by faith in Christ through grace, not by my works.  Our moral living and obedience to God’s law does not earn us salvation or God’s love.  But our desire to live in holiness it is our reaction, our realization of our salvation.  It is not the mechanism by which we are saved.

To me, it’s clear that our faith, our morals, and our standard has absolutely nothing to do with Man’s Laws.  The government does not provide a roadmap for moral living and that was never the intended purpose for it in the first place.

For those that believe that the latest SCOTUS ruling somehow damages God’s plan for marriage, I ask YOU whether you’ve pursued adulterers and divorcees with the same frothing fervor as homosexuals seeking a marriage license.  I would be willing to bet that some of the most vocal opponents to this ruling have been divorced or looked lustfully at another person or even had adulterous relationships.  What does God’s plan for marriage have to say about that?

For those Christians that are still confused, disillusioned, or losing faith in ‘Murica over this ruling, I want to encourage you to step back and remember God is sovereign.  There’s nothing that catches Him by surprise.  This ruling should likewise not change an iota of your faith.

If anything, I pray this development has opened your eyes to the realization that putting our faith in the laws of the land, or the Congress, or the President, or the Supreme Court is folly and you will ultimately be let down someday.

But instead of lamenting, as our preacher shared this morning, rejoice and have the perspective of 1 Peter 4:12-13 “12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”  Similarly, as Christ preached in Matthew 5:6 and 10 “6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. . . . 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Right-Wing, Evangelical Christians. Please think about where you place your Hope.

So true.  Please read!

Is America the Last, Best Hope of the World?

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