December 22, 2011

Q & A: What should I tell my kids about Santa?

Q: I have a question. Is it wrong to have your child believe in Santa Claus?  I was with my family over Thanksgiving, and there was a discussion about it. I just wanted to know what you think about it. Thanks

A: Thanks for your email.  That is a great question.  I don’t think it is wrong to let your kids be kids and pretend and use their imagination.  My wife and I have 2 kids and we have let them enjoy the fun of “Santa” coming at Christmas time.  However, I do not think it is right to lie to your children, and when they ask about Santa, we should tell them the truth.  Ultimately though, I think our focus at Christmas should be telling our kids about Jesus and explaining why we celebrate the holiday.  Our kids love Christmas, and the excitement and fun that come from Christmas movies, parties, and gifts.  We don’t remove them from that culture, but while we are celebrating with all of those things we do our best to focus them back on the reason for celebrating.

I remember last year talking with my children about Christmas and why we celebrate.  When I asked them some questions about what Christmas meant, they told me that the reason that we celebrate is because it is Jesus’ birthday.  Through that conversation I was able to talk with them about how cool it was that on Jesus’ birthday we get to celebrate by getting and giving gifts because the whole meaning of Christmas is about how God is a giver, and that He gives us good gifts, and how He gave an incredible gift to us in Jesus being born.

As far as talking with my children about Santa specifically…We never taught them about Santa Claus, but when they heard about Santa, through school, family, and other kids, and were excited about that pretend aspect of Christmas, we didn’t squash that enthusiasm.  About 2 years ago when my son was 6 he asked me if Santa was real.  I turned the question right back around and asked him what he thought.  He said he didn’t think he was real, but that it was a fun thing to pretend.  I agreed with him and told him that he was right.  We went on to have a great conversation from there about the fact that Santa was a real person that lived long ago, but the santa that people talk about coming to your house and the Santa they have watched Christmas movies about is just pretend and something for fun.  We also talked about the fact that his younger sister was still pretending about Santa and we should let her have fun with that until she asks about it too, which he agreed to do.
I hope this helps.  Also, here is an article on this subject that I think will help you, and Here is a great article from Mark Driscoll about how he handles this subject with his kids.
December 7, 2011

Struggling with Sexual Sin?

I just read an incredible article on the subject of sexual sin.  I think every Christian man should read this.

November 30, 2011

Random Thoughts on Psalm 1 – part 4

“…Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” – Psalm 1:1

This is a psalm that I have read many times.  And I have a confession.  I have often read verse 1 of this psalm and thought, God is telling me not to hang out with those who are described by the terms wicked, sinner, or scoffers.  When you are battling self righteousness it is often easy to see sins in others that you have a hard time looking at in your own heart.  I don’t write any of these posts from a place of having all of these things figured out.  I write them from the stance of someone who is desiring to live out what God has been challenging me with in this Psalm.  The most convicting thing about reading through this passage recently was to come to the conclusion that these are not people I need to avoid, these are attitudes and deceptions of my own heart that I often fall into and struggle with.

The part of this passage that talks about scoffers or mockers has been one of the most convicting for me over the past several weeks as I have done an honest assessment of where I am at and been willing to look at things I struggle with.  What does it mean to sit in the seat of scoffers?  First we have to understand what a scoffer is.  A scoffer is a person who speaks to someone or about something in a derisive or mocking way.  The reason I would sit down in that seat is because I feel I have the right to sit there.  The seat of a scoffer is a seat of self righteousness.  An unholy judgment throne.  It is a personal throne where if I feel better than someone else or see something that they are doing that I disagree with, I feel that I have a right to point that out, speak that to others, or justify my actions by comparing myself to someone I think I am better than.

We mock others many times because we feel bad about ourselves.  Some times what we dislike and dispise about them is actually what we secretly can’t stand about ourselves.  So, when I mock someone, I have found for me that it is because I lack God’s heart for them, a relationship with them, or the courage to love them.

If I lack God’s heart for them, I won’t see people the way God sees people, and I will lack compassion and understanding when I talk with them.  If I lack a relationship with them, it makes it easier to make cutting remarks about them, because I don’t think about how it would affect them if I said my statement to their face.  And if I lack the courage to have a real conversation with someone about my concern, then I will limit myself from having true and honest relationship and I will be disobedient to truly love them the way God has called me to.

I don’t want to sit in the seat of a scoffer any longer.  Self righteousness is a deceptive disease.  Jesus can set us free.

October 12, 2011

Thoughts on Isaiah 1:18,19

Isaiah 1:18-19

“Come now, and let us reason together,”

Says the LORD,
“Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.
“If you consent and obey,
You will eat the best of the land;

In a passage talking about the rebelliousness of his people, God offers an exchange.  He wants to take my sin.  And he promises not just to leave me empty when he takes it.  He wants to fill me with his purity and presence.

To have this exchange, God does all the work.  I receive the privelege of partnering in the exchange.  My role is what is says in v. 19.  To “consent and obey.”  To be willing and obedient.  To say “yes” to God before I even know what the question is or the exchange is because I know that he is trustworthy

Father, change my heart.  Remove my sinfulness and grant me your purity and presence and peace.  Help me to be willing and obedient to seek your righteousness, not mine.

October 10, 2011

Random Thoughts on Psalm 1 – part 3

“…Nor stand in the path of sinners,” – Psalm 1:1

How does someone stand in the way of sinners?  I think we do that when we are more concerned with someone’s behavior than their heart.  Condemning someone for their behavior, but not loving them makes you a stumbling block in their path.

Changing behavior does not change who a person is.  Somewhere along the way we believed that if we try really hard to change bad habits and lifestyles; and if we change them long enough and consistently enough, then it will change who we are on the inside.  That is a lie.  We know that doesn’t work.  We have all tried it.  We see the things we don’t like about ourselves and we strive to change those habits and lifestyles.  We might put up a good effort for a while.  But unless something is changed in our hearts first, when we are tired of the striving, we will return to those same patterns and end up feeling more defeated.

We need God to change our hearts to heal the things in us that have been hurt.  We need Him to bring truth to the lies that we believe about God and about ourselves.  We need Him to change us.  When that happens and God changes our hearts it will affect our thoughts, words, and actions.  Our behavior will change, but not due to our striving, but by our obedience and submission to what God is revealing to us and working in us by His power and for His glory.

So the truth is, that we can’t stop ourselves from being a stumbling block for others and forcing behavior modification on them until we make sure we were not striving after behavior modification to change ourselves.  You won’t give grace to others unless you are willing to believe grace for yourself.  We can’t give someone what we don’t have.

As Christ followers we have to stop going after behavior modification for ourselves and others.  That is the epitome of self righteousness.  A question I have been wrecked with lately is “Do I really believe that Jesus death was sufficient to pay for my sin?”  If I truly do believe that and I really believe in His power to change lives and hearts, then instead of being a stumbling block to those around me that are struggling, I can pray for them, become their friend, and help be a voice of encouragement to point them toward their only true healer.

Are we becoming a stumbling block in the path of those around us or are we coming along side of them and putting our arm around them and showing them a better path they can walk down?  They might not choose to walk down it with us.  That is where we have to understand that we are responsible to people, we are not responsible for people.  We can’t change anyone.  We are not their savior.

What we can do is love them.  Be full of grace and full of truth for them.  If all we have is truth for people, but no grace we can do a lot of damage to them.  If we have grace for people but we are never speaking truth to them, we can also do a lot of damage.  We are not striving after a balance of grace and truth, we are trying to love people well like Jesus did.  Jesus did not love people well because He found a perfect balance of grace and truth.  He didn’t try to measure them out equally.  He was full of both and loved people in that fullness because that is who He was and is for them and for me.

October 9, 2011

Looking for a Marriage Devotional?

Here is a link to the NewSpring 21 Day Devotional for Husband and Wives

The purpose of this 21-day devotional is for married couples to grow closer to Jesus and closer together. Some of the devotionals will be simple to apply and some areas will be difficult and heavy. As a church we want to encourage you to make the effort to work through all 21 days with your spouse, answer the questions, and set aside time to talk together about what you read and what God teaches you. There may be days where it is awkward or uncomfortable, but having a healthy marriage takes work and it is worth it. Believe that God can renew your marriage and you can grow closer to your spouse than you have ever been. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, but if we allow Jesus to work on our hearts and be the center of our union, our marriage can be more than we ever hoped for or imagined.

October 6, 2011

Random Thoughts on Psalm 1 – Part 2

“…who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,” – Psalm 1:1

I do not think this instruction is about proximity to those that are wicked or battling sin. I can’t reach out to someone and influence them if I never interact with them.  I can not isolate myself from the world and expect to have real influence on those that Jesus has called me to minister to and love.

I think it is the question of influence.  Am I being an influencer or constantly being influenced by others.  The truth is that both are going to happen whether we realize it or not.  There are people that we influence, that watch us that we may have no idea are paying attention to us.  Also, we are influenced by many people and things every day  whether we like it or not.  It is not that we stop being influenced by those around us.  It is a question of discernment.  Do we just absorb everything around us as truth and grow confused with the competing messages?  Or, do we take our thoughts captive and weigh whether something is truth that we hold on to or a lie that we reject?  We have so many different voices that come our way every day, the question is what or who do we listen to and allow to have influence in our lives?

I remember when I was a new believer around the age of 15, I had a great student pastor at my church that did a series of bible studies with our student ministry called “learn to discern.”  In that time, we would listen to many of the popular songs of the day, watch tv shows, etc. and examine the lyrics of what the artists were really saying, then we would talk about it and compare what they were saying to scripture.  That was one of the most eye opening things anyone ever taught me as a new believer.  I knew many of the songs/ tv shows that we discussed, but had never really stopped to think about whether what I was ingesting into my mind and heart was true or not.  It was a practical lesson for me on being careful with who or what I chose to let influence me.

So how do I avoid walking in the counsel of the wicked?  Amos 3:3 says, “Do two walk together unless they agree to do so?” The answer is clearly “no.” So we do not walk in the counsel of the wicked unless we agree to it. That is a simple verse, but it has profound truth. You must agree on a direction that you are walking in with someone else to stay on the same path with them for a significant amount of time. So, we have a choice in the direction that we walk, and we can either be passive or active on how we are influenced.  We can be leaders or followers on that path.

I also believe that as we walk in the direction that we choose, God will set up divine appointments for others that will cross our paths. We will influence them and be influenced by them.  We have to be willing to do both in a healthy way.  We can’t refuse to listen to anyone else and think that we understand everything and don’t need to learn from others.  That leads to self righteousness and isolation.  We also can’t just absorb everything from those around us unfiltered and assume that it is truth.  That leads to passivity and confusion.

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” – 2 Corinthians 10:5

October 5, 2011

Random Thoughts on Psalm 1 – Part 1

Psalm 1 has been wrecking me lately.  God has been really doing a work in my heart challenging me with the truth that is there.  Here are some random thoughts I have had while meditating and journaling on this passage:

 “How blessed is the man…” Psalm 1:1

Who doesn’t want to be blessed?  I want God’s blessing in my life. Not necessarily material things. Those can be blessings, but I want to be blessed with how God wants to bless me.  What if what God wants to bring to my life doesn’t feel like a blessing?  What if I don’t perceive it as blessing?  But, what if it is exactly what I need from him or the thing He will use to bring healing in my life?

I need God to change my heart so that I don’t try to make my desires His desires.  What a futile struggle to try to convince God that my perception is right.  I need God to help me be willing to say “yes” to him before I even know what it is that God is wanting to ask me or bring to me.  I need His desires to be my desires and for God to move my heart into wanting what He wants and trusting that He is trustworthy.  I want to be blessed by God and to trust that He is truly sovereign over my life and wants to be good to me.

God has really changed my perspective on what blessing truly is through going to Kenya over the last several years.  Many of the people in Kenya that I saw were so blessed, not materially, but in their faith and confidence in who God is for them.

I remember on one of my trips there, God challenging me with the thought…What makes people think that getting everything they ever wanted materially in life is a blessing?  What if in righteous judgment, we are being turned over to the idols we are worshiping?  If things are the desire of our heart, in other words if Jesus is not our true treasure, then I believe that there are times that God, in His wisdom, lets us have the things that we are deceived into believing will satisfy us and turns us over to them to show us that ultimately those created things can’t fill our hearts and that they only leave us empty and wanting more.

Romans 2 tells us that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.  What if God allowing us to obtain “things” sometimes is not judgment, but it is his kindness allowing us to have those things we falsely believe will satisfy us to bring us to a place where we see our need of Him and repent of idolatry and look to him as our treasure and satisfaction.

What if sometimes God giving us “things” is truly blessing?  I know and believe it is sometimes.  He lavishes good gifts on His children, because He is a good father and knows how to give good gifts.  He does it sometimes just because He wants to, because He can.  I have found God to be the kindest person I have ever met.  Not just in what He gives me, but simply in who He is and who He reveals Himself to me as

I want God to bless me with the things that I need.  If that is material things, then I want to receive those in the right perspective and not turn those things into idols.  But more than being blessed materially, my heart longs for Him.  I want His presence, I want His peace, I want to see my God come through for me when I am struggling and hurting.

Thank you God for how you bless me and always knowing exactly what I need, when I need it.

January 26, 2011

Great story of generosity at NewSpring

God has done so many amazing things already in 2011. He is obviously working on renewing people’s hearts and showing people how to serve one another. On January 23rd, Perry challenged people to minister to younger generations in the church. Tyler experienced God’s provision while attending NewSpring’s Anderson campus that day. Here’s his story:

“So I left my car unlocked in the parking lot. Today, when leaving the Anderson NewSpring campus, I found that someone had entered my car before I had left…and they put $100 on the floor. I was blown away. Apparently the message today really spoke to someone, and they acted on it. I’d like to thank whoever that was that felt God calling and answered. I’d also like them to know they bought lunch at Ryan’s for eight hungry college students. You guys are awesome. Keep doing what you’re doing, NewSpring, because it’s working.”

 

December 23, 2010

A Christmas Miracle

God has done amazing things this year.  Thank you God for the way that you heal!  Here is one story of what He has done for a family in our church:

On February 28th this year, NewSpring held a service entitled  Superstitious or Supernatural.  At the end of that message the church had volunteers and staff that prayed for people who needed a miracle in their lives.  My husband and I were watching the service on the internet that Sunday and as I sat there listening, I wondered if God would choose to perform a miracle in our lives.  For the previous two and a half years we had tried to start a family.  After countless tests, surgery the previous year, multiple IUI’s, and one failed IVF we were beginning to loose hope that we would ever be able to have that baby we had hoped and prayed for.  As I sat on the couch that Sunday watching the service I knew there were countless people who knew our story, many of which were praying for us at that very moment.  I wish I could say that I had unwavering faith that day that God would answer our prayer but after so many ups and downs I only had a glimmer of hope.  In spite of my doubt, God did indeed choose to answer our prayers that day and one month later I learned I was pregnant with out the help of the doctors or medicine. Today I wanted to let the church know that on that Sunday, God did work a miracle and performed the supernatural.  We are happy to announce the birth of our beautiful daughter, born December 15th 2010.  She is our Christmas miracle.

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