Making Time For God

Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Later Simon and the others went out to find him. When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.” – Mark1 :35-39 

In the above passage, Jesus gets up early and finds a place to pray before He begins his busy day.  The disciples went looking for Him because they did not understand the importance He placed on spending time with God. Our children need to learn the lesson of spending time with God. In order to learn to spend time with God, we as parents must be spend time with our children to invest in their lives and in their eternity. 

Because of the hectic lives so many parents are living today, children can be deprived of the one thing they need the most—quality and quantity time with their parents. It is easy to view being a successful parent because we are providing our kids with more things. But scripture reveals that the main thing they need from us . . . is us.  In Deuteronomy 6:5-9, we find some amazing verses that emphasize the importance of investing spiritually in the lives of our children. In these verses, we are taught that the most important thing we can give our children is the proper understanding of who God is and how they can know Him through His Son, Jesus Christ.

But this text reveals that this is a lengthy process, and it requires us to be proactive. Notice what the text says about how we should do this: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children…”

“Talk about them when you are at home.

And when you are on the road.

When you are going to bed.

And when you are getting up.

Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.

Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

These simple phrases provide us with an understanding that raising Home Run Kids is not a Sunday event. We have to spend time every day living our faith and teaching our faith, if we want our children to grow up to be men and women of God. It all depends on spending intentional time. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How much time do our kids need? How did you calculate that number?
  2. Our schedules are stretched pretty thin. How can we create more time for our kids?
  3. Parenting is being a role model, counselor, and coach. Agree or disagree?
  4. If the goal is to raise Home Run Kids, how can we use our time more wisely?

What Do You Want For Your Kids?

“Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord,[a] for this is the right thing to do.  “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” – Ephesians 6:1-3

When I ask parents what do you want for your kids, you get a variety of responses such as: happy, well-adjusted, smart, and successful. We want all those things for our kids. But we as followers of jesus also want to be parents who raise children that love God with all their heart, soul, and strength. The challenge is how to do that. That is the purpose of the Raising Home Run Kids series. 

Psalm 127 lays out some marching orders for parents. The Psalmist reminds us that “unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. As the architect of life, we know it is God’s design and desire for us to pattern our lives according to His blueprints.  As many of us have probably discovered, parenting children is no small challenge.  Psalm 127:4 describes parents as warriors:“Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.” 

Being a parent is not easy. Our children will be told the highest aim in life is to gratify themselves, and do whatever feels right to them. But God has called us to be more than this, knowing that our wildest imaginations cannot fathom the plans He has for us. C.S. Lewis sums it up  when he writes, “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

We want children who know God. We desire for our children to have a love and passion for God that overflows in a love for mankind. Christian parents have the essential task to teach their children to love and obey God, believe His Word, and trust His promises. By teaching their children to love God, parents build a strong, spiritual foundation for their children. Parents who teach their children to love God leave them an inheritance that will enable them to triumph over tragedy.

Our goals for our children must go far beyond what we can do in our own strength. There are many voices telling us how to parent, but the majority of them reject God’s purpose for our children. Raising home run kids will not happen by accident. We need to be intentional. We need to be intentional in the time we spend with our children. It takes intentional dialogue. We need to talk to our kids in an intentional way that will answer those questions and point them to God.  And we must instruct them in God’s truths. Take the time to talk to your children about the truths and promises in the Bible.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What do you want for your children?
  2. Is there a right way to parent? Why do you believe that?
  3. Why is it important to be intentional with our children? What prevents you from being intentional in time, talk and truth?
  4. How do you communicate the love of God to your children?

What is a Home Run Life For Our Kids

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” —Proverbs 22:6.

One of the most frequent questions that pastors are asked is, “How can I raise godly children?”  Most parents are hoping against hope that there is a previously undiscovered formula that they can follow so that children who love and respect the Lord will be the end result. I wish there was  a formula, but in reality it takes a great deal of wisdom harvested from biblical principles. The Raising Home Run Kids series is not a formula or an all inclusive parenting manual.  Rather, it is look at what the Bible teaches about raising godly children. 

Raising children is one of the most awesome responsibilities any human being can face. Our goal as parents must be to raise godly children. But how do we do this?  Fortunately, God’s word tells us the principles we should follow. God’s Word is full of instruction about training children. It is the standard that we are to use to raise children that will lead a home run life. To successfully raise godly children, we must understand and practice Biblical principles for raising children.

In Deuteronomy 6:5-9, God instructs parents: “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

God commands parents to diligently teach their children (v. 7). He first instructs them to passionately love Him (vv. 5-6).  Perhaps one of the most overlooked, yet necessary keys to raising God honoring children, is teaching them to love God.  The most vital aspect of this teaching is a thorough understanding of who God is and that God first loved them. If we plan our training of our children based on God’s word, then our children will learn to plan their lives on the basis of God’s word. If we always act in love for our children, then our children will learn to act in love for everyone around them.

What does home run life look like for our kids? It means being connected to God, it begins and ends with Him. It means having our children secure in who they are because they are secure in Him. It means raising spiritually alive kids that love God first.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you define a home run life for your kids?
  2. What does it mean to love God?  What does it mean for children to love God?
  3. Do you believe home run children will turn into home run adults? Why?

An Unusual Game Plan

“Early the next morning the army of Judah went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. On the way Jehoshaphat stopped and said, “Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed.” After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!” At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves. 23 The armies of Moab and Ammon turned against their allies from Mount Seir and killed every one of them. After they had destroyed the army of Seir, they began attacking each other.” – 2 Chronicles 20:20-23

The first story I think about when I am overwhelmed or facing a seemingly impossible situation is the story of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20. Three nations were coming to conquer Israel. The King was afraid. In that moment of fear he sought the Lord and then gathered his people together to seek the Lord. In his prayer in verse 12, he said these words: “O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”

King Jehoshaphat was not going to be victorious by conventional means, by some new strategy or secret weapon. He needed the impossible. He needed God. God made it clear to them that the battle belonged to Him. They just needed to stand still and watch. The king “appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!”  (2 Chronicles 20:21) So against all odds in a strategy that made no sense by earthly understanding, they positioned themselves on the front line singing, praising God and watching. God created in their enemies’ mass confusion among the warring tribes and the different tribes began to fight with each other, losing the war.

It’s easy to read this story and miss what a great thing it was for Jehoshaphat to call the nation to prayer over this crisis. It would have been very human to panic. He could have trusted in his army. He could have looked for diplomatic answers, but he didn’t. He also could have felt angry toward God. It would have been easy for Jehoshaphat to have said, “What’s the deal, God? I tried to bring the nation back to You. I taught them to put away their idols and follow You because You’re worthy to be trusted. And now we’re facing annihilation. I don’t get it.”   

It is easy to feel that way when we have tried to follow God and then get hit with difficult trials. We complain, “God, this isn’t fair! I am trying to follow You, but I have all kinds of trouble, while non-believers I know are enjoying the good life.” But Jehoshaphat didn’t fall into that trap of blaming God. He did what we should all do when we are overwhelmed in a crisis: He prayed.

He put prayer first. He realized that he could do some things after he had prayed, but he could not do anything worthwhile before he prayed. Prayer was his strongest weapon. So he resisted all the other natural urges.  He recognized his great need, so he prayed. So should we, remembering that with God there is no impossible.

Corrie Ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place and survivor of the German concentration camps, used to have people come up to her and say, “Corrie, my, what a great faith you have!” She would smile and reply, “No, it’s what a great God I have!”

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you believe it was the right thing for Jehoshaphat to pray?
  2. What is your motivation for praying? How has your motivation changed over the years? Why?
  3. How does the story of Jehoshaphat motivate us to pray? How might it influence how we pray?
  4. If you could ask God to do something significant in your life today and knew that He would grant your request, what would your request be?

The Power In Powerlessness

“Although he was crucified in weakness, he now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you we will be alive with him and will have God’s power.” – 2 Corinthians 13:4

We live in a culture that admires and promotes the powerful. The business world is built upon the premise that more power is better and the one with the most power wins. While the world caters to the powerful, for many of us much of life involves trying to cope with the times when we are powerless, overwhelmed and looking for answers.

That was the position King Jehoshaphat found himself in and it is sometimes the reality for each of us as well. It is tough to have a problem without a solution. No one wants to be weak, at least not if they have a choice. We all want to be physically and emotionally strong, rich and competent. And good looking wouldn’t hurt either. And like Walter Mitty, we sometimes dream about being such a person.

But like King Jehoshaphat, we often find ourselves lacking the ability to deal with our circumstances when we get overwhelmed. We often find ourselves powerless. Though the world looks at these times of being powerless as the ultimate failure, scripture sees it as an opportunity to receive a blessing from God. “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

God is our strength. There are days when I am overwhelmed. He empowers me to handle it. There are days when I wonder if the money will be there when the bills come. Somehow He provides a way and the bills are paid. There are days when I doubt His presence. But then He is there. There are days when temptations seem too strong for me to resist. Somehow He provides a way of escape or strength to resist. There are days when I feel almost worthless. Somehow He reminds me of the price that has been paid for me. There are days when when I am weak. Somehow He makes me strong.

Chances are good that sometime in your life you will find yourself faced with a situation that you cannot control. It may be a business deal, it may be a relationship, or it may be a family crisis. You are totally and absolutely powerless to fix it, change it, undo it, or improve it. It may be the result of your own actions, or it may not be. Regardless, you are powerless.

Being powerless may feel wrong and unfair at the time, but you may be in the best situation of your life to experience the grace and power of God. Though it appears hopeless, you can recover if you will allow God to come to you in your powerless state and do what only He can do: “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Discussion Questions:

  1. In what way(s) have you found being powerless difficult or easy?
  2. What are the things only God can do? What are the things only you can do? Do you find yourself trying to do the things only God can do?
  3. In what ways do you need God to be strong in your weakness at this time in your life?
  4. What do you think needs to change in your life so that you can regularly experience God’s love for yourself? And what do you have the power to change?

Heaven Help Me

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” – Hebrews 4:15-15. 

This week we looked at the story of King Jehoshaphat, who trusted God and won a God sized victory over his enemies. The story is found in 2 Chronicles 20. In the Old Testament, God took the people of Israel through miraculous event after miraculous event. In the New Testament, those who watched the ministry of Jesus were seized with amazement at the miracles He performed. (Luke 5:25) And the apostles in the early church regularly performed signs and wonders among the people (Acts 5:12).  Today, however, such miraculous events seem rare. God is not helping us fight the armies that are aligned against us as He did with Jehoshaphat.

At the very least, we feel there’s something different about the way God worked in the Old and New Testament periods and the way He works today.

Even if we don’t frequently see extraordinary miraculous events, God is active. He is active in the regular (natural) processes we see every day. He is miraculously calling people to himself as His church grows and expands. He is active in miraculous ways among people we don’t know around the world. God has intervened repeatedly in miraculous ways in my life, but there have also been struggles in my life.

But through it all, I have learned that God’s help is always available. It may not be the help we wanted, but it will always be the help we need. More often than not, the help we are looking for is to remedy the problem, just as God did with Jehoshaphat. God may be using conflicts and my efforts to work through them in order to help make me a better husband or parent or maturing Christian. 

Our prayer may be, “God, change this person’s perspective…change my spouse/child. boss, etc.”  Instead, God wants to change us. We may want to hold a grudge and pray that the person who wronged us see the error of their way. God on the other hand wants to help us forgive. As we let go of demanding that God help us our way, you will begin to see amazing changes God has worked in our heart and in our lives.

Because when we remember that God’s ways are above our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), our perspective changes. We stop expecting God to help in ways we prescribe and we will begin to lose that “God isn’t helping me” feeling. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. In what ways have you experienced God’s help in your life?
  2. How do you react when God does not answer your prayers in the manner you want Him to?
  3. Do we need God’s help more in changing others or changing ourselves? 

Overcommitted, Overloaded, and Overwhelmed?

“We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.” – 2 Corinthians 1:8-11.

Remember when multitasking was a new catch phrase for an not-so new idea of doing multiple things at the same time? What was new was the sheer number of things we try to balance at any given time. We talk on the phone, read our emails, eat our lunch, plan an upcoming vacation, ask Siri about the weather all while we are driving. Or maybe we are “just doing the next thing” when all around you seems way too much. But while we all want to be the person who can do it all, we can also get overwhelmed while we are trying to do it all.

There will be those days, months or even years, when everything comes crashing down on you: when all the balls you have in the air start to fall. When your to-do list is longer than your life expectancy. So what do you do when you are feeling overwhelmed? The short answer…you pray. 

God promised that He will take our burdens upon Him, and teach us to find peace. That is often what we need, but we never seem to get there because there is always something new to worry about. In those times, remember Isaiah 41:13: “For I hold you by your right hand—I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.”    

God will help us when we are overwhelmed. Pray and ask God to help you trade your worry and stress for complete reliance on Him. Every time you start to feel overwhelmed, remember your limits and accept your insufficiencies, and learn to trust God as Jehoshaphat did.   

We can rely on God’s strength and pray for peace, knowing that He has promised to help us, regardless of the situation. Faith is taking some positive action based on God’s Scriptures, even when our circumstances look like the forces of evil are going to win the battle.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you try to help God run your life? How does that work out for you?
  2. The disciples had a difficult time understanding the need for Christ to die and were overwhelmed by Jesus’ betrayal, trials, and crucifixion. How do you think you would have felt in their shoes?
  3. Do you have people in your life who will be there with you in the midst of trials? 
  4. What can you do to remember scripture before and during the times you feel overwhelmed? 

Jumping Jehoshaphat

““O our God . . .We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” —2 Chronicles 20:12

Have you ever heard the phrase “Jumping Jehoshaphat?” If so, have you ever wondered where that came from. I’m still wondering. The Bible does not provide the answer, but I can’t help thinking that anybody would be jumping for joy after witnessing the power and providence of God that Jehoshaphat experienced.  

A great army of Moabites, Ammonites, and some of the Meunites came to battle against Jehoshaphat. “Messengers came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army from Edom is marching against you from beyond the Dead Sea.” (2 Chronicles 20:2) They were already too close for comfort. This great multitude was a significant threat. Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So the people of Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.

A prophet says, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”  (2 Chronicles 20:15)  When faced with a problem or challenge, we tend to ask ourselves, “What am I going to do? How can I get out of this?”

Jehoshaphat faced a multitude of enemies. But instead of focusing on what he would do, he prayed, “O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.” (2 Chronicles 20:12)

When we are overwhelmed and we look upward rather than inward, God tells us  “When we turn our eyes to God, we will hear Him say, ‘Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s…you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory.…'” (2 Chronicles 20:15, 17)

But standing still is the last thing we want to do when the enemy is coming against us. It is also the most difficult thing to do because we feel that we cannot just stand around and do nothing—we must try to save the situation. But God wants us to stand still and see God fight for us.

So what do you do the next time you are overwhelmed and don’t know what to do? Like Jehoshaphat, rest and trust in God. He can help the helpless. He can deliver His people. He can deliver you in ways you’ve never dreamed of. And He can make you jump for joy.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are you feeling a little overwhelmed by your current circumstances?
  2. Jehoshaphat wanted to honestly seek the advice of the Lord. Do you actively seek the advice of the Lord?
  3. Was Jehoshaphat’s fear okay? What is the difference between this reaction and long-term fear?
  4. What would you do different this week as a result of the story of Jehoshaphat?

At The Movies

“God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams. When the training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.” – Daniel 1:17-20.

Average movies entertain us. The best ones inspire us.  There’s nothing like watching a good movie. You’re caught up in the story, on the edge of your seat, feet glued to the floor, a bucket of popcorn in your lap. If you want to laugh—there’s comedy. If you want to cry—there’s a romantic movie. If you want to jump—there are scary movies. Thrills, action, drama—everything we long for, because we love stories. We long for adventure. We long for good triumphing over evil.

The truth is that we are each in the middle of our own story. Whether your story is somewhat boring and predictable or has more twists and turns than you know what to do with, we all want to live well. To face down the problems and troubles of this life. To rescue the besieged settlers just in the nick of time. We all want to leave a legacy that’s more than just a shadow riding off into the sunset.

During the At The Movie series, we unpacked some biblical truths from four Hollywood movies. We have been exploring how movies point us to Jesus and reflect truth we see in the Bible. The point of everything we do is to live like Jesus. The point is to point you towards Jesus. The point is Jesus. Because if we focus on him, it leads us to the right choices in life.   

My hope is that the At The Movies series, reminded us through the The Impossible, Unbroken, All About Time and Mcfarland USA that Christianity is all about Jesus Christ. Everything depends on him. Without Jesus, there is no Christianity, no Christians, and no church. While there are so many things you can find in the Bible, everything points to Jesus and his central importance as the Savior of the world. Jesus should be the focal point of our story.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What was your favorite movie in the At The Movie series?
  2. It is possible to look to Hollywood for real life lessons?
  3. Did any of these movies resonate with your life story?
  4. What can you do this week to get closer to Jesus? 

Everyone Needs Someone To Stay For

“ But be sure to fear the Lord and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you.”  1 Samuel 12:24

Do you ever wake up some days and wonder, “Why am I even doing this?” I do. I’m not talking being a pastor, but the day-to-day stuff that makes up a pastor’s life. For me, it is usually just a fleeting moment and I push past. Other times it lasts more than a few minutes. Did I make the right decision? Am I sending my time wisely? Am I investing in the people that God has placed in my life?  You get the idea.

Without a reason for what you do, it’s hard to stick with something because things are not always going to be easy. You’re going to wake up not feeling like doing the work sometimes. You’re not always going to want to get involved.

Like Coach White, the answer to those questions is the people that are worth investing and even more importantly, staying for. The coach came to that conclusion when he got off the sidelines and immersed himself in the lives of the cross country runners. You don’t learn what is worth staying for by learning a few principles. You get involved and you get involved so often that the principle becomes real. That is why he stayed at McFarland High School rather than take a more lucrative job.

It is easy to live our lives thinking about ourselves. What am I getting out of this?  Where am I going in my life?  Who is going to help me out?  But true significance comes from how I spend my life in helping others.  A lasting legacy is found in the impact made in the lives of those that you have a chance to influence.

The best reason to stay is to invest in others. We should not be afraid to take the time to invest in the life of someone near you. Time is a precious commodity but the time spent in reaching out to others pays massive dividends that you can’t put a price tag on. As we often say at Northstar, every one of us has a story; a life map of where we have been and what we experienced along the way. The lessons we have learned can help impact someone if you are able and willing to accept them as part of God’s plan. We don’t like the tough lessons and trials that enter our life, but if we learn from these experiences and then share them with others, they can be the building blocks of impact and influence. 

Need a reason to stay the course? Go out and make a difference in someone’s life.  It is really rewarding and I promise you – someone, somewhere is going to someday remember you and be thankful for you and the impact you made in their lives.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does having someone to stay for mean to you?
  2. Some people think leaving a legacy is for older people that are closer to the end of their life. Do you agree? Why or why not.
  3. Who has poured the life of Christ into you? How did that person invest in your Christian life?
  4. What is the responsibility of one generation to invest in the next generation?
  5. What can we do this week to invest intentionally in the lives of others?