Speak Words…

of life....

speak lifeThis past Saturday, in men’s group, we talked about our words and deeds in life. We never know who is watching and/or listening to our testimony.  The Book of James has a lot to say on this matter and really puts it out there for those of us who profess the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.   All of this, being said, relies solely on the fact that without Jesus nothing is possible for life.  Words also happens to be a sermon series in our church and has been very powerful on how it is speaking to the body of Christ.

After the men’s group, one of my fellow elder brothers texted 3 other brothers and myself, “Gents I have loved this song for a long time for many reasons and play it/bump it  often in the car with my kids.  This morning’s discussion immediately made me think about this song and about how often, because of selfishness, I collapse into the evil one’s trap (the snare of the fowler), and choose death talk. May we listen.  May we plead.  Holy Spirit come and convict me/us to do what is not natural for us (unselfishness) and choose to speak life.  Love you guys.  Pass along”

The song that he is referencing is from Toby Mac called Speak LIfe

Some of the lyrics states:

Some days, life feels perfect.

Other days it just ain’t workin.

The good, the bad, the right, the wrong

And everything in between.

 

Though it’s crazy, amazing

We can turn a heart with the words we say.

Mountains crumble with every syllable.

Hope can live or die

 

So speak Life, speak Life.

To the deadest darkest night.

Speak life, speak Life.

When the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why.

Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted;

Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope,

You speak love, you speak…

You speak Life, (oh oh oh oh oh oh) You speak Life. (oh oh oh oh oh oh)

 

The book of James puts it this way:

James 1:19-27 (NIV)

Listening and Doing

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

—-

As I have share one of my favorite poems called Watch Your Words, by Frank Outlaw:

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;

watch your words, they become actions;

watch your actions, they become habits;

watch your habits, they become character;

watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

 

The next time you engage life and speak into it:

  • With your spouse
  • With your children
  • With your work
  • With your church
  • With your community
  • With your neighbor
  • Especially with God

Guard your tongue:

James 3 (NIV)

Taming the Tongue

3:  1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

This past Saturday morning’s bible steady convicted me and encouraged me in the following ways with my wife, my kids and my Christian walk:

  • Guard my heart, my mind, my soul, my spirit and my tongue
  • Guard my thoughts
  • Speak words of hope to those that I can influence
  • Speak about Christ more often
  • When the Holy Spirit puts a word, a thought, a person in my heart and mind – then call that person, text that person, love that person (you never know how much they may need it)
  • Speak truth in love to my wife and kids and those in my influence
  • Watch my character around those that come across my daily path
  • Share the gospel always

As you read through this, think on the things written here and reflect on those things that you have to do, confess, give-up and grow.

Blessings,

Dante

 

 

 

Top 10 ways to build up your child

in a healthy and biblical way

top-10-mistakesWhether in church or in your neighborhood or at any social gathering, all of us like to watch how other people live.  We are people who are built for community, just like our Creator is in community as the Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).  That being said, no matter the socioeconomic status that a parent may be in, one thing is constant in parenting – there are good and intentional parents, there are mediocre parents, and than there are parents who are self-absorbed, and if we are honest, are not really good parents.

Before you dismiss me on this, think about the Christian walk – there are Christians who abide in God’s word and walk in step with His Spirit and yield to biblical truths;  there are Christians who try to serve two masters:  1) the world and 2) God, and then realize that they are divided and conflicted in which way to go; there are Christians that have a lot of head knowledge of God, but have never connected  the heart (the question then becomes did they ever surrender to self and truly repent to God as Savior?  That is not for us to decide but that is between them and God.) Scripture gives us a way to know them by their fruit (Galatians 5.)  All of this is to make the point that there is no clear-cut way to parent.  Many of us, if we are honest, can look at any set of parents and realize that even with different parenting methods, there are those 3 types of parents.  Today, however, I would like us to focus on the good parenting and give us 10 ways that are good and healthy ways to build up our child.

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (ESV) 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

 

Here are 10 healthy ways to build up your child

  1. Give them your time – it is not just about quality, your child also needs your quantity of time.  Dad’s (and Mom’s) when you give your child time, please put your phones down, turn off the television, hide the Ipads and give them your 110% devotion of time.  Let them know and feel like there is nothing else that matters when you are in that moment with them.  Love on them, hug them, reassure them and do life with them.  Get involved in their likes (not your likes for them).
  2. Show them your faith – Revolutionary Parenting is a book by George Barna that gives a good study on what it is like to raise be a Revolutionary Parent and I highly recommend this read.  Your child (children) are watching you and looking to see if there is a higher authority that you submit to.  Meaning:  Is God real in your life?  Is your faith real?  Do you practice what you preach?  When you sin, do you repent?  When you are wrong, do you apologize and ask for forgiveness and make it right?  Is your faith something that is caught or just taught?  If it is just taught and not giving them the desire to own your faith for themselves, then they will likely reject your faith.
  3. Encourage, Comfort and Urge – 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12a (NIV) 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God.  Giving your child real confidence and truth in love is a sure-fire way for this child to be confident in who they are and when Jesus calls them to be His, they can find their identity in Christ, which is even healthier for them and their life.
  4. Discipline them – Proverbs 19:8 (ESV) 8 Whoever gets sense loves his own soul;  he who keeps understanding will discover good.   Proverbs 13:24 (ESV) 24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.  Your child needs boundaries and they are constantly testing those boundaries to see how far they can go.  Be consistent with the crime, do not waver and do everything in love (not anger).  For if God shows us mercy, we should be quicker to show those who we have been given stewardship over more mercy.  Give them a safe home and comfortable boundaries to thrive and to be secure.
  5. Disciple them – Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV) 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
  6. Point them in healthy directions – Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) 6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.   The older I get, the more this verse makes complete sense to me.  A lot of people, I believe, take this verse as if the child will never sin or depart from God’s will…this is not a true conclusion (in my opinion) because we are all sinners and we are all broken, therefore, why wouldn’t our children sin and depart from God’s will?  The key to this verse, for us parents, is to make our faith real to them and show them that we will always yield to Scripture in our lives and that our faith is real.  When we guide them in the direction and facilitate life with them (we cannot always protect them from making mistakes or failing or falling) because that what life is.  We can guide them like a Sensei does in martial arts, for Sensei means:  “One who has gone before”.
  7. Tell the truth – Let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no (be consistent) and do not teach them to lie by lying to them.  This doesn’t mean that you don’t protect their innocence as adolescents because we have to shelter them and their innocence while we can.  But as we discern their maturity in handling such matters in life, then be consistent in their lives by showing them character and integrity.
  8. Look for the teachable moments – whether you are at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table (or wherever opportunity thrives) share life with them in your experience and in giving them ethical dilemmas.  Give them a place to express themselves and to open up to you in order to see how faith in Scripture gives us the answers in every situation.
  9. Love your spouse – if you truly want to be a good parent to your child, then love your spouse.  Read 1 Peter 3 and Ephesians 5.
  10. Love them – tell them, hold them, kiss them and share God’s word with them.  Do not withhold love from them.

What are some of your ways to build up your children?

Blessings,

Dante

 

 

 

Borderland, by John Mark McMillan

(I cannot get this song out of my head)

borderlandIn case you didn’t know, I am a music man.  I love most kinds of music barring a few notable genres.  All that being said, I have become a songwriter over time.  I love raw and honest songwriters who really put it out there.  That being said, there is this one song that I cannot get enough of.  It is called, Borderland, by John Mark McMillan.  There is one part of the song that the lyrics go like this:

Help me holy Jesus won’t you show me how to live
I’ve got monsters at my table I’ve got Bibles bent like shivs
Help me holy Lord I see the light of Heaven’s porch
but so many of us are born here outside your chain link fence

These lyrics are raw and to the point.  If you listen to the entire song you can reflect on The law of Moses compared to the finishing work of Jesus Christ on the cross for you and me.  It is a deep song and it puts things in perspective.  Whether we want to believe it or not we have two things working against us as Disciples:  1) Our old self nature and 2) Spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm).

I think the things that we have to realize (to discern) is when temptation comes our way that we have to ask ourselves is if this is warfare or old self coming at us.  We have to equip ourselves with other brothers to carry us through these times and troubles.  We have to be raw and open and honest with these brothers in order for them to help us carry these burdens in life.  Above all, we have to yield to the Holy Spirit who convicts us at times, encourages us and leads us in the way that we should go.

In these times of trials and tribulations, we should pray, “help me holy Jesus and won’t you show me how to live” because we do have monsters at our tables and we need to have our bibles bent like shivs (to know the word and to live it gives us a might weapon to defend ourselves).

The song also states this:

Living in a borderland
I don’t feel like a boy I don’t feel like a man
And the things I don’t understand
Things like love. Like the law, the law of the jungle

None of us are perfect nor can we earn our way into Heaven.  The law was given to condemn the sinner.  Jesus Christ came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it!  Before Jesus came we were called to obey the law and if we were guilty of one of the laws then we were guilty of all of them.  Jesus overcame that for us and become our new covenant.  His life was perfect and he fulfilled every prophecy about the Messiah – because He is the Messiah!

Because he died, we can live.  Because he lives we can die to our old selves and be a new creation in Christ.

Trust and obey, for there is no other way!

 

Blessings,

Dante

PS – John also wrote, How He loves me (also performed by David Crowder Band)

 

 

 

Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord…

all the days of Jehoiada (the priest)

our-daily-bread2 Chronicles 24 English Standard Version (ESV)

Joash Repairs the Temple

24 Joash[a] was seven years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zibiah of Beersheba. 2 And Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest. 3 Jehoiada got for him two wives, and he had sons and daughters.

4 After this Joash decided to restore the house of the Lord. 5 And he gathered the priests and the Levites and said to them, “Go out to the cities of Judah and gather from all Israel money to repair the house of your God from year to year, and see that you act quickly.” But the Levites did not act quickly. 6 So the king summoned Jehoiada the chief and said to him, “Why have you not required the Levites to bring in from Judah and Jerusalem the tax levied by Moses, the servant of the Lord, and the congregation of Israel for the tent of testimony?” 7 For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken into the house of God, and had also used all the dedicated things of the house of the Lord for the Baals.

8 So the king commanded, and they made a chest and set it outside the gate of the house of the Lord. 9 And proclamation was made throughout Judah and Jerusalem to bring in for the Lord the tax that Moses the servant of God laid on Israel in the wilderness. 10 And all the princes and all the people rejoiced and brought their tax and dropped it into the chest until they had finished.[b] 11 And whenever the chest was brought to the king’s officers by the Levites, when they saw that there was much money in it, the king’s secretary and the officer of the chief priest would come and empty the chest and take it and return it to its place. Thus they did day after day, and collected money in abundance. 12 And the king and Jehoiada gave it to those who had charge of the work of the house of the Lord, and they hired masons and carpenters to restore the house of the Lord, and also workers in iron and bronze to repair the house of the Lord. 13 So those who were engaged in the work labored, and the repairing went forward in their hands, and they restored the house of God to its proper condition and strengthened it. 14 And when they had finished, they brought the rest of the money before the king and Jehoiada, and with it were made utensils for the house of the Lord, both for the service and for the burnt offerings, and dishes for incense and vessels of gold and silver. And they offered burnt offerings in the house of the Lord regularly all the days of Jehoiada.

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Speak The Truth In Love

But Don't Waste Your Time

Recently, I attended some training on sharing the Gospel from an organization that does full-time evangelism.  Some of the comments the trainer made really rocked me and my wife and caused us to examine not only our lives but how we spend time in ministry.

In Matthew 28, we are commanded to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”  The command is quite clear, if you are a Christian, you should be sharing the good news with others.  God doesn’t say this is only a command for full-time paid ministry staff, but for all Christians.

bridge

One of the first comments that struck a chord with us was this:

“Most Christians spend a lot of time, money, and energy making their churches wonderful with the belief that if their church is great, the lost will stop by one day and find Christ.  The reality is that most people that need to hear the Gospel will never set foot in your church.  You need to bring the Gospel to them.”  

We can make this argument all day long, do people come to a church and get saved, absolutely. But is this the main purpose of a church?  Not really.  The church (building) exists as a place for people to gather, worship God and fellowship with other believers.  It should also teach, train, and equip believers to become disciples who then “Go and make other disciples.”

If you are reading this, you are probably the type of person who is open to attending church but the reality is…most people are not.  In our experience planting churches, my wife and I have literally invited hundreds of people to come to church on Sunday and despite people saying they are Christians, only about 10% actually show up on Sunday.  We’ve found that people are much more open to attending a small group gathering or social event than coming to the dreaded “Sunday Event.”

Research polls shows that less than 20% of the US population attends church on Sunday and this number is expected to fall to 15.6% by 2020.  However, this number is deceiving as many people are open to faith and even consider themselves Christian but they just don’t attend church on Sunday. What this tells me is that people don’t have an issue with God or Christianity but with the Modern Church.  I’ve written quite extensively over the years on why people feel this way to include: hypocritical believers, not accepting of outsiders, poor vision from leaders, not engaging the lost and hurting, too political, etc.  The bottom line is that many people believe the modern church is not an accurate reflection of Christ and his teachings and therefore don’t want to attend.

However, this does not mean that they are not open to the Gospel. This means that ordinary Christians need to bring the Gospel to them.

We each have a missionary field – our neighborhood, our community, our social sphere, people we see everyday at the coffee shop – all these people are in our missionary field.

My wife recently shared a video message on Facebook talking about all the wonderful blessings and prayers answered this past year and two of the most unlikely people contacted her and asked her how they could have faith and joy like that in their lives.

This leads me to the second comment that struck a chord with us, me specifically:

“Speak the truth in love but don’t waste your time debating people.”

Part of my personal faith journey was spending a lot of time studying Apologetics and being able to defend my faith with science, logic, facts, and reason.  I can defend the New Testament and give you dozens of reason for the authenticity and accuracy of the Gospel.

However, when I talked with the trainer in private, I asked this question:

“I don’t run into people who have never heard the Gospel, most people have grown up in church or have heard of Jesus.  I run into people who were once a part of a church but no longer want anything to do with it or atheists and agnostics who want to debate every detail incessantly.”

His answer – “I don’t waste my time arguing or debating people, there are too many hurting and receptive people out there that it’s just a waste of time to debate.” 

This may seem callous and you may want to quote him the parable of the Lost Sheep from Luke but his point was that he did not spend hours trying to debate someone either in person or online to accept the Gospel.  Speak the truth in love but don’t waste your time or breath on people who are not ready.

until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather,speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”   – Ephesians 4:13-16

He followed the “Red Apple Evangelism” philosophy. This philosophy states that there are Red Apples who are ripe for the Gospel right now and Green Apples who need to be loved on but are not ready for the Gospel. The key is to spend 95% of your outreach time on Red Apples.

This statement made me realize how much time I’ve wasted trying to debate or convince people of my faith, beliefs, opinions, or even accepting Christ. Part of this is my personality, I believed that if I could just say the right thing, give the right evidence or facts to win the debate – somehow that person would see that they are wrong and believe. This rarely happens however.

It’s even harder and more personal when that person is a family member or someone close to us.

Ultimately, this training made me change my view on ministry and outreach. I no longer spend any time engaging in debates or even answering social media comments that may end up in a debate. People send me messages all the time and now, I just politely tell them that I no longer have the time to engage in debates.

This also made me rethink how I spend my time on ministry.  I’ve spent countless hours on planning, vision meetings, and even writing on this website. Ultimately, I could say that this was all “tending the flock” type ministry but am I really doing what God has asked?

No offense to my pastors out there but I’m no longer interested in building a bigger church, making praise and worship better or finding the best small group curriculum. I’m interested in going, reaching people, and making disciples of all nations.

– Lance

Simplicity at its best

putting things into perspective

LTRfront1Leadership Training Residency is a class that our church offers for Overseers, Worship Leaders and Youth Ministry Leaders.  I am taking this with some other brothers that I walk with and am in ministry with.  There was some concern on my scheduling (my involvement), but after talking with some accountability partners (my wife and brothers that I am being held accountable with), we decided that this would be a good discipline in my life to get my spiritual life back into focus.

One of the books that were assigned to us is by Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, where he talks about outward disciplines and in his words, “After all, the writers of Scripture constantly took that risk. And so I follow their lead and suggest ten controlling disciplines for outward expression of simplicity:

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Rules of the Sabbath

Find God's Sabbath rest in your daily walks

colossians223Recently in our men’s group we talked about the Sabbath and what does God require from us in terms of Sabbath rest.  Two of the men facilitating the large group discussion shared when they were growing up and when they met their wives (both in high school) that they had to succumb to the rules on the Sabbath with their then-t0-be wives.  Interesting enough, one shared that one day he and his wife (girlfriend) at that time wanted to grow swimming on the Sabbath.  So they did, and the rules were that you could get into the pool and float BUT you could not swim, which some men brought up the question around the table:  What happened if one started to drown?

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Legacy Dad

a day in a life

sethharper1Thessalonians 2:11-12 For you know how, like a father with his children,  we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory

This week was an insanely busy week for me both at work, home, and in the Church.  I wake up notably early and often leave the house while others are drooling on their pillows.  A few of my colleagues were traveling this week.  Secondly, I had an Elders meeting on Tuesday, and LTR class on Wednesday and my wife and I had a business date on Thursday.  I also like to go to bed no later than 10:30pm on work nights and this week I was not off to bed anytime before 11:30pm.

I prayed a lot. I talked with God a lot. I thanked Him a lot.  All this to say to you that for some strange reason, I wasn’t fatigued or grumbling, rather, I was excited for what God is doing in men’s lives around me.  The picture to the right was sent by another fellow Elder of mine who took this picture of another really good friend of mine.  This friend told him that he could only take this picture if it were in relation to Legacy Dad – The Elder obliged!  Both of these men are legacy dads (the one posing for the picture and the other taking the picture).

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