Sunday, March 27, 2011

What's So Bad About Greed?

If there is anyone who can help you with your finances, it is Jesus. He is the most Generous! He gave his life on a cross for us, so how much more is He willing to give us now?! If you are in a financial prison, you did not follow Jesus there. It was greed and greed always brings about death. If you are in the middle of a life of greed, something in you is dead or dying. It could be your conscience, it could be your marriage or it could be your home, but it is not from Jesus.

In the second part his series, "Upgrade", Perry Noble's opening remarks on "Greed" begin with a recollection: "When I was in college, my freshman year at Anderson University, I never ever changed or washed my sheets all semester.  See, some of you guys are saying, "What? (What's the big deal?)".  Others of you are jaw dropped.  My thinking was, since I showered at night, that I was always clean and there was then no reason to worry about changing the sheets.  When I finally changed them, though, they stood straight up by themselves and they walked themselves to the wash!  Now, many of you approach your faith like I approach my sheets.

I gave my life to Christ in May of 1990, but there were two major areas that I did not surrender to God until 1999.  One of those areas I will cover another time, but my finances were the second area. My finances were OUT OF CONTROL.  I will tell you this; based on my experience, you show me the most out of control area of your life and I will show you the area of your life God does not control. 

I come from a pretty poor background.  When I accepted Christ, my dad and I lived at poverty level.  My dad was on Disability and received $980 a month.  I worked two jobs and basically worked from 5am to 11pm.  We lived in a trailer for $40 a week in rent.  There was one night when our utilities were cut off and we almost froze to death in our own home.  When I graduated from college, I came out of there with $35,000 in student loan debt.  Then, I discovered VISA.  Ooooohhh.  I was riding down the road with my VISA in my pocket and I saw this gun I had to have, so I bought it.  I was ready for "Red Dawn".  A few nights later, a friend invited me to OutBack.  I didn't have money, but I had VISA!  When I saw how low the minimum payments were, I couldn't help but use the card again and again and again.  I helped my father with his debt using VISA.  Embarassingly, when I went to buy furniture before my wife and I got married, my credit was not good.  So, by the time we were married, I owed well over $100,000.  It was time to pay down the debt!!"  So, Perry put a plan in place and he is now debt free. 

Now, if you want to be debt free, ask yourself three questions:

1) Is Jesus first in your life?

Genesis 2:15-16 says, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;" 

Look at this!  The first 3 words God said to man was YOU ARE FREE.  It wasn't "Stop that", "Hush" or "Worship Me".  It was "You are free".  BUT, look at what then comes in the verse:  "but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” 

He was basically saying, "If you touch what is mine, you will die."  So, God is very generous with the Garden of Eden, but asks that a small portion of the garden be His.  

To illustrate the God's generosity, Perry calls some volunteers up on the stage.  He wants a middle school kid, a high school student and a college student volunteer.  The criteria for each of them is that they need to be flat broke.  He gives the high school student $10 and asks him to give $1 to the church.  Perry asks, "Am I a generous man?"  Then he gives the middle school kid $100 and asks him to give $10.  "Am I a generous man?"  Then Perry gives a broke college student $1000 and asks her to give $100.  Then he asks, "Am I a generous man?"  During the demonstation, the college student, a young girl, says she is trying to go to Kenya (sounds like a mission trip).  Perry pauses for a moment and then says, "Newspring is going to cover that."  In an emotional moment, the entire church stands to applaud the blessing.  "Mmmmm.  I could go home now!  Get those offer baskets back out!" 

Everything the audience saw and felt is what God does.  The audience watched as three people were blessed.  Joshua 7 talks about how the Israelites were going to conquer Jericho.  It was the first city His people were going to takeover when they came out of Egypt.  But God told Moses that no one was to touch any of the belongings of that city because it was the first city he was going to let Israel conquer (presumably among many).  Well, a few days later, the Israelites went to conquer another city, but they got their butts whipped!  Moses went to God and said, "What!?!  You said we would win! What happened?"  And God told Moses that someone in the population had touched some goods from Jericho.  When Moses investigated, he found that a man named Achan had, in fact, disobeyed God and had taken some things for himself. 

Joshua 7:20-21 - Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent, and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath. They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the Lord.

Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold bar, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord bring trouble on you today.”  Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since.

This passage shows us that our greed affects everyone around us.  All of them suffer the consequences as well.

1 Kings 3:4 talks about Solomon, "who went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, 'Ask for whatever you want me to give you.'"

Solomon definitely got an upgrade after he generously gave to God, wouldn't you say? 

In Luke 12:12-15, we find someone in the crowd said to (Jesus), “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ "Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’  “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

In America, the theme is "He Who Dies with the Most Toys Wins". But the Bible says, "He Who Dies with the Most Toys Dies"  God takes Greed seriously and so should we.

There is nothing wrong with us having things. The problem is when those things have us! This is especially true when it comes to robbing God.  How dare we do that!

1 Corinthians 6:9-12  Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Ephesians 5:3-5   But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Colossians 3:5-6  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

2. Is what is important to God important to me? 

"I used to play church is rough!...My wife would come and watch me and cheer me on...but as time went on, I noticed she wasn't paying attention to me.  Are you reading a book?   He later learned that she didn't like basketball.  The only reason she went to watch was because she loved Perry.  It was important to her because it was important to Perry. 

What is the most important institution to God?  The church! Giving to the church what God asks should be a priority.  In Acts, there is a guy named Barnabus who gave and, because of his generosity was made a leader in the church. 

1 Corinthians 16:1-2   Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do.  On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.

In Revelation, it talks about how, when everything has passed away and everything has been destroyed, the only thing remaining will be Christ and His Bride; the Church.  That's a pretty good investment, huh? 

3. What Adjustments Do I Need to Make?

What classes do you need to take to learn about Biblical finances?  What personal adjustments do you need to make to cut back or to be able to give to God?  

You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

How Do I Escape the Prison of Unforgiveness?

Starting his new series called "Upgrade", Perry Noble says he was thinking about having music in cars. It obviously wasn't always this way.  Back in 1980, his parents bought a car that had an 8-track tape player in it.  "We rocked out the 8-track!!  And my mom bought the Loretta Lynn 8-track 'Coal Miner's Daughter'...I literally can sing every song in (that album)'s something that I am tortured with to this day...they bought a Rosanne Cash album and Mickey Gilley...but then and upgrade come along"  The first upgrade was casset tapes.  "I remember getting Dire Strait's 'Brother in Arms'."  Then the Sony Walkman upgrade came out.  But then the CD upgrade came out and finally, the I-Pod came out and has revolutionized everything.  Yet even with the I-Pod, we want to upgrade to each new version.  We all want and like upgrades.  We upgrade our cars, we upgrade our televisions we upgrade our computers and we upgrade our homes.  But there are many people who became Christians years and years ago, but they don't want to "upgrade" their faith!! 

In life we have physical laws and spiritual laws.  If we violate physical laws, there are consequences.  Likewise, the same holds true for spiritual laws.  Nobody hearing this believes they are an exception to physical laws.  If any one of us jumps off a building, we all know we will splatter on the concrete.  However, it seems that many people feel they are exception to spiritual laws, but these laws hold equally punishing consequences as well!  Matthew 6:14 says;

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

It is a sin to knowingly hang on to bitterness and unforgiveness in a spiritual life.  Jesus will not let us be comfortable living our life this way.  What we do to ourselves when we hold on to these things is we end up in our own personal prison.  To illustrate this, Perry goes into a cage on the stage.  "This is where we end up...and we can end up living our lives this way for the next 10, 20 or 30 years...but today I am going to talk to you about how to get out of this prison
Matthew 18:21 starts, "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Seven is the number of completion and was a number used in a spiritual sense many times back in Peter's day.  Jesus, who basically said, "Forgiven people forgive people", responds by saying "“I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." What He means is, not only should we forgive people, but we should continue to forgive them on an ongoing basis. 

What these verses do not say is that Jesus said we SHOULD forgive people because if there is something in our lives that we should do, we simply don't do it!  We should work out, we should visit family more, we should be more disciplined.  We should, we should, we should.   Some people think, "I can't forgive other people until I forgive myself."  But forgiveness is not achieved; it is received. 

Jesus continues with a parable. "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants."  One day, we will stand before a God where our accounts will be settled.  "As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt."  If we are Christians and you have prayed to received Christ as a forgiveness for your sins, but you have not been able to forgive others, this is your story. 

It is easy to see others sin, but it is difficult to see our own.  Several years ago, Perry's mom went on a crazy health kick that was insane and it affected everyone in the house.  They were taking pills and drinking Aloe Vera juice.  There was absolutely no sugar in the diet.  So, one night, Perry went to a friend's house and ate an entire box of Fruity Pebbles.  His mom was upset with him and said that he wouldn't be able to go over to the friend's house because it was bad for his diet.  She really drilled into Perry the notion of taking care of his body.   After Perry's mom died, his step-dad took him grocery shopping and asked Perry what kind of cereal his mother bought him.  Of course, what kind of cereal do you think Perry picked out?  Of course...  Fruity Pebbles!   It was a lie and it was a sin. 

Another point Perry makes; "If you came up and smacked me today, we might fight.  But let's say you got a chance to smack Barack Obama.  'It's not gonna go good for you...because there are secret service men surrounding him who have waited all their lives to kill someone!!'"  They will only ask questions after they've popped a cap in you!  The same is true about lying.  If you lie to a Federal Judge.  It will not go well for you!!  How much worse would then be then, if we lie to the Creator of the Universe?  Sin is ultimately against the God.  There are huge consequences of sin and all of us either needed to be saved from our sin or currently need to be saved from it. 

Jesus goes on with His parable, “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go." This is Jesus! He cancelled our debts when the enemy was about to foreclose on us.

This is a great story about forgiveness, but then the story takes an unbelievable turn. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt."  It is equally disturbing that we refuse to forgive people who have wronged us when Jesus has forgiven us. 

To our credit, we all know that forgiveness is hard!  Right?  Here are a few pointers that might help us to deal with our own unforgiveness.

1. We have to deal with the hurt. 

In the verse, the forgiven servant found someone who ligitimately owed him money and he was angered because it affected his being able to pay back the king. 

Perry remembers several incidents as a child, that ligitimately made him mad.  Brian Jones gave him a bloody nose.  Then there was Roy Pettit in the 4th grade.  "I got a paddling from Mrs. Natalie but her paddles never hurt and 'I was a frequent customer'...Me and Donny Farmer had gotten a paddling and I walked into class saying 'didn't hurt, didnt hurt'...then Roy Pettit told the teacher what I said...So I got a 2-for-1 that day...and the second one was from the Principal, and it hurt!!...I remember a girl who broke up with me."  It's easy to find people who have hurt us.  The enemy will keep them fresh in our mind. 

There are certainly more serious cases of forgiveness.  There are people reading this who have been raped, abandoned or molested.  But Jesus says we have to deal with these.  Just dealing with the emotions around these incidents can be hard.  "I'm not talking about something that is happening currently like living in a currently abusive situation."  In this case, get out of the house today.  Jesus is talking about dealing with pain from the past.

2. We have to avoid handling these situations ourselves. 

We all love to handle things ourselves.  "My wife is so godly...our little girl Karis came home one day talking about how a little boy had talked mean to her...everything my wife told her was godly...she told Karis to forgive him and to talk to him etc."  But that night, when his wife asked Perry what he would have told his daughter, here is Perry's reply:

"There is a spot on a man that, if he's ever messing with you, it's called the 'no-no-special-place...and it will stop any man at any time and when you kick him there and when he bends over, you take your knee and put it on his nose... it will bring blood and he will pass out.  Then you stand over him and talk about his momma.  Doesn't that feel good?!!"  Obviously kidding, Perry's point is that our Heavenly Father feels the same towards us when it comes to protecting His children. Romans 12:17 says,

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone."

Some of us deal those who have hurt us by by gossiping or slandering.  We hope for bad things to happen to these people.  But we have to avoid wanting to have our way immediately.  Paul tells us, "Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

When Perry recently heard about, not one child who had been talking mean to his daughter, but 3 boys, he was furious.  He wanted to go to the school and deal with each of them.  "I could chuck three-year-olds all day!  Did you know that there's not a three-year-old on the planet who is a match for me?...Likewise, there's not a man on the planet who is a match for your God"
Perry was talking about how, when he was 4 years, he got locked in the bathroom and how it was during a time when he had a teacher, Mrs. Moore (who he nicknamed Satan), was very frustrated that he couldn't get out. When he finally did get out, his teacher slapped him with an open palm.  "I couldn't wait to tell my daddy!"  That night, at the table, Perry shared what happened with his parents.  His daddy said, "Why don't you go out and play...and, btw, you're not going to school tommorrow.  I am"  Perry doesn't really know what happened, but his father told me a few years later that when he had gone to the school, the principal brought the teacher in to apologize.   Perry's father said, "Well, I brought my wife in to whip her $%#@."   My dad completely handled the situation and all I had to do was tell him!!  Similarly, your Heavenly Father will handle it.  Trust Him! 
Have you ever played "Angry Birds"?  These birds are angry!! 

These pigs keep stealing the birds' eggs and it makes the birds angry.  So they go after the pigs to get their eggs back.  But if you look at the game, the birds keep killing themselves.  The lesson here?  It only hurts us when we seek out our own justice.  Look at what happens next in the parable:
When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”  We put ourselves in a prison with unforgiveness! 

3. Forgiveness is the KEY to free us from our personal prison. 

When we choose to use the key that God has given us, we free ourselves.  This is the key to a life of abundance.  Karis is learning how to ride a bicycle.  Perry and his wife took her to an area where it was safe to teach her how to ride.  It was frustrating Perry because Karis kept braking because she was scared.  Perry told her to trust him.  "Do not brake...fix your eyes on me and trust me...I will take care of you". 
We have to do this with our God.  We have to look in His eyes.  We have to trust Him.  Do not brake on your walk with God.  He will take care of you.  Make a choice to forgive and let your Heavenly Father deal with it. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

What Is the Holy Spirit?

"We're doing this series called 'The Name'", opens Louie Giglio.  We have all been charged to carry the name of Jesus and it is a big deal.  We often get caught up in the daily grinds of life and forget why we're here in the first place!  How do we carry on His name on a day-to-day basis?   "I think it is in starting the day with Jesus."  Every day we should come to God in His Word.  Even for Louie, who is regularly on tour, he frequently gets caught up in the logistics of his ministry rather than focusing personally on the name of Jesus! 

In the book of Acts (chapters 1 & 2), after Jesus has been raised from the dead, He appears to the Apostles, giving them great confidence that He was who He said He was, but then Jesus ascends into Heaven and leaves them.  However, remember that when Jesus left the Apostles, He promised to leave with them the Holy Spirit.   Luke recounts these events in his New Testament book.  Before Jesus had died, he had many questions for Jesus.  Having asked Him when the kingdom of Heaven would descend,  Jesus had responded that no one would know the time.  "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth."  So, our responsibility, as laid out by Jesus Himself, is chrystal clear.  That whole "power" thing serves for one purpose; to carry out the name of Jesus.  This is the assignment! 

Louie says we are not to engage in our purposes and our agendas, but rather to reorder our lives to carry the name of Jesus and His resurrection.  Louie pauses and points out that it is so easy to hear this charge and to be mindful of a message like this, but to then return to our every day habits without purposeful intent.  Does this mean that the Holy Spirit hasn't really come into our lives?  What is the evidence that we rely on the Holy Spirit?  As we read in Acts, we see that anyone the Holy Spirit touches cannot help but scream out the name of Jesus. 

Look in Acts 2:1.  It describes an event where the Apostles have gathered and a wind blows in and "the whole house was filled up".  It seemed like fire came down and touched each person causing them to speak in tongues.  It was like God Himself had descended upon the house! 

Most of us know that there is something that has to happen that is more than what is happening.  When the Spirit came, what is the first thing the Apostles did?  What do you think was their first reaction??   Read the text.  They started speaking.  Now, they were speaking in other tongues, but not "speaking in tongues".  They were speaking in other languages!  How do we know this?  Because a crowd gathered in amazement and witnessed it.  People were in the city from all over the world and they heard these men speaking about the name of Jesus in all of their own languages.  Knowing these men were from Galilee, they could see this was a miracle.  In the midst of this, Peter stands up and speaks to the crowd.  "This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel."  When the Spirit comes, people speak about Jesus...

Peter speaks to the crowd, “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[a] put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. 24 But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him."

That day, our church was born. But God knew that, even though the birth of the church was powerful, its people would become overwhelmed with life in time.  They would begin, over time, to lose fervor, so God knew He had to give them something more. 

Read in Chapter 3 the incident of a crippled man;  "Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called "Beautiful", where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.  Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.  Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.  When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Look at this story.  This lame man had gone to this temple every single day.  The apostles told him that they didn't have anything for this man at all.  ALL THEY HAD WAS THE NAME OF JESUS.  They didn't give him money, a sandwich or clothes, just Jesus' name.  We have that same power over us as Christians, as "Christ in us".  We might want to do something that would appear to help these people at their point of need.  We can certainly do that, but how often do we want to stop, help the person, but then say, "Look at me", and "Don't think of this help as what you've experienced from thousands of others who have just passed by and thrown out leftover change"?!  Look at me and hear the name of Jesus! 

There is power in that name.  In Luke 4, a demon possessed man is approached by Jesus, and the demon immediately screams out to Him because he knows who Jesus was!  Jesus then casts out the demon and, at the same time, silences the demon saying that the people are not yet ready to know who He is. 

Years ago, Louie and Chris Tomlin were touring in Washington, D.C. and someone asked if they would be interested in seeing the White House.  His crowd of musicians gathered where they were told and they were picked up by this same guy in a maroon van.  "This guy was full 10 and 2, you know?"  The driver seemed to have all the confidence in the world.  As they watched intently from the back of the van, it pulled past pilons, passed armed guards and up to the security gate.  They're driver rolled his window down and said, "I've got Chris Tomlin and his band in the back here and we're here for a 10:00 appointment with the President."  Louie was shell-shocked.  "We were just going to tour the White House, but this guy thought that meant they were going to see the President!"  He thought that if he went to the White House and simply mentioned the name of Chris Tomlin, that everyone would step aside and let them in!  The security guard at the gate was on the defensive, put his hand on his holster and instructed the man to slowly put the van in reverse and to exit the premises.  

You have to be careful that you don't take away the name of Jesus and then speak on any purpose thinking God will do whatever you ask.  As an example, look later in Acts where these seven Jewish men attempt to cast out a demon in the name of Jesus (and with the authority of Paul).  The demon responds by saying, basically, "I know who Paul is and who Jesus is, but who are you?"  Then the demon severely beats all seven of the men to a pulp, strips them of all their clothes and chases them back into a city. 

We have to be careful to use the name of the Holy Spirit, not for our purposes, but for His.  Certainly, we have power in His name, but only power for what He wants to do.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How To Build Strong Children

Beginning today's message, Johnson Bowie is on stage with his wife, Summer, closing out a series about family called "Raising the Next Generation".  Getting questions from the audience and online, Johnson and Summer open with the intent of their message; How to Build Strong Children.   All of our children have potential.  We want our kids to grow up as believers and as leaders.  Our kids are the future prophets, apostles and teachers. 

A question that came in from the Internet is (all questions are in green); What is the most important thing to know as a parent?  The answer is a long list, but the thing that seemed to stick out is the fact that parenting is intentional.

Proverbs 22:6 says,  "Train up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it."

We are training up adults.  We are training them intentionally in the ways of the Lord.  Parenting doesn't just happen where kids are raised up to love God.  With this in mind, Johnson announces that they are going to list out the top 10 things to do when raising a child.  These points apply in virtually any scenario where kids are being brought up. 

1. Teach them to love God and to love His Word.  Kids must know that.  If we fail at everything else, this is the one thing to be sure we do.  Johnson's dad is a Presbyterian minister.  His family virtually never missed church, but there are way too many people who go regularly to church and are not saved.  In the story of Samuel, Samuel's mother Hannah prayed to the Lord and promised that, if the Lord would give her a child, she would dedicate him to the Lord all of his days.  In 1 Samuel 3, it talks about how Samuel kept waking up his guardian, Eli, because he kept hearing a voice (it was God), but as the Bible then says, "he did not yet know the Lord".  By this age, Samuel was being trained up in the temple every day!  He was active in the rituals, the prayers, the ministries and every aspect, but he didn't know the Lord!  It is a tough thing to reach the heart, but it is the responsibility of the parents to try and culture the personal relationship with Christ. 

Slugs & Bugs - God Made Me from Scott Brignac on Vimeo.

2. Train them in godliness.  This isn't telling and teaching, this is TRAINING.  We have to roll up our sleeves and show them what God loves and what God hates.  But just as big as the what is the why, we have to give the kids a vision of what we are living for.  "Because I said so..." doesn't get it.  If there is no vision, kids will rebel.  When parents are not there, the kids have to know that God is there. Why is it that Christian girls are more apt to involve themselves in oral sex?  Because they are obviously missing the point; that their bodies are temples of God!   The vision, in this case, is NOT virginity; It's about PURITY.

Our job as parents is to have the hard conversations.  We can't let the world teach them.  We have to teach them.  We have to be the ones who take on the awkward tasks.  "When you bought the mini van, you became awkward anyway."  It starts in the home!  We have to model this, though.  Kids can sniff out hypocracy a mile away.  We are the gatekeepers. 

However, even as we teach our kids God's Word, we have to give our children a chance to walk out their faith.  Otherwise, overprotected kids will fall away and fail. We would rather our kids fail at home than away, right?

Another question that came in is; What happens when our kids are around parents with different values?  This is another hard conversation.  It is one where parents ask other parents to be honored on certain points.  If this is blown off, we then train our kids why our position is the way it is and where in the Bible it says that this is why God says this. 

3. Don't be afraid to discipline.  "How many of you have been around undisciplined children?"  Your kids will be thankful later on!  Proverbs 19:18 says, "Discipline your children while there is still hope; otherwise you will ruin their lives."  With vision, don't be afraid to make tough decisions.  Proverbs 13:24 says, "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves his son disciplines him promptly."  If our children know we love them, then they will be able to understand that we have to discipline. Also, when disciplining, the parents have to be on the same page, otherwise the kid sees divisiveness.  What's more, treat all children, even adopted children, equally. 

What do I do if my child is in unrepentent sin?  It is a hard question to answer, but a) have the hard conversation, b) bring in some scripture, c) wrap your appeal in love and d) do not underestimate the power of prayer. 

4. Develope deep personal relationships with them.  It is easy for this to turn into a controlling environment.  But we have to have a home of love to balance discipline.  Kids will resent you and the faith if they don't feel love from you.  Your kids should know that they are the most important thing to them.  Important:  You are going to get more of what you celebrate.  If you will encourage rather than scold, the encouragement will yield far more.

5 Encourage them to honor and respect authority The Fifth commandment is to Honor your Father and Mother.  If we can teach our kids to do that at home, they will learn to honor others.  There has to be a culture of honor.  DO NOT PUT DOWN YOUR SPOUSE in front of the kids. 

6. Teach your kids to forgive others.  Matthew 18, the scripture says that, if we have an offense against someone, we have to confront them.  We have to model for our kids how to forgive. 

7.  Challenge them to stand for what is right, not for what is popular.  We have a whole generation of kids who are spineless and who do not stand.  We have to teach them that the priority is what is right in God's eyes.  Teach your kids that you and God will always love them no matter what.  But they have to know that most people do not stand for what is right.  Let them know that you will back them up here! 

8. Disciple them to embrace a strong work effort.  Teach and encourage your children to do good jobs.  You are raising future adults.  It is never too late.  Teach them responsibility and how to earn money.  Teach them how to do laundry and how to

9. Direct them to fulfull their God-ordained purpose.  Help them to live every day for their purpose.  Teach them that God cares what they do with their time.  We have to come alongside them and help them to step into their future.  The role of the mother is affirmation.  But the role of the father is confirmation.  Confirmation is laying out purpose and vision.  Confirmation also speaks out value, "You didn't just do good (affirmation), you ARE good (confirmation)."

10. Inspire them to love all people.  Model to them that, since everyone matters to God, they matter to us.  We have to love people.  In John 13, "As I have loved you, so must you love others."  Give money to the guy on the street. If someone needs you, reach out to them. 

Recently, Johnson took his son downtown to Safehouse Ministries.  Beforehand, Johnson explained that there were many different people that they would see who didn't believe like or see the world like they do.  But when he picked up his son from school, someone had laughed at him in class about going to minister to the homeless. "How did that make you feel?"  was Johnson's response.  "I'll never forget his answer"... "It made me feel bad for the homeless guy. 

Already, Johnson could see his son learning to love what God loves and to hate what God hates!