“To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen”Philippians 4:20
“Jesus, thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to live in me. I can turn to you at any time, day or night, in times of joy and of sorrow and you are with me guiding me, convicting me and loving me. Forever and ever. Amen”
When I married my husband 34 years ago, we promised to be there for each other till the day we die. I plan on keeping that promise, and I’m certain he will too. However, I also recognize that we are both human. We will disappoint each other. At times we’ve felt betrayed by the other. We’ve been angry and hurt. We’ve also loved each other deeply. And although I hope that our promise we made all those years ago stays true, you just never know what strange turns our sinful human nature may take.
In all our relationships there is only one that we can know without a doubt, that we could place a million dollar bet on and know it’s a “sure thing.” And that’s the one we have, as believers, with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will bein you.”John 14:16-17
Before the glory of Pentecost the Holy Spirit only came and “visited” man. He would come and direct various people in the Old Testament to do God’s work. But Jesus made it clear that He would no longer make us orphans. When He left He would step aside for the Holy Spirit to come and live IN us believers forever. How beautiful, loving and glorious is that? God – this magnificent, mysterious, expansive, all powerful being wants to be a part of me and you, always. While we are taking a shower, making dinner, at work, running errands He is with us.
“You have often left God. Has He ever left you?”
I’ve had friends that no longer talk to me. I’ve turned my back on some myself. I’ve even gotten pretty mad at God. With one of my funnier moments telling Him, “I’m not going to believe in you anymore!” (Ponder the irony of that statement for a minute) But God has stayed true.
Friends, look at the very best relationship you have. The one that brings you laughter, joy, loyalty and more. And magnify that by a billion. That’s God living with us and in us through the Holy Spirit. I don’t know about you but I think that’s certainly something for which we should glorify and give thanks.
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”Matthew 18:21
He’d been a drug addict and alcoholic for at least the 35 years I knew him. In fact, this lost uncle was my husband’s main reason for why he never touched drugs in his college days. My husband saw the path of destruction his uncle created throughout their family. This uncle, my mother-in-law’s youngest sibling, took the road so many addicts follow. They demand help, make others feel guilty for not rescuing them, promise to do better then start the cycle over and over again.
In my visits to my husband’s hometown, we’d have infrequent contact with his uncle. But we would hear of his begging his own mother for money and complaining of how “lucky” and “privileged” everyone else in the family were because they weren’t always so down on their luck. To be fair, this man bore the brunt of being the youngest child of an alcoholic philanderer. As for my in-laws, they gave money, moral support, food, and more for much of his life. But after a number of run-ins with the law and intolerable behavior toward my husband’s grandmother, the uncle found himself eventually with backs turned. Enough was enough.
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”Matthew 18:22
Let’s face it, we are only human. We get our feelings hurt. We often seek to protect ourselves from harmful relationships. We don’t want to be taken advantage of and have our kindness thrown back at us with vitriol. Like many of Jesus’ expectations of us the concept of forgiveness is not so easy for us sinful humans. We get to the end of our rope. We have no more tears to shed.
I remember when my loving, caring mother-in-law said to me one day a few years ago, “I’m done. I’m tired of being blamed for his problems. I’m tired of being taken for granted that we will always help. I’m angry how he treats our mother.” And really, could anyone fault her? But the thing is, I knew deep down she didn’t mean any of it. I knew if her brother came again with hat in hand she would help. Because she knew that Jesus would do the same for her.
25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”Mark 11:28
We can be thankful we haven’t been assigned the task of God’s prophets to administer final judgements like Elijah had to (although one day two of us will be called to do just that). In the Old Testament, we see time after time the people turning their backs on God after so many warnings. And he sent his prophets to speak truth and judgement. His final truth-speaker was His Son, Jesus. But this prophet came to tell us when we seek forgiveness and to forgive we receive eternal forgiveness from God, even when we mess up over and over. You see, Jesus doesn’t just want the one who needs forgiveness healed, he wants us, the forgiver to be healed. Because when we place our own lives under God’s microscope, we each have a heck of a lot that needs forgiving. We each are blessed with the incredible gift of coming with our own hat in hand to the Lord and asking, “One more time, please Lord. Forgive me.” And He does.
I’ve been fortunate to witness the healing power of forgiveness in a few people’s lives. My friend Andrea will forever be changed simply by forgiving a family member for past hurts and asking for forgiveness for how she has hurt others. My own relationship with my parents has required me to forgive them. And although the situation can still be painful, I now have the healing strength which forgiveness affords to help me pray for them each day.
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.Ephesians 4:31-32
I started this message about a man so broken from addiction. A man who most would say was without hope, without the peace from God. But God is a miracle worker as we all know. So, after another stint in prison about a year ago, my husband’s uncle finally said, “Enough is enough.” He turned to God for forgiveness and healing. When he got the news that his oldest sister was now riddled with cancer he came immediately to be by her side.
I don’t know if I’ll ever have the same opportunity to watch such a beautiful miracle unfold before my eyes. To see God’s hands work like no other. To experience the full promise of God’s grace and love descend upon a room. We met in the lobby of the hospital, just the uncle and I. His mind and eyes were clear. He looked so healthy! His demeanor was clearly different. I took him up to his sister’s room and we sat and chatted. I felt like I should leave the room and give them some alone time when suddenly he took her by the hand and with tears streaming down his face he asked for forgiveness. He asked to be forgiven for the destruction he caused, the pain, and for all the lost years that could’ve been different.
My mother-in-law thanked him immediately. She said, “I needed to hear this. It hurt so much when you blamed me for your troubles.” And they wept. For the next two weeks I witnessed this man stand guard outside her room, praying and participating in her last days. I listened as he asked the rest of the family for forgiveness. And saw them weep from the healing love of God. I watched as he helped lift his sister’s lifeless body onto the gurney for her final road toward home. He was in pain but was healed. He was washed in sorrow but cleansed from forgiveness. And he knew he was loved.
Who do you need to forgive right now?
Who do you need to ask for forgiveness?
It’s time for healing.
PS: Happy Birthday to my amazing, handsome, loving, forgiving husband 🙂
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Acts 2:41
My husband and I are back in the process of a church search. For some of you, your church has been your lifelong home. For others, you know all too well the difficult path of church searching. We spent the last seven months trying out a church and realized it just wasn’t the right fit. Great preaching and friendly people but there were a number of pieces missing that we didn’t see being resolved any time soon. We left on friendly terms as we began our journey to the right home.
And this search led me to think about the first church. That fateful day of Pentecost when 3,000 souls turned their hearts and lives over to Jesus when the Holy Spirit was delivered to Earth. There could’ve been more. Others stood in the temple that day and heard the sound of the violent wind. They heard the Jews from every nation speaking to each other in their native tongues. But they hardened their hearts.
Some however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” Acts 2:13
The 3,000, selected by God, were urged by Peter to recognize what had just occurred. He quoted the prophet Joel in explaining how the Holy Spirit would be poured out just as it had happened. He reminded the Jews of David’s words when he spoke of God’s promise to fill them with the joy of God’s presence. When Peter had his brief history lesson the 3,000 asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39
He answered with the message of the Gospel. And he went on to plead with them to abandon their corrupt generation. Imagine. 3,000 people all at once starting on their new beginning. It must’ve been glorious!
But their baptism wasn’t the end of their stories. What came next was an intense learning period. They “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship.” (v2:42). They ate together, worshipped together, studied together, prayed without ceasing, worked together to help those in need. And they multiplied.
You don’t get the impression from reading about the first church in Acts that a bunch of individuals were saved then when to their own homes and began an intensive self-realization study. Or went about their work day as though nothing spectacular just happened. No, their common goal was to spread the news of Jesus Christ dying for our sins. Remember, they spoke in many different languages. So, they were preparing to go back home to make even more believers. Preparing to go do difficult work. That first church was all about discipleship. I wonder how many of our churches can truly say the same? I haven’t been a member of one yet. But it’s what I’m looking for now.
The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions and the nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we must become.
The act of baptism, confessing our faith in Jesus Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit, is typically a public affair. It’s the starting point of our new beginning. But after that one time event we call on the power and strength of the Holy Spirit to fill us continually for one mission – to be in service to God. Those first 3,000 believers would need the Holy Spirit to continue on their mission. They would most likely encounter adversity, opposition, violence, and yes, success. Beautiful success.
We should all celebrate the day of Pentecost, which comes on the 7th Sunday or 50 days after Easter Sunday (June 5, 2022). For the Old Testament Jews, it represented the giving of the Law to Moses. But the new covenant, for all the world to partake, saw Jesus enter our lives. And after Jesus’ foretold crucifixion He gave us the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. On that day 1000s of years ago, yet another promise was fulfilled by God. His Spirit came to live in all of us, permanently. And we were commissioned into His service.
As my faith and biblical knowledge has matured, my list of “must haves” for my new church has been honed. I want a church that is biblically strong, always pointing me to Jesus, a joy-filled body of believers, and one whose primary goal is to create well-versed and confident disciples. I hope you will pray for us in finding such a place.
The modern church itself needs a new beginning. As individuals, may we be spurred to greater expectations of our Christian communities. And may we seek out ways to draw each other together in unity as our forefathers in Christ did on that day of Pentecost.
So her husband, Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. Matthew 1:19
We left off our study of new beginnings with a cliff hanger of sorts. There sat Jonah on a hill wishing he were dead. And God reminding Jonah that He cares for all people of the earth, especially the ones “who cannot tell their right hand from their left.” Thank goodness for that because there are many days I feel and act like one of those foolish people! If left to being helped out of my fiery pit by unloving, sleepy Christians, I would surely find myself in the depths of hell. But for God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. And those that submit themselves not only to their will but do so out of love.
So, we leave the Old Testament with many more stories of new beginnings than I have shared. And with hope that Jonah finally grasped God’s message of works without love is empty and useless. But here’s the thing about our guidebook for life, the Bible, God’s holy Word, there’s 1000s of connections back and forth between the ancient stories in the Old Testament and the newer history of the New Testament. Which leads us to the first new beginning we encounter in the book of Matthew. Another Noah. Another servant of God who is the way maker for the world’s new beginning. The connector from the old ways to the new. A man who, like Noah, was considered “righteous” and faithful to God. But first, let me share with you a modern story of another righteous man who helped shepherd in a new beginning for one small child.
Epworth’s Children’s Home received this first-hand account from a foster parent in 2017 about his experience in becoming a foster father:
“Our family has been fostering a boy since October 2017. Yesterday our foster child had a court hearing to determine what step to take as far as his custody goes. I haven’t shared a lot about the whole foster experience because I have been afraid, to be completely honest. Afraid because fostering has been a lot harder for me than I thought it would be. Not because the child is difficult – it has been hard because of my heart. Ever since he came into our home, I have been terrified of becoming too attached and having my heart broken when he would eventually leave our home. I have been terrified of giving him all of my love, my energy, my grace and my compassion. I was sitting in the courtroom listening to the different parties discussing and debating the best course of action for the child’s future, when I started shaking. I began to realize this is the moment! The moment I decide to completely expose my heart to the potential of pain, or keep my walls up. It was absolutely terrifying! I started hearing a small voice inside that I could no longer ignore, and it was telling me to fight for this child. I realized I was willing to do anything for him.
“My walls started to crumble around me. Then I heard the judge call my name. He wanted to know if I wanted to adopt this child. I wanted to scream “Yes! He is my son!”, but I think I said something a little less dramatic like, “Yes sir, we are working on becoming licensed for adoption for this child.” I then heard the judge say that he is ordering termination of parental rights and opening this case for adoption. The weight of this decision is not lost on me, but it was one of the most powerful experiences that I have ever had.”
But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:20
Joseph was our Lord’s foster father. As a devout follower of the Mosaic Law, he had every right to not only publicly shame Mary for her “adultery” but also to have her stoned to death! Before the angel even spoke to him, however, love, kindness, compassion took over and he decided to quietly divorce her. Think of how Jonah would’ve responded. Surely God would’ve had to intervene to save Mary’s life from Jonah’s anger.
After Joseph obeyed God’s urging to complete his marriage vows to Mary, his troubles surely were not over. Like Noah, he would’ve faced public humiliation. The knowledge of Mary’s pregnancy in the small village of Nazareth would have spread like a wildfire. And yet he stayed the course. He stayed faithful not only to Mary but to God. He didn’t, by all accounts do it begrudgingly like Jonah. He took up the mantle of “foster father” and protected his family, raised his son as his own. His new beginning was as father to someone else’s son. An earthly role model. A shepherd, like Noah, for what was to be all of humanity’s new beginning.
Joseph and the unnamed servant girl who helped Naaman (2 Kings 5:3) also have a lot in common. They were faithful. They had a heart for God. They stepped up to help when they could’ve taken a different path. Their small steps were a gift to many. And they both are but a few lines in our history. Joseph’s last mention of him doesn’t even use his name. Jesus is 12 years old, immersed in the teachings at the temple and his parents are frantically looking for him. His mother chastises him and says, “Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you!” (Luke 2:48) After that, Joseph fades away. Most likely, he passes before Jesus begins his adult ministry.
And yet we remember him each Christmas for his shepherding, protecting, and faith. We should all add a bit of thanks to Joseph each day we pray in Jesus’ name. Because like so many faithful servants of Christ, He obeyed out of love. He didn’t ask or require that “thanks.” He didn’t harbor ill will for having to endure hardship. He put his head down, his hands out and his heart lifted and said to God, “I will.”
I want to share with you the rest of the letter written to Epworth Children’s Home by the foster father:
“I will end with this. This is especially for you guys and fathers. If you feel God tugging at your heart to become a foster parent, listen! There will always be a reason to not become a foster parent, but if your main reason is that you are scared your heart will be broken, then you especially need to do it. Foster children need someone who will be heartbroken over them. They need someone who is going to stick by them when things get hard. They haven’t experienced that. They need someone to love them and be gentle with them when they come over and hit you in the face with a maraca and break your glasses (not that I have ever had that happen, that is completely hypothetical, of course!). They need someone who is going to be faithful to them and strong for them in their weakest moments. I am by no means perfect in any of those, but I am strong in my faith, and it provides me the love, strength and grace that I need. Fostering has made me more dependent on God, in everything, and that is good. Ultimately, I am a foster child who was adopted into His family, and I am fully loved.”
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Luke 24:44
As I’ve progressed in the study of the Bible, I’ve learned that the entire Bible teaches us about one subject – Jesus. From beginning to end Jesus appears. He is part of the creation team, the angel of the Lord speaking to Hagar, the prophecy of Isaiah, and so much more. So, when Jesus, after His resurrection, reminds the disciples that His death fulfilled all that the Old Testament taught us we should be spurred to investigate further.
He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Luke 24:46-47
You can buy a Bible that only includes the New Testament. But that would be like getting dropped into the middle of a battle not knowing why it started and which side you should be on! And while there are so many great lessons and the message of salvation in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John the full weight of those gifts lies in the cornerstones set in Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Isaiah and more.
It’s believed the first book of the Bible written was Job, around 2000 BC. After that the 10 Commandments and then the Book of the Law were placed in the Ark of the Covenant around 1000 BC. The New Testament books were written about 50 AD. Emperor Constantine commissioned the Codex Vaticanus, considered the original entire Bible, in 312 AD. And in 1381, John Wycliffe defied church authority and began translating the Bible into English and distributing handwritten books to laypeople. With the advent of the printing press in 1455, the Bible began its journey to being one of the most popular books ever printed.
I’m so thankful God took His Word and through man put it in this book we call the Bible. With it we can learn about His character, His promises and fulfillment of them, His expectations, His plans for us. My Bible sat for years gathering dust, not respecting its long history and those who died to make it accessible to all. It seemed unwieldy and confusing. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, teachers and the fellowship of Christians I’ve come to see the beautiful story, the amazing truth of Jesus, Son of God. The Bible is a living document, one which grows with us as we dig deeper into our faith.
Today on this great day of Thanksgiving in the United States I want to spur you to open your Bible. To read the history of our broken world. To read the entire, true story of a God who loves us. Of a God who never leaves us. Of a God who promises to deliver us from our sins. Of a God who sent His son to be sacrificed so that we will be brought home, cleaned and forgiven.
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. John 2:1-2
Today is my birthday! I’m not embarrassed to say I have reached the ripe age of 57 because, to be honest, it’s with the grace of God I’ve made it this far. I love birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Valentines’ Day, baby showers, you name it. If it’s a celebration I’m in.
Maybe it’s that my fellow celebrators have decided, like me, to take a few hours off from the trials and tribulations of the world. For our annual celebrations, it’s also a way of thanking God we’ve made it through another year with His grace and provision.
God certainly made us a people intended to celebrate. In the Old Testament there are seven major festivals for the chosen people to celebrate. That didn’t even include weddings and births. On top of that, the Sabbath, was in effect, a weekly celebration to take time and honor God.
For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. Isaiah 62:5
If you’ve never watched the show, The Chosen, you should definitely check it out. There are so many great episodes but one of my favorites is the famous wedding in Cana. To watch what Jesus would have been like at such a blessed time and see his disciples join the celebration really brought home the human side of Jesus.
It’s unfortunate there are Christian sects who consider celebrations sinful. They certainly haven’t read the same Bible I have which as we progressed through the events of the New Testament, we were given the opportunity celebrate our Lord’s birth, Easter, Pentecost, and baptism.
Today I will rejoice that God took good care of me this last year. I will celebrate in the knowledge that He is good and considers me one of His own. And I will thank Him that He is a God who loves to celebrate with His people the joys of life.
…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.Philippians 2:13
How glorious would it have been to live when Jesus was physically here on Earth? To sit at the Sermon on the Mount and hear His words directly from His mouth? To be in a busy marketplace and bump into Him – turning to see directly into His face? Isn’t it amazing how He spent so little time here with us yet the impact has been so astounding that even our days are marked by when He arrived? And when He ascended, the gift He left behind is something for which we can never be thankful enough.
“If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.John 14: 15-17
When you study the Bible you see how Jesus and the Holy Spirit touched lives even before the time we say God became fully human. Their presence is woven throughout the Old Testament. So it’s not as though they were created suddenly. God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit all spoke the world into creation and have placed their holy hands on our lives throughout history.
So, today specifically I praise God for the gift of the Holy Spirit and for being our constant intercessor, our inner voice, our God whisperer.
It is the Holy Spirit that helps us to pray when we don’t know what to pray – because the situation has gotten so dire. It is the Holy Spirit who whispers to us to get up and do God’s work. It is the Holy Spirit who partners with us when we need rescue.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.Romans 8:26
I shared with my BSGs in the past that when I’m really stressed or worried I have a difficult time praying. My mind is so jumbled and full of negative thoughts I can’t seem to quiet it down. One of my BSGs responded saying, “I’ve just cried out, “help me!” when I don’t know what to say.” That’s great advice. It says it right there in Romans 8. The Holy Spirit will help us pray. Will give us the words to speak to God.
Friends, God is so beautiful and loving that He didn’t leave us orphans. He didn’t leave us grieving because He left us with a piece of Him inside of each of us. I once heard a Christian teacher say that we don’t need to attain patience, kindness, love, etc. We already have all those imputed through the Holy Spirit that lives in us because we believe. We just need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us release those gifts. To help us pray the words to fight back against the devil. To whisper to us “love this person right now.”
We need to believe that God has given us the access to this awesome power. And once we do that, we should pray to unleash it with all its glorious might.
Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”Luke 17:20-21
My BSGs are embarking on a new study called, “He Speaks to Me,” by Priscilla Shirer. What stood out to me in the first video we watched was her discussion about the Kingdom of God. She shared with the audience about how in the Old Testament the Israelites prayed for the “coming” Kingdom of God. It was something they hoped and yearned for throughout their years as a new and developing nation. And right at the beginning of the New Testament we find John the Baptist proclaiming:
“Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near!”Matthew 3:2
With Jesus’ arrival, the Kingdom of God (or Heaven) became flesh and was brought to the Israelites. And so many of them refused to grasp that their prayers were answered. And when Jesus was resurrected, the Holy Spirit remained to cover us with the Kingdom.
Today I praise God for His continual presence in our world, in my life and yours. The big word is “omnipresent.” But I like to think of it more as though I move through and live in God’s presence. He’s not “with me.” I am more like the tiny seed that is buried in a fluff of freshly picked cotton. I am in God’s kingdom, surrounded by Him.
When I grasped this idea just a year or so ago it changed my perspective dramatically. I don’t need to ask God to come help me or be near me. I just need to slow down my brain and remember I am always in His presence. We are all in His presence, whether we believe in Him or not.
It reminds me of the movie, The Matrix. There are those in the movie whose brains and bodies are hooked up to a virtual reality machine. They move about in a phony world without realizing its fake character. And then there are the people who have disconnected from the computer and live almost in an alternate space – the real, tangible world. When we disconnect from the world of the flesh and recognize that this is God’s world, His created space, and that we are in His midst, we start seeing life and how to live it from a new perspective.
The Kingdom, Jesus reiterated in our first verse is not a specific “thing” to be seen. It’s because it is everything in God’s creation. It is the grace God gifted us through Jesus. It is His Holy workings in our lives via the Holy Spirit. The kingdom is God and God is the kingdom. Gnaw on that a bit!
When I’m struggling with an issue or feel pulled apart by the fleshly world, I now seek that “sweet spot.” That quiet moment where I can feel nestled in His presence, like that little cotton seed. I wrap it around me like a warm, soft blanket and thank God I can call him “home.”
For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.Deuteronomy 30:16
I grew up not wanting to have children. In my isolated world I experienced a parenting style that used harsh, physical, anger-fueled discipline. I didn’t know there was any other way and knew it wasn’t what I wanted impose on any children. So often as we become our own people, cleaved from our parents, we take the elements of parenting we don’t like and try to do the exact opposite. However, I also acknowledged as a new adult that the harsh discipline kept me from a lot of dangerous behavior. So where was the balance?
If you take a brief walk through the history of parenting you’ll see a modern conflict similar to the one I was having. The harsh disciplinary view of old was met face on with Dr. Spock and his more “loosey goosey” style. But as the Spock kids became the radical children of the 60s and 70s parents searched for a middle ground. One psychologist, Dr. James Dobson took up the challenge. He brought parents back into the position of authority but done with love.
Discipline isn’t, by definition, a bad thing. Studies have shown that the most effective way to foster healthy relationships with children and give them the ability to learn and utilize self-control is through positive discipline.
Lauren Steele, Fatherly.com
We humans need fatherly guardrails. It’s a proven fact since the beginning of time. We need to remember that when Moses came down the mountain with the 10 commandments they were NEW rules. New guardrails of how to worship God, how to treat other people, how to be respectful within our families, and how to protect ourselves from well, ourselves.
The Old Testament has a shadow story woven throughout. Yes, we follow the woeful Israelites through trials, tribulations and successes. But put in context God is constantly showing them how to live differently than all the other nations around them. Nations that He created as well but saw how they overwhelmingly desired to live outside His guardrails – rampant sexual exploits, child sacrifice and more. He was testing them all, just like today. Free self-reign or accepting governance by God.
I praise God today for His guardrails. For the 10 Commandments He gave us to live within. Because just like our children we prove over and over that without them we can get ourselves into a lot of trouble. Without His guidance, His narrow path, we wander off into parts unknown, get lost, live in fear and despair, and ruin not just our lives but the ones we love.
When I met my husband and told him why I didn’t want children he assured me we’d figure it out. He wouldn’t let my past keep me from a full future. Thankfully as we took the journey, we met God along the way. I may have pushed up against those guardrails a few times but He always calls me back to the center of the road.
After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Luke 2:46
“The teacher encourages the student morphs – moth to beauteous butterfly soars”
Mala Naidoo, author
When God directed me to start the Emboldened blog He also led me to a few simple quotes to put on the homepage. I didn’t know at the time one day I’d be using those quotes for this week’s study on Jesus and His teaching nature! Of the few quotes He led me to, I included this one by Joyce Meyer:
“If you leave church and are not convicted, asking questions, or emboldened then either you are at the wrong church or you weren’t paying attention.”
How many times have you left church and within an hour couldn’t remember what the sermon was about? You couldn’t even pull up the general topic in your memory?
I recently heard someone say that we don’t go to church to sit and put in our “dues” to God. It’s where we should 1) be rejuvenated for the mission and 2) get more training for the mission. And the second we leave the doors of our “God classroom” we should be at the ready to embark on the commission which Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:19. When church becomes a place where we leave just feeling like that was a “nice” experience, at best, or an obligation, at worst, we owe it to our personal faith progression to re-evaluate the situation.
When I started going to church my family ended up at a large Presbyterian church nearby. The pastor was just what I needed at the time. He was more counselor than teacher. And when I left each Sunday I felt he had really spoken to the problems I was having and reminded me that God loved me. The sermons were light on scripture, maybe one or two mentioned, and heavy on personal stories. But I soon found that sole message to be not quite enough. I wanted to know more. And the “teaching” sermons were what I gobbled up. As my husband can attest, I’m very curious. He constantly reminds me that I like to ask questions that seem to have no answers.
As a developing Christian, we should all be asking questions about God. If this “almighty being” is to be the center of our universe, the touchstone for how we live our lives, and the message we herald, shouldn’t we know everything we can know so we are prepared when sin enters our sphere? So we can be prepared when a seeking, fellow man starts asking us questions?
From learner to teacher. That’s exactly the path Jesus took. Here’s the rest of the scene when Jesus’ parents found him, as a boy, in the temple courts.
"Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers." Luke 2:47
And so, I constantly seek to learn more about this awesome God. At the beginning of this year my husband and I were directed to a new church. My son-in-law and his friend host a Christian men’s podcast called “Supplement the Faith.” They heard on a local St. Louis radio station a show called “Core Christianity.” The main host is Pastor Adriel Sanchez, who unbeknownst to me at the time, is a pastor in my town. They raved about his sound, Christian doctrine and told us we had to go check him out.
And so we went. The music was not my favorite – very simple and traditional hymns. The style of service was more formal than I was used to. But when Pastor Adriel gave his sermon I realized I was listening to a teaching pastor. That day, my church “program” was scribbled all over with notes!
In a brief period of time, I’ve learned a lot from and about Pastor Adriel. He and his beautiful wife have four little children with another on the way. This young pastor, who has led his fairly recently planted church for only about seven years, can be heard on the radio and podcast throughout the world via Core Christianity – which is a question and answer format. His youthfulness stands in contrast to his calm, confident poise. I recently asked Pastor Adriel if he’d be willing, in his busy schedule, to talk about his pastoral style.
And if you are on your faith journey toward learning more about His Word, I encourage you to tune in to either Pastor Adriel’s sermons at North Park Presbyterian (PCA) or the Core Christianity podcast. The questions asked on the podcast might just be something you get asked one day!
Kris: You seem to be drawn toward being more of a “teaching” type pastor than say a “counselor” type. How do you think you developed that style?
Pastor Adriel: I have a firm conviction that from the pulpit my job is to communicate God’s word clearly, and seek to apply it to the folks that God has entrusted to my care. Teaching or explaining the Bible is really important to me because I know that God’s word is the source of life. I do seek to provide biblical wisdom or counsel at times – but often that happens in the context of one on one conversations within the church.
K: Who are your favorite Christian authors/pastors?
PA: I love reading the Christian classics. St. Augustine’s Confessions, Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians, Calvin’s Institutes, C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. I nerd out on church history, so I really enjoy reading the early church fathers. As far as living authors are concerned, I like books by theologians like Michael Horton, and pastors like Tim Keller.
K: What got you involved in doing Core Christianity and the podcast?
PA: One of my seminary professors invited me to be on a podcast he had hosted for decades called the White Horse Inn. Over time, we started thinking about a new project that would reach a broader audience helping them to understand the core doctrines of Christianity. A lot of research has come out recently highlighting how little Christians know about their faith – so this was a huge need. Our goal has been to answer basic listener questions about the Bible and the Christian life, and in the process to point folks to Jesus and his gospel. As we grow in our understanding of God’s word, we’re enabled to love and serve God better.
K: What do you like most about doing the podcast?
PA: I love the live element. I think it makes the show exciting, because we can’t really anticipate what kind of call we’re going to get. As a pastor, I also love it when I’m able to answer a question for someone and I can tell audibly that they’re encouraged by God’s word.
K: What are the most frequent topics you get asked?
PA: Questions related to marriage, assurance of salvation, finding a good church, and how to properly apply God’s law are common from our audience. Depending on what’s going on in our broader society, we also will get questions on current events.
K: What question have you gotten that “stumped” you? And what was the funniest question?
PA: Never been stumped! Just kidding. Actually, sometimes we get very obscure Bible questions, or questions for which there is no clear biblical answer. I find those questions to be the most difficult to handle. As far as the funniest question we’ve received… not long ago someone asked if there were fish on the ark too. That one made me chuckle.
K: Which book of the Bible do you enjoy teaching the most and why?
PA: I find that whichever book I am preaching through tends to become my favorite book for that season. Believe it or not, I had a ton of fun preaching through Leviticus a couple of years back. I also really enjoy preaching through the Gospels. I preached through Mark early in my ministry, and like to revisit the Gospels from time to time in-between other books.
K: Which book seems to be the most misunderstood?
PA: As I field questions about the Bible, I think one book that’s frequently misunderstood is Galatians. Many believers don’t have a proper understanding of the distinction between the law, and the gospel, and they struggle to understand how God’s law (and various OT commandments) are to be applied today. Galatians is helpful because it speaks to this kind of problem.
K: Do you see value in studying the entire Bible — not just the New Testament — and why?
PA: Absolutely. Jesus said in John 5 that Moses wrote of him, and in Luke 24 that the entire Bible was about him. The entire Bible gives us a glorious picture of redemptive history, and each story in that history is meant to instruct us in one way or another (1 Cor. 10:11). If you don’t study the Old Testament, you’ll miss out on so many of the riches in the New Testament, and you’ll miss out on Jesus as he’s revealed in the types and shadows of the Old Covenant.
K: What are your overall personal goals as a pastor for say the next 5 years? 10 years?
PA: Honestly, I just want to be a good husband, a good dad, and a faithful pastor. My goal is to grow in that for the next 5-10 years.
Thank you to Pastor Adriel for his time! Whether it be through a teaching pastor, Bible study groups/individual, Christian authors, a radio show or Christian podcast, these days we have so many resources at our fingertips to get to know God. As Christians, we must make it a priority to place this knowledge of His ways firmly at the forefront of our lives.
I wanted to leave you today with this quote about being a learning and then teaching Christian:
He who asks will have; what more did he ask for? But he who seeks will go further; he will find, will enjoy, will grasp, and will know that he has obtained. He who knocks will go further still, for he will understand, and to him will the precious thing be opened. He will not merely have the blessing and enjoy it, but he will comprehend it.