On Being the Protector of Your Home

In June of this past year, my family purchased and renovated a home near our church. Our home is in the country, and my kids are getting to experience a childhood that is similar to mine and Brittany's. We have wanted to make this move for a couple of years and the LORD has been exceedingly gracious to give us this place to call home.

If you have ever moved to a new home, you know that the first few days are spent adjusting to this new environment, and I felt ready and excited to get back to my roots and have some space to play and work. But moving always comes with some adjustments. When you move into a new home, you don’t know any of the sounds, or the quirks of the house. The longer you live in a house, the noises of a house barely register in your ears. For some reason when we moved into this place, I felt I heard every noise in a 10 mile radius. While I knew to expect that, I seemed more tense about it than I thought I would be. I was raised in the country and I know country sounds. I had just lived in a neighborhood that had the noises of cars, garages, music and people talking outside. I thought it was because I had become too influenced by constant noise. Either way I didn’t’ sleep well the first few nights in our new home. I was speaking with a friend at church about this and he, being wiser than me, was quickly able to know what was going on. He pointed out that when I moved into our previous home, I didn’t have small children and by the time I did, I had grown accustomed to those noises. I then told him that while that was true, I had grown up in the country and thought I would relax and sleep well in the quiet. But again, being a wiser man than me, he pointed out the difference. When I grew up in the country, I was a child. I was the one protected and didn’t have to worry. The difference is now, I’m the protector of the home. He said I’m jumpy and tense because the sense of potential threat is not only against me, it’s against my wife and kids. Bingo.

It’s different when you are the protector. You must be more alert and more aware. You have to make preparations and precautions that those you protect might never consider. New noises aren’t just creeks and shifts of a home, or of a deer or another animal in the woods. To the protector, you have to hear and be alert with renewed ears, because you have other things to consider. If you are the protector of your home, don’t take this point too lightly. We can get wrapped up in being the prophet in our home and the priest, but we are also tasked to be the protector of our home and those within. Yes, Jesus intercedes, helps and comforts His Church, but He also protects. He sends angels to protect and guard. He gives us the Holy Spirit to comfort and protect. Christ spends His days doing many things, and protecting his bride, the children of God is one of His central tasks. Thus, for those of us who are the protectors of the home, we are called to be protectors, and this is a full scale, multi front protection. We must protect their bodies from physical harm and from those who would harm them. We are to protect them from attacks from the world and it's systems of thought. We are to be alert to the ways in which intruders and intrusion would come into our home. Christians and protectors of homes must give more than lip service to the truth that those in our home have an enemy who wants to harm their bodies, minds and souls.

Yes, it’s different when you are the protector. You will answer to the LORD for how you protected this household, which means we must take and implement many practical and tangible ways to protect our homes. Security systems, alarms, cameras, guns, training sessions on proper gun use, etc. are obvious types of protection that we all must consider and work towards, while also not neglecting other forms of protection, such as safe guards on digital technology and media, supplemented with resources, books and fun that are true, good and beautiful. We should also protect our households by having a soft, yet firm tongue, daily prayers and worship, and assurance of love and commitment to the members of our household. As a protector, you must know your enemy, know his intentions and know his tactics. Your enemy doesn’t play fair and will settle for nothing less than destruction. So a protector must be prepared.

There are many things that could be added and expanded upon, that would, and in some places do, fill much space. So let me end by saying that a protector must not only know his enemy, but know His Protector. He must daily converse with and listen to His Authority and Protector. There are many protectors of homes who can identify their enemy better than they can their own allegiances. The more familiar we are to whom we serve, and to whom our allegiances are given, then we will be better fit to protect. But most of all, we must never forget that it is our King, Savior, Lord and Friend who protects us, and how He protects. Jesus laid His life down to protect us from the destruction of sin and the Devil. Therefore, as protectors of the home, protect with the blessing, strength, wisdom and Spirit of Jesus Christ. And sleep well, your Lord and Protector watches over you. 

Catechism for 2-4 Year Olds

When my first two children were 2 and 3 years old and just learning to speak, I unintentionally began asking them repeat things in stories, or from the Bible to help them stay engaged with the reading and to help remember what we were reading. I would ask them a question and have them repeat what I said in 3-4 beats/syllables. They seemed to like this and I noticed they were catching on, because they would say and mention these things in their evening prayers. To help them further, I decided to write down some of the things we had said to help them later. In other words, I had stumbled upon catechizing my children before I had planned to formally start catechisms. Shortly after that, a father in our church who had children as similar ages, asked some questions about catechisms and I told him what I had been doing with our kids. However, I didn’t have anything formal to give him, so I decided to make a catechism from what I had done and add a few more things. Below is the finished product. 

Please remember this was designed to be used for children before even pre-k age. The goal of these questions is to familiarize them with things they hear in Bible readings, Bible stories and from readings, confessions and sermons from the church worship service. This is not meant to replace any of the older and wonderful catechisms of the past, but to possibly be an aid to those with children 2(ish) to 4(ish) years old. The topics covered aren’t exhaustive, but to help parents to train their children in the pre-school years on important truths. I hope this is helpful for you. If you have any questions or need help in using this, let me know.

Questions about God the Father

1. Who is God? The LORD our God

2. What else is God? Nothing

3. How many persons is God? Three:

4. Who are they? Father, Son and Spirit

6. What else can we call God? Creator and King

5. What is God like? Holy, loving, just and good

Questions about God’s creation

7. What did God make? Everyone and everything

8. Who made you? God made me

9. How did God make the world? By speaking words.

10. Why did God make the world? For his glory.

11. What did God say after making everything? Very good

12. What was God’s favorite creation? People

Questions about the Bible:

13. What is the Bible? The Word of God

14. What is the Bible like? True, beautiful and good

15. What do we do with the Bible? Read it and believe it

Questions about humanity

16. Who were the first people God made? Adam and Eve

17. Why did God make people? For His glory and our joy

18. Who were the first people? Adam and Eve

19. What did God use make them? From the dust of the ground

20. How did God make them? Happy and holy

Questions about Jesus Christ

21. Who is Jesus Christ? Lord and Savior

22. Is Jesus God or a man? Both! God and man

23. Did Jesus sin? Never, not once

24. What is Jesus like? Holy, loving, just and good

25. Why did Jesus die? To save sinners

26. What did Jesus do for you? Died for my sins

27. How many sins did Jesus die for? All of them

28. Is Jesus still dead? No! He is alive!

29. Where is Jesus now? In Heaven, ruling the earth!

30. Is Jesus coming back to earth? Yes! Yes! Yes!

Questions about the Holy Spirit

31. Who is the Holy Spirit? Our Comforter and Helper

32. Is the Holy Spirit God? Yes, equal to Father and Son

33. What does the Holy Spirit do? Keeps, convicts and guides us

34. How long will the Spirit keep, convict and guide us? Forever and ever!

For the Love of Food

Human beings share a common love: food. I’m not referring to our common need of food, but of our common love for food. We relate certain foods to events, traditions and people. When I think of Destin, Florida, I think of Fish Tacos. When I think of Crowder, Mississippi, I think of chicken and dressing. When I recall a trip to Zimbabwe, I think of grilled wart hog, a trip to Peru with cow heart and french fries, New York City with homemade mozzarella sticks, and Yemen with grilled lamb and flat bread. When I think of Tate County, (the community I was raised in), I think of spaghetti, Saturday morning breakfast, chicken parmesan, chili, potato salad, fried turkey and Christmas dinner. Most people have a soundtrack for their lives. I have a menu for mine.

We all love food because of its involvement in nearly every part of our lives. We celebrate by eating, we welcome people into our lives by inviting them to share a meal with us. We begin new relationships often over meals and drinks. When grieving and mourning, friends will bring you meals to express their love and compassion. People display love and care by giving their friends and family the best they have of their food and inviting you to participate. What would offend you more: for someone to be critical of the dinner you made, or for them to not like the movie you invited them to come over and watch? It is not by accident that Jesus said to eat what is set before you when you come to a new place.

When we have been away from home for a long time, what do we want to do when finally arrive back home? We want to go to certain places to eat and drink. It doesn’t feel like home until you have had that one certain meal. For me, its Coleman’s BBQ in Senatobia, MS., my hometown. Before we moved back home, I attempted to eat at Coleman’s on each visit. In our homes, where are the places we often gather the most and remain the longest to talk to others? Often, its the kitchen and the dining room. When we have guests over for a meal, we end up sitting most of the time at our kitchen table, even though our much more comfortable couches and chairs are 7 feet away. We do this because the kitchen table is more than a place to eat, but a place of fellowship.

Food and the need for food is one of the LORD’s great acts of wisdom and gifts of grace. How kind of God to not only give us food to eat that will satisfy our hunger, but to give us food that is enjoyable and satisfying to taste? The LORD could have given us corn flakes for all of our meals, and that would have been gracious enough. But He provides much more. Why does He do this? Because taste conveys the grand enjoyment and satisfaction that is found in the LORD seemingly more than any of the other senses He has given us. This is why the Psalmist writes that we are to “taste and see that the Lord is good” and that His Word is “sweeter than honey.” Food and eating are more than fuel for living, but designed to be a daily reminder of God’s love for us, and His invitation to sit at His table as His beloved children. It is right then to say that in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, God has invited us to eat with Him, and also to feast with Him. Our great God and Savior Jesus Christ gave up His seat at the table of continual feasting and fellowship with the Father so that we would have a place at His Father’s table, and gloriously rose again three days later to receive His rightful place at the head of the table. This is no mere meal. It is a feast and bounty of grace and glory, yet one that will not compare to the glory of sitting with Him and all of God’s people for the Supper of the Lamb.

So until then, let us not forget to eat. Gather with other brothers and sisters in Christ to eat with Jesus at His table each week.  Let the realities of the Lord’s Supper set the tone for all the meals and conversations around your table.Gather with your family around the kitchen table, and may it be a time of rest and joy. Have a thankful heart for what is before you and remember that all our meals are a gift of grace from a loving Father. Invite some friends over at times and bless them with some of your blessings. Serve your family and guests with love and care as the Host of the Lord’s Supper would serve, love and care for you.

Grace and peace to you and to all at your table.

1-16-17 AD

3 Bible Texts On Discerning False Teachers

Note: This article originally was published in Highlands Ministries magazine "Every Thought Captive" October 2016 edition.

False Teachers are purveyors of falsehood that harm the lives of all who embrace it. Recognition of a false teacher requires more than a biblical check list. It requires discernment and sensitivity from the Holy Spirit. What then are we to look for in a false teacher? From the Word of God, I offer three texts to help:

First, Romans 16:17-18 reveals that false teachers create divisions to doctrinal unity
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

The Apostle Paul says to “watch out,” for false teachers because they create divisions over the unity of doctrine and confession. They bring into the fold doctrines outside the bounds of orthodoxy, and do so in the name of unity. They slyly demean brothers and sisters who believe the doctrines rightly taught. They nit pick over differences with others, and exploit the brethren where they are weak. While true teachers help the brethren in their weakness, false teachers divide over weaknesses and create harmful and unneeded obstacles, so as to always be seeking unity but never arriving at it. They smooth talk others to believe their divisions are right and proper. Their teaching is meant to protect themselves while simultaneously indicting others. When they feel attacked, they divert attention away from themselves, usually with deceit and flattery that yields to another’s naiveté.  

Secondly, Titus 1:10-11 reveals actions that flow from the character of a false teacher
For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.

According to this text, false teachers are rebellious and resistant towards their authority. They teach with religious tones and with religious words that have no value. They try to coerce others for selfish gain of power and others confidence in them.

Third, 1 Timothy 3b-11b explains the effects of false teaching
"So that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine…”

See finally that false teachers create “speculations” of God’s nature, works and ways, and lead others in “vain discussion” of the speculations that will bring no lasting fruit. This is confirmed through the lives of those reared under their work. These are lives filled with “swerving and wandering” from the faith by unholy and profane lives, filled with violence, lies, disobedience and disrespect. Sadly this happens because of that which links all three passages together. The false teacher is “without understanding” of the words they say, the Scripture they profess to believe, and the God they profess to worship.

October 2016 A.D.

In Search of a Better Christmas Experience

The six week long holiday season that begins Thanksgiving week and ends New Years Day is in full swing. While we all love this time of year, most everyone says they are glad when the season is over. I never understood this as a child, but as an adult I get it. I enjoy this season and many things about it, but I have felt there is added pressure on my family and have heard others express the same about feeling much more pressure on them in the last few years than they ever thought there would be there as adults. 

What is particular interesting are the reasons we feel this pressure. I know our parents felt pressured during Christmas. They wanted us to have a joyful Christmas and to bless us with gifts in ways they couldn’t all year. I didn’t understand that until I had my own children. I used to watch parents when we didn’t have children and had a sense of haughtiness because I would see them overwhelm their children with gifts and continuously tell myself, “My kids will never be this spoiled.” And then I had children, and now I understand. Although we don’t break the bank to buy our children presents, I do want to bless them with gifts. This is the kind of pressure our parents felt. They wanted us to enjoy our gifts because it brings them joy to see their children happy. Right or wrong, this was their belief and their pressure, which brings me to the pressure that our current generation feels about Christmas and our lives in general. We have different pressures during Christmas that may be harder. It’s the pressure of the Christmas experience that is lived out on the internet, specifically social media web sites. Let me explain.

Our culture is still a culture of excess, but today’s craving isn’t so much a craving for possessions but for an experience. We want this Christmas to be the best Christmas season we’ve ever had. Now we make our homes themed for what experience we are going for: old cottage in the woods, urban loft Christmas, Christmas at the beach, all while we are taking lots of pictures to post on all our social media pages to show everyone else how wonderful our home is to be in during the holidays, which is the heart of the problem. We want all the stuff, in the best setting and it cannot be boring or outdated.  We will not settle for an ordinary Christmas Day. We must have a season. We must have an experience. It must be filled will Christmas cookies that we made with our kids help that is followed by Christmas movies and singing Christmas carols. We no longer take our kids to see Christmas lights. We have to have pajama parties in our cars while looking at Christmas lights. My wife told me that some families send their kids a note and say they are being kidnapped to a pajama and Christmas light party. Huh? 

The pressure doesn’t end there. In fact it hasn’t even started. The real pressure begins when you log in and see what everyone else is doing at their home for Christmas and then you ask: Why didn’t we get a real Christmas Tree like them? Why didn’t we hand make our ornaments like them? Why don’t I look like that when I put up my tree? Next year I will. And then we resolve to a have better Christmas experience for ourselves and our kids. 

Christians are equally guilty. Why did we only read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Matthew and not from the Gospel Luke like they did? We only bought clothes for our own kids, so next year lets donate more money to charity like them so our kids will get the experience of giving back at Christmas. I only lit the Advent candles five times this year. They did one every day. I had advent devotions planned, but only did three and none them were written by John Piper! The manger scene we painted wasn’t as biblical as theirs. We sang jingle bells too much. We need to sing more Christian Christmas carols. Next year we will. And then we resolve that next year we will have better Christmas experience for ourselves and our kids. 

The reason we have more pressure than our parents did is because the whole world is watching. If you wanted to, you could have your entire life documented in film, photo and word. You can take videos, post pictures, an give frequent short updates about your Christmas on Facebook, Twitter or longer versions on your blog. There isn’t a problem inherently with posting pictures and giving updates through the internet. What sits uneasy with me is the way these outlets are used for self promotion. Why do we do the things we do with the tools we have? In other words, why do we use the ability the internet gives us for information and communication for self promotion? It’s not that we are more selfish than other cultures and time periods. If they had Instagram, they would do the same thing and likely did within the context of their time and tools. We do this because within us there is a void that longs for greatness and because we are modern and postmodern, we believe that greatness is to be found within ourselves and this world. We believe that we are great and we need a great experience to make our greatness even better, so we use the internet to show the world how great we are and how great we do things. No need for the heavens to declare the glory of God, we have an iPhone with our camera and social media sites just waiting on us to upload and declare our own glory. See if there is no God, then there is nothing for the heavens to declare the glory of. Its just open space. But glory needs to be declared and if I am the greatness in this world, then I and others need to declare my glory and there is no better time than now to declare to all of the human race your glory. It’s just one click away. Any wonder then why we feel exhausted after Christmas?

What we need is this void to be filled. We need to renounce our belief that greatness is within us. We have to renounce our desires to declare our own greatness. Ultimately, we have to renounce our belief in our own deity. There is only One who is deity in human flesh. The Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing. Look to the heavens and see them declare His glory. See union with Christ the Lord as the greatest experience that anyone can know, an experience that never ends and is only getting better. Come to His church and participate in the greatest experience that happens on this side of eternity until Christ returns. Come see the body of Christ. Come and be a part of the body of Christ. Come and sing to Him. Come and praise Him. Come confess your sins to Him. Come and confess your faith in Him, which is your rejection of modernism, post modernism and self worship. Come and make your union with Him known to the world by passing through His water of baptism. Come and share a meal with Him, His Father and His brothers and sisters, who will be your Father and your brothers and sisters. And leave with His blessing over you as we go to different places of life until we meet again. The longings for a new and different experience doesn’t fit with Christianity, because we have been doing the same thing for thousands of years. But this gathering and this union never ages, grows outdated and only gets better with time. 

I don’t want a new experience. I want the same one over and over. I want Christ and more of Him. I don’t want a new worship experience each week. I want to worship Christ the Lord, the same yesterday, today and forever. I don’t need a better Christmas experience. I have union with Christ, the Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing. This is the experience not of a season, not of a lifetime, but of eternity. It’s an experience that refreshes instead of drains. Our burdens are heavy, but His shoulders can hold all our burdens and exhaustion. So cast them on Him, for He cares for you. 

Advent 2016 A.D.