The Powerful Prayer of a Mother

"Saint Augustine did not start out that way [as a saint]. His mother, Monica, taught him about Christianity carefully and she prayed, but his incredible mind had always troubled her. One day, in his teenage years, he announced that he was throwing aside her faith in Christ to follow current heresies. He went on to live a life of immorality … Monica prayed through her son’s sin and she prayed through her son’s heresy. She prayed her son through his fight with God … Those years were not easy for Monica, as any mother of a child lost in darkness knows. Those years hurt. Finally, she went to the bishop, a devout man who knew the Scriptures inside and out, and asked him to talk to Augustine, to refute his errors. The bishop refused – Augustine had quite a reputation as an orator and debater by then. Instead, he wisely comforted Monica by saying that a mind so sharp would eventually see through the deception … Monica would not be consoled by those words. She continued to beg the bishop, and plead with him through rivers of tears. Finally, wearied by her tenacity but at the same time moved by the ache in her soul for her son, the bishop said, “Go, go! Leave me alone. Live on as you are living. It is not possible that the son of such tears should be lost.” Harshness was interwoven with kindness and compassion.

The son of such tears continued to run from his mother and from his God. He ran for many more years. Then, one day, Augustine listened to Saint Ambrose, bishop of Milan and the most eminent churchman of the day. Exhausted by the years of running, convicted and broken, he turned to embrace Jesus … Not too long after her prodigal Augustine came home for good, she told him that she had nothing to live for. Her lifelong quest had been to see him come back to Jesus. Nine days later, she was dead.”

excerpt from Stories for the Heart, Multnomah Publishers, Sisters: Oregon, 1996, p. 185-187

Rethinking Halloween

Halloween may actually be the most Christian holiday of them all. Maybe my small rural town and its super friendly residents make it even more so.

When we trick or treat, everyone goes from house to house and strangers give them candy. Although in a town like mine, there are less strangers than in many other places. But love of neighbor and stranger is fully exhibited during trick or treat. It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, you're treated the same.

And then I just don't get it. Churches hole themselves up, do trunk or treats, and avoid the activities because the holiday had pagan origins. I remember going to such activities as a kid. It seems to go completely contrary to the call on our lives as followers of Jesus.

Reacting against this was the reason I started a hot dog handout project years ago. We set up in the main trick or treating strip and give hot dogs and bottled waters away. This year, we gave away about 350 of each. The idea expressed is that we want to be the church in the midst of our community.

If the holiday was originally evil, then get out there and redeem it. We serve a savior who is in the business of taking things that were evil and making things better. True, we don't participate in evil in this process, but we also don't isolate ourselves. That's not how redemption happens. But there is nothing evil in giving away a hot dog, passing out candy, or going to a house and allowing them to bless you. Find out how God can use you to be a blessing in the midst of the community and do that.

Unchained - Breaking Free From Calvinism (or Fatalism) Into The Knowledge That God Changes His Mind


When I was 30, I went through an early mid-life crisis. I liked my job. I liked my co-workers. I liked my boss. But I kept feeling that God wanted to do something else with me. Along with that feeling, I also felt like I was locked into a job and could not change. I had to be willing to change and overcome that sense of fatalism that held me back.

We are called to change, but there is an idea that keeps us chained down – preventing us from changing.

This idea is fatalism, and expresses itself in Christianity as a form of Calvinism. Fatalism is the idea "that all events are predetermined by fate and are therefore unalterable." Christians would morph it to say that all events are predestined by God and are therefore unalterable. Despite this view having some adamant believers within Christianity, this just isn’t the view of God we are shown in the Bible.

At a previous job, I had friends who were really into astrology. In astrology, your fate is locked in by the placement of the stars and your location on earth when you were born. My friends were enslaved by their astrological readings that they received from their astrologer. I don’t know what introducing a 13th star sign will do to those that base their lives on this line of thinking, but we can be assured that no fate can lock us into a future. We must be willing to toss those chains that try to ensnare us aside and go after who we know God wants us to be no matter what the cost.

This fatalism can cause us to not evaluate whether we can do things better, but the honest truth is that we can always change and do things better than we currently are. There is always room for improvement. We never reach the place of perfection in this life. The relationships we are part of, the organizations we serve in, and the communities we live in can always be improved. Change is always an option to make things better, and it is the only option that can make things better than they currently are.

Do you ever struggle with the idea that you are locked into a situation? Don't. You can change. God prompts and waits for people to change to bring about the change He desires.

Our church found ourselves in that place when they hired me as the pastor. We were doing things the same way that we had done them for 48 years. And we were getting ineffective results. I just read a story about Cracker Barrel facing the same thing this morning. They have to change to attract a younger audience or they are going to go out of existence. Back to our church. A lot of good-hearted people were spending time in unfruitful service. We had to change to get different results. Yet change, especially in a church, is never easy. It’s tough to stop a program that someone has invested a lot in. It’s tough to start doing things differently than they have always been done. It’s tough to acknowledge that we may have been wrong on this or that point.

It is easy to find yourself in a similar trap in your personal life where you feel that you are doing all that you can and that your destiny is not yours to control.

Let me be clear. This is not an attack on God’s sovereignty. He does work things to His will. And He does promise that He will work all things for the good of those who love Him. We can be assured that whatever He wants to happen will happen. I actually think that is more of a testament to God’s sovereignty – the fact that He still brings about His will through people He has given free will to. I think it is more of He prompts and waits on people to be faithful to bring about His will. His prophecies are true because He makes them happen, not because he sees a future that has already happened.


But let's look at the Bible to get a clearer understanding.

The story we are going to look at today picks up with Moses on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments. While on the mountain, the people below, with Aaron's help, built a golden calf and began to worship it.

And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people. Exodus 32:7-14 (ESV)

That last sentence is somewhat challenging if you come to the Bible with a fatalistic viewpoint. In response to Moses’ request, God relented from the thing that He said He was going to do. That doesn’t work well with the idea we have made of God who knows everything that will happen. This is God changing his actions based upon the actions of Moses.

Let’s read it in a few other translations:

 So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people. (NASB)

And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people. (KJV)

The word literally means repent. It means turning away from a course of action and doing another. The Bible says that God repented, that he changed His mind.

It wasn't like Moses presented a new idea to God that God had never thought of. We can't present God with a new idea; He has thought of all the ideas. He knew all the options and all the possibilities. It appears that God was waiting for a person to be faithful and willing to lead His people. Moses' courage and boldness showed God that Moses was that person, and God relented from the punishment that He said He would do. God changed His own mind. When Moses changed, God changed, and the people were unchained.

The story goes on:

Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. (Exodus 32:26 ESV)

Like Moses had a choice on that mountain, he is giving the people a choice. People have choices. They always have choices. Moses had a choice. The tribes of Israel had a choice. You and me, we have a choice. The question is how do we respond when it is asked, "Who is on the Lord's side?" Because if you listen carefully, God is still asking that very question to all of us here today.

When in a battle between church tradition and Scripture, Scripture should always win. We can develop all sorts of beliefs about God when we abandon Scripture and start thinking in the ways of the world around us. Fatalism is a consequence of that approach. It dominated the church during the Enlightenment. If you want a rational, reasonable god, then you would create a god who does not change his actions based upon our actions. This god would no longer directly interact with humanity except through providence. The Christian world became less vibrant and less committed to living out the works of God because they created a reasonable god who they imagined preordained their salvation and their lives. For nearly the last four hundred years, reason was king in our society and the church discarded Scripture for their well-thought out yet unscriptural fatalism. We were ensnared by the prevailing thoughts of our time. We must always come down on the side of Scripture when there is a battle between church tradition and Scripture or between society and Scripture.


Now, let's look go from the story of Moses, where God changed his mind based upon the actions of Moses to the story of Jonah. Jonah was told by God to go to Nineveh and preach that destruction was coming their way because of their evil ways. Jonah did not want to do it, but through a series of events, he found himself reluctantly prophesying to Nineveh and hoping for their destruction.

The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. (Jonah 3:6-4:1 ESV)

This story carries a similar theme to Moses' story in Exodus. God tells the people of Nineveh that He is going to destroy them, but the king of Nineveh calls the nation to repent of their evil ways. God sees their repentance and changes His plans. People change, God changes his actions. Imagine if the Ninevites believed that they were predestined to be punished (because God actually said He was going to punish them) and that they could not change their fate from God's "plans."


Now, if you really know your Bible, you may be thinking to yourself, “But how do these stories line up with the passage where the Bible says that God does not change?” Let’s look at that passage.

The word of the Lord came to Samuel: “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.”

Saul said that he did it to offer sacrifices to the Lord, but Samuel stated, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king…And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” (Excerpts from 1 Samuel 15:10-35 ESV)

He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind. (1 Samuel 15:29 NIV)

This story takes place in the middle of the context of God removing Saul as king and appointing David. That's a change in case you missed that. Saul, who God anointed as king, was removed as king because of His disobedience. So God says that He does not change in the context of making a change in his actions. Now, we can either assume that God appointed the wrong person on purpose when He appointed Saul. This argument would hold that God wanted to teach the people a lesson in appointing a king over them who would fail to be faithful. Or we can conclude that God had hoped that Saul would be the king He destined Him to be. God had hopes, dreams, and plans for Saul, but Saul stumbled and failed to live in God's glory.

In light of all these passages, I conclude that Saul changed and became less fervent and faithful to God. As a result of these change, God brought about changes in HIs course of action. Saul lost his anointing, not because God wanted that to happen when he had appointed Saul as king, but because Saul changed.

God changed his course of action, but who God is never changes. That’s a distinction we have to make if we are going to allow these stories in the Bible to teach us the things about God that they are trying to teach. God is unchanging even when His course of action changes. His very nature stays the same. His goal for mankind stays the same. His love. His justice. His righteousness. Those are unwavering. This was emphasized in the story of Samuel because the people would begin to think that God is wishy-washy when He removed Saul, the king He appointed, for David. They would wonder, “Did God make a mistake?” But it’s not that God made a mistake. Unlike Moses and the people of Nineveh, Saul changed in the wrong direction. God’s actions will change based upon our faithfulness or lack of faithfulness. But God doesn’t change.


So we have this false yet prevalent idea that God forces His will to happen and that everything that happens is exactly what God wants to happen. This is a very dangerous belief though. It keeps un enslaved. However, there are benefits to throwing off this idea.

• Prayer Matters

Prayer not only changes us, but what we pray for influences the actions of God. Prayer matters. We see that clearly in the story of Moses. It's a meaningful conversation with the creator and controller of the universe, not some empty ritual that we must go through to become more of who He wants us to be.

• You Can Change

You are not stuck into some fatalistic, predestined future. God does have a plan for you, but you have to change (and you can change!) to reach it.

• The Evil Around Us Is Our Fault

If God is in complete control, then all the evil that happens around us is His fault. This would be the world He wanted. Shootings in schools and malls. Kids dying from dirty water. Tyrants killing innocents. But this is not God’s plan. If evil is the consequence of our fallen decisions that have created a fallen world that we live in, then when bad things happen it is our fault, not God's.

There is the story of a young man talking to Jesus. He asks, “So why do you allow things like famine, war, homelessness, crime, starvation, disease, suffering, despair, etc. to exist in our world?” And Jesus replies, “Interesting that you should bring that up as I was about to ask you the exact same question.”

Now, if fatalism was the view that Scripture taught, then God is big enough to live with the responsibility of all the wrongs committed in the world. But fatalism is not the view of Scripture, so there is no reason that we have to go around and defend it. God actually wants us to join in with Him in bringing about His kingdom plan here on earth as it is in heaven.

• Your Actions Matter

Your actions matter. God is waiting for faithful people to bring about His will. There is a great disdain for good works in fatalism, but Paul wrote in Ephesians that we are saved by grace through faith for works. We are saved for works. We need to never get that confused with being saved by works, but, in this context, we are talking about how we can be total disciples and who God wants us to be. We can choose to do more for the Lord than we are already doing. And when we are in that position of being right with the Lord, we will want to do His works.

What do you think of when you hear the name "Nobel?" More than likely, you think of the Nobel Peace Prize.

We probably wouldn't even know the name Nobel if Alfred Nobel did not read his own obituary while he still had time to change his life. He was a real life Tony Stark, who saw what He was doing and decided to change course.


If you're like me, some days, we ponder what people will think of us after we will die. What will they remember? What will they say? Who will they think we were? This question was answered for Alfred Nobel.

When Alfred's brother died, the newspaper mistakenly thought Alfred had died and ran the obituary they had prepared ahead of time to be used at his passing. Nobel had a unique experience of opening up the morning paper and reading what people actually thought of him. He was not happy with the impression.

What will people say about you at your funeral? Will it be about the eternal things of God or the passing, yet alluring, things of this world?

Nobel's obituary showed that he would be remembered for inventing dynamite and being a weapons dealer. And that is not how he wanted to be remembered. So he set up a trust to promote world peace. Every year, we have the cause of peace promoted around the world through the Nobel Peace Prize because Alfred Nobel changed his actions after seeing what he would be remembered for when he would die.

Most of us will not be fortunate enough to read our obituary and have time to change our lives. We won’t have Jonah coming as a prophet of God to our town telling us that God’s judgement is coming. Death can come in the blinking of an eye. But we don't need that wake-up call. We just need to respond in faithfulness to God and do whatever He wants us to do. Now. It is never too late to be Jesus'. We are never too broken to be mended. We are never too fallen to be healed. He calls us to love God and love our neighbor. He is in the restoration business. He wants to mend the broken relationships in our lives, but it starts with mending the broken relationship we have with Him. He wants us to forgive those who have wronged us, but it starts with accepting the forgiveness he freely gives to us. He wants us to love others, and it comes through his love overflowing in us. God doesn’t need perfect people; He just want faithful and willing people.


That broken relationship that you are in, you can love the other person. You can change. It may not change them, but it will change you and put you in the place where God wants you to be.

That co-worker who needs to know Jesus, you can impact their life if you focus on investing in them. You can change. They may or may not come to Jesus – that’s their choice, but you can make sure that they see Jesus in you.

The community that we live in where we are praying and trying to be a group of people to bring about God's will. It's not living in the plan God wants because God lacks power. God has all the power and can make His will happen, but He has chosen to work through us. Our community is not where God wants it to be because His people lack faithfulness. May we be the people who are willing to change to bring about the will of the Lord.

Despite pop culture sentiments, the truth is that God doesn't love you the way you are; He loves you despite the way you are. That's grace. But God loves us too much to not guide us away from the fallen way we are. God is all about change. And we can change, through the strength He provides. We can be more faithful and grow in Him so that we can become more of who He wants us to be.

You can change. Your church can change. Your family can change. Your town can change. Your nation can change. This world, it too can change. But it starts with you changing. Everything is actually always changing. The question is whether we are working with God to change it for the better.

God has called us to change and become something better. If we change, God's course of action will change and we will be in His blessings. But there is an idea - fatalism - that prevents us from really changing. Let us throw off the concepts of this world and live in the power of God. Let's change!

The Moving of Change

We moved five years ago today.

After many weeks of packing and preparing, the day of our move finally came. Friends and vehicles assembled, and the sweat began to roll. Trip after trip, clearing out the old house and filling up the new one. Eventually, the excitement of the move dwindled. Generous people had other things to get to, but I still had to finish my move. I packed up one van load alone while waiting for some more friends to arrive to help me finish some of the larger items.

Now, everything is moved, but we are not settled in. Fixing the broken window that a bed post went through. Sewing up the hole that was mysteriously made in the couch. Then the cleaning. Then the unpacking. Followed by the arranging and rearranging. We will notice something that we forgot to take care of and fix it. Changing the place where one lives is never simple. There is a lot to do after the decision to move has been made.

The same is true for a person who has decided to follow Jesus. That initial decision is life-changing and refreshing. But eventually you will find yourself alone. Alone with your thoughts. Alone with who you are. Alone with the struggles and pitfalls that once ensnared you. What will you do when all of the weight of the world seems to come crashing down on you? Will you continue to move on toward Jesus? Or will you go back to the place where you once were?

This is where Church comes in. Moving would be nigh impossible without the help of friends. Living for Jesus is made much easier with the help of friends who are also trying together to live for Jesus. Too often we disregard church because we don’t like something that they do during the one hour that they meet on Sunday mornings. Maybe they didn't do what you wanted or someone carelessly dismissed your feelings. Maybe people have a different view than you. Abandoning church because it it is messy at times is a ridiculous and costly mistake. Church is so much more than just an hour on Sunday morning. It’s about a life lived in community with others throughout the week.

Being part of a healthy church is not easy, but it is worth all the sweat. It takes time and effort on everyone’s part. It doesn’t just happen overnight. Like a move, it takes preparation. It takes many meals together. It takes talking with one another and dreaming together. It takes meeting people’s needs together. It even takes the unpopular idea of correcting one another.

The writer of Hebrews wrote: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” [Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)].

Too often, we pretend that church is just singing and studying together, but God intended it to be so much more. Church is to be that place where we are encouraged and challenged. I can listen to a sermon online from one of the nation’s best preachers without interacting with other people. You can sing along with the praise music or hymns of your choice in the comfort of your shower without having to bother with those music styles you dislike. But you can’t encourage one another without getting together. You also can’t encourage one another by just going to a “sacred” building for an hour on Sunday morning where you clock in and clock out to get to eat as soon as possible.

Church can be so much more than we are currently experience. Are you ready to move? I am.

An Examination of Teen Ministry in the Church

We  are launching our teen ministry this fall, and it has caused me to just think through some things.

Teen ministry needs to focus less on the "fun" and more on the "grow." It's the only place in our society where a teen will receive help and encouragement to grow closer to Jesus and be part of His Kingdom besides in their house (if they have a healthy Christian family), encounters with other Christians, and on Sunday mornings. We have a sacred responsibility in our teen ministries that is too often neglected.

Our teen ministries across this land have erred with good intentions. Somewhere along the road, the purpose of teen ministry was to be fun and draw kids in who don't really want to grow spiritually. The hope was that we would pull them in with the fun and then they would grow spiritually despite not having the desire to grow initially. Despite the complete ineffectiveness of this approach, it has been hard for us to shake off. Because being entertaining and drawing the largest crowd is just the wrong goal. Because the side effect of that approach is that the teen ministry then neglects to actually help the kids grow who actually want to grow. And so nobody is growing spiritually although the youth group may be growing numerically.

The result of this approach, which also creeps into church as a whole, is that the teens move on from youth ministry and expect the church as a whole to be the same way. Our churches then get filled with people who just want to be entertained while the people who want to actually serve and grow don't feel that the church is the place for them. They then leave the youth ministry and, maybe, the church as a whole because it is a shallow institution that isn't attempting to do the mission it should do.
Youth ministry shouldn't be a place of high energy and fun yet low spirituality where spiritually lackadaisical parents send their kids to be entertained and, hopefully, grow. That type of ministry won't work. That model of youth ministry has created the dead church of today. I have no desire to pursue it and continue its damaging legacy.

We have neglected our sacred role of focusing on helping people grow spiritually. 

To fix this, we really need to be spiritually intentional and up the spiritual intensiveness of our teen ministries. But it will only work in a church environment that wants that. Parents don't complain if the English class or math class at school isn't focused on fun and games. People understand and know that they send their kids to those classes to learn English and math. An English and math teacher isn't evaluated on how fun their class is. They are evaluated on how well they teach.

This doesn't mean that learning and growth can't be fun. It just means that pizza and games must take a backseat to them. We have a sacred role to play as the church in society. We are the ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. Let's not abandon that role to just appeal to more people. In the end, nobody else is going to do what we are called to do if we neglect doing it.

So if you are involved in a teen ministry, you are joining in on the sacred responsibility to help the students to grow closer to Jesus and find their place in the Kingdom of God. Don't let that goal get pushed to the side by attempting to make things fun. Fun isn't the goal. Let fun just be a tool used in making the greater goal of spiritual growth a reality. Because let's be honest, our entertainment society specializes in fun. We can't compete with that. But we are the only place that will focus on growing closer to Jesus and being the Kingdom of God. Let's keep that in focus. You can teach. You can mentor. You can pray for them. And in the end, their spiritual growth is what matters.

Our Obsession With Sports (Or Things With Little Value)

"Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come" (1 Tim 4:7b-8 ESV).

We often forget how radical the teachings of Scripture are. We have learned to justify away the rough edges and water down the tonic of truth. We want to be able to say that we're right with God without actually caring all that much about following God. We have adopted fun sayings like "I'm spiritual but not religious" to allow ourselves to make a god in our image and follow our made up creation however we want. We, the created, have a tendency to substitute the all-powerful, loving, and sustaining Creator for a fickle, imaginary, fun-loving god who conveniently loves everything that we love and believes everything that we believe.

In his letter to his protégé Timothy, Paul noted that "bodily training is of some value." For us who live in  small towns that exalt sports, this is a tough teaching. I see sports lifted on a pedestal all of the time. It's what many brag about on Facebook. We are inundated with the athletic achievements of people and their children. Many spend hours upon hours training their children for athletic greatness. It's true that those achievements are of "some" value. The word is translated as "little" in other translations. It can also be translated "small" or "brief."

There is nothing wrong with our children having great experiences on the field or court, spending time out in the yard playing with their parents, traveling around to places with the family, and having fun. But let's not take sports out of perspective. This training that we focus on to create great athletes out of ourselves and our children is only of little value and often becomes an idol.

Now, you may think it is of more value because they may get a college scholarship. CBS did an article on this. Here are few of the paragraphs from 8 Things You Should Know About Sports Scholarships.
The odds of winning a NCAA sports scholarship are miniscule. Only about 2 percent of high school athletes win sports scholarships every year at NCAA colleges and universities. Yes, the odds are that dismal. For those who do snag one, the average scholarship is less than $11,000.
Full-ride sports scholarships are scarce. There are only six sports where all the scholarships are full ride. These so-called head-count sports are football, men and women's basketball, and women's gymnastics, volleyball, and tennis. In these Division I sports, athletes receive a full ride or no ride.
Scholarships can be dinky. Beyond the head-count sports, all other sports are considered "equivalency" sports. NCAA rules dictate how much money a program, such as lacrosse or track, can spend on scholarships. Coaches can slice and dice these awards as they choose, which can lead to awfully small scholarships.
So the sports training we put our children through is of "little", "small", "brief", and "some" value. Maybe we're banking on a sports scholarship or them just becoming locally famous when they are in high school through their athletic prowess. Whatever the case, we need to just make sure they are having fun and realize that these athletics skills are relatively insignificant to developing their spiritual life.

Training our children to be godly should be more important than training them to be athletic. Now, we can even use the insignificant things like sports to train our kids skills that are significant, but that is often forgotten during the heat of the game.

It is of more "value" or more "profitable", depending on the translation, to invest in our children's spiritual lives. Send them to VBS as well as or instead of a sports camp. Skip a sport event to attend church with your children rather than skipping church to do sports. That right there would teach them that God is more important than sport, although the message we often send is the other way around.
And it isn't just sports. That's just the one idol that Paul picked on in his letter to Timothy. It can be anything. It can be education, entertainment, art, or something else. Whatever we place above God is not as important as God. And yet we do it time and time again.

We have a well-meaning generation raising kids who were raised in church but have decided that church isn't important for their children. There is something about church that the parents just don't like. They want their children to have that same spirituality, but they are trying to do it outside of church. It is proving to be a fruitless policy, and we are raising a godless generation. A generation who is selfish and arrogant. A generation who is like we would be without God. A generation, who like us, needs to place growing in God above everything else. Yet when we fail to do that, we make it harder for them.

What's A Christian To Do With This Election?

It’s that time of year again. One in which everyone starts misbehaving, proclaiming that if you don’t share their political views then you can’t be a Christian. This is the second Presidential election where most of us are on Facebook, and it doesn't seem like we learned anything from the first. It is difficult for some to behave themselves. Oh, what a wonderful time. I’m sure God smiles down on all of his followers attacking each other when they are supposed to be identified by their love toward one another.

But what if in this political season we got it all wrong? What if our goal in life isn’t to achieve political victory but to love our neighbor? What if behaving like jerks, to put it lightly, in the political arena actually is a distraction from our true purpose in life? What if, instead of choosing Clinton or Trump, we decided to choose Jesus?

It’s tough for many to not be a jerk when they get their news from a biased source that neglects the negative stories about their own guy or gal. In this vacuum of news from the other perspective, one begins to believe the other side is purely evil while they are on the side of the angels. But I want to propose that neither side is on the side of the angels. They are both flawed human institutions that forget their true purpose in the hopes of winning the temporary and fleeting praise of the masses and/or some select wealthy donors.

As followers of Jesus, we must not align ourselves too closely with any human institution for in close alignment we risk losing our prophetic voice. What that means is that we can never become so Republican that we don’t speak out against the injustices of the Republican Party. Or likewise, we must never become so much of a Democrat that we can’t speak out against the injustices of the Democratic Party. 

The church has a purpose in our society. We are to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and a city on a hill. We can’t do that if we just become another cog in one of the political parties, a cog that they can depend on no matter what they do. How different both of our parties would be if the people, especially the Christians who should know better, in those parties started cleaning up their own house rather than just constantly throwing mud at the other?

If one party feels that they have a specific demographic locked in, they won’t do anything to win the vote of that demographic. Why would they? They already have them. Each of the parties, like all human institutions, are inherently flawed. They are better when they are striving toward loving others and seeking those things that are good. They are worse when they are living selfishly. We, Christians, must play hard to get when it comes to the political parties. True, we might grow old and lonely some day, but at least we won’t be a dirty whore, sleeping in bed with those who are committing atrocities of all sorts that our Savior would be ashamed of.

So the church, needs to be a place where people of all political persuasions can get along, keeping our prophetic voice alive by drawing closer to Jesus. The Democrats needs good Christians in their midst. The Republicans do too. Likewise, so does the Green Party, the Libertarians, and every other political group. Every group needs a little salt and a little light.

So let us not denigrate our brothers and sisters who might have different political views than us. That doesn’t mean that we can’t talk about the issues we disagree on, but let us not pretend that our side in the political arena is the one on God’s side. I’ve seen both sides, and they’re both pretty filthy. And that is just from visible appearances. God sees the heart. Thankfully, he has grace enough for Republicans, Democrats, and third-partiers too.

Today Is The Day Of Small Things

When we do little things right, big things happen.

Sometimes we do not do the little things because we do not like the little things we should do. But the reality is that by not doing the little things, we will never be able to do the big things that would be the culmination of all those little things. Great things will come if we are faithful in doing the little things.

Jesus taught, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much” (Luke 16:10 ESV).  He later shared the idea that if we are faithful in the little things, then God will give us bigger things to do (Luke 19:11-27). Jesus wants us to know that our faithfulness is what matters, whether it is in great things or in the most minor things.

By doing the little things today, we will find ourselves where God wants us to be tomorrow. Often we would like to make a sweat free, giant leap, but most accomplishments in life do not come without a lot of hard work beforehand. One does not become a pro athlete without all of the sweat and hard work. Nor does one become a great musician without putting in hours upon hours of unrecognized practice. People who make things look easy can do that because they have put in a lot of hard work on small improvements behind the scenes. The same is true with churches. Each one of us has to work hard, doing the small things that make our church great, in order for our church to reach the next level.

In Zechariah, the prophet writes about people who despise the “day of small things.” We might find ourselves doing the same thing at times. Instead of doing the small things that would make our life better, we lose the battle of small things. Life is rarely wasted by a lack of desire for big things. Who doesn’t want a lot of money, a fulfilling career, an amazing family, an awesome community, or great friends? Unfortunately, those things are not magically achieved because we want them. And they are often not realized because the effort is not put into the small things that are necessary to bring them about. We waste our time on the television or the internet when we could be doing small things that would improve our life. Those are just two obvious areas, but we can waste time on a myriad of activities. We all have good excuses to not do the things we should be doing or to do the things we should not be doing, but in ignoring the small things that we could do to improve ourselves, we miss out on all the small steps we need to take to get where God is calling us. And ultimately, we miss out on being who we could be.

It’s never too late to get on track. Maybe God wants to do a small thing in you. It might be a reminder in the back of your head that you keep putting off. It could be a change that you know you need to make but you just keep avoiding. Whatever it is, God has more in store for you, but it has to start with that small change. If you don’t do the small thing, then the big thing that is in store for you down the road will never come your way.

We all know the familiar words of Neil Armstrong, when he became the first man to walk on the moon: “One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.” Neil’s step off of the Lunar Lander was just one small step. But it was the culmination of a lot of people taking many small steps one after another, time and time again, working together, diligently in pursuit of what they wanted to achieve. Someday, if we keep faithful in the small things, we will notice that we have made a giant leap too. In doing the small things, we can rest assured that we will find ourselves right where we are supposed to be.

And our church can only be the church that we are called to be if we all do the small things that we are gifted at doing to get us there. Or maybe we aren’t even gifted at it yet but God wants to develop that gift in us. So just do what you are feeling God wants you to do even if you don't feel particularly qualified. Tomorrow may just be the day of big things, but only if today is the day of small things.