Wisdom Is Learned

Seeking Daily the Heart of God

Today’s guest post is by Boyd Bailey, author of the Wisdom Hunters devotionals—on sale for just 99 cents each—as well as the founder of Wisdom Hunters Inc., a ministry that’s impacted people in over 86 countries through a daily-devotion blog and devotional books.

“The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity . . .” —Proverbs 1:1–3

There is a definite educational element to wisdom. It does not happen in a spiritual vacuum or without intellectual effort. Those who excel in becoming wise learn to educate themselves in the ways of wisdom. They read the Bible and other writings that define wisdom, with a filter of faith in God. There are wise sayings outside of Holy Writ, but beyond the context of Christ, wisdom drifts into a cheap imitation in worldly wisdom.

Therefore, for wisdom to be the most meaningful, it must incubate and grow in a teachable and humble heart. A seed of corn does not germinate on the surface of hard soil—in a similar ecosystem, seeds of wisdom bring life and insight to a heart moistened by heaven’s righteous rain. Lifetime learners understand the need to always gain wisdom. Moses, upon a foundation of faith, was educated in wisdom in preparation to become one of God’s chosen leaders.

“And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds” (Acts 7:22).

However, it’s from an unselfish motivation and a humble attitude that the Lord’s wisdom is able to transform a life. Wisdom is not for personal gain, but for the propagation of Almighty God’s agenda. A once wise man becomes a fool, when he uses divine insight for individual advantage, instead of the good of the group. What is God teaching you? How are you growing wise in your parenting, marriage, and decision-making skills?

Educators in wisdom are all around—pray for your pastor to sit at the feet of Jesus in prayer, so his mind might be molded by the Holy Spirit’s insights and instruction. Look for wisdom from faithful saints who penned timeless words, while they worked through their suffering and triumphs, as disciples of Jesus. Wisdom comes from PhDs, village preachers, and everyone in between. Wisdom abounds where the wise are found. Remember, the less you talk, the more wisdom you gain—as you listen to learn.

“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance . . .” (Proverbs 1:5).

So, be a student of your Savior Jesus’ wisdom and you will never lack for knowledge. Wisdom is what attracts your children and grandchildren to want to be with you. The wise age well—like a robust wine—while fools flounder in insecure ignorance. Wise Christians are continually educated in wisdom, so that they can prayerfully educate others.

“. . . so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known . . .” (Ephesians 3:10a).

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For a limited time, save on 11 inspirational devotionals by Boyd Bailey, founder of Wisdom Hunters.

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Why You Shouldn’t Fall in Love

Dating Like Airplanes

Today’s guest post is by Caleb Breakey, former journalist and author of Called to Stay: An Uncompromising Mission to Save Your Church. Breakey’s latest book, Dating like Airplanes: Why Just Fall in Love When You Can Fly?, offers a biblical roadmap for Christians dating in the modern world, and poses the question: why just fall in love when you can fly? Perfect for pastors, counselors, and anyone in the dating world, get Dating like Airplanes for just $7.79!

 

1. For many, dating is considered a lifestyle. How can we redefine dating so that it reflects biblical principles without being legalistic? 

We get back to the why.

Why does God give us relationship guidelines? To be cruel? Or to protect us and bless us? Then we stop making “Christian dating” about what not to do and start making it about what we do.

We sit in circles and discuss the kind of Jesus love that gets to know the other in a way that’s so far beyond physical attraction (Proverbs 19:2). The kind that goes above and beyond in showing honor (Romans 12:10). The kind that radiates patience, kindness, and truthfulness to the other, always doing what lifts up (1 Corinthians 13:4–7). The kind that clothes itself in humility and makes itself a servant to helping the other progress in character (1 Peter 5:5).

The kind that builds respect by treating the other as though he or she were a brother or sister—and the very temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16–17). The kind that speaks to the other with integrity and dignity (Titus 2:7–8) and refuses to lust with its eyes (Matthew 5:27–30). The kind that does everything it possibly can to keep the other sexually pure and emotionally whole, even if it means seeking help outside of the relationship (1 Corinthians 6:18; Proverbs 4:23; Proverbs 15:22; Proverbs 27:12). The kind that cries out for God to search itself for mixed motives and manipulative ways (Psalm 139:23–24). The kind that always plans ahead, knowing that it wants to do what’s right but far too easily chooses what’s wrong instead (Matthew 26:41).

Above all, the kind that ignites a beautiful romance by helping the other seek God first in everything (Proverbs 16:3; Matthew 6:33). The kind that sets its mind to helping the other lay up treasures in heaven, live by every word of God, and exude intimacy with Jesus (Matthew 6:19; Matthew 4:4). The kind that challenges the other to dive deeper into the abundance of Christ, gaze at his beauty, dwell on his loving-kindness, and praise him for all that he’s done (Psalm 27:4; Isaiah 63:7).

2. Do you believe there’s one special person out there for everyone? Why?

The world sells us the whimsical idea that if you just keep searching, eventually you will find your soul mate—the one person in all of creation who will fill your heart with joy, dry your every tear, and hang on your every word.

This is a lie.

Great relationships don’t happen when you find your “soul mate.” They happen when you find someone who shares your desire to fly, who wants to point to Jesus in all things, who chooses to give what’s needed most over what’s wanted now.

And this is great news.

If it were true that there were only one perfect person for you, it would be easy to question whether or not you found the right person when things got rough. In fact, you might even use this logic to justify ending a relationship and moving on to the next person you think is “the one.” This is how many people date today, always looking for the one, always hitting a snag in the relationship, and always moving on to the next person.

If you subscribe to the idea of the one, let it go. Instead focus on being the one. Focus on flying in love.

3. Many people enter into relationships believing they can change their partner—particularly if their partner isn’t a Christian, but they want them to be. What advice do you have for those people?

Going into a relationship looking to change someone is to set yourself up for extreme difficulty and pain. Relationships are not the best place for evangelism, nor are marriages the best place for trying to reform someone’s character or heart.

The entire purpose of a relationship is to discover whether or not you and your other are fit to marry. But God doesn’t want us marrying unless it’s to someone who shines with the light of Jesus (2 Corinthians 6:14). Reason tells us, then, that if someone doesn’t know Jesus, the relationship shouldn’t ever begin.

I know that isn’t easy to hear.

Perhaps you recently became a Christian but your other is not. Perhaps you’re dating a nonbeliever in hopes of introducing him or her to Jesus. And all you want is for another Christian to listen to you instead of telling you to break up.

This is a tough one, friend.

Dating someone who doesn’t know and love God is asking for a tremendous amount of heartache. If not now, then when you’re married. And if not in your early marriage, then when you have children.

So if your other doesn’t know Jesus, the very best thing you can do is break it off, surround yourself with brothers and sisters who will love you through your grief and mourning, and cling to Christ.

4. What inspired you to write Dating like Airplanes?

My wife and I traveled an unconventional road to romance. We met at ages 11 and 14—you might say that’s when we first “fell in love”—liked each other more and more as the years passed, and finally got to the point where we idolized each other. So her father separated us for two and half years—no communication allowed.

This led both of us into intense heartache and eventually extreme heart change, from each other to Jesus. And after 30 months of not knowing what it all meant for our relationship—or lack of one—her father said I could start seeing his daughter, and it was like nothing had changed between us.

At ages 19 and 17, we started dating and tried to honor God throughout our relationship. But most of the time we didn’t know how and suffered for it. That’s why writing Dating like Airplanes was so important to me. I wanted to explore how to follow Jesus in the real but raw aspect of dating so that others could do their relationship in a more Jesus-powered, beautiful way.

5. What’s the difference between flying and falling in love?

When I think of falling, I think of being out of control. There is no way to slow down. No way to navigate. Just free falling to the inevitable crash. This isn’t exactly the best image when it comes to you and the person you’re giving your heart to.

That’s when I asked, “What if you could fly instead of fall? What would that look like in a dating relationship?” The answer is that it would be steady. Controlled. Much easier to navigate and glide to wherever you want to go.

So I went to Scripture to see if flying were possible.

And it is.

I define flying as giving the other person what’s needed most instead of taking what you want now. This selfless act mirrors Jesus and is the purest expression of love you could ever embrace. The wellspring from which marriage-ready relationships flow. It’s the basis of Dating like Airplanes.

But back to the question—the difference between falling and flying is this: Falling in love breaks bones. Flying in love protects them and pursues the beautiful way of Jesus in your relationship.

6. Your book aims to ascend “to the kind of romance you so desire but doubt is possible”—what do you mean by this?

Deep down everyone wants a beautiful romance. Everyone wants a prince or princess who loves them, wants them, is committed to them, and never turns toward another person. Someone who is pure, loving, forgiving, thoughtful, humble, others oriented, and a servant.

Most people believe this is a fairytale. But that’s only partly true.

There are no perfect people out there. But there are people who believe God’s Word contains the secret to a beautiful romance, seek it passionately, and find it. In Dating like Airplanes, I try to help people get past fairytale thinking and start pursuing the beautiful way of Jesus in how they do relationships.

7. What role does the church play in someone’s dating relationship? 

When entering a relationship, you can have all sorts of resolutions and willpower. But the fact is, no one can stay strong forever. We all break. And when we do, everything falls apart . . . and trying to tie it back together is a long, tedious process.

Having the support of another in your relationship is huge. This person can be there to talk with you through your feelings and your struggles and also push you to stick to your convictions. This is where the church can play a vital role in the dating relationship.

Opening your relationship to several people who love you allows you to be bolstered with prayer, encouragement, and support. The older I get, the more I experience the amazing power of Christian community and prayer. We may never understand how it all works, but God has clearly shown us in Scripture that these aspects play a beautiful role in his economy.

Find people to pray for you and your relationship, keep you accountable to God’s standard, and be specific in your requests for help.

8. How can we equip millennials for healthy dating habits?

Talk with them about the why. Talk with them about the amazing power of reflecting Jesus—reflecting the ultimate love one person can give another—in their relationships. Discuss what they can do to set themselves up for a beautiful relationship, not just thump them with rule after rule of what not to do.

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There’s never been a more important time to reevaluate how we view dating and relationships. Get a biblical perspective, with powerful and relatable advice: download Dating like Airplanes: Why Just Fall in Love When You Can Fly? for just $7.79 on Vyrso!

 

 

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Why Are We So Quick to Leave the Church?

The Unfinished Church

Today’s guest post is by Rob Bentz, the pastor of small groups at Woodmen Valley Chapel in Colorado Springs and a featured blogger for SmallGroupMinistry.com. His first book, The Unfinished Church: God’s Broken and Redeemed Work-in-Progress tackles the harmful attitude that’s becoming a cultural norm—the one that says: “I love Jesus, but hate the church.” Drawing on his experience as a pastor, Bentz helps those disenchanted with the church to rediscover its importance for the Christian life by examining the biblical, theological, and historical reasons why Christ’s followers should embrace gospel-centered community—even when it’s hard. Pre-order this honest look at the church for just $7.79!

I like to eat at Chili’s. I like to shop at Eddie Bauer. I like to sit down for coffee and conversation with friends at the locally owned coffee shop. And I typically enjoy my experience at all three of these favorite locations.

But occasionally, something can get a bit sideways. Sometimes the food is served cold, or they don’t have my size, or every seat in the establishment is full. Yet, I return again and again, offering a measure of grace to the places and people I value.

I suspect you have a few favorite places, too—places where you enjoy the products, the familiar faces, and the atmosphere so much that you’re willing to overlook a few mishaps.

Yet one environment that rarely receives this sort of social grace is the very place where it ought to be on display the most: the church.

Recently, a woman told me that she decided to leave her church community because of one difficult and awkward interaction. One! One rough conversation. One less-than-pleasant experience. That’s all it took to for her to say goodbye. The church that she called home for years is now just some place that she used to go.

She’s not alone. Many people leave their church community for seemingly insignificant or overblown issues. The question we must ask is why? Why is the first choice to pull up roots and move on? Why is the knee-jerk reaction to leave? This isn’t how we respond to our favorite coffee shop. We don’t get our feelings bruised, puff up our chest, and boldly decide never to return.

Perhaps walking away from our community of faith is easy because we see so clearly the faults of our faith family. Perhaps it’s just too difficult for sinners to look past the sins of others to get a true glimpse of how God sees them.

It seems as though we easily forget that we’re all broken people. We forget that we’re all striving to live out our faith in Christ in honest, real, tangible ways the best way we know how. We forget that God is at work in each of our lives, redeeming us from the ways we’ve been beaten up by the sins of others and by our own sinful choices and struggles.

Without a clear and accurate picture of Jesus’ sacrificial payment on behalf of his people, you and I won’t see each other accurately. We will see the sin that’s stained us. We will feel the rough edges. When we dismiss other members of God’s church so quickly, we’re ultimately dismissing God and his sanctifying work in the life others.

To be a part of God’s church requires more relational grace than is easily given. It challenges us to see one another as God sees us—redeemed men and women who are part of a community that God is redeeming called his church. This is something to fight for, wrestle with, and champion—not something to simply turn and leave behind.

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Learn more about why the church is an integral piece in the Christian life and how the modern church can embrace gospel-centered community: pre-order The Unfinished Church: God’s Broken and Redeemed Work-in-Progress today for just $7.79!

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Dads: the 2 Most Important Things You Need to Model

The Shepherd Leader at Home

Today’s guest post is by Timothy Witmer, author of The Shepherd Leader at Home: Knowing, Leading, Protecting, and Providing for Your Family. Dr. Witmer is also professor of practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, and he has been the senior pastor at Crossroads Community Church since 1986. In today’s post, Dr. Witmer takes us through the two most important things dads need to model:

1. Put the Lord first

On Father’s Day, I’ll be in the same place doing the same thing that I’ve done for the past 35 years. No, not in my church preaching a Father’s Day sermon. Actually, despite the fact that I’ve been in ministry for 35 years, I’ve never preached on Father’s Day. But I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

I remember many services in the brightly painted, white, clapboard chapel nestled on a mountainside overlooking Pine Creek, one of the most beautiful valleys you could ever imagine. The sound of the church bell rings across the valley, signaling the beginning of the service. The opening hymn is “Faith of Our Fathers,” sung to the accompaniment of a foot-pumped organ that sounds more like an accordion. To my right, I can hear the clear tenor voice of my dad. Soon we will hear a simple, clear, heart-stirring challenge from the lay pastor about the need to take our biblical responsibilities of fatherhood seriously.

As I’ve sat in that pew over the years, my heart has overflowed with gratitude to God for what I learned about fatherhood from my dad. The very fact that we were there reminded me of the importance of keeping my priorities in order. It was 10 a.m. on Sunday morning and we were on vacation. It was my parents’ only Sunday away, but we were in church. It was never debated or in doubt. We were going to worship the Lord. Dad was the hardest-working man I’ve ever known, but church attendance was never compromised all year long. The Lord was a priority.

2. Make time for family

We were also there because my dad saw the importance of making time for family. Our annual trip to the mountains became an anchor in our lives. It was a time of fun and outdoor activities fueled by lots of fattening food. But most importantly, there was extended time together in which long conversations and laughter echoed from the back porch across that same valley. Relationships were deepened and mutual respect grew.

I suppose the bottom line is that my dad modeled these priorities. He was a good example to his four sons. The priorities of faith and family cannot be taught by mere talk, but must be modeled. What makes us think that our children will take seriously things that we don’t? Dad didn’t talk a lot, but his actions clearly communicated the importance of faith and family. Words from the last stanza of “Faith of Our Fathers” are appropriate here:

And preach thee, too, as love knows how
By kindly words and virtuous life.

Be the father God designed you to be

I must admit that, as I’ve sat in that pew over the years, I’ve often been convicted of my shortcomings—either by the pastor’s message or by my own reflections that flood into my mind. But I’m also reminded of the forgiving grace of my heavenly Father and the persistent presence of his spirit to help me to become the dad and husband that I ought to be.

So that’s where I’ll be, again, this Father’s Day. My dad’s been with the Lord for some years now. I know I’ll have difficulty singing “Faith of Our Fathers” as the tears well up in my eyes. My efforts to keep the tears from spilling down my cheeks are futile. My wife is ready with an understanding look and a tissue or two. She is ready because she knows what this means to me. She knows what I’m thinking. But she also knows that my tears are not tears of sadness, but tears of gratitude to God. Now there are the voices of my children and grandchildren around me, hopefully learning the same lessons that I learned for so many years from my dad in that brightly painted, white, clapboard chapel on the mountainside.

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Learn more about the importance of fatherhood and how to be a strong leader at home. In The Shepherd Leader at Home, Dr. Witmer offers a biblical framework for knowing, leading, protecting, and providing for your family. Get this highly respected and well-loved resource: download The Shepherd Leader at Home today!

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The Measure of a Man: 4 Decades Later and Still Changing Lives

The Measure of a Man

Today’s guest post is by Dr. Gene Getz, senior pastor at Fellowship Bible Church North in Plano, Texas, and author of the bestselling book The Measure of a Man: Twenty Attributes of a Godly Man. More than 30,000 people currently attend the Dallas churches he has started, while even more Fellowship churches span the globe. Dr. Getz is the author of more than 50 books, the host of the 15-minute daily radio program Renewal, and the director of the Center for Church Renewal.

The story of The Measure of a Man began at a men’s Bible study over 40 years ago. I just launched the first Fellowship Bible Church in Dallas. Growth was immediate—and I was definitely convinced that one of the biblical priorities for growing healthy churches was to develop a strong men’s ministry. Consequently, I issued an invitation to join me in an early morning Bible study. To my surprise, about 25 guys showed up!

I then faced the question: what biblical passages should we study together? As I reflected, my thoughts drifted to the profile of maturity in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. In these letters, Paul outlined 20 qualities that form a profile for determining how each one of us measures up to the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ.

As senior pastor, I led the first study—“Having a good reputation.” We looked at relevant scriptural passages and spent time discussing how we could become that kind of Christian man. My goal in that first session was to model how to lead future studies—which worked. When I invited others to lead additional studies, they responded.

This became one of the most dynamic Bible studies I’d ever attended, and I began to journal the biblical and practical insights that were emerging from our discussions. I was definitely growing in my own walk with Christ. I was not just their pastor/teacher. I was a fellow learner.

Then one day, about six or seven weeks into this study, Bill Greig Jr., then president of Gospel Light, showed up in my office. I had known Bill for several years and he had become a good friend. He informed me he was visiting Dallas and had heard about what was happening in our first Fellowship Bible Church. He wanted to know more about it!

God was indeed working in amazing ways. Church growth was immediate. Lives were being changed and those of us in leadership were facing the challenge of just keeping up.

“Gene,” Bill said, “tell me what’s happening!” At that moment, I reached for my notebook and shared with him what I had been journaling.

To my surprise, Bill’s response was immediate. I remember his words: “I want that as a book!” He then turned to Dave, his acquisitions editor, and asked for a contract. Dave opened his briefcase, pulled out what was then a couple of pages (how times have changed). It was indeed an author’s agreement and Bill asked for a commitment.

Surprised, I told Bill I‘d pray about it and, well . . . the rest is history. The final product was The Measure of a Man, which to the surprise of all of us has never gone out of print since 1974.

Why has the book endured? Why has it been translated into numerous languages? Why is it being used today even more than the day it came off the press?

I have a simple answer: I borrowed the outline—the 20 qualities of maturity—from the apostle Paul (and, we all know where he got it). I’ve had the privilege of bringing a biblical outline of maturity into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I often say that when we stand at the judgment seat of Christ, Paul will receive the rewards and I’ll be penalized for plagiarism!

Seriously, what Paul gave us 2,000 years ago is spiritually supracultural. It measures maturity today in the same way it did when Paul penned these letters to Timothy and Titus. And, because it’s biblical, it’s applicable in every culture of the world at any moment in history.

I love meeting men as I travel and speak. They inform me that they came to Christ nearly 40 years ago, 30 years ago, yes, just a few years ago—and they share how The Measure of a Man changed their lives. Many say, “It’s the first men’s book I read!”

It’s a humbling experience. In fact, here’s a portion of a recent email:

Dr. Getz,

I’m a crime scene investigator (CSI). More importantly, I’m a Christian man saved by grace and my wife and I lead a married couple’s ministry in our church. I read your masterpiece, The Measure of a Man some time ago and decided to cover it in our monthly men’s Bible study. It has been phenomenal. Aside from enduring the many challenges that Christian men face on a daily basis, I’m also challenged with the task of leading an incredible group of Christian men and women while serving as a CSI in one of the homicide capitals of the country.

Allow me to take this opportunity to say thank you for The Measure of a Man as it has been so edifying, enlightening, and convicting for me, especially toward my roles as a husband and father. Even to someone who operates in (literally) one of the most diabolical environments possible, your work and the Word of God is so applicable and beneficial.

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5 Crucial Talking Points for People Leaving the Church

Called to Stay

Today’s guest post is by Caleb Breakey, author of Called to Stay: An Uncompromising Mission to Save Your Church. Called to Stay takes a refreshingly honest look at the church, the problem of millennials leaving, and the stark reality of why the church desperately needs them. Get Called to Stay for just $7.79 today!

Right now, people are saying that they can follow Jesus without joining a local church. There’s a growing sense that, “Hey, I follow Jesus but I’m done with traditional church.”

And I totally get where they’re coming from.

Much of what we do in church has become stagnant tradition instead of meaningful conviction that boils with passion for Jesus Christ. Pastors across the country spend precious few minutes on the why of church, leaving many wondering, “No why? No point.”

That said, Jesus has shown us that the body of Christ is his bride, that he loves her, and that his will for us is to love her, too. This is why I wrote Called to Stay: An Uncompromising Mission to Save Your Church.

We can’t love Christ’s bride when we leave her, badmouth her, or pick and choose those whom we gather with (i.e. your friends at Starbucks or church online).

Are there exceptions? Of course. But catch the heart of what God’s Word communicates to us:

1. Staying in a body of believers is a commandment (Hebrews 10:24–25).

When we stop gathering with a local body of believers that follows God’s structure, there’s no iron sharpening iron. There’s no building up of one another.

We need to go to church on a mission—encouraging others to love and do good deeds—the same way we go and tell others about Jesus.

We need to sit down and say: how can I go to church and be intentional? How can I serve and bless my brothers and sisters throughout the week? Where are there voids in the church, and how can I help fill them? We’re all surface-level at church, so how can I have meaningful, deep conversations in order to be a part of the solution?

 2. Staying in a body of believers is part of Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:20).

The second part of the great commission is to teach one another to “observe (obey) all that I have commanded.”

Everyone in your church is somewhere in their relationship with Jesus, knowledge of Jesus, and how they’re obeying and following Jesus. And here’s the thing: we need to be a part of their growth. We need to teach each other to be more like Jesus—not by giving others our convictions, but by crying out to God, “Lord, use me in the growth of others. Help me be intentional.” The local church is a great place to do this.

3. Staying in a body of believers practices God’s golden rule (Luke 6:31).

Your life is not your own. Your life is a product of those who’ve poured into you—career wise, education wise, and spirit wise. Maybe it’s been just one person, or maybe 100. But they’ve all helped you become who you are in Christ today. They invested in you.

Deciding to live intentionally is to pay that love forward. It’s to say, “I’m a product of my brothers and sisters who God has used to make me the believer I am today, and now I’m going to pour this same love into others on the journey—especially those behind me.”

4. Staying in a body of believers shows others that you are Christ’s disciple (John 13:35).

If you love someone who loves you, what profit is that? Anyone can do that, Jesus says. But if you love the messy bride of Christ—people in church—that’s supernatural. That speaks. And we have to have faith that speaks.

What might change if you bore your church in love and made every effort to keep unity with it (Ephesians 4:1–3)? If you carried the failings of your church and equipped yourself with the endurance of Christ (Romans 15:1–7)?

Through our forgiveness of one another, we show the world that we are disciples of Jesus. And we can’t ever lose sight of the fact that that shows people we know and love him.

5. Staying in a body of believers reflects Christ’s unconditional love (1 John 3:16).

Jesus died at the hands of his people, for his people. This self-sacrifice is the Jesus way.

Today, people are about what’s fair: “The church isn’t doing what it’s supposed to, so I’m going to leave and do my own thing.” But that’s not the Jesus way.

Jesus laid down his life for the church. What does this mean for us in the body? Sometimes it means being the messy one and staying. Sometimes it means being okay to fail alongside your brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes it means staying, being intentional, and going deeper with people in church in everyday life.

You’re going to screw up, for sure. But wouldn’t you rather screw up being passionate for Jesus and loving the church like him, than critiquing the church and being bitter toward her?

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Discover what it truly looks like to be a church member in the modern world: get Breakey’s Called to Stay: An Uncompromising Mission to Save Your Church on Vyrso today!

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A Father’s Day Reminder: You’re Already the Smartest Man in the World

52 things kids need from dad

Today’s guest blog post is from Jay Payleitner, the “dad encourager” and bestselling author of 52 Things Kids Need from a Dad, as well as several other books on parenting and marriage. 

I was nine years old. It was the annual Payleitner pilgrimage to the shrine at Clark and Addison. When I was growing up, my dad made sure we made it to at least one Chicago Cubs doubleheader every summer.

One of the great traditions was filling out my own scorecard with two freshly sharpened Cubs pencils purchased from a vendor just inside the Wrigley Field turnstiles. In the 1960s, scorecards were a quarter and pencils were a dime. I never asked for foam fingers, Cubs pennants, or Billy Williams jerseys. That scorecard and pencil were my souvenirs. And that was enough.

About the second inning, tragedy struck. My pencil lead broke. Of course, I could sharpen it at home, but how was I going to complete my traditional duties tracking Kessinger, Beckert, Williams, Banks, Santo, Hundley, and company? I couldn’t ask for another pencil, could I?

I showed the unusable writing utensil to my dad and he didn’t miss a beat. He took it and within 20 seconds handed it back sharpened and ready for the next batter. Now, you may be able guess what he did. To an adult, it may seem obvious. But to a nine-year-old, scraping that pencil at just the right angle with just the right pressure against the concrete floor of the grandstand was nothing short of brilliant. My dad was a genius!

Dad, for a season of life, you too are a genius. It won’t always be that way. There will come a time, hopefully, when each of your kids knows more than you. But for a while, you want to be the one man they look up to who can solve any crisis—large or small.

When your son panics because he needs to paint a green dragon but only has paint in primary colors, show him how to mix blue and yellow. He’ll be astonished.

When the printer cartridge runs out as your daughter attempts to print a 12-page homework assignment, you know a gentle shake will loosen up enough toner to finish the job. She’ll be ever-so-relieved.

As long as you can, dad, I urge you to store up genius points. Offer brilliant solutions to your children’s biggest challenges before they realize that it’s really just a matter of life experience.

Believing their dad is the smartest man in the world is a great gift for a young child. But don’t get too cocky—there will soon come a time when their challenges require significantly more complicated solutions. Still, you want them to come to you.  Because the solutions offered by the world (friends, media, the culture) are quite often the worst possible choices.

Oh yeah, and don’t forget to schedule a family trip to the ballpark this summer and teach your kids to fill out a scorecard. Happy Father’s Day!

“I said, ‘Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom.’” —Job 32:7

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Spiritually Training Your Child: It’s a Lifestyle, Not a Competition

iStock_000021005439SmallToday’s guest post is by Linda Weddle, author of How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph. Weddle’s 30-plus years of experience as a teacher, curriculum writer, author, speaker, and ministry leader make her an important voice on ministry to children, youth, and families. She is the senior designer of core Awana programs and has been involved in nearly every aspect of Awana over the course of her life.

Spiritually training our children is a lifestyle, not a competition with other parents.

But sometimes we forget that.

We know the verses in Deuteronomy 6 that tell us to teach our kids when we’re sitting, standing, walking along the way—in other words, all the time. Some parents translate that to five minutes at the breakfast table when dad reads a short devotional and prays. The kids then head off to school (but not before arguing about who left the top off the markers), and mom looks at her to-do list and complains about having to teach the lesson in children’s church next Sunday (too much else to do), and dad murmurs a few unkind words about his boss before he goes out the door.

But they DID do that five minutes of devotions, and even though they may forget them in a few hours, it did come up later in the day when mom was talking to her friend. The friend was regretting that her family didn’t eat breakfast together to start the day. Mom said (in a very “spiritual” voice) they always ate together because that’s when her husband read a devotional and prayed at the breakfast table. The friend was impressed—her husband never ate breakfast with the family.

The friend’s husband did do other things, however. He always mowed the elderly neighbor’s lawn, asked the kids what they learned at church and discussed it with them, challenged them as they walked through the museum to think about the evolutionary-based explanations on the fossil display (gently bringing them around to the right answer). Yes, he needed to leave for work before the kids got up, but he lived his faith throughout every day.

Stop competing

Spiritually training our children is not a competition. We don’t have a stat sheet for each kid that details how many days the family had devotions, how many verses the child has memorized, or how many minutes the family spent in prayer. Yet, sometimes that’s what it feels like. If we aren’t comparing those stats, then we’re “gossiping” about what other families are doing wrong. (As if we knew everything that went on beyond the four walls of their houses.) Or, when we see someone else’s child make a bad choice, we instantly share what we feel are that family’s parenting faults.

Another aspect on the whole spiritually-training spectrum is our motivation. Why do we push our kids to learn the most verses, go on the most mission trips, or brag about our five-minute breakfast devotionals? Is it truly because we desire to spiritually train our kids or is it because we want to look good to others? Instead of making church a time for family enjoyment and learning, do we make it a burden? Do we complain about going, but yell at the kids for their own bad attitudes in not wanting to attend? Do we push (and yell about) our kids learning their verses for youth group, but never, ever sit down and learn a verse with them?

Start living

We often talk about Timothy’s mom and grandma teaching him Scripture, which they did and did well. But look closely at what Paul wrote about Timothy’s childhood: I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well (2 Timothy 1:5). Their influence was not dependent on an hour of teaching each morning (or however long they taught), but that they lived their faith—all the time. Their faith wasn’t an external show, but it dwelt within them, a very part of who they were.

The Bible doesn’t tell us a lot about Eunice and Lois, but I’m guessing they were good neighbors. I’m guessing they baked bread or made soup to take to a sick friend. I’m guessing they helped the poor and obeyed God in all they did. They lived their faith, and Timothy watched that and learned so that his faith became a part of his life, too.

Five-minute breakfast devotionals can be good, but they are only one minuscule part of spiritually training our kids. Spiritual training is conveyed through living our faith every minute of every day. Spiritual training is taught by exemplifying God’s love and grace through everything we do and say. Spiritual training is unique for each family because God has created us as unique individuals. Instead of analyzing how other people are living their lives, we need to be focused on how we’re living our own lives and be honest about what message we’re giving our own kids.

Because spiritual training is not a competition—it’s a lifestyle.

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Learn more about spiritually training your children and encouraging them to develop a strong faith foundation: get Linda Weddle’s How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph on Vyrso today!

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Souls of the Brave: The Untold Stories of Sacrifice across the Globe

Global HungerToday’s guest post is by Tim Keesee, a veteran missions mobilizer and author of the new book Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places. This captivating travelogue offers the incredible accounts of Christians testifying and spreading the gospel across the globe. With stories spanning from China to Pakistan to Iraq, this book highlights the bold faith and sacrificial bravery of God’s disciples.

In the heart of high-rise Boston is a quiet, shaded acre called the Old Granary Burying Ground, the resting place of founders, patriots, and some of the first who fell in America’s fight for freedom. As I walk through the flag-festooned cemetery, I think about what it must have seemed like in 1776 when the first battle casualties arrived here and the hopes of a new nation were vested in an army distinguished for its retreats and knack for digging graves. The years and fortunes of our nation would turn, but in 1776 it seemed very much like a lost cause. Even today, though the tombs of governors and signers and the Paul Reveres are revered, for many of the common soldiers who lie here time has effaced their headstones and no traces of their names remain. Sometimes the greatest sacrifice goes unnoticed.

The struggles and soldiering of kingdom work, too, are mostly done in obscurity. In many parts of the world, believers suffer in silence—years in prison or refugee camps pass unnoticed by the outside world. Nothing online, no biographies, no blogs, nobody. The view of most everyone around them is that they’re fools who have wasted their lives on a lost cause. This is nothing new—from the first century and the first martyrs, who were burned to ash or became the food of wild beasts, to the twenty-first century in places where Christians suffer in silence every kind of hateful act, and where missionaries often labor in loneliness and the constant grip of opposition. This seemingly uneven struggle is what some have called “the long defeat.” The lines of an old epic come to mind: “Whither depart the souls of the brave that die in the battle, die in the lost, lost fight, for the cause that perishes with them?”

The ultimate sacrifice

Once in southern Egypt, I came across an old Christian cemetery where a number of missionaries were buried long ago. The desert heat shimmered over a scattering of crumbling mud-brick markers and broken epitaphs. It was so desolate. I thought of how these men and women, when they set out for the field, must have parted from their families with kisses and tears but also with the joy that rushes the heart when Jesus is near. They crossed the Atlantic to tell people about their friend and savior. They crossed an ocean but never recrossed it. For them, missionary service was a one-way ticket. Of course, cross-bearing is a one-way ticket, too.

In fact, just days before Gethsemane and Calvary, as Jesus dined with his followers, a woman came and broke open a costly flask of fragrant spikenard and poured it without reservation upon the head of the Lord. He knew that in just a few days his head would be torn with thorns, and the hair that now glistened with fragrant oil would be matted with blood and spit. Somehow, perhaps because she had been listening, Mary knew too. To their shame, it was the disciples who shook their heads and said, “Why this waste?” Sometimes the strongest and most hurtful voices of opposition to this kind of lavish, loving, risk-taking abandonment come from other Christians. But Jesus said, “Why do you trouble the woman, for she has done a beautiful thing to me?”  Suddenly these words speak peace and purpose over that old Egyptian graveyard and over those I love, brothers and sisters who walk lonely paths in his service.

Much of the world remains unreached. If we look at statistics, listen to the voices of unbelief in our own ranks, or focus on our fears, then the cause seems lost and the effort too risky. But Christ, who is our king and has no rival, has simply told us, “Follow me.” And for those with a heart for him, he will lead them through impossibilities as he builds his kingdom in every land. Pray for such men and women to follow him there. Pray that you would follow him there, too.

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Discover the untold stories of today’s bravest disciples, and embrace your role in sharing the gospel: get Tim Keesee’s Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places on Vyrso today.

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A.W. Tozer on Why We Need Modern-Day Prophets

Voice of a Prophet

Today’s guest post is by Dr. James L. Snyder, author and curator of My Daily Pursuit—Vyrso’s best-selling book of 2013—and the new book Voice of a Prophet. Dr. Snyder is an award-winning author who has written or edited 28 books, and whose work has appeared in more than 80 periodicals. Dr. Snyder’s first book about the life of A.W. Tozer won the 1992 Reader’s Choice Award from Christianity Today. His latest book offers previously unpublished content by Tozer, in which Tozer examines the lives of prophets—like Elijah, Elisha, and John the Baptist—to underscore the importance of prophets’ ministry in today’s church. Get Voice of a Prophet: Who Speaks for God? today!

Throughout Voice of a Prophet, Dr. Tozer emphasizes that the modern church desperately needs a new group of prophets. In fact, just a casual look at the conditions of today’s church would bring anyone to such a conclusion.

Now, when Tozer talks about a prophet, he’s not talking about someone who foresees the future—he’s talking about someone who tells the truth from God’s perspective, regardless of how it might contradict modern thought. The prophets were in complete harmony with the entire Bible. In one chapter of Voice of a Prophet, Dr. Tozer says it takes all of the Bible to make it the Bible. The prophet’s job was to bring all of the Bible to bear upon the life of the believer.

The prophet was the man who listened to God, and therefore God would listen to him. The prophet was to speak for God and communicate what was on God’s heart. That surely was the passion of Dr. Tozer throughout his ministry, for he often prayed that God would raise up a new generation of prophets. We have, he would argue, enough theologians, enough philosophers, enough promoters, enough everything else—what we desperately need today are prophets.

Throughout this book, Dr. Tozer emphasizes the ministry of the New Testament prophet. Just as in every organization, there are gatekeepers to keep out destructive influences so the church can continue in the right direction. That was, of course, the ministry of the New Testament prophet. They were to be the gatekeepers; they were to take out the heresies from the church as well as the heretics.

However, Dr. Tozer went a step further and said that the New Testament prophet was to speak God’s truth concerning a particular situation. They were not to be ambiguous or make generalizations, but offer specific truths for specific situations. Now, Dr. Tozer muses, that will make many people uncomfortable and even angry, but the purpose of the prophet isn’t to soothe the people, but to stir them up and shake loose the dead weight of heresy and get them moving in the straight line of truth.

When we come to the New Testament prophet, we see a man not always accepted into the church, but—according to Dr. Tozer’s perception—desperately needed by the church. If the prophet is worried about his reputation, he can no longer do the work of a prophet. Today we need a fresh group of men called of God to be New Testament prophets, so his church can move in the right direction.

It is my prayer that this new Tozer book, Voice of a Prophet, will do just that.

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Learn more about the need for modern-day prophets from one of the most respected theologians of the twentieth century: get Voice of a Prophet: Who Speaks for God?, by A.W. Tozer and Dr. James L. Snyder today.

 

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