Five Statements Every Child Should Hear From Their Parents

Words are powerful. Words spoken by parents to their children will help shape them. If we understand the power of our words then we can be more intentional in using them to foster health in our children. I suggest using these five statements on a regular basis with your child(ren):

1) “I am proud of you“- perhaps are kids need to hear this more on their failures than successes. They need to know that our love for them is not conditional based off performance. They need to be able to rest in the consistent grace of their parents.

2) “I am sorry“- our children are people who feel just like we do. We are probably quick to correct them and challenge them to be better but they need to see we are not perfect either. There are times we make mistakes and disappoint them. They need to see us own it and apologize to them. Not only does it set the example for our kids in being willing to apologize when we hurt them but it also shows them respect that we think enough about their feelings to apologize. Sometimes our kids need to hear they were right and we were wrong.

3) “Not everyone will like you“- our kids are special but not everyone will appreciate that. Some just won’t be interested in them and they need to be ok with that. The world should not revolve around our kids and we can’t reinforce their expectation that it does. Help your child not be self-absorbed.

4) “Keep trusting God and He will lead you.”- they need to know that following God is essential for their success in life. Of course words are only as powerful as our actions here. They need to see us trusting in the Lord in our decisions, modeling this for them. We don’t want to teach our children that relying on their own abilities and effort is the key to success. Helping them to become self- sufficient can lead to pride and neglect of God in their life.

5) “It’s okay- mistakes happen“- wiser parents than me have said they wish they would have been easier on their kids, especially in their mistakes. Our kids need to know that it’s ok to fail and that their value is not diminished. We don’t want to teach them to be perfectionists. It will wreck havoc on them and rob them of the joy of life. Let your kids fail and then help them see that it’s ok when they do.

Top 10 Reasons Life Is A Disaster Without Jesus

Life without Christ is disastrous. Check your soul and you will see it is true. We all know this deep down that there is something more for us beyond ourselves and his world.

Here are ten reasons living without Jesus doesn’t work:

1. You need to be perfect to meet God’s standard and you can’t even get close by your own efforts.

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.      Isaiah 64:6

2. You waste your whole life pursuing stuff and people that never brings you real joy and peace.

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?   Mark 8:36-37

3. You are trying to find purpose in life without ever connecting with the only one who can give you real purpose. (It is like playing chess without the king on the board.)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.   Romans 12:1-2

4. Being religious in order to clean up is about as beneficial as putting perfume and nice clothes on a corpse and calling it full of life.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.  Matthew 23:27-28



5. Your enemy is stronger than you and can beat you down every time without divine intervention.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

6. You were made to bring glory to God and you are trying to give it to someone or something else and it’s making you miserable inside.

Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth- everyone who is called by my name  whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:6-7

7. You place all your emphasis on living it up for the 70 years or so on earth and give no emphasis or preparation for the eternity you will have left after this life.

Set your mind on things above and not on earthly things.  Colossians 3:2

… yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. James 4:14

8. You are blind, unaware, ignorant and deceived and you think you can figure out your meaning on this earth on your own.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.   John 15:5

9. You will face a terrible judgment by the most powerful judge of all time who has overwhelming proof against you and can give the most devastating punishment and you are willing to take a chance that it will all go in your favor without any real reason to believe so except that you want it to be ok.

For the wages of sin is death… Romans 6:23

Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.  Revelation 20:14-15

10. You think you are pretty good compared to most of the world when your wickedness just looks different than yours.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Romans 3:23

Truth is only found in Jesus and only when we have Jesus do we really know what it is to live.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  John 10:10

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF MY LIFE?

Psalm 42:2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

What are we here on this earth for? What is the meaning of my life? Every generation since the beginning of creation has asked that question in one way or another. What is my purpose? Am I part of something bigger than what I see? This question is natural because it is programmed in us by our Creator. He created us with a purpose, and, unless we figure out that purpose, we will be devoid of joy and peace in our lives.

Every person on earth tries to find their purpose in some way. Most spend their whole lives filling that answer with things that rust and destroy. New home, new cars, new putters, new clothes, new jobs, new kids, new spouse… and on and on. A never-ending pursuit of something more to bring a sense of purpose and meaning to life. Yet, one thing seems blatantly obvious when you have eyes to see it; nothing really satisfies. It all leaves you wanting more. It promises so much more than it can fulfill. The feelings of satisfaction with these things never last.

The problem is within your soul. Your soul has God-size expectations. After all, it was God who breathed the soul into us (Genesis 1:26-27). It refuses to be satisfied with anything less than God Himself.

What can truly satisfy the soul? That is the question we should be asking and on a journey to answer. The answer is found in only one place — with the God who made us. It’s not enough to serve a god. We can find “gods” in many forms. They are created in the mind of man and will only bring bondage as they can only bring deception and lack any power. Religion doesn’t make us happy. Only relationship with our Creator can do that.

I am talking about the God of the Bible. The One who created you to find purpose in something greater than yourself. The One who created you to glorify His name and find purpose in His kingdom. The One who created you to put others first and find joy in living sacrificially.

The greatest irony of humanity is that, the more we fill our lives with stuff to make us happy, the more dissatisfied we get where it matters most — in our souls. Take celebrities as the example here. Fame and fortune don’t cut it. A lot of rich and famous people are miserable. It’s the wrong diet for what our soul needs. The soul lives for something more pure, more relational, more redemptive. You can only find that in God.

In a word, we are left dissatisfied. We have chased the breeze never to catch it. We have been deceived by the devil to believe we could find happiness in things that never fully deliver.

Here is where I found true satisfaction for my soul:

* Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)

* For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. (Psalm 107:9)

When will you realize that Jesus is better than anything this world has to offer? When will you stop exhausting yourself chasing after happiness when it is only a prayer away?

Don’t Look Inside Because I Don’t Like What I Will See

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“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”   Matthew 23:25-26

Real change requires a look inside. An infected saint knows this all too well. I have tried in every other way, but my own journey says in order to make lasting change in your life, it starts with an honest look at your insides.

What does it mean to change? You know God desires it. You know there are things hindering you that He wants removed. But if you are like me, the struggle is real, and change is extremely difficult. When you are forced to look within, you know something needs addressing. You know there is something dreadfully wrong. It creeps up when we are put on the spot or someone dislikes us or we feel foolish. Something in us feels really broken, and we want to quit thinking about it as quickly as possible. We make ourselves busy, or we shift our thinking so we don’t have to deal with the unpleasantry of the wound within.

When we take time to look on the inside, to go deeper than what is at surface level, we find that things are complicated. It only takes a moment to realize, while there are good things happening, we have a really long way to go. Our garden is not without weeds. We wish we were better than we are, but we are not. And what is the result of this? It brings strong feelings of shame to our life. Shame makes us want to hide. Sometimes, it can be strong enough to make us want to curl up in the fetal position, hide in the closet or run with all our might to escape.

We want to feel whole. We want to feel like things are good and in order. We don’t want to feel empty or rejected. We avoid it at all costs. Yet, without an honest look at what is going on inside, how can we ever really change? How can we ever become like Christ? How can we ever experience the joy that is ours in Him?

Looking inside brings real fear. We are not sure we can face it and make it. It requires loads of courage to investigate deeper into our soul. If we want to change, we have to face our own sin and insecurities. We can’t be like the Pharisees who put out an image to everyone that was not consistent with who they really were in their souls. We have to face the pain, the shame, the guilt, the weakness. We have to face it in confidence that Christ’s grace is greater than our sin. That He will not leave us exposed and condemned.

How do we receive this great grace? We face courageously the depth of our sinfulness and we repent. Repentance moves us from deceiving ourselves that everything is okay to trusting in Christ’s work. Repentance produces a growing strength and stability in our inner core. It produces a change of character. It is the Gospel at work in us.

Let your complacency be disrupted by looking within. Change can only happen when we are first unsettled at our core. When we take the time to face our demons and get the help we need. Once we do, change is possible with the work of Christ and the accountability and support of others. God wants to do a mighty work in you – so have the courage to trust Him as He reveals the depths of your soul to you and changes you from the inside out.

 

Happy Funerals

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He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

Being an Infected Saint means facing the reality that we are all going to die. Infected saints are positionally perfect in Christ but still battle with sin. Unless Christ returns first, death is inevitable. Rarely does anyone look forward to dying. As Christians we get much more excited about the thought of resurrecting with a perfect body. I can’t imagine me with a perfect body. That is Heaven! But seriously, you cannot know the joy of the resurrection without first knowing the pain of death.  It is only out of death that something beautiful resurrects.

I read an article in Christianity Today (March 2016) recently on Christian trend towards “happy funerals.” Christian funerals are encouraged to have a positive spin: they are in a better place;  they feel no more pain; you need to move on while cherishing the memories.  More upbeat songs are being played at funerals. There has even been a change in clothing. Dark suits have been replaced with something more upbeat and casual. The goal is more celebration, more moments of joy. I get that.  Jesus brings victory over death. Death is not the final word for a believer. That is cause for celebration. Yet, joy should not replace our grief. It is not only ok to hurt; it is necessary.

If not careful, we could be in danger of brushing over the truth about death. Death is loss. It is a time for grieving. Shortest verse of the Bible shows Jesus weeping over the loss of his friend, Lazarus (John 11:35). Was Jesus showing a lack of faith? Did Jesus not know death was not the final word for Lazarus? Why didn’t Jesus celebrate? Jesus knew that Lazarus would walk again in a few moments from then, yet He still wept tears of grief. Jesus felt great sorrow. His tears were not just for His friend but for the necessity of pain and death because of sin. Death is a constant reminder of the destructive nature of sin. Jesus wept for it.

Hope should be apparent in a Christian funeral. As the word says, we “grieve but not as those without hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Yet, we are no different than any lost person who loses someone they care about. In fact being Christian means we understand better how to love and so our pain might be felt even deeper than the nonbeliever. That pain should not be ignored. Not letting yourself feel or express the pain is not a mark of spiritual achievement but a denial of the reality of loss. We need to deal honestly with our pain. We hurt because we cared. We need to feel that, experience it, and let it come through in whatever way it wants. Grieving is not a sign of doubt, but serves as evidence that you loved deeply.

Death reminds us of the tension between living in this age and the age to come. Infected saints know that this world is not home. We look forward to the afterlife but face the reality that we have to pass through death to get there. Death is necessary for resurrection. Resurrection is our hope. Death might be imminent but it is not the final word!

We should celebrate our hope in Christ at a funeral but not to the dismissal of our pain. So if you lose someone you love, grieve deeply. It’s ok. Don’t lose hope while you grieve, but do not feel guilty for hurting deeply. Jesus did and so should we.

Get Your Head Out Of The Sand

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.   Revelation 3:15-16

Complacency is your dire enemy. It’s the Darth Vader, Norman Bates and Wicked Witch of enemies all wrapped up into one fighting for your soul. You probably don’t give it much thought but it is the culprit behind much that hinders you spiritually, physically, and relationally. It lulls you into a false comfort that you are doing enough when really you are drifting slowly away from the safety of the shoreline, oblivious of the danger that you are in. It’s so easy to become complacent. It happens naturally to us.

Most of the time we are unaware that complacency is an issue. Until one day you are jolted awake by some sort of crisis. At that moment you gain a moment of perspective, realizing that you have been sleepwalking through life. That all those things you thought were “can’t live withouts” were really things that don’t satisfy or last.

Godliness, on the other hand, takes intentionality and sacrifice. You need to add these two words to your daily vocabulary. What are doing today that is intentional and sacrificial? If you can answer that with something then you are a step closer towards fighting complacency in your life.

Here are a few considerations to help you fight complacency:

  1. Willpower alone will not overcome complacency.
  2. You can’t think eternally in your daily life without Jesus.
  3. You need to consistently be confronted by God’s word to keep you from putting your guard down.
  4. You need to serve others in some capacity to remind you that it is not all about you.
  5. You need to start right now or you won’t do a thing about this issue

 

Complacency is the easy route but will leave you going through life unaware of what really matters. Godliness involves risking it all for something greater than yourself. Living for ourself is much easier but brings no joy to us.  Living for Christ costs us greatly but we gain everything. Let those who have ears to hear, hear and be set free from a life of complacency and indifference.

How I Found Jesus In A Taco


There have been over 100 foods that supposedly have miraculously born the image of Christ. People reported seeing Him in their soup and even on their sour cream and onion potato chip (see pic above).

But my favorite comes from a story in New Mexico where a man claims to see clearly the face of Christ on his taco! The truth is we try to find Christ in all the wrong places. We look for miraculous signs and wonders when he is the still small voice whispering to us to be content and find joy in Him. We try and find Him in the grandest of things when often he is found among the poor and broken. We look for Christ in the celebrity and He is found in the faithful prayer warrior hidden in her closet.

I haven’t seen the face of Christ in my soup or on a taco but when I look at myself I pray His presence is so upon me that you can’t help but see His image all over me. I pray his way of thinking will become my way of thinking. I want to love people like He loved them. I hunger for His constant joy that He found in His Father. I desire to give others the grace He has given me. I want more than anything to look like Jesus!

Christian you are set free! You are a new creation. In fact you no longer live but Christ lives in you. Please throw off everything that hinders you and the sin that so easily entangles you.  It’s time to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Don’t you know that the life you now live you live by faith. For you have been saved by grace. It is not of your own doing. So be Holy as He is Holy. You have the mind of Christ. Don’t you yet know that to live is Christ and to die is gain. Wake up Saint. Christ is coming soon! Amen and Amen.

So lay down your burdens. Lay down your shame. Lay down your heart. Come as you are and be received.

A TRIBUTE TO AARON CARL TORIAN

 

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While I only met him once, Aaron Carl Torian grew up in the church, Heartland Worship Center (AKA Bible Baptist Church) in Paducah, Kentucky, where I am one of the pastors. I never knew him except for a quick hello here and there but I heard about him often. I heard how he had immense passion for his country and that many of his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan were due to his volunteering. Aaron understood that freedom had a price. He was willing to sacrifice it all to protect that freedom for you and me.

While I’ll never know exactly all that he did, I know that he was a sniper and that his rank was a Master Sergeant. I read how he was named 2005 2nd Marine Division’s Noncommissioned Officer of the Year for his actions during Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.  I know that he was well respected by all who spoke of him and that he received great honors over his career. The word is on the street that he saved several lives of other soldiers and civilians. That he risked his life for their benefit.

There is a lot I don’t know about Aaron but I do know this… He is a Hero. A hero is someone who gives his or her life to something greater than themselves. That was Aaron. He was adored by his mom and step-dad. Adored by his children. Adored by his church. He is not just a hero because he died doing what he loved, defending our country. He was a hero before that. My guess is all his brothers who served with him would tell you that we in the states only know a small fraction of all the reasons Aaron is a hero. The sacrifices he made. The courage it must have taken to go where he went and to do what he was called to. The brotherhood he shared that very few will ever experience.

I wish I had known him better. I wish I could have spent time with him to see what motivated him. I wish I could have been inspired personally by his passion. To be challenged by his discipline. To be a better person because I spent time with him. When I heard he was killed in service my heart broke as if he were someone very close to me. When heroes die we all feel the weight of it. We know that we have lost someone significant to the very world we know.

Most of all I am thankful for Aaron’s faith. That he put his ultimate trust in Jesus Christ. There is nothing that brings more joy to my heart and to the heart of those who knew Aaron than to know he is now in Heaven. A place where there is no more suffering, no more tears, no more pain. A place that Aaron will be able to rest and enjoy His Lord for all eternity. I will see you one day Aaron and I will be honored to call you a brother and to enjoy the presence of the Lord with you for all eternity. For now I honor you and remember your sacrifice for me and my family. Thanks for reminding me what constitutes being a hero.

To his wife, Jurley, and his children, Elijah, 9, Laura Bella, 4, and Avery, 2, we will do our part to remember well the man you called Husband and Father. Thank you for your sacrifice and know that his memory will live on in the hearts of a nation.

PARENTING MYTH

Happy family together, parents with their little child at sunset.

 

The way of the parent is often the way of the Cross: the glory and grace and joy in it come at significant cost.

                                                                                                                                                                             ~ Rachel Stone 

What’s easy about parenting?  Nothing.  In all the things I have tried to do in my life, nothing highlights my feelings of inadequacy like parenting.  All I can say is WOW!  Parenting is a constant dispenser of humility.

I have such high expectations for my children.  I want my children to be perfect (just keeping it real), and I want to be the perfect parent.  Not going to happen.  This should not be my expectation.  Reality is, I have sinful children being raised by sinful parents.  Recipe for at least some disaster.

Here is the truth:  parenting is not always fun.  If our goal in parenting is to be happy, then we have the wrong goal.  A better approach is to understand our responsibility as a parent to love them enough to always be honest with them.  They will not always respond this way to our training: ”Oh Daddy Dearest, your compassionate rebuke of me lights my way like stars to the heavens.  What would I do without your constant guidance?”  After I got up off the floor from fainting, I would ask my child what they want and how much is it going to cost me!

Children push our buttons.  Even if they know we are right in what we are teaching them, they are not going to make it easy on us.  Did you make it easy on your parents?  They are going to resist being less selfish just like we do.

There is no such thing as pain-free child rearing.  It involves cost, sacrifice, and pain.  Now by this time you might misunderstand me to be saying I loathe being a parent.  Quite the contrary.  The result of my persevering through feelings of inadequacy, sacrifice, and frustration is not misery.  It actually produces joy.  That’s how it is like the cross.  Parenting comes at significant cost when it’s done right, but the result is joy.  Joy when you see your child responding to another adult with manners.  Joy when you see them put their brother or sister first.  Joy when they remind you how much they really need your support.  Joy when they get excited about God and following Him.

Parenting is not always fun, but it produces great joy in my life.  I love my children fiercely.  I love them too much to let them stay self-centered, defensive, and deceitful.  It’s going to be painful to call it out in them because they are not going to like it.  They will try and make me regret it even if they don’t mean to.  But in the end, I trust God to work and the things I suffered to teach them to leave an imprint. And watching them grow up in a healthy, God-honoring way will bring more joy to my heart than all the gold in Alaska ever could.

You cannot be the type of parent I am talking about without God.  He is crucial for finding joy in parenting.  It is God who teaches us that loving our children means teaching them to live holy.  Just like us, our children are desperate for Christ and His formation in their lives.  That is why our most important purpose in parenting is to help our children see their desperate need for Christ.

Parenting is not easy, but it is an incredible journey of joy when you approach it the right way.

 

Power of Persecution

Read Acts 8:1-8 today. It starts with, “On that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem.” It ends with, “So there was much joy in that city.”

It hit me, how could there be joy where such great persecution existed? I think it is all about perspective. If you see persecution as personal suffering without a greater end then you will avoid it like the plague. You will do anything, including giving up your faith, to make it stop. But what if you saw persecution as a way God uses to spread the truth of Christ. What if you saw persecution as a way that God displayed his power in the church and in the world. God is Sovereign and he makes persecution serve his greater purpose. Persecution advances the kingdom, it does not thwart it. Persecution opposes complacency in our life. It forces us to take serious our faith and to not take for granted the blessings God has given.

John Piper said about persecution:

  1. God makes persecution serve the unstoppable mission of the church—your mission, your ministry.
  2. If your faithfulness brings trouble to the church (like Stephen’s did), you will be honored and not blamed—at least by the godly.
  3. Your worst critics can become your precious comrades by the power of Christ’s converting grace.
  4. And the very Word—the gospel—that brings persecution sometimes, brings joy always and forever.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not praying for persecution but I do see the benefits of it and I want God to do whatever it takes to be honored in my life. That is a scary prayer but one that I pray.