Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Jesus Fulfills Prophecy

I'm writing some new-believer training that I'm using with one of my neighbors who is new to the faith and hungry to know more about God and the Bible.  As I was working on it this afternoon, I came across this great list of prophecies that Jesus fulfills from the Old Testament (with their NT connection).  I remember the impact that this list had on me when I was investigating the claims of Christianity (thanks to Josh McDowell).  Check this out:

Over 300 Messianic Prophecies

Gen. 3:15.....He will bruise Satan's head.....Heb. 2:14, 1 Jn. 3:18
Gen. 9:26,27...The God of Shem will be the Son of Shem...Lu. 3:36
Gen. 12:3...As Abraham's seed,will bless all nations...Acts. 3:25,26
Gen. 12:7...The Promise made to Abraham's Seed...Gal. 3:16
Gen. 14:18...A priest after Melchizedek...Heb. 6:20
Gen. 14:18........A King also........Heb. 7:2
Gen. 14:18...The Last Supper foreshadowed...Mt. 26:26-29
Gen. 17:19.......The Seed of Isaac.......Rom. 9:7
Gen. 22:8...The Lamb of God promised...Jn. 1:29
Gen. 22:18...As Isaac's seed, will bless all nations...Gal. 3:16
Gen.26:2-5..The Seed of Isaac promised as the Redeemer..Heb.11:18
Gen. 49:10...The time of His coming...Lu. 2:1-7; Gal. 4:4
Gen. 49:10.......The Seed of Judah.......Lu. 3:33
Gen. 49:10......Called Shiloh or One Sent......Jn. 17:3
Gen. 49:10...To come before Judah lost identity...Jn. 11:47-52
Gen. 49:10...To Him shall the obedience of the people be...Jn. 10:16
Ex. 3:13,14........The Great "I Am".......Jn. 4:26
Ex. 12:5...A Lamb without blemish...1 Pet. 1:19
Ex. 12:13...The blood of the Lamb saves from wrath...Rom. 5:8
Ex. 12:21-27...Christ is our Passover...1 Cor. 5;7
Ex. 12:46...Not a bone of the Lamb to be broken...Jn. 19:31-36
Ex. 15:2...His exaltation predicted as Yeshua...Acts 7:55,56
Ex. 15:11...His Character-Holiness...Luke 1:35; Acts 4:27
Ex. 17:6...The Spiritual Rock of Israel...1 Cor. 10;4
Ex. 33:19...His Character-Merciful...Lu. 1:72
Lev.14:11..The leper cleansed-Sign to priesthood..Lu.5:12-14; Acts 6:7
Lev.16:15-17...Prefigures Christ's once-for-all death...Heb. 9:7-14
Lev.16:27...Suffering outside the Camp...Mt. 27:33; Heb. 13:11, 12
Lev.17:11...The Blood-the life of the flesh...Mt. 26;28; Mk. 10:45
Lev.17:11...It is the blood that makes atonement...1 Jn. 3:14-18
Lev.23:36-37...The Drink-offering: "If any man thirst." ..Jn. 19:31-36
Num. 9:12...Not a bone of Him broken...John 19:31-36
Num. 21:9...The serpent on a pole-Christ lifted up...Jn. 3:14-18
Num. 24:17...Time: "I shall see him, but not now."...Gal. 4:4
Deut. 18:15..."This is of a truth that prophet."...Jn. 6:14
Deut. 18:15-16..."Had ye believed Moses, ye would believe me."...Jn. 5:45-47
Deut. 18:18...Sent by the Father to speak His word...Jn. 8:28, 29
Deut. 18:19...Whoever will not hear must bear his sin...Jn. 12:15,
Deut. 21:23...Cursed is he that hangs on a tree...Gal. 3:10-13
Ruth 4:4-9...Christ, our kinsman, has redeemed us...Eph. 1:3-7
1 Sam. 2:10...Shall be an anointed King to the Lord...Mt. 28:18; Jn. 12:15
2 Sam. 7:12...David's Seed...Mt. 1:1
2 Sam. 7:14a...The Son of God... Lu. 1:32
2 Sam. 7:16...David's house established forever...Lu. 3:31; Rev. 22:16
2 Ki. 2:11...The bodily ascension to heaven illustrated...Lu. 24:51
1 Chr. 17:11...David's Seed...Mt. 1:1; 9:27
1 Chr. 17:12, 13a...To reign on David's throne forever...Lu. 1:32, 33
1 Chr. 17:13a..."I will be His Father, He...my Son."...Heb. 1:5
Job 19:23-27...The Resurrection predicted...Jn. 5:24-29
Psa. 2:1-3...The enmity of kings foreordained...Acts 4:25-28
Psa. 2:2...To own the title, Anointed (Christ)...Acts 2:36
Ps. 2:6...His Character-Holiness...Jn. 8:46; Rev. 3:7
Ps. 2:6...To own the title King...Mt. 2:2
Ps. 2:7...Declared the Beloved Son...Mt. 3;17
Psa. 2:7, 8...The Crucifixion and Resurrection intimated...Acts 13:29-33
Psa. 2:12...Life comes through faith in Him...Jn. 20:31
Psa. 8:2...The mouths of babes perfect His praise...Mt. 21:16
Psa. 8:5, 6...His humiliation and exaltation...Lu. 24:50-53; 1 Cor. 15:27
Psa. 16:10...Was not to see corruption...Acts 2:31
Psa. 16:9-11...Was to arise from the dead...Jn. 20:9
Psa. 17;15...The resurrection predicted...Lu. 24:6
Psa. 22:1...Forsaken because of sins of others...2 Cor. 5:21
Psa. 22:1...Words spoken from Calvary, "My God..." Mk. 15:34
Psa. 22:2...Darkness upon Calvary...Mt. 27:45
Psa. 22:7...They shoot out the lip and shake the head...Mt. 27:39
Psa. 22:8..He trusted in God, let Him deliver Him...Mt. 27:43
Psa. 22:9......Born the Saviour......Lu. 2:7
Psa. 22:14...Died of a broken (ruptured)heart...Jn. 19:34
Psa. 22:14,15...Suffered agony on Calvary...Mk. 15:34-37
Psa. 22:15........He thirsted........Jn. 19:28
Psa. 22:16...They pierced His hands and His feet....Jn. 19:34,37;20:27
Psa. 22:17,18...Stripped Him before the stares of men...Lu. 23:34,35
Psa. 22:18.....They parted His garments.....Jn. 19:23,24
Psa. 22:20,21...He committed Himself to God...Lu.23:46
Psa. 22:20,21..Satanic power bruising the Redeemer's heel..Heb. 2:14
Psa. 22:22.....His Resurrection declared.....Jn. 20:17
Psa. 22:27...He shall be the governor of the nations...Col 1:16
Psa. 22:31......It is finished......Jn. 19:30
Psa. 23:1....I am the Good Shephard....Jn. 10:11
Psa. 24:3......His exaltation predicted......Acts 1:11; Phil. 2:9
Psa. 30:3......His resurrection predicted......Acts 2:32
Psa. 31:5...Into thy hands I commit my spirit...Lu. 23:46
Psa. 31:11...His acquaintances fled from Him...Mk. 14:50
Psa. 31:13...They took counsel to put Him to death...Jn. 11:53
Psa. 31:14,15...He trusted in God, let Him deliver him...Mt. 27:43
Psa. 34:20.....Not a bone of Him broken.....Jn 19:31-36
Psa. 35:11....False witnesses rose up against Him....Mt. 26:59
Psa. 35:19...He was hated without a cause...Jn. 15:25
Psa. 38:11.....His friends stood afar off.....Lu. 23:49
Psa. 40:2-5...The joy of His resurrection predicted...Jn. 20:20
Psa. 40:6-8....His delight-the will of the Father....Jn. 4:34
Psa. 40:9....He was to preach the Righteousness in Israel....Mt. 4:17
Psa. 40:14...Confronted by adversaries in the Garden...Jn. 18:4-6
Psa. 41:9.....Betrayed by a familiar friend.....Jn. 13:18
Psa. 45:2...Words of Grace come from His lips...Lu. 4:22
Psa. 45:6...To own the title, God or Elohim...Heb. 1:8
Psa. 45:7...A special anointing by the Holy Spirit...Mt.3:16; Heb.1:9
Psa. 45:7,8...Called the Christ (Messiah or Anointed)...Lu. 2:11
Psa. 55:12-14...Betrayed by a friend, not an enemy...Jn. 13:18
Psa. 55:15...Unrepentant death of the Betrayer...Mt. 27:3-5; Acts 1:16-19
Psa. 68:18...To give gifts to men...Eph. 4:7-16
Psa. 68:18...Ascended into Heaven...Lu. 24:51
Psa. 69:4...Hated without a cause...Jn. 15:25
Psa. 69:8...A stranger to own brethren...Lu. 8;20,21
Psa. 69:9...Zealous for the Lord's House...Jn. 2:17
Psa. 69:14-20...Messiah's anguish of soul before crucifixion...Mt. 26:36-45
Psa. 69:20...My soul is exceeding sorrowful...Mt. 26:38
Psa. 69:21...Given vinegar in thirst...Mt. 27:34
Psa. 69:26...The Saviour given and smitten by God...Jn. 17:4; 18:11
Psa. 72:10,11...Great persons were to visit Him...Mt. 2:1-11
Psa. 72:16...The corn of wheat to fall into the Ground...Jn. 12:24
Psa. 72:17...His name, Yinon, will produce offspring...Jn. 1:12,13
Psa. 72:17...All nations shall be blessed by Him...Acts 2:11,12,41
Psa. 78:1.2...He would teach in parables...Mt. 13:34-35
Psa. 78:2b...To speak the Wisdom of God with authority...Mt. 7:29
Psa. 88:8...They stood afar off and watched...Lu. 23:49
Psa. 89:27...Emmanuel to be higher than earthly kings...Lu. 1:32,33
Psa. 89:35-37...David's Seed, throne, kingdom endure forever...Lu. 1:32,33
Psa. 89:36-37...His character-Faithfulness...Rev. 1:5
Psa. 90:2...He is from everlasting (Micah 5:2)...Jn. 1:1
Psa. 91:11,12...Identified as Messianic; used to tempt Christ...Lu. 4;10,11
Psa. 97:9...His exaltation predicted...Acts 1:11;Eph. 1:20
Psa. 100:5...His character-Goodness...Mt. 19:16,17
Psa. 102:1-11...The Suffering and Reproach of Calvary...Jn. 21:16-30
Psa. 102:25-27...Messiah is the Preexistent Son...Heb. 1:10-12
Psa. 109:25...Ridiculed...Mt. 27:39
Psa. 110:1...Son of David...Mt. 22:43
Psa. 110:1...To ascend to the right-hand of the Father...Mk.16:19
Psa. 110:1...David's son called Lord...Mt. 22:44,45
Psa. 110:4...A priest after Melchizedek's order...Heb. 6:20
Psa. 112:4...His character-Compassionate, Gracious, et al... Mt. 9;36
Psa. 118:17,18...Messiah's Resurrection assured...Lu. 24:5-7;1 Cor. 15:20
Psa. 118:22,23...The rejected stone is Head of the corner...Mt. 21:42,43
Psa. 118:26a...The Blessed One presented to Israel...Mt. 21:9
Psa. 118:26b...To come while Temple standing...Mt. 21;12-15
Psa. 132:11...The Seed of David(the fruit of His Body)...Lu. 1:32
Psa. 138:1-6...The supremacy of David's Seed amazes kings... Mt. 2:2-6
Psa. 147:3,6...The earthly ministry of Christ described...Lu. 4:18
Psa. 1:23...He will send the Spirit of God... Jn. 16;7
Song. 5;16...The altogether lovely One...Jn. 1:17
Isa. 6:1...When Isaiah saw His glory... Jn. 12:40-41
Isa. 6:9-10...Parables fall on deaf ears...Mt. 13:13-15
Isa. 6:9-12...Blinded to Christ and deaf to His words...Acts. 28:23-29
Isa. 7:14...To be born of a virgin...Lu. 1:35
Isa. 7:14...To be Emmanuel-God with us... Mt. 1:18-23
Isa. 8:8...Called Emmanuel...Mt. 28:20
Isa. 8:14...A stone of stumbling, a Rock of offense... 1 Pet. 2:8
Isa. 9:1,2...His ministry to begin in Galilee...Mt. 4:12-17
Isa. 9:6...A child born-Humanity...Lu. 1:31
Isa. 9:6...A Son given-Deity...Lu. 1:32; Jn. 1;14; 1 Tim. 3:16
Isa. 9:6...Declared to be the Son of God with power... Rom. 1:3,4
Isa. 9:6...The Wonderful One, Peleh...Lu. 4:22
Isa. 9:6...The Counsellor, Yaatz...Mt. 13:54
Isa. 9:6...The Mighty God, El Gibor...Mt. 11:20
Isa. 9:6...The Everlasting Father, Avi Adth...Jn. 8:58
Isa. 9:6...The Prince of Peace, Sar Shalom...Jn . 16:33
Isa. 9:7...To establish an everlasting kingdom...Lu. 1:32-33
Isa. 9:7...His Character-Just...Jn. 5:30
Isa. 9:7...No end to his Government, Throne, and Peace...Lu. 1:32-33
Isa. 11:1...Called a Nazarene-the Branch, Netzer...Mt. 2:23
Isa. 11:1...A rod out of Jesse-Son of Jesse...Lu. 3:23,32
Isa. 11:2...The anointed One by the Spirit...Mt. 3;16,17
Isa. 11:2...His Character-Wisdom, Understanding, et al....Jn. 4:4-26
Isa. 11:4...His Character-Truth...Jn. 14:6
Isa. 11:10...The Gentiles seek Him...Jn. 12:18-21
Isa. 12:2...Called Jesus-Yeshua...Mt. 1:21
Isa. 25:8...The Resurrection predicted...I Cor. 15:54
Isa. 26:19...His power of Resurrection predicted...Jn. 11:43,44
Isa. 28:16...The Messiah is the precious corner stone...Acts 4:11,12
Isa. 29:13...He indicated hypocritical obedience to His Word...Mt. 15:7-9
Isa. 29:14...The wise are confounded by the Word...I Cor. 1:18-31
Isa. 32:2...A Refuge-A man shall be a hiding place...Mt. 23:37
Isa. 35:4...He will come and save you...Mt. 1:21
Isa. 35:5...To have a ministry of miracles...Mt. 11:4-6
Isa. 40:3,4...Preceded by forerunner...Jn. 1:23
Isa. 40:9..."Behold your God."...Jn. 1:36;19:14
Isa. 40:11...A shepherd-compassionatelife-giver...Jn. 10:10-18
Isa. 42:1-4...The Servant-as a faithful, patient redeemer... Mt.12:18-21
Isa. 42:2...Meek and lowly... Mt. 11:28-30
Isa. 42:3...He brings hope for the hopeless... Jn. 4
Isa. 42:4...The nations shall wait on His teachings... Jn. 12:20-26
Isa. 42:6...The Light (salvation) of the Gentiles...Lu. 2:32
Isa. 42:1,6...His is a Worldwide compassion... Mt. 28:19,20
Isa. 42:7...Blind eyes opened... Jn. 9:25-38
Isa. 43:11...He is the only Saviour... Acts. 4:12
Isa. 44:3...He will send the Spirit of God... Jn. 16:7,13
Isa. 45:23...He will be the Judge... Jn. 5:22;Rom. 14:11
Isa. 48:12...The First and the Last...Jn. 1:30;Rev. 1:8,17
Isa. 48:17...He came as a Teacher...Jn. 3:2
Isa. 49:1...Called from the womb-His humanity...Mt. 1:18
Isa. 49:5...A Servant from the womb...Lu. 1:31;Phil. 2:7
Isa. 49:6...He is Salvation for Israel...Lu. 2:29-32
Isa. 49:6...He is the Light of the Gentiles...Acts 13:47
Isa. 49:6...He is Salvation unto the ends of the earth... Acts 15:7-18
Isa. 49:7...He is despised of the Nation... Jn. 8:48-49
Isa. 50:3...Heaven is clothed in black at His humiliation... Lu. 23:44,45
Isa. 50:4...He is a learned counsellor for the weary... Mt. 11:28,29
Isa. 50:5...The Servant bound willingly to obedience... Mt. 26:39
Isa. 50:6a..."I gave my back to the smiters."... Mt. 27:26
Isa. 50:6b...He was smitten on the cheeks... Mt. 26:67
Isa. 50:6c...He was spat upon... Mt. 27:30
Isa. 52:7...To publish good tidings of peace... Lu. 4:14,15
Isa. 52:13...The Servant exalted...Acts 1:8-11; Eph. 1:19-22
Isa. 52:13...Behold, My Servant... Mt. 17:5; Phil. 2:5-8
Isa. 52:14...The Servant shockingly abused... Lu. 18:31-34; Mt. 26:67,68
Isa. 52:15...Nations startled by message of the Servant... Rom. 15:18-21
Isa. 52:15...His blood shed to make atonement for all... Rev. 1:5
Isa. 53:1...His people would not believe Him... Jn. 12:37-38
Isa. 53:2a...He would grow up in a poor family.... Lu. 2:7
Isa. 53:2b...Appearance of an ordinary man... Phil. 2:7-8
Isa. 53:3a...Despised.... Lu. 4:28-29
Isa. 53:3b...Rejected... Mt. 27:21-23
Isa. 53:3c...Great sorrow and grief... Lu. 19:41-42
Isa. 53:3d...Men hide from being associated with Him... Mk. 14:50-52
Isa. 53:4a...He would have a healing ministry... Lu. 6:17-19
Isa. 53:4b...He would bear the sins of the world... 1 Pet. 2:24
Isa. 53:4c...Thought to be cursed by God... Mt. 27:41-43
Isa. 53:5a...Bears penalty for mankind's transgressions... Lu. 23:33
Isa. 53:5b...His sacrifice would provide peace between man and God... Col. 1:20
Isa. 53:5c...His back would be whipped... Mt. 27:26
Isa. 53:6a...He would be the sin-bearer for all mankind...Gal. 1:4
Isa. 53:6b...God's will that He bear sin for all mankind... 1 Jn. 4:10
Isa. 53:7a...Oppressed and afflicted... Mt. 27:27-31
Isa. 53:7b...Silent before his accusers... Mt. 27:12-14
Isa. 53:7c...Sacrificial lamb... Jn. 1:29
Isa. 53:8a...Confined and persecuted... Mt. 26:47-27:31
Isa. 53:8b...He would be judged... Jn. 18:13-22
Isa. 53:8c...Killed.... Mt. 27:35
Isa. 53:8d...Dies for the sins of the world... 1 Jn. 2:2
Isa. 53:9a...Buried in a rich man's grave... Mt. 27:57
Isa. 53:9b...Innocent and had done no violence... Mk. 15:3
Isa. 53:9c...No deceit in his mouth... Jn. 18:38
Isa. 53:10a...God's will that He die for mankind... Jn. 18:11
Isa. 53:10b...An offering for sin... Mt. 20:28
Isa. 53:10c...Resurrected and live forever.... Mk. 16:16
Isa. 53:10d...He would prosper... Jn. 17:1-5
Isa. 53:11a...God fully satisfied with His suffering... Jn. 12:27
Isa. 53:11b...God's servant... Rom. 5:18-19
Isa. 53:11c...He would justify man before God... Rom. 5:8-9
Isa. 53:11d...The sin-bearer for all mankind... Heb. 9:28
Isa. 53:12a...Exalted by God because of his sacrifice... Mt. 28:18
Isa. 53:12b...He would give up his life to save mankind... Lu. 23:46
Isa. 53:12c...Grouped with criminals... Lu. 23:32
Isa. 53:12d...Sin-bearer for all mankind... 2 Cor. 5:21
Isa. 53:12e...Intercede to God in behalf of mankind... Lu. 23:34
Isa. 55:3...Resurrected by God... Acts 13:34
Isa. 55:4...A witness... Jn. 18:37
Isa. 59:15-16a...He would come to provide salvation... Jn. 6:40
Isa. 59:15-16b...Intercessor between man and God... Mt. 10:32
Isa. 59:20...He would come to Zion as their Redeemer... Lu. 2:38
Isa. 61:1-2a...The Spirit of God upon him... Mt. 3:16-17
Isa. 61:1-2b...The Messiah would preach the good news... Lu. 4:17-21
Isa. 61:1-2c...Provide freedom from the bondage of sin and death... Jn. 8:31-32
Isa. 61:1-2...Proclaim a period of grace... Jn. 5:24
Jer.23:5-6a...Descendant of David...Lu. 3:23-31
Jer. 23:5-6b...The Messiah would be God... Jn. 13:13
Jer. 23:5-6c...The Messiah would be both God and Man... 1 Tim. 3:16
Jer. 31:22...Born of a virgin... Mt. 1:18-20
Jer. 31:31...The Messiah would be the new covenant... Mt. 26:28
Jer. 33:14-15...Descendant of David... Lu. 3:23-31
Eze.17:22-24...Descendant of David... Lk. 3:23-31
Eze.34:23-24...Descendant of David... Mt. 1:1
Dan. 7:13-14a...He would ascend into heaven... Acts 1:9-11
Dan. 7:13-14b...Highly exalted... Eph. 1:20-22
Dan. 7:13-14c...His dominion would be everlasting... Lu. 1:31-33
Dan. 9:24a...To make an end to sins... Gal. 1:3-5
Dan. 9:24b...He would be holy... Lu. 1:35
Dan. 9:25...Announced to his people 483 years, to the exact day, after the decree to rebuild the city of Jerusalem... Jn. 12:12-13
Dan. 9:26a...Killed... Mt. 27:35
Dan. 9:26b...Die for the sins of the world... Heb. 2:9
Dan. 9:26c...Killed before the destruction of the temple... Mt. 27:50-51
Dan. 10:5-6...Messiah in a glorified state... Rev. 1:13-16
Hos. 13:14...He would defeat death... 1 Cor. 15:55-57
Joel 2:32...Offer salvation to all mankind... Rom. 10:12-13
Mic. 5:2a...Born in Bethlehem... Mt. 2:1-2
Mic. 5:2b...God's servant... Jn. 15:10
Mic. 5:2c...From everlasting... Jn. 8:58
Hag. 2:6-9...He would visit the second Temple... Lu. 2:27-32
Hag. 2:23...Descendant of Zerubbabel... Lu. 3:23-27
Zech. 3:8...God's servant... Jn. 17:4
Zech. 6:12-13...Priest and King... Heb. 8:1
Zech. 9:9a...Greeted with rejoicing in Jerusalem... Mt. 21:8-10
Zech. 9:9b...Beheld as King... Jn. 12:12-13
Zech. 9:9c...The Messiah would be just... Jn. 5:30
Zech. 9:9d...The Messiah would bring salvation... Luke 19:10
Zech. 9:9e...The Messiah would be humble... Mt. 11:29
Zech. 9:9f...Presented to Jerusalem riding on a donkey... Mt. 21:6-9
Zech. 10:4...The cornerstone... Eph. 2:20
Zech. 11:4-6a...At His coming, Israel to have unfit leaders... Mt. 23:1-4
Zech. 11:4-6b...Rejection causes God to remove His protection.. Lu. 19:41-44
Zech. 11:4-6c...Rejected in favor of another king... Jn. 19:13-15
Zech. 11:7...Ministry to "poor," the believing remnant... Mt. 9:35-36
Zech. 11:8a...Unbelief forces Messiah to reject them... Mt. 23:33
Zech. 11:8b...Despised... Mt. 27:20
Zech. 11:9...Stops ministering to the those who rejected Him... Mt. 13:10-11
Zech. 11:10-11a...Rejection causes God to remove protection... Lu. 19:41-44
Zech. 11:10-11b...The Messiah would be God... Jn. 14:7
Zech. 11:12-13a...Betrayed for thirty pieces of silver... Mt. 26:14-15
Zech. 11:12-13b...Rejected... Mt. 26:14-15
Zech. 11:12-13c...Thirty pieces of silver thrown into the house of the Lord... Mt. 27:3-5
Zech. 11:12-13d...The Messiah would be God... Jn. 12:45
Zech. 12:10a...The Messiah's body would be pierced... Jn. 19:34-37
Zech. 12:10b...The Messiah would be both God and man... Jn. 10:30
Zech. 12:10c...The Messiah would be rejected... Jn. 1:11
Zech. 13:7a...God's will He die for mankind... Jn. 18:11
Zech. 13:7b...A violent death... Mt. 27:35
Zech. 13:7c...Both God and man.. Jn. 14:9
Zech. 13:7d...Israel scattered as a result of rejecting Him... Mt. 26:31-56
Mal. 3:1a...Messenger to prepare the way for Messiah... Mt. 11:10
Mal. 3:1b...Sudden appearance at the temple... Mk. 11:15-16
Mal. 3:1c...Messenger of the new covenant... Lu. 4:43
Mal. 4:5...Forerunner in the spirit of Elijah... Mt. 3:1-2
Mal. 4:6...Forerunner would turn many to righteousness... Lu. 1:16-17

Monday, March 07, 2011

2 Ah-Ha Moments in Learning to Preach

I met with a new church-planter last week and attempted to articulate the journey I've been on for the last three years in learning to faithfully preach the message of the Bible.  I had some of the best seminary training in the world at DTS from 2001-2005, but nothing compares to actually being in the pulpit every week in teaching you to preach.  Before we started HCBC-RR in 2007, I had spoken regularly to students and been given multiple opportunities to preach.  However, it wasn't until we planted Hill Country in 2007 that I really began to grow in my understanding of Scripture and the art of preaching.  Over the last three years, I've had two significant "ah-ha" moments in learning to preach - moments where the theory of preaching became real in the my heart and in the life of our church.  If you are someone who regularly teaches or preaches God's Word to others, I hope these thoughts encourage and challenge you.

1- The first "ah-ha" moment was coming to terms with the fact that the whole Bible is really about Jesus.  This might sound incredibly foundational, but I can't tell you how much this has changed my preaching and teaching.  At Dallas, I was trained to be a good exegete of the original languages and to dig deep into the original historical contexts in order to discover the human author's originally-intended meaning.  While this has been and will continue to be valuable in my preaching, it is incomplete.  It is not enough to teach historical context and authorial intent if we don't get beyond the human author and interact with the divine author.  If God is the author of the whole Bible, then we can be certain that the entire revelation of Scripture is ultimately pointing us to the Living Word, Jesus Christ.  The Old Testament is leading us to Christ and the New Testament is pointing us back to Christ.  But it goes beyond the direction of the testaments to the actual meaning of the individual verses, chapters, and books.  If I preach a sermon on the 23rd Psalm but don't show Christ in it, I have not faithfully taught the meaning of the 23rd Psalm.  I prepared a sermon in seminary on Proverbs 12:15 (the way of the fool seems right to him, but the wise man listens to advice) and went back to look at it the other night.  Nowhere in the manuscript did I even mention the name of Jesus.  The sermon could have been given in a synagogue or even in a rotary club.  The principle of the text was quickly explained and applied - listen to the advice of others - without any reference to Jesus.  Now, this might work in trying to explain the original meaning of a text, but it fails in the pulpit.  Why?  Because the people who sit under my preaching don't just need moral instruction - they need the gospel.  As a practitioner, one is quickly confronted with the limitations of preaching moral principles from the text when it comes to people actually experiencing life-transformation.  Not only that, but the study of the Bible as one complete, consistent document also leads us to the same conclusion.  To preach the mirco-context (the meaning of this text within the context of this paragraph, chapter, and book) without preaching the macro-context (the meaning of this text within the context of the entire Bible) is to miss the full meaning of any given text.  When I came to understand the Christo-centric nature of every passage in the Bible, my preaching began to change.  Now, if you attend HCBC-RR on any given Sunday, regardless of what section of the Bible we are preaching, you will undoubtedly hear about the wonderful person and work of Jesus Christ.

2- The second "ah-ha" moment was realizing that the gospel is not just the means of our justification but also the foundation and motivation for our sanctification.  I came to faith in a tradition that preached this way: 40 minutes of moral exhortation from a Bible story (here's how you can live a righteous life) with a 5 minute gospel invitation at the end for anyone who was lost.  The unspoken message was this: if you are lost, you need Jesus to save you, but if you are saved, you need to straighten up and get your life in line.  Whether intended or not, the sermons taught people that they needed the gospel for justification (for right standing with God, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life) but not for sanctification (the process of actually becoming holy in our daily thoughts, motives, words, and actions).  This creates a weird dynamic where we preach against self-righteousness in non-Christians but actually appeal to self-righteousness in Christians.  In other words, a preacher who proclaims the gospel only as the means for justification will end up appealing to the Christian's self-will as the motive and power by which he lives a holy life.  This produces devastating effects that I only began to understand and see clearly as I led a local congregation.  Jonathan Edwards talked about the difference between common virtue and true virtue, making a distinguish between a good deed that was motivated by pride and self-righteousness and a good deed that was motivated by humility and appreciation for grace.  I have found this distinction incredibly helpful as I think about preaching God's Word.  If I don't come back to the gospel as the foundation for holy living (responding to the finished work of Christ and living by faith in the promises guaranteed by the finished work of Christ), then I will end up appealing to people's flesh (their pride) in order to get them to do what is right in God's sight.  Here's the crazy conclusion and why this pattern is so deadly: I could actually be encouraging sin in the hearts of God's people on the way to external obedience.  This is why gospel-Christianity is so different and so liberating - it speaks not just to my legal standing before God but also transforms the motivation for holy living.  Because I am accepted and forgiven and found in Christ, I am freed to love God in response to His great love for me.  I am not adding anything to the work of Jesus by living in obedience - I am simply living in light of what Jesus has already accomplished by His death and resurrection.  There is much more to say on how the gospel actually progresses each of us in full sanctification (by destroying the idols and unbelief in our hearts that feed our sinful thoughts, actions, and words), but it is enough here to show how people need a greater understanding of the gospel to live like Jesus, not just a greater explanation of the moral principles of the Bible.

I have learned a lot about preaching in the last three years - I'm thankful that God continues to refine me for His purposes.  If you regularly teach and preach God's Word, what "ah-ha" moments has God used to change the way you handle the Scriptures?

Saturday, March 05, 2011

3 Tips For Date Conversations

Barie and I have always made our date-night a priority for as long as we have been married.  We have learned from wise mentors the importance of having a regular time for the two of us to enjoy each other and continue to improve our relationship.  Over the years, we have used all types of babysitting to have at least two dates a month.  We've partnered with another couple to switch off kids every week, we've utilized the YMCA's once-a-month four-hour childcare, and we've hired babysitters.  At this point in our marriage, we're blessed to have Barie's mom living close to us and she enjoys watching the kids every Friday night so that we can go out.  All that to say this: we've always made dating each other a priority and always encouraged other couples to do the same.  We're constantly surprised by how many married couples go months without a date-night.  I always tell them the same thing: the best way to love your kids well is to love your spouse well - kids thrive when they sense the stability and health of their parents' relationship.

As we've been going out over the years and encouraging other couples to do the same, Barie and I have witnessed the struggles that other couples have in dating each other.  Sometimes, it has to do with scheduling.  Sometimes, it has to do with childcare.  Sometimes, it has to do with fatigue.  But honestly, sometimes I wonder if it doesn't MOST have to do with a lack of excitement about the date itself.  There are multiple reasons for this, and I hope to post a series of articles talking about how to address the root issues.  But today, I want to address a common struggle that I've noticed: what do we talk about?

I can't tell you how many times Barie and I have been out for dinner and looked across at the table next to us only to find another couple sitting there staring at each other.  The couple is going through the motions, sitting down to dinner together, but they have nothing to talk about.  They just sit and stare and hope that the other one has something to bring up.  In some of the worst-case scenarios, the couple retreats into their smartphones for some distractions.  How do we fight this temptation?  How do we keep the conversation engaging and fun and exciting every time we are together?  Some of us have an easier time at this than others, but we all can be more intentional in improving our date conversations.  Here's three of my best tips...

1) Ask good questions.  In all other relationships in life, we know that the beginning of a good conversation is forming good questions.  But in our marriage, after years of doing life together and talking about life, we can begin to think that we already know everything about this person.  This is exceedingly dangerous!  People are not static - they are dynamic - they change and develop and learn.  In order to continue to be a good student of your spouse, ask good questions.  Not the mundane questions like, "how was your day?" but the penetrating, learning questions like, "what was your biggest success in the last week?" or "what are you struggling with the most right now?"  or "what is really energizing you right now?"  Some of the most amazing conversations that Barie and I have had on dates over the years have started with good questions.  Get creative.  Ask the unexpected.  Show your spouse that you are really interested in getting to know them better.  They will respond - trust me.  And if you really want to spur some deep conversation, ask them "what has God been teaching you lately that is challenging you?"  Again, don't assume that because you live together and do life together that you already know the answers to your questions.  Ask and then listen well.  When their answer surprises you, ask a good follow-up question.  Dig deeper.  Ask why questions - "why do you feel that way?" or "why do you think you responded that way?"  If you only talk in your marriage and don't ask, your conversations will eventually die - because no one wants to keep talking to someone who only talks about themselves.  Ask good questions.

2) Tell funny stories.  When Barie and I go out together, we laugh.  A lot.  We fight the temptation to complain and gripe and moan about the challenges and difficulties of life.  Now, we do talk about hard issues that each of us is working through, but we never stop laughing.  One of the reasons we enjoy spending so much time together is because we make each other smile and laugh.  Do you and your spouse have that effect on each other?  If your conversations are only dour and depressing, how long do you think you can keep the date momentum going?  Not very long.  One of the easiest ways that we have found to laugh together is to tell funny stories from the past week.  We tell funny stories on ourselves, our kids, and our friends.  We tell funny stories about stuff at church and at work.  We tell funny stories about things that have happened to us or to others we know.  I think every time you go out on a date, you should have a funny story from the past week to share with your spouse.  Make them laugh with you.  And make them share what has made them laugh as well.  Laughter brings healing to the soul and breathes life into date conversations.

3) Dream together.  I know that one of the challenges of dating when you have children is that your conversations tend to revolve around the children.  Some of that is inevitable and good.  However, I would warn you to not fall in the trap of only talking about your children - if you do, you will begin to view your marriage only as a business partnership built on accomplishing the goal of raising the next generation rather than a loving, passionate relationship between two best-friends.  One of the best conversations that Barie and I regularly share is our dreams for the future.  Where do we see ourselves in 1 year?  in 5 years?  in 10 years?  If we had unlimited money and time and resources, what would we do?  Those conversations get us out of the week to week operations of life (upcoming dates and events) and lift our eyes to the future.  They also allow you to get to know the desires and dreams of your spouse better.  As you hear them, you can begin to think and pray about how you might be able to make those dreams come true.

If your date conversations have become dry and dull, try one or all of the three tips and see what happens.  If you and your spouse really excel in this area, share some of your tips in the comment section below.  I look forward to learning from all of you.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Church Unity in Round Rock

Today, 35 Round Rock pastors met for lunch at the United Heritage Center at the Dell Diamond in Round Rock.  On the agenda: how to work collaboratively in the city of Round Rock to share the gospel with the 140,000 people who call our city home.  Mark Westerfield, the pastor of Central Baptist Church, put together the event and invited all the pastors.  Over the last few weeks Mark and I have been praying that God would use today's lunch as a catalyst for future collaboration across denominational and racial lines in our city.  Today, we witnessed a huge answer to that prayer.

The relationships between the pastors in Round Rock have never been stronger.  I am thankful to serve in a city where pastors are serving each other and supporting each other - so much so that we celebrate when other churches do well.  We have learned that being Kingdom-minded pastors means that we live and work in light of the fact that there is only One Church in the city of Round Rock with various local expressions.  This foundational belief allows us to honor our differences while at the same time collaborating around our core faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Throughout the last year, pastors in Round Rock have been meeting monthly to pray and seek the Lord together.  We have prayed for each other (our families, our churches, our personal spiritual health, and our city).  As we have prayed, we have sensed that the Lord was preparing our hearts for the next step - working together to declare and demonstrate the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in our city.  Today, we took the first step in outlining what that collaboration could look like. 

At today's luncheon, I shared with the other pastors what collaboration could look like in three specific areas.  First, we talked about collaborating together relationally for the sake of making sure that we help each other stay strong spiritually.  Pastor Mark did a great job articulating his heart for every pastor in Round Rock: that no pastor in our city is isolated and feels alone in their work, that no pastor in our city fails morally, and that no pastor's family comes apart.  I appreciated Mark's call to all the pastors to be in a PIC-group, to be accountable to other pastors, and to join with other pastors in prayer.

Second, we talked about collaborating together to serve our city in intentional ways - not in the names of our individual churches but in the name of Jesus Christ.  Gary Foran from Gateway Church shared about their experiences in serving the students, parents, and faculty members of RRISD, and then challenged the pastors to imagine a city where every school (especially the underprivileged ones) was adopted by a church family.  Michelle Jackson, the RRISD community-partnership coordinator, also attended our meeting and shared how the pastors could lead their churches to engage the school district in practical ways.  Finally, Josh Cagle from Summit Community Church shared vision to all the pastors about what a unified service weekend would look like.  He suggested that we adopt a weekend where all the churches would get out in the community and meet physical needs.

Third, we talked about collaborating together to support new churches in our city.  We honored some of the new church-planters who have come to Round Rock in the last year and then envisioned what it would look like if the more established churches in our city strategically supported those new works.  Our research has shown that years 2-4 of a plant are the most critical when it comes to determining viability.  What would it look like for stronger churches to support struggling churches in their moment of need?  I made the case that the city of Round Rock needs every church to do well AND new churches to start in order for gospel saturation to become a reality.  In the midst of our discussion on supporting new works, I asked Jeff Whiston to share about how we can best reach the Hispanic community in Round Rock.  He shared some great insights into the growing Hispanic population and what kinds of churches will be needed to impact that demographic.

As we look forward to the next ten years in Round Rock, it is interesting to look back over the last ten.  The 2000 census showed the following make-up of the city of Round Rock:

City Population (including ETJ): 82,000
7.7% African American
2.9% Asian
22% Hispanic
67.4% Caucasian

The 2010 census numbers for Round Rock have just been made public in the last month.  Here is the updated 2010 demographics for Round Rock:

City Population (including ETJ): 141,000
10% African American
5% Asian
29% Hispanic
56% Caucasian

Our city is changing - becoming larger and more diverse every day.  I pray that the unified Church in Round Rock can reach every person, regardless of age, race, or socioeconomic status, with the life-changing reality of Jesus Christ.  Thank you to everyone who prayed for our lunch today.  Your prayers were answered.  Now, please pray for the Spirit to empower the collaborative work that needs to be done and for the lostness of Round Rock to be reduced as the gospel of Jesus Christ is faithfully declared to the glory of God the Father.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

No Other Gods - The First Two Commandments

We are preaching through the Ten Commandments at church right now, learning what they mean, what they teach us about God, how Jesus relates to each one, and how they currently apply to our lives.  It has been a fascinating study.  As we work through them, I thought I would post a few of my observations here on my blog for you to read and interact with as we go.  I'd love to hear your feedback and thoughts.

The first two commandments are commonly called the fountainhead from which the other eight commandments flow.  Luther famously commented that if we don't break the first two commandments that we won't break the other eight because the root of all behavioral sin is idolatry - a wrong belief in and commitment to a false god.  Therefore, the first two commandments deserve special attention in our study and intentional reflection to see how they are worked out in our own lives.

When God gave the Ten Commandments to his people through Moses in Exodus 20, He started by reminding them in verses 1 and 2 who He is and what He had done already on their behalf.  This shows us again that the Lord is consistent in how He works in our lives.  He graciously sees and hears our cries for help, delivers us from slavery and bondage, calls us to Himself, and then tells us how we are to live in light of His deliverance.  This pattern is a great foreshadowing of the gospel of Jesus Christ - God sends His Son to set us free from bondage and then shows us how a redeemed people are to live in light of His work and salvation.  If we don't get this order right, then the Commandments become a burden instead of a blessing.  God gives us His moral law to teach us who He is eternally and how a freed people can live in light of who He is.  This insight alone changes radically how we read Exodus 20.

Knowing this, when we get to the first and second commands, we understand why God would say that the people of Israel were not to worship any gods before Him and why they were not to create any physical idols or graven images.  God was saying to His people that the key to staying free of bondage and sin is to stay single-minded in our faith in, love for, and commitment to the One True and Living God.  God is the only true God.  Let that truth sink in to your heart.  There is never any other thing or person or pursuit that you and I will give ourselves to that is worth our love and devotion - because no-one else and nothing else are truly god.  Every other god we worship is a false god - dead and unable to do anything for us or in us.  Other gods are created - the product of our hearts and our minds - and not real.  False god cannot challenge us or correct us or support us or provide for us or deliver us because they are not real.  The level of devotion to our false gods is irrelevant - they cannot do anything for us regardless of how much time, money, passion, and energy we commit to them.

In fact, God is showing us His heart to protect us in the first two commandments because He knows that idolatry will ultimately destroy us.  When we worship anything other than the True and Living God, we will ultimately be worshiping ourselves - because we create idols in order to control our own lives and destinies.  And when we worship ourselves, we give in to every sinful desire we have (justified by the idols that we serve) which will lead us only to death - death in our relationships, death in our families, death in our souls, and death forever under the wrath of the True God.

God starts with two commandments about worshiping Him alone because He alone deserves our worship, because He cares for us and knows that our idolatry leads to death, but also because He knows that our idolatry is the root issue in all of our other sins.  It is what Tim Keller calls "the sin beneath the sin."  When we attempt to change behavior patterns without changing the beliefs that undergird those behaviors, those new patterns only last for a season.  We will eventually go back to our old behaviors because we always live in line with what we truly believe.  God starts with what we worship because what we worship matters the most when it comes to how we actually live.  People who are not "religious" tend to think that discussions of God and worship are irrelevant to who they are and how they live, but the truth is that everyone worships something and everyone has a worldview.  We believe a set of truths about ourselves and about God and about others that shapes what we value and the decisions that we make every day.  Without touching those root beliefs, changes in behavior are temporary at best and wrongly-motivated at worst.

Now we see more clearly why God starts with the first two commandments.  As AW Tozer famously said, "The most important aspect of a person at any point in time is what they believe about God."  My only addition from Exodus 20 would be that it is equally important which God we serve.  If you are struggling with behaviors you want to change or patterns that drive you crazy, look deeper to the idols of your heart that justify your choices.  Thank God that He sent Jesus Christ to save us from our idols.  He is the One True Image of the Invisible God - the only One who can set our hearts free from the bondage of idolatry and set our feet upon the solid rock of single-minded devotion to our Creator.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sex, Marriage, and The Gospel

I’ve been reading Hosea 1-4 this morning and thinking more about why we all struggle with adultery, at least adultery of the mind and the heart.  As we study through the commandments at church, part of the challenge in the message on the 7th commandment is to convince everyone that they have broken the 7th commandment even if they have never laid a hand on someone who is not their spouse.  Jesus reveals to us in Matthew 5 that our desires and thoughts betray us as we desire to have something and someone else other than our spouse in marriage.

As I meditate on that issue and read through Hosea 4, I am again confronted with the why.  Why does Gomer, who has been pursued by Hosea, go back to her adulterous ways?  Why does Judah, who has been relentlessly pursued by Yahweh, go back consistently to her adulterous ways?

It seems to me that the issue is the desire we have to seek pleasure outside of real relationship because real relationships take work and challenge us to be forgiving.  I think of all the men and women I’ve talked to over the years who have been unfaithful and how often the underlying issue has been the broken relationship with their spouse that leads them to believe that sexual fulfillment outside of their marriage relationship is better.  The challenge (it seems to me) with faithfulness to one person over a long period of time is that once you get to really know somebody, you realize that they are just as broken and sinful as you are.  In order to pursue them relationally, you have to serve them, sacrifice for them, and ultimately learn to regularly forgive them.  This is a LOT of work.  Why not just find that sexual pleasure from a picture on a screen or a person you don’t really know so that you don’t have to get into the mess of relationship?  We always foolishly think that the “grass is greener on the other side.”

This seems to be the warning of Proverbs 5 & 7 – that the ways of the harlot make her seem to offer something that is better and easier to have than the hard work of the marriage relationship.  But in the end, she leads to death, leading us to the slaughter.  God is not foolish – He knows what He is talking about when He commands our faithfulness in marriage.  He is protecting us from the lie we tell ourselves about the easier pleasure we will receive from the harlot.  It is easier but not better, life-taking not life-giving!  We can get the pleasure quickly, but it leads to death – our death and the destruction of the people and relationships we really care about.

To me, this is where the gospel comes in.  The gospel empowers us and frees us to do the hard work of faithfulness inside a long-term relationship.  Because Jesus has been the faithful spouse that we need (He forgives us and loves us and pursues us relentlessly), He changes our hearts toward our spouses.  He empowers us to KNOW our spouses and all their faults and flaws and sin issues and to still LOVE them faithfully – to do the hard work of forgiving them regularly.  I think marriage is the closest human relationship we have for understanding what it is like for God to relate to us (Paul makes this point explicitly in Ephesians 5).  He knows us intimately, loves us faithfully, and forgives us regularly.  If we believe that, then we will offer forgiveness to our spouses and seek pleasure in their arms, not in the arms of another.

This is one issue when it comes to our struggle with sexual sin (there are many more).  But these are just thoughts in my mind this morning about the sin beneath the sin of sexual unfaithfulness – our unwillingness to forgive our spouses and patiently, relentlessly pursue them as God has done for us in Christ.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Age of the Earth

I just finished a fascinating book by Drs. Young and Stearley (two believing professors of geology at Calvin College in Michigan) about the Bible and the age of the earth.  I have always been fascinated by the hermeneutics of Genesis 1 and the intersection of faith and science.  My background is mechanical engineering (my undergrad from Baylor), and from time to time my desire to learn from the best scientific research available takes me to books that most people don't read.  This book is one such read. 

Coming in at 460 well-researched and dense pages, The Bible, Rocks, and Time covers an immense terrain (forgive the pun).  The first 160 pages are the history of the science of geology.  The authors give us a snapshot of major figures in the study of geology and their important discoveries.  Their major point in this section of the book is to say that Christian geologists concluded that the earth was very old from an abundance of evidence before Darwin proposed his evolutionary theory and before radiometric dating was discovered.  Their summary is detailed and helpful.

The second section of the book (the next 50 pages) gives a history of the interpretation of Genesis 1.  In this section, the two geologists are obviously outside their primary area of expertise, but they do a great job of quoting major figures in church history and current biblical scholars that demonstrate the diversity of opinions on Genesis 1.  Their main point is the same conclusion that Dr. Letham comes to in his survey of early Christian teaching in the Westminster Theological Journal - http://www.meetthepuritans.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Letham-Creation.pdf - that the church has never had a monolithic position on the interpretation of Genesis 1.  Most held positions, but held them lightly as secondary positions.

The third section of the book (the next 200 pages) goes into great detail on the geological evidence itself for the antiquity of the earth (an earth that is 4.5 billion years old, not 6,000 years old).  This section is the most meaty, as this is the area of expertise of these two authors.  They cover the study of fossils, the geological column (what the layers of rocks teach us in various places around the globe), how sedimentation works, how mountains and plate tectonics works, the combination of catastrophic events and normal processes (like erosion) that have shaped the rock formations that we see today, and the history and accuracy of radiometric dating.  Their scope is expansive and their arguments are convincing.  All along the way, they interact with young-earth scientific arguments to show how the physical evidence leads to different conclusions.

The final section of the book (the last 50 pages) is all about WHY this even matters.  As a pastor, this section was the most compelling.  The authors believe that the young-earth position (that the earth is only 6000 years old) is not only terrible science, but that it is actually detrimental to the cause of the gospel.  Their argument opposes the position of YEC-proponents who believe that their defense of a 6, 24-hour day creation is necessary to proclaiming the gospel.  Drs. Young and Stearley strongly believe the opposite - that continuing to teach that the Bible only teaches a 6000-year old earth is turning a generation of young people away from Christ and ignoring a whole people group (professional scientists) away from Christ who know the truth about the age of the earth.  Here is one of their most compelling paragraphs in their final chapter:

Frequently, students are taught that the traditional six twenty-four-hour days interpretation of Genesis 1 is the only interpretation of the text that is consistent with belief in an inerrant Bible.  Often they are also misleadingly taught that the tenets of young-Earth creationism stand on equal scientific footing with mainstream geologic views of an ancient Earth.  Many young Christians have been reared to believe that this concept of creation is a virtual article of faith that represents the biblical teaching.  Those young Christians then go off to college, to a museum or to another source of knowledge where they may be exposed to legitimate geology and are stunned by the force of geologic evidence for the Earth's antiquity.  They have been personally confronted with an intellectual and spiritual fixed great gulf that is far wider than the Grand Canyon, between their newfound scientific understanding and the religious views of their youth.  To them, the Bible now becomes a flawed book.  Sensing that they have been misled about creation by the religious authorities of their youth, they lose confidence in the rest of their religious upbringing.  Such students may suffer severe shock to their faith.  They were not properly taught the truth about creation, nor were they equipped to deal with challenges to their faith.  Christians who are professional scientists have all heard far too many accounts of individuals whose spiritual journeys sound much like the scenario just described.  Let's have no shipwrecks of faith of young, vulnerable, unprepared Christian youth that can be laid at the door of the pseudo-science promoted by Christians.

Everyone of us who is raising kids to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength needs to listen carefully to these words.  May God give us the grace to teach His gospel faithfully to our children without putting any unnecessary roadblocks in the way of true and lasting faith.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Teaching Children to Respect Authority

As I'm working through the Ten Commandments this year from the pulpit, I have been struck again by the high place of the directive from God to "honor your father and mother."  The commandments are broken down into two sets - usually referred to as the two tablets (the first four that have to do with our vertical relationship with God and the second six have to do with our horizontal relationships with others).  The pivot command - commandment number five - that transitions between these two topics is the one for us to honor our parents.   At the same time that I've been studying the commandments, I've been reading the proverbs.  The proverbs are obviously concerned with each of us living with wisdom - making the best moral decision in every situation.  And the number one piece of advice that the Proverbs give to us in living wisely?  You got it - listen to your parents.  Solomon goes on and on to his sons about the importance of heeding his advice and listening to the instruction of their mother.  So, all that being said, why does God care so much about how we respond to our parents?  And how do we help our children understand the importance of following our instruction when they are young and still under our daily care?

1. Learning to respect our parents is important to God because it is the first authority relationship we have in our lives and reveals to us how we feel about God's authority in our lives.  The context of the Ten Commandments seems to be saying to us that the first horizontal relationship that demonstrates our allegiance to God is the way we relate to our parents.  In other words, kids need to learn to respect their parents so that they can learn to respect God.  As I have said many times from the pulpit, everyone lives their lives under authority.  Submission tends to be a nasty word in our culture because it implies a lack of independence and individuality, but in reality, we all have to submit every day.  We have employers and police officers and government officials and church leadership and others who make decisions every day that impact our lives.  We are called by Scripture to respectfully submit to their authority.  Why?  Because God teaches us how to follow His authority and direction by teaching us to follow human authority.  Kids need to learn to respect and honor their parents so that they will learn to respect and honor God.  God instituted the family and the leadership of parents in the home to teach children what it is like to live under His authority.  As we help our kids respect and listen to us, we are helping them respect and listen to God.

2. Learning to respect our parents is important to God because all other human relationships flow from this first relationship.  The second half of the Ten Commandments cover many different kinds of human relationships (those with strangers, spouses, friends, and neighbors).  The way the commandments read to me in order show that our relationship with mom and dad at home will impact how all of these other relationships work out.  In other words, if a child struggles at honor Mom and Dad, he will struggle to honor his spouse, love his neighbor, and respect his co-workers.  All of these relationships are intermingled.  Parents, we have a high calling to teach our kids to respect our authority not just because it helps them understand God, but also because it helps them learn how to relate in a healthy way to others.  If a child is disrespectful at home to his parents, he will be disrespectful to his teachers, his coaches, his peers, his boss, etc.  They are all connected.

3. As parents, we need to be especially aware of influences that teach our children that disrespect to their parents is acceptable and normal.  While all parents work hard to keep grossly immoral influences away from their kids, we can struggle to filter those influences that encourage a disrespectful attitude toward parental authority.  A disrespectful tone or attitude usually doesn't show up as blatantly inappropriate because the parents in TV shows have done something that seems to deserve the disdain of the children.  In fact, our cultural dialogue over the last thirty years has been more about absent parents than disrespectful children.  When parents are divorcing or overworking or emotionally distant from their kids, our highest priority as a culture can seem to be to get parents in line.  And while I agree that parents (myself included!) need lots of help and grace and instruction, the Bible makes the case over and over again for how children should respect and honor their parents.  As parents, I believe that you and I have a heavy responsibility to make sure that our kids learn respect for authority from an early age.

Ultimately, the command to honor our parents is the fifth command, not the first.  It follows the command to not have any other gods before the true God.  I repeat this at the end of this post, because I have seen the danger of parents who develop children who live in dependence on their parents and never learn to stand on their own two feet.  We are called to honor our parents, but not worship them.  As parents, we are called to teach our kids to love God first and in response to God's instruction, to respect our authority.  In the end, I don't believe these are two separate goals.  They work together every day.  As parents, we help our kids love God first and most as we model that for them and help them to relate to us in honor and respect.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book Notes: Outlive Your Life (3/5)

As a preacher myself, I have always appreciated Max Lucado's ability to tell a great story and use inspiring illustrations.  In fact, I have used in the past and probably will use again in the future some of his illustrations as they can be immensely helpful in up-front communication.  Outlive Your Life reads like a book full of Lucado's best sermon illustrations from his messages in the book of Acts.  While interesting by themselves, the stories and illustrations don't give the book the unity it so desperately needs.  What is this book really about?  Is it an exposition of the book of Acts?  Is Max showing us how to live like the apostles?  Is he calling us to live for the cause of compassion and justice?  Is he encouraging us to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with all peoples?  Is the book a devotional guide on how to get outside our personal shells?  Is it a call to prayer?  A call to courage?

In reality, the book is all of that and more.  I think Lucado desires the main narrative to be one of helping those in need, with the book of Acts as his structural support.  However, with his amazing repertoire of illustrations and stories and personal adventures, the book goes too many directions at once.   The chapters are really short moral exhortations built on a biblical theme taken from one verse in Acts.  While each chapters stands on it's own and is individually inspiring, the connections between chapters are not clear.  And here is why that is problematic: the book of Acts is historical narrative.  The author Luke is putting stories together and ordering his writing for a reason.  Context matters and the arc of the book of Acts is important to understanding the individual stories.

I make that observation to ask a question that I wish Lucado had spent more time with in his book because I think it is the foundational question of the book of Acts.  What about the apostles' encounter with Jesus's life, death, and resurrection and their subsequent filling by the Holy Spirit had moved them from "regular Joe's" to courageous evangelists and compassionate missionaries?  And second, what about their message (the gospel of the Risen Christ) made them especially considerate of the hurting and needy?  While Christians today need a reminder of the moral example of the early church, we even more need a reminder of what they believed that led them to live that way.  We can be told inspiring stories and given encouraging reminders to live for others, but if our worldview does not support that lifestyle, the changes will only last as long as the emotions we feel from reading the stories.