develop blog title graphic

3D Parenting – D1 Develop

Dogs and cats reach maturity in about one year. Most species of songbirds leave the nest in 3 weeks. A lion is considered to be a fully-grown adult at age 3.

If you have children, you’ve probably figured out by now, this may take awhile!

And it should take a while to raise a human. While animal maturity is generally measured by height or sexual capability, there is a lot more involved in teaching a person how to be an image of God. While the lioness teaches her cub how to find food, your job as a parent should involve a little more than finding a burger for Bubba. God has entrusted you to not just tell your child about sex, but to teach them sexuality. You are not just trying to see how tall your son will be as a man, but you are to teach him how to be a godly man. Your objective as a parent should be to just find your kid a scholarship but to release them into the world as a mature image of God.

The Bible has a lot to say about parenting. This is no surprise since raising a mature image of God is such a critical responsibility. There’s a million ways to slice this, and most will do it much better than I, but when it comes to the basics of Biblical parenting, think 3D!

  1. Develop
  2. Discipline
  3. Demonstrate

Develop

The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6,

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6

At the outset I need to say about this verse, this is a Proverb, not a promise. A Proverb is a general observation about life. It does not guarantee a result, but it gives you guidance toward wise ways of dealing with things. The formula for a proverb is this is what works, but there are exceptions. In this case, the exception is seen in a passage like Deuteronomy 2118-21. The indication there is that this child departed when he got older. The fact that his parents did train him in the way he should go is what makes the Deuteronomy 21 scenario so tragic. This is not a child brought up in neglect or abuse. This child is a rebel.

Rebellion is a tragic possibility in the parent/child relationship, but this does not negate the parental responsibility to “train the child in the way he should go.” What does that mean? Two things are critical for development. Train = an environment of reinforcement. In the way he should go = content. As a parent, develop means that your home is going to be one of consistent content.

Train Up a Child – An Environment of Reinforcement

The idea of training in this passage is the idea of reinforcement. Training is the environment of the home. It is an intentional, nurtured culture that offers a consistent pattern of opportunity to help the child grow in maturity.

A child is not just told to mind, a child must be trained to obey. A child cannot simply be told to share, they must be trained to be generous.

Much like a trainer at a gym sets goals for the athletes he trains, the parents have in mind the values and core beliefs that will be reinforced in the home. The trainer sets up his gym so that his athletes can make consistent gains through repetition. Is your home set up for consistent gains?

Have you taken time as a parent to think through the core values and beliefs of your home? If you were asked by someone to list them, could you? If you can list them, could you give examples of how those core values and beliefs are being reinforced with your children?

As they say, you inspect what you expect. Parenting is takes intentionality and kids need reinforcement. If you tell your child, “I’m only going to tell you this once” then it must NOT be important!

Revisit your values. Reinforce them over and over. Be consistent as a parent. Be willing to say it over and over again, each time training your child how to behave and why good behavior is a blessing.

In the Way He Should Go – Content

Training involves content. What is the content of your home? The primary content that is being reinforced in your home, does it come from television, social media, or video games; or does it come from conversation and interaction with you as a parent? As a parent, you can’t farm out content. You are the gatekeeper of the content of the home.

I recently listened to a podcast that told the story of a young girl who kept asking her father questions. Being a busy man, he told his daughter to write down her questions and he would answer them later. At 9 years old, the girl returned to her father 50 deep, meaningful questions like, “What is love?”, “Is there life after death?”, “What is the purpose of life?” Heavy stuff for a third grader! Three years later, dad is STILL trying to answer her questions!

As the podcast continues, you find out that the little girl wasn’t as concerned about having her questions answered, as she was about getting her father’s attention. Her father was always on his computer. The reason she wrote down so many questions was because she wanted conversation, interaction – CONTENT.

Parental Advisory, Don’t Over-Parent

In our culture we have not only a propensity to “under-parent” by putting a device in our kid’s hand and sending them off to fend for themselves, but also to “over-parent.” By “over-parent” I mean that the reinforced expectations of training are too much, they are overbearing, they are impossible.

The word “train” that is translated here in the Bible implies that you do not raise the child to be what you want them to become, but that you raise the child to be what God wants them to become. In this instance, train means that you are paying attention to your child’s giftedness, talent, and interests. You see their inclinations and you adjust your training accordingly. Parenting is not cloning, it is development.

I work with a high school football team as chaplain. From time to time I stop by practice through the week to connect with the players and encourage them during the tough grind of game preparation. As a pastor, I always enjoy watching the coaches as I am interested in how they lead, motivate, and develop student athletes.

Most of the men on the coaching staff were great high school and/or college athletes. One of my favorite coaches I have ever worked with was a quarterback at NC State. He was a young guy and an extremely gifted athlete. At the time he was working with our team there were not five bodies we could tie together that would even come close to accomplishing what he was able to do as a high school quarterback. But what I loved about him was that he NEVER compared the kids to himself. He very seldom used the word “I.” He was not trying to produce another version of himself, but he was trying to push the kids to become the best version of themselves as men and as athletes.

Parenting is not Cloning

Parenting is not cloning, it is development. Too many kids fail to launch because they feel like they have failed long before they even got to the starting line. Because they are different than their parents or may have made some choices that their parents would not have made, they have been made to feel as if they failed.

Another scenario I see too often is a parent trying to make up for his own disappointments and failures through his or her kids. While every parent wants his or her child to learn from their mistakes, your kid is not your best chance at a state championship, or a better job than yours, or even a better life than yours. You can’t live vicariously through your kids and think that sets them up for success. It only pigeon holes them for a pathway to failure.

Development means that you are helping your child find their God-given calling. As a parent, you are God’s steward to help train, develop, and reinforce the critical content that will help them fulfill God’s call in their lives.

In my own home, I have two daughters. Though we raise them reinforcing the same Biblical, core values and beliefs, we realize that they are very different people with distinct personalities. My eldest daughter is a leader. My youngest daughter is an artist. Daughter #1 got a kayak for her birthday. Daughter #2 got a guitar for Christmas. One daughter doesn’t want to be talked to before 9am while the other can’t get enough hugs.

Know your kids and tailor your content.

Taking Steps Toward Development

As a parent, think reinforcement and content. Reinforcement, sit down and write out the core values of your home. Evaluate your consistency in reinforcing these things. Is it working? Is your child getting the message? Are they beginning to demonstrate those desired values in their behavior? Why or why not? Are there things in your life that make that message inconsistent that need to be reprioritized?

As far as content, are you acting as the gatekeeper of your home or are you farming out parenting to a device, television, or video game system? Is your child getting attention and conversation from you? Are you paying attention to their bends, gifts, talents or are you just trying to make them another you? Are you seeking God’s direction for their lives?

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HATEFUL ENEMIES BLOG POST GRAPHIC

Redemptive Response to Cursing, Abusive, Hateful Enemies

Between emotion and action, Jesus issues four corrective commands. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” – Luke 6:27-28 Those commands seem unreasonable and impractical especially when we have such cursing, abusive, hateful enemies. Does Jesus really expect us to respond to such horrible people with redemptive action? The answer is, Yes. Not only does he expect it, but one character in the Bible exemplifies it, Joseph.

In my previous post, we looked at how Joseph loved his family despite them becoming his enemy. How did Joseph exemplify the other corrective commands of Jesus?

When Family Becomes Enemy Title for Blog Post

Do Good to Those Who Hate You

Joseph did good even when life was bad. Joseph’s brothers sold him. He served his master well and God gave him favor (Genesis 39:3-6).

Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of rape. Potiphar put Joseph in prison. Even there he did well and the Lord gave him favor (Gen. 39:21-23).

“Where” Joseph was never changed who Joseph was. He did well because the Lord is good. Joseph’s actions became a testimony to everyone around him. We can learn from his example. When you respond with bad, it does no good!

Bless Those Who Curse You

Joseph’s brothers conspired against him. Blessing and cursing; both are about words. Words hurt.

Our natural emotional response to cursing is to curse back. In Genesis 45, Joseph had the opportunity to get physical and verbal revenge on his brothers. At one time they determined his fate in a pit, now Joseph had the opportunity to determine their fate from the palace. What sort of words would Joseph choose, blessing or cursing?

Joseph chose blessing. If you read Genesis 45:4-14 you will find that Joseph directs his brother’s attention to what God has done. He then promises to bless them and provide from them out of the abundance of Egypt. Notice the last line of this paragraph full of blessings.

“After that his brothers talked with him.”

How many of us in our time of hurt would welcome a productive conversation? Imagine having a conversation in which wrongs are confessed, the hurt is expressed, and apologies are exchanged. That sort of reconciliation only comes through redemption. A conversation like that does not come about through revenge. Cursing for cursing does not cure the hurt.

Pray for Those Who Abuse You

The Bible doesn’t record Joseph’s prayers, but make no mistake, Joseph prayed. The integrity of his character, the strength of his witness through trial, and the favor God gave him only comes through prayer. Joseph never wavered from God’s will. He interpreted dreams through the wisdom of God. When the moment of redemption came, the emotions were overwhelming. I’m sure the hurt resurfaced. But rather than revenge Joseph chose redemption. A choice like that only comes as the product of prayer.

As for you! But God!

The climax of Joseph’s story comes in Genesis 50:20. Jacob, the father of these lost boys brothers has died. Now that dad is gone, will Joseph finally get revenge? Absolutely not. He explains:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good to bring it about that many people should be kept alive as they are today.

Genesis 50:20

Somewhere between angry emotion and destructive action is something only Christ can do in you.

So how do we tap into this redemptive response only Christ can give?

  1. Know Christ as Lord and Savior. Through repentance and faith, we enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:9,10, 13). We don’t need a situation change as much as we need a nature change. The Bible teaches that when we repent of sin and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior that He places His Holy Spirit inside of us (2 Cor. 1:22). The fruits of our new nature will begin to emerge (Gal. 5:22-24).
  2. Renew your mind. After giving his discourse on such a great salvation, Paul turns his attention to life application in Romans 12:1-2. Our new life in Jesus calls for us to not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed into Christ. That transformation comes only through “renewal of the mind.” Renewal of the mind means that we unlearn those habits and patterns of reaction to emotion that conform to the ways of the world. We then learn Biblical, Christ-honoring patterns of behavior as part of the transformation of salvation.
  3. Feed and foster new life from the graces of the church and spiritual discipline. Part of discipleship is discipline. Seek to establish daily habits of Bible reading, prayer, service, and worship. Your church becomes a critical ally in the transformation process. God uses the church to minister His graces of forgiveness, conviction, grace, mercy, and love to His people. Prayer is a conversation with God. Sometimes in prayer, you feel as if you are only speaking to Him. You will be amazed at how God uses His church to speak back to you.

Conclusion

We will all have cursing, hateful, abusive enemies. When people take destructive action against us we are flooded with negative emotion. Our natural reaction is to return destruction for destruction. But Jesus is our in-between. He is our corrective thought. In a sin cursed world He has chosen to call his people to be the conduits of redemption. Unnatural? Yes. Supernatural? Absolutely. But by following Christ we introduce into the fabric of a fallen story something that will save many people alive. Think about it. Had Joseph chosen destructive action and destroyed his brothers the seed of the Savior would have been lost. What salvation could Christ bring from you if you choose redemptive response rather than destructive action?

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Because of giving by Brian Branam

“Because of” Giving, the emotion we are missing.

In my previous post, we began to listen in as Jesus draws our attention toward a widowed woman in the treasury who gave all she had to live on. Our obvious question is as to how could she afford to give all? From this story in Mark 12:41 we are looking at three ways people calculate giving. With this post, we examine the first of the three, “because of” giving. In “because of” giving there is an emotion we are missing.

“And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed OUT OF their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44

Giving is Emotional Before it is Financial

When it comes to giving, people make an emotional decision before they make a financial one. They consider motive before amount. Giving comes from the heart before it comes from the hand.

As Jesus is people watching opposite the temple treasury, I’m certain there are as many motives to giving as there are people giving. So let’s ask the question, why do people give?

3 Types of Givers

Some people are cause givers. They will give if they feel that they are giving to a worthy cause. Is their giving going to help children? Will their money be used to find a cure for a disease? Is there someone in need or something of need that giving will benefit? The cause giver is usually not a consistent giver, but they will rise up when they feel that what they give will make a difference.

Some people are connection givers. Connection givers won’t give unless they are involved. The connection giver usually starts out as a passive bystander who may appreciate the cause, but they are for all practical purposes an outsider. Somehow they get involved. Now from the inside, they see the need so they give. The connection giver eventually becomes a champion of the cause, who ironically enough, can’t believe that there aren’t more people giving to this.

The reluctant giver may not give at first, but eventually, he or she will give out of compulsion. This person is moved to generosity because they feel guilty. They would feel worse for not giving than they feel the financial loss of giving.

Facebook Figured it Out

Facebook has done a brilliant job to tapping into the emotions of giving. They have intertwined the cause, necessary connection, and compulsion of giving. Have you ever seen the post that says, “This year for my birthday I am giving to . . .?” And then you, as a gift to them, are encouraged to join in the worthy birthday cause. The connection is with your friend. The compulsion comes as you see a list of everyone else who has given to the cause – and your name is NOT on the list! How could you? The truth is that you haven’t bought this person a present for their birthday in years, maybe not ever! But due to the cause, connection, and under compulsion you make the emotional decision to give.

Giving is emotional before it is financial! Mark Zuckerberg got you!

The Missing Emotion of “Because of” Giving

However you slice the emotion, we are still left to wonder. Why would she give all? What was the widow woman’s motive?

If giving is emotional before it is financial we have to ask, what was she feeling? What kind of emotion must you be experiencing that moves you to give all? Is it joy? The Bible presents her in a sad situation, but is she happy? If so, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be that happy, that joyful? What emotion is it that moves her so much to think that her two nearly worthless coins are better in the treasury than they are with me?

Whatever her emotion, it is the antithesis of our approach. We believe that the greater emotion comes in having rather than in giving. As a result, we make emotional decisions to buy things that do not turn out to be sound financial decisions. We think it would make us happy to have it. And true, for a time, we are happy with it. But in time, we have forgotten it. And then, we are emotionally motivated to find the next thing we think will make us happy. We are never satisfied. Emotional spending never works.

Question her emotion.

Whatever it is we feel we have to have, I think we would all agree. Compared to her, we have more, but we are not motivated. What is that emotion she feels? What is the emotion we are missing by not giving all?

When the Bible encourages us to give all we’ve got, maybe there is a happiness, a joy, an emotion in letting go that is much greater than simply being a consumer. Perhaps there is something liberating in giving that is greater than any experience we have ever had in spending.

Maybe she has something we don’t.

Maybe in calling us to give all, God wants us to have something that only comes through giving.

Next post – “Out of” Giving

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how to afford to give all

Give All You’ve Got

The Bible says to give all you’ve got. How can anyone possibly afford to give all?

“And he (Jesus) sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box.”

Mark 12:41a

Jesus sits down across from the treasury area of the Temple and watches as people walk up and put money into the offering box. The treasury was located in a large outer courtyard of the Temple. The courtyard was lined with massive stone columns. Within the courtyard stood four giant lampstands that were lit during the Feast of Tabernacles. They were so large and stood so high on the temple mount that they could be seen all over Jerusalem. It would be in this place, before these flames that Jesus would proclaim, “I am the light of the world” in John 8.

The treasury of the Temple
The Treasury of the Temple

Behind the walls of the treasury were storehouses that held the wealth of the Temple. The offerings brought to the treasury would be placed in one of 13 golden coffers that were attached to the wall. Each of them were shaped like a trumpet. No doubt the area must have sounded much like a toll booth or a row of turnstiles at the subway station as people passed by dropping in their coins.

The treasury was a busy, noisy place. And there sits Jesus, people watching.

The Creator is People Watching

The Bible says of Jesus in John 1:3, “That all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

It is this Jesus that is sitting and watching the activity of the treasury that has crafted the most spectacular elements of our universe. The galaxy in which we reside is called the Milky Way. It is estimated that there may be as many as 250 billion stars in the Milky Way. Jesus made all of them.

If a quarter were used to represent the size of our solar system, the Milky Way would be the size of the landmass of the United States of America in comparison. Our galaxy is a huge place. He made all of it.

And there sits the creator watching people put money into the treasury.

“Many rich people put in large sums.”

Mark 12:41b

Imagine the sound the rich people make as they give! It would be much like it is when you collect change for a year, put it into some sort of bucket and take it to that thing in the grocery store that turns coin into cash. Imagine the attention it garners when the rich put in large sums. But there is no reaction from the Lord of all creation.

The Woman Jesus Noticed

“And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.”

Mark 12:42

It is obvious as a widow that she has lost her husband. But note also what the Bible does not say. There is no one else accompanying her. There is no son, no daughter. She is alone in the world. Understanding the social constructs of her day there is only one word used to describe where a woman like that ends up. She is poor.

She walks up and puts in two small copper coins. No doubt they make the least noise of the day. Mark, the writer of this gospel, pulls out his calculator and helps us do the math on her offering. Her two coins are worth a penny. It would take 64 Roman pennies to add up to a day’s wage of a menial, entry level laborer. In other words, she is about 120 coins short of her offering being worth anything.

And think of the money in the storehouses behind the wall. What is her offering in comparison to all that is in there? Furthermore, compared to the many rich people who were in line ahead of her, what is this? These two small copper coins are hardly enough for bread.

An Example of Disciple

But she dropped in her coins and the creator saw her. And now, he responds. He calls together his disciples and directs their attention toward her. Imagine this moment. He raises his hand in her direction, pointing her out from amongst the crowd. This is the hand that fashioned Adam from the dust. Now the hands of the creator are directing all eyes to be on her.

Jesus then begins to talk about her. This is the mouth that said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. He spoke creation into existence. Now he speaks about her. Mark has told us that here offering was worth about a penny. The creator recalculates it again. And with his words, he reveals a new equation for everything.

And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:43-44

Those final six words after the comma are critical to the calculation. “All she had to live on.”

Her offering was so small no one noticed it, but so large that only God could calculate it correctly.

Our Struggle with Giving All

We all appreciate this story. It is simple. The story is admirable. It is beautiful. We read it in much the same way as we would take in a masterful work of art. As much as we appreciate it, we could never do it.

We struggle with it. Give all? We know good and well that is what our Savior is getting at. He is making an example of her. She is now the topic of his teaching. To give all is admirable, but who can afford to give all?

Just in case you doubt Jesus’ expectation there is another story that demonstrates the point in Mark 10. An eager young man approaches Jesus. The Bible describes him as rich and powerful. He is well recognized in his community. He asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Let’s cut to the chase. Jesus answers, “God sell all that you have and give it to the poor.” The Bible says that the man went away sorrowful because he had great possessions.

The word “sorrowful” is a perfect description of how this story ultimately makes us feel. What the woman did was wonderful, but it is not practical. And when we realize that this is the standard Jesus raises for us, it give us that disappointed feeling – I think “sorrowful” is the word!

Why So Sorrowful?

But why so sorrowful? Maybe it is the sorrow of losing something you love. There is attachment and detachment. You can’t imagine life without all you have.

Maybe it sorrow born out of fear. If I give all, what will I have left to live on? How do I handle life if I have nothing left? Is Jesus pointing us to homelessness? Are we going to have to go hungry if we are to follow Him?

Maybe it is the sorrow of feeling inadequate. You already worry enough about money. You struggle with generosity. You’re OK with giving if you’ve got it, but ALL? Isn’t ALL a little much?

Giving is good, but I can’t possibly afford ALL.

Calculating All

This story is beautiful but if this is what Jesus is asking of us, it makes us sorrowful. But whatever your response, you can’t ignore one feature of it. Look across the way. There is the creator teaching and talking about her. Here is the one who has told us to make our entire lives about telling people about him, but he is telling us about her.

Furthermore we can’t ignore the most glaring truth of the story. We have no excuse. You and I say we can’t afford all, but somehow she did.

How can we afford to give all? Let’s break down this story and talk about how we can afford all. When it comes to giving, there are three ways we calculate what we can afford.

To be continued in the next post . . .”Because of” Giving

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Think resurrection for a much better body

The Resurrection as a Seed – a better way to think of your body

If you can think of your body as a seed, it will lead to a much better body (well, sort of). In 1 Corinthians 15:36-37, Paul says that in light of the resurrection that we need to think of our bodies like a seed. This is a revolutionary thought. Suddenly we realize that what we look like or feel like is not nearly as important as what we ARE like. Healthy choices help, but we need to be ultimately concerned about what is within us.

In my previous post, I said that if we are to think of our bodies as a seed, then death is not the end of us. When a seed is planted that is the end of it as it is, but that is not the end of it. In the same way, death may be the end of you as you are, but it is certainly not the end of you. If what is within you is resurrected forever, what is your forever going to be?

Once the seed is planted, what else is important about it that helps us understand more the nature of our resurrection?

A Seed is Purposed

In the next part of the passage, Paul explains that our bodies serve a purpose. He does this by pointing to the various kinds of bodies we see in creation. Each one of them is purposed for the existence it enjoys.

“For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.”

I Corinthians 15:39-41
You are Not Fit for Forever

The body you have is fit for life now, but it is not fit for life forever. It does well with air, water, and food. It has senses that connect you to the world around you. If everything is working properly, you see the world, smell it, taste it, hear it, and feel it. This is another reason why making our bodies ultimate leads to misery. If we think this life is all we have we try to get our fill of the sensory experience of this body. We want food, sex, drink, and never-ending amounts of pleasure; but it never satisfies. It is as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 1:

“All things are full of weariness, a man cannot utter it;

the eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear with hearing.”

Ecclesiastes 1:8

The reason for this is that there is something on you (your body) that is fit for life on Earth, but there is something within you (your spirit) that longs for a life that lasts forever. Your flesh works well for the sensory experience of the natural world, but your spirit longs for deeper things. The flesh is satisfied with now. Your spirit is longing for forever.

If you think of a seed, it has a shell or a husk. That shell or husk serves an important purpose. It secures what is within the seed so that it can get into the soil. Once in the soil, that husk is not fit for the next phase of life. The husk is non-essential to an organism that is now going to exist with deep roots below the surface and a stem, branches, leaves, and fruit that longs for the sun above the surface. The seed doesn’t last. Neither will your body.

A Seed is Perishing

Because a seed serves the purpose of getting the DNA of an organism into the soil, it is naturally perishing. The same is true of our bodies. If we are not going to exist like this forever, our bodies are serving an important purpose, but there will come an end of them. Paul describes our bodies as they are with words like perishing, dishonor, weakness, and natural. He describes what we need to become with words like imperishing, glorious, powerful, and spiritual. Something decaying brings forth something amazing!

“So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.”

1 Corinthians 15:42-44

Have you ever seen a magnificent tree? I know that statement sounds boring and pedestrian as we see trees all around us. Most of them are merely filler for the scenery throughout our day. But what I mean by a magnificent tree is one that is so old, so large, and so full that you take notice of it. You stop and stare, marveling at the sheer size of it.

What a Tree!

I ride a bicycle for mental release and exercise. There is a tree on one of my bike routes that is truly magnificent. The branches of this tree are as large as most full grown trees. The trunk is so large in diameter that it would take 4-5 full grown adults to wrap their arms around it. I wonder how much of our nation’s history has come and gone with this tree standing where it is?

This tree stands in the Crandall community of NW Georgia.
A Truly Magnificent Tree

As magnificent as this is, there is not one time that I have ever ridden by it and thought, “Wow, I would like to see the acorn that thing came from!” The glory of this tree was not in its seed. The glory of this tree is in the maturity it has reached. The seed has perished so that this tree could reach its purpose.

This being the case, it makes one wonder why we give so much time and attention to fit bodies. We parade them on magazines. We admire them in movies. They’re just seeds man! Have you ever seen anyone flipping through the pages of a seed fitness magazine? Have you ever heard anyone say, “I sure would like a seed like that?”

As much as we put into our bodies, keeping them as they are is not our ultimate purpose. Again, health helps, but our bodies are perishing. There is a reason why that same girl that was on the magazine at 25 is not there at 45. If she is, it is probably with much more clothing. There is a reason why Arnold Schwarzenegger became the Terminator in 1984 and not 2019. One thing is for sure – Arni’s body from 1984 will not be back!

A Seed is Powerful

We can eat right, lose weight, have liposuction and plastic surgery all in hopes of transforming our bodies, but the real transformation takes place after death. The true nature of a seed comes out only after it is planted. The same is true of our bodies. As the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, what is perishable is raised imperishable. What is sown in dishonor is raised in glory.

And this is the heart of our conversation concerning this passage. What you look like or feel like is not nearly as important as who you are. Your concern for your shape is not nearly as important as concern for your nature. If what’s inside of you is resurrected forever, what is your forever going to be?

How many apples?

I heard a quote one time and I am not certain of its source, but it says, “Any fool can count the number of seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.”

This concern of God for what is inside of us is expressed as Samuel seeks to anoint Israel’s next king. Samuel goes to the household of the king as he is told and he is impressed by each of the sons, but none of them would be king. They were tall. Handsome. Stately in appearance but none of them were fit to be king. And then the forgotten son shows up, small, ruddy, dirty from being in the field keeping sheep. It is this one, David, that will be anointed king. And then God explains that men count seeds rather than counting what is within them.

“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

God is not nearly as concerned about your body as you are. God is concerned about what is in there!

The Seed is Promised

From verses 45-49 the Bible now begins to focus on nature. As far as we know, there are about 60,000 species of trees in the world. When it comes to humans there are only two natures within us; Christ or Adam.

“Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”

1 Corinthians 15:45-49

The nature of Adam is man in rebellion against God. It is man deciding that he had rather be god than serve God. The Adam in us is why our mouths had rather curse than bless. It is our rebellious nature that explains why we had rather use our senses to indulge the world than simply connect with it.

Nature Change

We need a nature change. Christ gives us this new nature we need. This is the idea behind what Jesus refers to as being, “born again (John 3).” In Christ we become more like God created us to be and less like the rebels we have become.

Sure, we may need to lose a little weight, but what we really need is a new nature!

An apple seed will only bring forth apple trees. You will NEVER plant an apple seed in your yard and be surprised by watermelons. A seed never betrays its nature.

The Lesson of the Methuselah Tree

In 1963 archeologists uncovered some seeds that dated back to the time of King Herod. These date palm seeds are from the first century, from the time that Jesus lived on earth. At the time of Jesus, these seeds were somewhere on one of Herod’s tables waiting to be planted. But Herod didn’t plant the seeds. In fact, the seeds were not planted until 2005.

Amazingly a date palm seedling broke through the soil and now stands a flowering date palm tree appropriately known as Methuselah. No matter how old it is, a seed never betrays its nature.

When it comes down to it, you know your nature. You know what is within you. If what is within you is resurrected, what will your forever be like?

Two Natures, Two Forevers

There are two natures in this life and there are two versions of eternity in the next one. The nature of Adam resurrected becomes an eternity of torments, separated from God forever in an eternal lake of fire. The nature of Christ resurrected becomes an eternity in a world as God intended it. We live in a world that is right, a new heavens and a new earth. Revelation 20–22 reveals these ends to us.

In the same way that an apple seed will not surprise you with watermelons; you know your nature now – there will be no surprises in the resurrection.

So lose some weight. Eat better. All of that helps, but what about your nature? Working on the seed is one thing, but changing the seed is quite another. Only Christ can redeem us from what we have become in Adam. Repent of sin and turn to Christ today!

You are going to live forever. What will your forever be like?

Watch this message on my YouTube channel.

Don’t Push the Panic Button on Rebuke

It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.

With this series of posts we are gleaning truth from Ecclesiastes 7 that will help us avoid those wild swings of emotion during turbulent times of life. It is easy in the ups and downs of it all to push the panic button. To see the introduction to the series, visit Don’t Push the Panic Button on Death.

Rebuke

I don’t know of anyone who enjoys being called out on their character, or on a critical error. We tend to surround ourselves with “yes men.” We like people who will celebrate us and tell us how amazing we are. But Solomon warns us. Surrounding yourself with “yes men” is as he says in Ecc. 7:5, “the song of fools.”

The songs of fools sound great, but amount to nothing. In Ecc. 7:6 these empty words are described as “crackling thorns under a pot.” There is a fast flame. It makes a lot of noise. All of the crackling makes it seems as if there is something really exciting happening, but it burns out with no real benefit. It is a flash fire at best, it produces no real productive heat. In Ecclesiastes 7:7 Solomon says much like a bribe corrupts the heart, so does surrounding yourself with people who will only tell you what you want to hear.

Ecclesiastes 7:5 contains a great line. If you want to be successful, mark it! If you want to make a difference in life, mark it! If you want to be a great father, great mother, great husband, great wife, great student . . . find someone who will love you enough to tell you what you may not want to hear, but what you need to hear – receive rebuke!

It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. -Ecc. 7:5

We live in a snowflake society that props us up on praise. We want celebrations of every post and pic. Everything is #themostamazing thing. When someone dares to bring rebuke, we push the panic button and absolutely melt.

Rebuke doesn’t feel good. Guess what, it’s not supposed to, but it benefits. Rebuke hurts, but it helps. We tend to avoid those people. We may even criticize those people. But if you look closely at the wisdom of the passage, those may be the people who care about you the most.

The person who brings rebuke sometimes hurts the worst but often cares the most.

In my first ministry gig, I became the youth pastor of my home church. It was a wonderful opportunity that set me up for success, but there were some subtle traps within it that could have easily been my downfall. For one, my parents were in the church. We were longtime members of the church. Most of the adults in that church raised me, coached me, taught me, encouraged me. I was surrounded by people who would celebrate everything I did as if it was the greatest thing that had ever been done. They were proud of me.

I truly appreciate their encouragement, because looking back, I realize those were some bad sermons and a lot of dumb decisions. Now at 45 and the father of two daughters, I realize what it must have been like for a parent to trust a 20-year-old to take their teenager to youth camp. Thank you New Liberty for your days of grace.

But there was one person in my life at that time who not only encouraged me, but he loved me enough to tell me the truth. Not everything I did was great. Not every sermon I preached was amazing. Not every decision was the best decision. When I did wrong, he would sit me down and call me out on it and correct it. He was my pastor.

His name was Wayne Hamrick. And I’ll be honest, I would leave his office so mad at times that I wanted to quit. But even at that time I had the good sense to know, maybe I didn’t like what he was saying; maybe I didn’t understand what he was saying; maybe I didn’t even agree with what he was saying; but 1) he was the pastor and 2) he had been doing this a whole lot longer than me. Intelligence means you have information. I was in school, I was learning a ton. Wisdom means you have information AND application. Bro. Wayne knew where certain decisions and actions would lead. He could see down the road, I could not.

The older I get, the more I appreciate him. And I will say this, the older I get, the more I realize he was right especially when I thought he was dead wrong. When I got mad, I should have been glad that he was a caring, wise, honest voice in my life.

I pushed the panic button a lot of times when he would rebuke me, but I wonder how much better I would be now if I had laid off the panic button and been more ready to receive what he was saying. Rebuke does not feel good, but it is good. Don’t push the panic button.

Be bold enough to invite some people into your life who are willing to rebuke you. Be vulnerable enough to listen and make correction. Be teachable. Wisdom does not come from what we want to hear. Wisdom is gained in what we need to hear.


As I was working on this post I came across some great material that relates in Paul Tripp’s Dangerous Calling. This book is cutting me to the core and will most likely be added to my “5 (now 6) books that rocked my world” list.

None of us is wired to live the Christian life along. None of us is safe living separated and unknown. Each of us, whether pastor or congregant, needs the eyes of others in order to see ourselves with clarity and accuracy. And what is this daily ministry of intervention protecting us from? The answer should sober every one of us: the grace of having our private conversations interrupted by the insight-giving ministry of others is protecting us from becoming spiritually blinded to the point of the hardening of our hearts. The author argues here (Heb. 3:12-13) that personal spiritual insight is the product of community. It’s very difficult to get it by yourself. Perhaps every pastor needs to humbly recognize that because of the blinding power of remaining sin, self-examination is a community project. Every pastor needs people in his life in order to see himself with biblical accuracy.

Dangerous Calling – Paul David Tripp (p. 73)

Don’t Push the Panic Button on Death

Other than crashing, do you know what is the #1 concern for airline passengers? It is not the hassle of delays. It is not even the long lines at security. It is not the high cost of tickets.

The #1 concern of airline passengers is turbulence.

I’ll admit, of all the things that I hate about the whole hassle of air travel, it is turbulence that makes me hold on to my seat and pull the seatbelt a little tighter.

But have you ever wondered what is actually going on in the cockpit during turbulence? According to Patrick Swift of AskthePilot.com, not much. He says from a pilot’s perspective, their reaction to turbulence is more about trying to avoid coffee spilling on passengers than it is a safety issue. He says:

“For all intents and purposes, a plane cannot be flipped upside-down, thrown into a tailspin, or otherwise flung from the sky by even the mightiest gust or air pocket.”

When the pilot comes over the cabin speakers to announce that we are going to encounter a small patch of rough air, all I hear in my mind is, “We are in a patch of rough air and WE’RE PROBABLY NOT GOING TO MAKE IT! Those 17 tiny pretzels we gave you will be your last meal – we hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for flying Delta.”

What’s most interesting is that passengers tend to exaggerate the actual effects of turbulence. Some passengers would say that the plane suddenly descended by as much as 3,000 feet when in reality it may have been as little as 10.

Why are there such divergent reactions between the pilots who are relatively unphased by turbulence and passengers who are in a total panic? It all comes down to perspective.

Life has a lot of ups and downs to it. Along the way, there will be turbulence. How do we avoid wild swings of emotion? How do we avoid hitting the panic button?

In Ecclesiastes 7, Solomon outlines the ups and downs of life. Along the way he gives some incredible perspective. When a person trusts God he can actually glean some very good things at some very bad times.

The key verse that unlocks the meaning of the passage is 7:14a. “In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made one as well as the other.

It is in realizing that even in the turbulence, our pilot is not in a panic. God has something good for us even in the bad. In Ecclesiastes 7, Solomon is giving us a pilot’s perspective on life turbulence and in a sense telling us – don’t hit the panic button.

Don’t Hit the Panic Button on Death

At first reading, Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 seems to be a morbid perspective on life and death. He says that death is better than birth. Is this a gruesome wish to die? Is it a twisted encouragement to end one’s life? Not at all.

In the final line of verse 2 Solomon says about death that “the living will lay it to heart.” He is not endorsing death. He is pointing us to wisdom. The greatest lessons for the living are not learned at a party, but at a funeral.

Given the choice, I think we had all rather be at a birthday party than a funeral. A party is a much happier occasion – it involves feasting (v. 2b). At a good party there is a lot of laughter (v. 3a). Everyone is in the fun zone when they are at a party. Solomon describes it as a house of mirth (v.4b).

We can learn a lot about living if we take some time to think about dying.

But it is foolish to think that life is just one big party (4a). As ridiculous as it is to believe the earth is flat, so it is to believe that your life can be perfect. Every day can’t be a party. People who run from party to party usually make a mess of their lives. Parties are great experiences, but there is very little wisdom that is learned on the dancefloor.

A funeral has a sobering effect on life. Losing someone will make you push the pause button on the fun zone and force you to take some time to think. As hard as death is, don’t push the panic button on the moment or on the rest of your life. “Lay it to heart.” Learn from it. Remember verse 14, God made even this day. We can learn a lot about living when we pay attention to dying. What are the lessons of a funeral?

  1. Decisions matter. Funerals have a way of reminding us, that both good and bad decisions matter. Health decisions matter. Life decisions matter. Moral decisions matter. There is nothing more tragic than losing someone to a bad decision. There is nothing that would make that lost life more wasted than you making that same bad decision. There is nothing like a funeral to also remind us that good decisions matter. There is a greater spirit of comfort in a family whenever someone is lost who made great decisions. Those decisions blessed that family. Those decisions will continue to help guide that family. Every funeral puts a finality on decisions. Observing death helps us to evaluate life and wonder if it were to end soon, have I made great decisions that will last long after I’m gone?
  2. Family matters. There is nothing like a funeral to bring out the true family dynamic. You see some great, bonded families at funerals and you also see the horror that a segmented, divided family can bring. Funerals remind us that the decisions we make in marriage and parenting matter. Death brings finality but awakens us to the opportunity we have in life. How do you want to be remembered by your kids? How do you want to be remembered by your spouse? Funerals are sobering reminders to tell people you love them while you have them.
  3. Life matters. Funerals confirm what James says in James 4:14, life is but a vapor. It comes for a short time and then vanishes away. No matter how long we live, it is never long enough. I think part of what Solomon means by “the living will lay it to heart” is that the wise learn from death how to make life count.
  4. Jesus matters. If anything funerals remind us is that we are not going to live forever. But wait a minute; according to the Bible, we are going to live forever. The Bible teaches us that we are eternal creations of God. Each of us will live forever, but there are two very difference versions of forever. One is an eternal lake of fire reserved for those who have rebelled against God. The other is a new heaven and a new earth for those who have received God’s Son, Jesus Christ, by repentance and faith. Death makes the decision final, but you are going to live forever. Jesus said today is the day of salvation. Why not make your forever decision today?

Don’t push the panic button on death. Losing someone is a turbulent time. But remember, God gave you plenty of days to party and He has also made this day. Lay it to heart. Learn from it. The lessons we learn in dying give us the wisdom we need to really live.