Beginning in Numbers chapter 11 and reading through chapter 15 we notice how the Israelites complained, cried, wept, were ungrateful, murmured, were disbelieving and disobedient. The same could probably be said of the people of our society, especially in the past couple of weeks. There are many great lessons we can learn about the one true and living God and from the history of the children of Israel. Indeed, Paul’s inspired pen was correct when he wrote, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and com-fort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
Does being thankful describe your behavior? Here are just a few things for us to consider as we approach this new week: 1) Be content. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Contentment doesn’t necessarily mean satisfied. But carries with it the idea of thankfulness and a focus on how God has blessed us. So… 2) Count your blessings, look for the good in every situation, and be thankful. The Psalmist said, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name” (Psalm 100:4). Colossians 3:15 instructs us to “let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” And lastly… 3) Trust in the Lord. While in the history of God’s people God recognizes both sins of ignorance and sins of presumption He still calls both of them sin. And there are consequences for both. Ignorance of the law was/is no excuse. And the only hope we have is to trust in Him and obey His commands (Psalm 37:3). Have a blessed week and be faithful!
Our church families are broken. And as I travel across the nation, what I see rather than efforts to heal and repair, are efforts to conceal and minimize. My interactions with Christian families and elders often peels back layers to reveal:
Discipline, compassion, time, listening, directing: The family needs this.
We have children using drugs and alcohol.
We have young people that have already mentally left the church.
We have youth who are growing up with a dulled conscience.
We have sons and daughters who are embracing a secular worldview.
We have children who are committing idolatry through their materialism.
We have young people committing fornication.
We have youth bullying or using profane language.
We have sons and daughters being arrested.
We have grandchildren addicted to pornography.
We have children who are worldly.
We have young people who have no problem lying to their parents.
We have sons and daughters experimenting with homosexuality.
We have children who do not sing during worship and look bored.
We have young people who are on their phones during Bible class and worship.
I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Sadly, these issues do not even include what is going on between the parents. Divorce, materialism, lying, and adultery are rampant—yes, even in the church. I’ll say it again: our families are broken. Yes, these things are going on. But the question that I’m struggling with is: “What are we actually doing about it?” The honest answer is not much. Sure we have activities, VBS, retreats, and even some service projects. But the reality is we aren’t addressing the core of the problem—we are not rearing up children with a heart for the Lord. And add to this we have totally forgotten God’s command for church discipline. My observation is that we are trying to “love” our children into the right behavior. As a result we have children that rule the house and have no fear of their parents. (And by default have little to no fear of the Lord.) Yes, we are to love our children—but a part of that love should be to love their souls enough to discipline them. “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell” (Proverbs 23:13-14). Friends, wake up—there are souls at stake here! The souls of our children, grandchildren, and members in our church families. It’s time we stop tip-toeing around and start dealing with some of these issues. It’s time the church get into repair business instead of the “program” business. It’s time we start addressing the heart. How ironic is it to see young people in a worship assembly wearing youth retreat t-shirts and yet they look bored and refuse to sing. Maybe it’s time we stop worrying so much about the design of the t-shirt and instead focus on what’s under the shirt—their heart! It’s time we have family forums and Bible classes to help train parents how to raise children using Scripture. It’s time we humble ourselves and admit our families are not perfect. It’s time we roll up our sleeves and invest the time necessary to repair homes. It’s time we teach our children to blush again and weep over sin. It’s time we hold fathers responsible to be spiritual leaders. It’s time we acknowledge it is the parent’s responsibility to train up his or her own children in the Lord. The church should not be a welfare state where parents drop off their children to activities, and expect someone else to make their children faithful. And finally, it’s time elders start addressing these issues among their flock. Yes, the preacher can address some of these issues from the pulpit, but it is not his job to fix it. It’s past time we employ church discipline—even to our young people. (If they are old enough to be “accountable,” make the decision to follow Christ, and be baptized, then they are old enough to be disciplined when their behavior brings reproach on the church.) If a parent gets upset because members or elders talk to their baptized children then maybe the parents should ask themselves soberly: Are they more concerned about their reputation than they are the child’s soul? If someone in your congregation was in the intensive care unit (ICU) how would you respond? Every congregation I visit has families that, spiritually speaking, are in ICU. Yet, we continue to conceal and minimize. It’s time we treat and heal.
I will never forget that cottonwood tree just outside the back door of the house I lived in for my entire childhood. It was where we built our treehouse and where the ropes for young “Tarzans” and swings for young children were anchored. But, the best memory I have of that tree was that several times every week we “played church” in its shade.
Are you just playing Church? We were serious about “ playing church ”— I preached hundreds of sermons and lead hundreds of songs under its huge branches. However, just to be entirely truthful, if my mother offered us treats or suggested we go get a special toy at the “five and dime” store—talk about inflation, they are now called the dollar store—church ended! Sometimes as I worship, I wonder if even now I fully comprehend the seriousness of worship. How far have I come from those days when I “played church”? The words God gave to two of His messengers come to my soul and create a longing for Him to help me to do more than “play church”—they help me to worship. “The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him…Guard your steps as you go into the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools…for God is in heaven and you are on the earth” (Hab. 2:20; Ecc. 5:1-2). It sometimes is far easier to “play church” and to just sing rather than to worship and praise Him. I know the words and melody of many songs but at those times when I sing, they come from my body and not my soul. Do you ever do this? As I listen to godly men proclaim His message, I sometimes lose the attitude expressed by Cornelius, “We are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God” (Acts 10:33). God, at these times, help me. Mold me and make me…thou are the potter I am the clay. Do you ever do this? We prayed under that cottonwood tree, but sometimes we missed the seriousness of prayer. Paul was in prayer, and when in prison, he asked others to pray for him because he truly believed he would be released from prison because of these very prayers (Phil. 1:19). Do you ever do this? We used to pretend to give as we “played church.” Sometimes, I lose sight of how my giving is designed to help minister to the needy, to proclaim the gospel to the lost, to enable the church to be edified especially in our building and to “help” God accomplish His work. Do you ever do this? The same is true of the Lord’s Supper. When I forget the cross, I close the door to spiritual maturity (2 Pet. 1:8-9). Do you ever do this? God help me to be changed by worshiping you. Forgive me when I just “play church.”
Mankind is lost in sin. A truth we must not forget (Rom. 3:23). The history of man reveals a history of sin. Even those who have given their life to Christ are guilty of sin. For John said, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:10). Therefore, men need a savior and we need an instruction manual which is why Paul penned, “for the grace that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us” (Tit. 2:11-12).
The Bible! An instruction manual like no other! The law of the Lord is perfect and converts the soul (Psa. 19:7). It is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). It is sharper than swords and divides the soul and spirit of a man (Heb. 4:12). And so, since His word lives and abides forever (1 Pet. 1:23), there is no area of man’s activities that God’s word does not direct. The Word of God does so much for us. We should be as the psalmist who loves God’s law and meditates on it (Psa. 119:97-104). But, when was the last time you meditated on God’s Word? Or, have you ever? You must know that only the pure word of God is powerful enough for man and God’s use. And, it cannot be changed (2 Jn. 9). One who does not live up to this word cannot expect to be pleasing to God. But, perhaps you do not know what the word of God does for us? Consider the following: (1) It gives life (Jn. 6:63). (2) It converts the soul (Acts 11:13-14). (3) It saves. James tells us that the engrafted word is able to save the soul (Jam. 1:21). How is that? Because faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). (4) It procreates the new life in Christ (Jam. 1:18). Paul gives further information on this by saying that we are born through the gospel (1 Cor. 4:15). (5) The word cleanses us (Jn. 15:3). (6) We are sanctified through the word (Jn. 17:17). (7) The word of God enables the Christian to make spiritual growth (1 Pet. 2:2). Each of us is responsible for how we hear for we are to be doers of the word (Jam. 1:22) and not dull of hearing (Heb. 5:11). Therefore, we must grow from babes to eating strong meat (Heb. 5:12). We are expected to grow spiritually strong (1 Pet. 3:18) and not be like those in Heb. 5:12 who were rebuked because of their lack of growth. May we put the truth in our hearts. May we live by and teach it without adding or subtracting from it (Rev. 22:18-19) and may we declare the whole council of God (Acts 20:27). We must give heed to the power of God’s Word. We must have receptive ears and hearts because we are hearing as we look at the horizon of eternity. May we ever teach the powerful, everlasting word of God and may we ever hold on to it.