Bringing God into Everyday Conversation with Your Children

By: Brad Rogers

If you are a follower of Jesus with children in your home, you may find it difficult to bring the reality of who God is into everyday conversations with your children. I know I struggle in this area.  Sometimes, it is because I don’t want to force a conversation or say the wrong thing (yes, even as a minister I have this fear).  We can also fear the eye rolls and irritated disinterest our children may have.  However, on the flip side if we neglect to do this, we may unwittingly show our youngsters that following Jesus has very little impact in our daily life.  Not only may this lead to our children feeling God is irrelevant, it could also make it easier for them to believe that this God who they have never seen is a fantastical figment of our imaginations as they grow older.   In “Make ‘God talk’ an Everyday Part of Family Life,” Julie Melilli gives some ideas on how to bring the reality of God into everyday conversation with your children.  Admittedly, there are some aspects of her exact words that I think might feel like you are throwing God in your child’s face.  We do always need to be careful not to be overbearing and so exasperate our children.  We certainly don’t want to give them the felt impression that God commands us to be overbearing with our children, which we can do if we are sinfully disrespectful of their personhood (possibly without meaning to or realizing it) while telling them God commands us to be this way.  However, the idea of what she communicates is important.  A fear of being overbearing should not silence Christian parents all together on a topic we claim is of utmost importance in our lives.  As parents this is an important enough matter that we should be willing to be a little unnatural or awkward in bringing God into our conversations with our children until we become more natural.  Julie Melilli’s article could be the kickstart and encouragement you need.  If you are a Christian parent with children in your home, it is a fairly quick read that is worthy of your time.

Read the article here.

 

 

The Foundation of Sin

By: Mike Newkirk

The Bible is full of stories. Stories are a primary vehicle that our Creator God uses to teach us about reality; the realities of who He is and who we are and what will come to pass. No surprise about that assertion. The Apostle Paul told us that in 1 Corinthians 10:6-11.[i] And stories, ours and others, are how we still learn.

One of the most compelling stories I have heard in recent years is the story of Rosaria Butterfield’s conversion to belief in Jesus Christ. Dr. Butterfield first wrote her biography, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, in 2012 (expanded version in 2014). She explains why she wrote it:

“I am often asked to share my spiritual journey. People are interested to know what it is like to travel a long journey to Christ. I am not hesitant to oblige. How our lives bear the fruit of Christ’s spilled blood is important. The stories of our lives can serve to encourage and warn others.”[ii]

Her story of conversion from a tenured professor at a major research university and an activist in the LGBTQ community to a follower of Christ, pastor’s wife, and home-schooling mother of four is dramatic and emotional yet logical and intellectual. Since I read her first book, I have had the chance to meet her and hear her story first hand several times. I learn something new each time. In several addresses, paraphrased, she identified her primary offense against God as unbelief not her homosexual lifestyle even though she saw that as sinful too.  And she said this unbelief was driven by her pride. The first and greatest commandment Jesus said was to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind. [iii]  Jesus also said that if you love me you will keep my commandments.[iv] Therefore, it follows that if I disregard what He has declared about anything then I am not loving Him. I am loving myself. I am following myself. What I want. What I think is acceptable. At that point I am not believing Him but choosing my prideful and arrogant way.

The reason her statement impacted me was the realization that I am the same. One of the passages in the Bible that most frequently comes to my mind is what the man in Mark 9:24 said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And yes, I also resonate with her declaring that at the root, unbelief linked to pride, is the real issue with my sinfulness. It makes me defensive when criticized although He has said He will defend me. It makes me critical of others when He has said to be gracious and loving. It makes me worried and anxious when He has clearly said He will never leave me nor forsake me and works all things for my ultimate good. I could go on.

I would encourage you to get her books or at least her testimony. This YouTube video of one of Dr. Butterfield’s talks captures the essence of her journey. She is a dear sister in Christ who is a gifted and compelling communicator.


 


References

[i] 1 Corinthians 10 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

[ii] Butterfield, Rosaria. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Kindle Locations 74-76). Crown & Covenant Publications. Kindle Edition.

[iii] Matthew 22:37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (ESV)

[iv] John 14:15   “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

 

The Radical Inclusiveness of Jesus

By: Mike Newkirk

Recently, in an adult Sunday class at our church, Tim Philips was leading a teaching series on Worship in which he asked the question “Why does the New Testament talk so much about loving one another?” In the context of the discussion, we were looking at Paul writing in Romans 12:9-11 in particular:

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”

Immediately, my mind went to the Jesus saying in John 13:34:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

This was a big deal at the time. Think of the original audience, tribalistic, mainly Jewish (12 tribes there) and they have been called out to be separate from the cultures around them by Yahweh. How dissonant Jesus’ saying must have sounded to them!

But what about the law as elucidated in Leviticus 19:18b?

“..you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord”

It is clear that this was a new commandment as recorded by John. A radically new commandment.

Jesus extended the Leviticus passage in two significant ways.

1.       Jesus modified “love your neighbor” to “love one another”.  Who was he speaking to? All those who are His followers. Regardless of their tribes and tongues, we are to love each other who claim Jesus as who he claimed to be. It’s no longer your tribe, your clan but all people, in all places, in all times. In their mind, my neighbor is my tribe, namely, other Jews. Thus, he is saying the New Covenant community is radically inclusive. No longer are we talking about neighbors as our kinsmen or clans, but all who believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior, as God incarnate. In our modern context you can’t get any more inclusive than this. All are welcome and invited.

2.       Jesus modified from loving “your neighbor as yourself” to “love as I have loved you”. The standard of love has been adjusted from how we love of ourselves to how Jesus has loved us.  Given that Jesus has just washed the disciples’ feet and that this foot washing points to his death the implication is that we are willing to lay down our lives for one another in the family of God.

Thus, Jesus’ marching orders to his disciples on the night before he gives his life for them calls them to imitate his sacrificial love and to love each other across national, cultural and racial boundaries to the point of laying down their lives for one another.  In this sense, He was calling for a profound change in their thinking that should be seen as a most radical shift in culture in their day and especially, even now in our day. The defining characteristic of our Christian witness, of our following Jesus, would be our love for each other. Jesus states this unequivocally in verse 35 immediately following:

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

As a brief aside, we should note that the call to love one another as followers of Jesus does not harm any of Jesus’ teaching that calls his disciples to love those who are not committed to following him.  Jesus calls his followers to love our enemies even as the Father actively loves his own enemies (Matthew 5:44-45).  This teaching has a different focus and purpose.  It’s not that we are to love those who don’t follow Jesus less, it’s that there is a call within the Christian community to love one another more. 

Our love for one another in the community of Jesus followers is paramount for our witness to this world. What would it say to a watching world if those who claim to love Jesus didn’t love and care for one another.  Consider then also what it says to those outside the church when they see inside the church a deep and abiding sacrificial love for one another across racial, cultural, and national boundaries. My prayer is that Redeemer Raleigh would be a place that radically loves. That we are willing to extend ourselves and push our comfort zones to extend the radical love of Jesus to one another. This is a worthy goal. A goal that our King has set for us. And that makes all the difference, because he loves us and prays for us constantly.

 

Loneliness, the Movie Solo, Motherhood, and Community Groups

By: Dan Seale

How are loneliness, the movie Solo, motherhood and community groups connected?

Before I make that connection, let me ask you…

Do you ever feel lonely? 

When do you feel lonely? 

Why do you feel lonely?

Surprisingly to me, I can sometimes feel lonely in crowds, or in busy seasons of life.  It seems to pop up at unexpected times.  It’s important to distinguish between loneliness and aloneness. They sometimes overlap but they are not the same thing.   Even though I am blessed with good friends, a close family, and a great church family, I still have times of loneliness. 

 

In Finding God in my Loneliness, Lydia Brownback writes,

Loneliness is an indicator that something is missing, and that something is found only in Jesus Christ…Loneliness is everywhere, but we don’t talk about it too often. Perhaps that’s because we’ve grown accustomed to its oppressive weight that we’ve lost awareness of it altogether.

This summer Sean Scott blogged about loneliness and linked to a very helpful article about this topic. (Read it here)

However, I want us to keep talking about this topic because I think it is a great entry way into talking Gospel conversations with one another and with those who do not yet know and follow Jesus.  Loneliness is all around us. Something seems off for people, and underneath all the possible solutions is the need to recognize that our loneliness is calling us to God and that God redeems our loneliness.   Pick up Finding God in my Loneliness if you want to see how God speaks into various causes/circumstances of loneliness.

Now what’s the connection between loneliness, Solo, motherhood and community groups?

Loneliness is a growing destructive epidemic and provides a great opportunity for us to direct ourselves and others to God who came near to us in Jesus.

 

Pastor Sam Allberry writes about how the movie Solo reveals that the answer to our aloneness is not necessarily romantic partnerships but deep friendship.  Chewie was in Han’s life far longer than Leia.  The movie shows the beauty of friendship. Read his thoughts here.

 

Melissa Kreuger writes about the loneliness of motherhood, the beauty of friendship and the goodness of God in this article.  This shows how friendship can help us connect to God and one another more intimately.

 

Lastly, community groups provide a set time and space in your schedule to share life with other people.  We need to make space to find and build the kind of friendships that help us enjoy and pursue God.  If you are feeling disconnected or lonely, consider getting involved as we relaunch community groups in October.

 

God and the gift of friendship, with him and with others, are the medicine to our bouts of loneliness.  Fight to push towards God and believe and act on what is true. If you are His, you are never alone.

Disaster Relief and the Gospel

We just made it through a hurricane. Thankfully, Raleigh did not endure the major parts of the hurricane that was originally predicted. However, other parts of the state suffered immensely. People have lost their homes. Some are trying to survive by staying indoors and living off of what they have stocked up. Flooding has prevented students from going back to college and employees from getting to work. Some lost their lives. All that to say, we have a state in need. What can you do at a time like this? Sherry Lanier, in the article below, talks about ways that you can help those who are hurting after a natural disaster. We will be sending out information later this week on how to sign up to help those in need.

Read the article here

How Important is Community?

By: Brad Rogers

Just how important is community? As our church is preparing to relaunch our community group ministry on Oct. 7th, this is a question I find myself asking as we seek to build these smaller communities within the larger body of the church as a whole. We are not aiming for just any kind of community, but we want our community groups to help us know and follow Christ. How do you create such a community? In the linked article, Aaron Menikoff challenges readers about how community is actually formed. His thoughts on the relative importance of community as well as his practical personal hints for “when community falters” in our churches will be a corrective for some and a helpful encouragement for others. You can read the article here.

The Community of Jesus

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.
— Proverbs 18:1

By: Brad Rogers

As a pastor, I have noticed that whenever people become isolated, trouble usually follows.  In my own life, some of my greatest times of growth have come when others were courageously, thoughtfully and gracefully willing to show me where the reality of my life did not line up with the life Jesus called me to live.  As much as I would like to avoid such conversations, God has used them to help me become more like Jesus.  Sometimes though, I just to hide from others and do my own thing, pursue my own desires.  When I do, I am prone to think that I am only hurting myself.  In this short article, Tim Challies shows how that is just not the case.  As you read it, I invite you to think about your involvement in the community of Christ as it relates to your own growth as well as the growth of others.

Read the article here

Sunday School: Slow Transformation

By: Rachel Rogers

In a culture of over-scheduled families, it is hard to think of squeezing in one more activity, especially when it happens on a day that feels like a day “off.”  I will let someone more qualified than me tackle the Sabbath topic, but I would love to challenge us to think seriously for a minute about Sunday School.  Is it an activity worth considering adding to the schedule?

Russell Moore, author and president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, makes the bold statement: “Sunday School transformed my life.” What comes to mind when you think of Sunday School? Was it life transforming? Do you think of flannel boards? (memorable maybe, but hardly transforming!)  The taste of those lick-&-stick stickers? Your taste buds may never be the same, but I don’t think that is the transformation he is talking about. When I walk the halls of my church on a Sunday morning and peek into the rooms I see good friends sharing time studying the Bible and faithful teachers who show up every week. I see lives being transformed.

A quick Google search will tell you that many consider Sunday School a thing of the past.  Call me old-fashioned, but I love Sunday School.  Ultimately, it’s one of the main ways a church can come alongside families to teach children God’s word. Sometimes the lessons are less than flashy, sometimes the teachers talk too long, and sometimes it’s even boring. But what if repetition and faithful teaching are just what we need?

In a culture of crazy busy families, I think it’s still worth our time and I am not the only one. In his article, “The Cosmic Importance of Children’s Sunday School,” Russell Moore makes the strong assertion that “…Sunday school is not just another program. It can be a matter of life and death.”  Read it here

Loneliness

By: Sean Scott

If you read the claim below, how would you react?

“Loneliness has the same effect on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”

When I read that, my initial reaction was “that seems like a stretch, who said that?!”, only to learn that it was a former surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy.

How do we think about loneliness? While we know it is an issue for those close to us, and even may realize we struggle with it ourselves, what can we do? The article that follows highlights information about this epidemic we are facing in Western culture. It will speak to our relational nature as intended by God, how neuroscience supports such theology, and how the church can respond to loneliness.

Read the article here

Walking Faithfully with Jesus Through 50 Years of Pain and Suffering

By: Brad Rogers

The idea of living a fruitful and pleasing life before the Lord in the midst of debilitating suffering is not something most of us in our success-driven culture think is possible much less desirable.   I have never met Joni Erickson Tada, but she is a hero to me because she has walked with the Lord for over 50 years through trials so severe, they are almost unimaginable.  Yet, her faith and walk with the Lord are a vibrant testimony to His goodness.  Whenever I read anything she writes or says, I find I have a better grip on reality, and I find myself desiring to know Jesus the way that she does – just without the pain.  Her theology is rich and practical. If you don’t know of Joni or have never read any of her writing, this interview (published last year in Christianity Today on the 50th anniversary of her diving accident that left her quadriplegic for life) is a great place to start.  If you do know of her and have read much of her writing, I am sure you will be glad to hear from her again.  Read the article here