Friday, August 30, 2013

Children First

The giants in our lives usually start out small too. Often they begin with an attitude that says, I can handle this. It is just a drink here and there. It is just having one with the guys after work. It is just a glass of wine with Italian food. Then, after a while, it is a drink to unwind at the end of a long day. Then it is having a drink in the morning. Pretty soon, it is not being able to get through the day without a drink. People who don't plan on ending up this way end up this way.

Like Goliath, our giants start small, and they get big. That little area we thought we had control of now has control of us. That little thing that once was a pest has now become a relentless giant, and we don't know how to defeat it. We don't know how to bring it down.

He has determined our times and dwelling places. Unlike an author or painter who steps back from their created work once it is finished, God desires a daily relationship with us. We have a choice. We can rely on our own instincts and wisdom or we can rely on God for direction. When we rely on our own point of view, we are certain to take wrong turns. When we rely on God, our footsteps are sure. Who will you trust today?

The truthfulness of our words can often seem like a little thing to us, but it matters greatly to God! Notice that two of the seven things He hates in this passage have to do with lying.

Sometimes when we tell a “white lie”, when we just shade the truth a little to deceive, we think it doesn’t matter very much. But listen to this warning from Charles Spurgeon:

“Just get one small error into your minds, get one small evil into your thoughts, commit one small act of sin in your life—permit these things to be handled, and fondled, favoured, petted, and treated with respect, and you cannot tell whereunto they may grow.

“They are small in their infancy; they will be giants when they come to their full growth. You little know how near your soul may be to destruction when you wantonly indulge in the smallest act of sin! Dread sin; though it be ever so small, dread it.”

We see God. We read about His mighty works and power throughout Scripture. We see His hand in the beauty and breadth of creation. And then we look in the mirror. We see a mess. We see mistakes, disappointments, and missed opportunities. How could God ever use us? How could He ever find a purpose for us in His story? But in spite of how we see ourselves, can you bring even your words to God today and give them to Him? Trust Him to help you always be truthful.

But today, the call of God to the church is to dismiss ourselves from chasing hither and thither and to cultivate a heart of unwavering devotion. He wants us to love Him, first and foremost, with all of our hearts. When your heart is conquered by the One who is fascinating, then no other captivation will satisfy. You will refuse to dwell anywhere but in this position of waiting on Him. You will pursue Him alone, not allowing yourself to be distracted by anything less. Your hunger will be fixed on a single source. There will be no going back to what used to bring satisfaction. Secondary pleasures will fade away.

I know that God has enemies. His enemy is the devil; the enemy of Jesus Christ is Satan. The enemy of the Holy Spirit is the devil, the enemy of the truth is the devil, the enemy of the church is the devil, and God's enemies are those who are against the truth.

God may choose to get our attention and increase our anointing by the rival spirit of an enemy. Now a rivalry can be a friendly rivalry, but sometimes it can lead to hostility. A rival is a person who competes with you. And yet a friendly rivalry can be healthy: "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Prov. 27:17). Every rival in our lives may be seen as a thorn in the flesh to get us to pray harder.

There can be a strategic rivalry. Saul became jealous of David, and David became the enemy of Saul for the rest of his life. David's hero became his enemy, but it was God's way of refining David's anointing—the best thing that could have happened to him. God uses an enemy to refine us. That is why it is strategic.

Be sure that you are in Christ. Be sure that you are covered by the blood of Jesus. Be sure that all your sins are under His blood, because you surely don't want God as an enemy. Be sure then, that you know that your sins are forgiven and that you are walking in the light (1 John 1:7).

For most of us, life presents dozens of options for career, lifestyle, passions, and hobbies. In our pursuit of pleasure and meaning we run here and there, trying one job or recreational activity after another, collecting experiences but never devoting ourselves to one direction. 

Multi-site church strategies starring the guy on the screen are simply another variant of televangelism. With all of the attached unsustainable encumberances. What happens when the guy dies? Or decides to move away? Or changes careers? Or relinquishes his faith? He-and thus his personality-driven network of multi-sites-is not sustainable.

And the multi-site pastor shares another, more unseemly, danger with the old televangelists-pride. As adoring flocks grow, those in the spotlight often become more removed, isolated, protected, unaccountable, and susceptible to temptation. The multi-site guy may become convinced that the most compelling factor that has attracted the crowds across the locations is the face of the franchise-his. Pride and fame do not mix well with sustainable ministry.

Preacher fame and ubiquity can also be toxic to those who view the guy on the big screen. They can become star-struck and attach more adulation to the guy on the screen than the Guy in the Book.

Fame corrodes even the most well-intentioned. Some have said, "Well, that's not going to happen to me. I know how to keep myself in check." But even that statement is evidence of a certain hubris.

The dangers of ministerial pride are not new. The disciples argued about who was the greatest among them. Jesus cautioned them about their pride: "Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all." That doesn't sound much like aspiring to be the screen star of a chain of churches

As adoring flocks grow, those in the spotlight often become more removed, isolated, protected, unaccountable, and susceptible to temptation. The multi-site guy may become convinced that the most compelling factor that has attracted the crowds across the locations is the face of the franchise-his. Pride and fame do not mix well with sustainable ministry.

What’s the answer to these problems? It’s more than simply dragging your child by the ear to church until they’re old enough to run the other way. It begins first with living the life you want your child to live. It does no good for you to spout Christian sayings while sporting a “do as I say, not as I do” lifestyle. If your walk is authentic and directs your path, your child will see that and may be more inclined to follow in your faith.

It is our obligation as parents to guide our children in ways that are right, true, noble and good.  We are at the same time to keep our children from ways that are destructive, harmful, false and evil.  We cannot delegate this responsibility to the Sunday school teacher, church or any other institution.  God calls us as parents to perform this function.  We also cannot expect our children to know the way to go or figure it out on their own.  Children must be taught and even trained to live a godly lifestyle.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (NIV). Parents, I would encourage you to take this to heart and invite Jesus into your life and home. Make sure your faith in Him is more than lip service; allow Him to direct what you see, hear, discuss, and pray as you go through your day. Love your child with the grace-filled love of Christ.


Raj Kosaraju

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