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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Debt Ceiling of a Christian

For the past several weeks one of the top news stories has been whether or not a debt ceiling deal will get accomplished in time for the United States to avoid defaulting on its payments.  As I have read about the ongoing debt crisis in Washington D.C. I have not been able to help but make spiritual applications.

1)    How many times do we have to raise the “debt ceiling” in our personal spiritual lives? Every time that we fall short of the glory of God and sin (Romans 3:23) we are indebted to Jesus Christ. We are able to receive the forgiveness of sins once we have become children of God (Acts 2:38).

2)    What are we doing to keep our “debt ceiling” from rising? I am so thankful for what Jesus has done for me in my life; however because of our thankfulness to Jesus Christ we should be working hard to stop falling more in his “debt” or sinning. We should be working to do our very best to follow him and his word. What are you doing to keep your debt to Christ from rising? Are you reading the word of God on a consistent basis (2 Timothy 2:15)? Are you praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)?

3)    In order to keep the “debt ceiling” from rising tough choices have to be made! In the United States tough choices are going to have to be made to balance the budget and cut the federal deficit. In our spiritual lives it takes tough choices to resist the temptations of the devil (1 Peter 5:8). As Christians we have to be making the tough decisions in order to live in the world but not of the world and to live for Christ (James 4:4, John 15:19). Are you making those tough choices for Christ and avoiding sin?

4)    How thankful are we for the “debt ceiling” that Christ has given us? If Christ had not given us a “debt ceiling” it would be tough if not impossible for us to live with him someday in Heaven. Christ died for us on the cross and shed his blood in order that we could have the forgiveness of sins. How thankful I am that Christ died for me and for you. As Christians we all have sinned (1 John 1:8), and without the blood of Christ we would have no hope. I am thankful for the “debt ceiling” and hope that Christ gives us.

Romans 6:23 tells us “For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (ESV). God loves us so much that he sent his son to die for us (John 3:16). How does your life reflect your love for him?

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Parent Trap!

I had an interesting conversation earlier this week. As I was riding down the road with one of the elders here at Elizabethtown we started talking about the teenagers in the church overall. He said something interesting that really made me think. The conversation went something like this, "Michael, over the years there has been [a high] percentage of teenagers fall away from the church after they graduate. Basically the only kids that have been staying are elders and deacons kids." Wow. That statement really made me think. I thought, "what about my home congregation, and other congregations I have been associated with?" As I thought about this I realized that this same concept seems to be holding true. "Why is is?, I thought." It then hit me, elders and deacons on average put more of an emphasis on church. Elders and deacons are usually involved with something in addition to just showing up on Sunday morning. Elders and deacons usually are at services every time the doors are open. Elders and deacons are usually at the extracurricular activities. The most vivid role models in teenagers lives as much as teenagers may hate to admit it are parents. That is why expressions, "like father, like son" and "a chip off the old block" are used, most kids will emulate part of their parents lives. Most kids don't grow up to be just like their parents, but instead grow up to emulate just portions of their parents lives, the things that their parents emphasized the most, or spent the most time doing. In my little experience working with youth in the Lord's church I have noticed that many parents without meaning to sometimes send the wrong message to their kids. When the parents have something that interferes with services, they choose the thing that interferes. The parents complain about things happening at church. The parents aren't diligent about enforcing moral issues happening in their teenagers lives, not wanting to mess up their social lives, or risk messing up their popularity or even prevent their children from having a "good time". When these things happen what message does it send the teenagers? It sends a scary yet simple message, church isn't important! As long as parents continue to send this message their kids will continue to fall away. After all when there children go to college or get out in the "real world" why would they start making the decisions Christians have to make when their parents many times inadvertently taught them they don't have to. In fact, if the teenagers have decided that church really isn't that important why go at all? Scary isn't it?

Here a couple of suggestions that as future parents and parents we can take to heart:

1) We are role models. Over our children's lives we will spent more time influencing them then anyone else. There is a reason that the Bible says in Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.", and in Ephesians 6:1-4 there is a reason that children are told to obey their parents, it is because parents are role models! There is a reason that fathers are told to bring their children up "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord", because that child will continue living that way in most cases if shown how important it is. Let me suggest making a goal to have some kind of Bible study or prayer with your child before they go to bed!

2) We teach what we do! I can remember sitting on a plane earlier this year and it was late on a Saturday night. Most people on the plane were sleeping, however I happened to be on the back row of the plane going over my lesson for that next morning. In front of me in the aisles on both sides there were two or three families whom I would assume were traveling together. A scene happened that I will never forget. A little girl who couldn't have been older than seven or eight was sitting beside her father, and the girl asked her father, "Daddy are we going to go services in the morning?" The father was obviously tired and said, "well we will have to see, it will be late when we get in" I could tell as I was observing that the father didn't want to tell his child no, but at the same time knew that they were going to be tired and wanted to sleep in. The little girl then said, "Daddy my Sunday school teacher said that we shouldn't miss church" at this point I could tell that the father didn't know how to respond, and so he said "we will see" and ended the conversation. It is sad that a little girl could see the correct priorities when her father couldn't. It is even sadder that this father was teaching his daughter that church wasn't important. Let me suggest making a goal that you and your children will be in services every time the door is open and become involved with extracurricular church activities.

3)If we have idols our children will have idols. If sports are more important to us then church then our children will notice, and one day sports will be so important that they don't go to church. If sleep is more important then church, then one day our children will notice and sleep in and never go to church. What we worship, our children will worship so we better worship God! Let me suggest that we make it blatantly obvious to our kids that God is more important than anything!

4) No one else can parent for us! I get the impression sometimes that people assume that the youth minister will teach their children the things that they need to know. I get the impression that if the youth minister is teaching parents think that they don't have to. How many hours a week does a youth minister get with your child compared to the hours that a parent gets. A youth minister can be a great aid in nurturing and teaching children but that doesn't take the responsibility away from us. If the only parenting that is done to a child is through the youth minister in all probability it won't be enough. The child will become another statistic, and will have fallen away. Let me suggest that you teach your children the things that they need to know and don't depend on anyone else!

Teenagers, please realize how important your God, and the church is. Parents please teach your children how important God, and the church is not just through word but also through deed and think about What you want your child to be like spiritually when they grow up!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Evangelism made Modern!

I believe that it is quite obvious that as Christian we have a responsibility to be evangelistic. Jesus told us himself to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19a). In numerous parables Jesus also mentioned evangelism, by talking about how important it is to bear fruit, to reach the lost, or even to plant seeds. I have never met a Christian who didn’t believe that evangelism was important. However, I have met plenty of children of God who don’t evangelize. I don’t believe that they fail to evangelize because of a rebellion against God, the church, or even because they don’t want to see souls saved. Instead, I truly believe that many children of God today don’t know where to begin when it comes to evangelism in today’s modern world. Here are some  suggestions:
Be a Light! It is impossible to evangelize if we don’t walk the walk. We must live the life of a Christian and let our light shine in this community (Matthew 5:14-16).
  Leave a card! One of the most common things that we do as humans out in the community is eat! What if when we ate out at a restaurant we were to leave the church’s business card along with an invitation to attend services with our tip? There is no telling the impact that this simple thing could have. There are plenty of business cards available in the church office.
Modern Technology! Communication has changed a great deal in the past ten years. We know have social media at our fingertips with the ability to touch others’ lives without leaving our homes. With Twitter we can tweet about church events and upcoming services and hashtag the Elizabethtown area. Facebook can be used to tell our friends about how great the church is at Elizabethtown and how they should come visit.
Talk to your neighbors! There are no easier contacts to be had then the individuals living right around you. Invite your neighbors to church. Leave a card on their door. Say something to them when they are outside. There are several in the congregation at Etown that do this on a regular basis, and seem to always have visitors with them. We should learn from them.
Be Excited! Enthusiasm goes far. If you are not excited about going to worship God, what makes us think that we get others to come? If we show others how excited we are about attending worship and church activities, they will want to come, and find out what the excitement is about.

1.     Evangelism is worthless without a dependence on God’s Word.
2.     This is by no means a complete list.
3.     It is my goal to do better at some of these simple things that can get the Lord’s church name out to the community.

Friday, July 1, 2011

“Needs Improvement”

I was a third grader at Joyner Elementary School in Tupelo, MS, and I dreaded one particular portion of third grade. Handwriting! I had always had atrocious handwriting, and now I just knew that it was going to get worse. We were going to have to learn how to write in cursive! I can remember that my teacher that year nagged and nagged at me about improving my cursive! In reflection, I realize that she was just doing her job and trying to improve me, however the “third grade me” absolutely despised it! In retrospect, I probably didn’t work at cursive as hard as I needed to and when it came time for report cards, my mother was not happy! I had received an “N” for needs improvement! I am sure that most people have a similar story to the one that I just shared, where they got a grade that was not what it should have been. What about our Christianity though? What kind of grade would you get for the work that you do for the Kingdom? Would it be an “N” for needs improvement? Would it be an “E” for excellent? It might even fall somewhere in between; a “G” (good), or “S” (satisfactory). The biggest and most important question is what quality of work does God expect from us?  Here are several simple things that we can do to improve our Christian lives:

1)    Study, study and study more. It is going to be hard to be a successful Christian without knowing the word of God and continually reminding yourself of it. Make a point to read a chapter of the Bible at least once a day; whether it be at night before you go to sleep, during your lunch hour, or even in the morning when you wake up. I believe that the psalmist was definitely correct when he wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalms 119:105).

2)    “Pray without Ceasing”. I believe that the power of prayer speaks for itself. After all, it is our communication line to God, and we have Jesus who mediates for us (1 Timothy 2:5). We must take advantage of this great tool that we have as children of God.

3)    Involve yourself. I have noticed the benefits of becoming involved in the activities in the local congregation. The Elizabethtown church of Christ has so many different activities that are available to help others, and at the same time help ourselves spiritually. Among other benefits, when we are around other children of God on a regular basis it will help ignite a flame in us to follow the will of God, and when we become involved in the works of the church it helps motivate our individual spiritual lives.