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What does God ask us to offer?

Romans 12:1–2 shows it’s not just heart or soul or deepest self that God requires. God asks us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. This complements Matthew 6:19–21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

There is an obvious link between the ‘bodies’ of Romans 12:1 and the ‘treasures’ of Matthew 6:21. The link is in the physical realm of life.

“The spiritual act of worship”

In Paul’s instruction,the original text says literally, “your spiritual service of worship” or “your reasonable service.” Allowing God to nurture us into true servants of Christ and His body is a reasonable expectation. Those who can’t be bothered to offer “spiritual service of worship” or “reasonable service” simply haven’t grown up. God expects better of us.

What is the ‘pattern of this world’?

The pattern that this world imposes is the attitude of being served, not serving. Gone are the days when John F. Kennedy could make political hay saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country!” The world is different today, and not just because of COVID–19. God expects us to resist conformity to the world, to be transformed with a new mind, by developing a servant attitude, as Christ modeled (Philippians 2:5–11).

This year ahead, 2021, can be a “breakout year,” when we exercise our maturity as Christians by finding a place to serve God and His Kingdom, giving it more than just the old college try.

The late Dr. Howard Hendricks was a famous, well–loved professor at Dallas Seminary. He wrote, “One of the wealthiest men in our community has the dubious distinction of having blown four children out of the saddle: one in prostitution, two in drugs, and the fourth one we’ve been looking for in every state of the union and 30–some different countries for the last 10 years. This man sat across my desk one day and said, ‘Hendricks, I put my money on a dead horse.’

“If I were to say to that man today, ‘Sir, I will guarantee to get your four children back if you’ll just cut off your right arm,’ he would say, ‘Give me the knife!’ He’s willing to make that drastic decision now, you see, but it’s too late!”

This blog is not just about raising our kids for God. It’s about our own personal relationship with Christ, and it’s about being servants in God’s Kingdom.

2021 is upon you. It offers many decision–making opportunities. Will you decide to grow as a Christian, as parent or grandparent, as a servant of Christ? It’s time to make up your mind.

E. Stanley Jones said, “If you don’t make up your mind, your unmade mind will unmake you.”

Family Life

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Moses famously wrote,

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

(Deuteronomy 6:6–7).

Whose job is spiritual training, anyhow?

This passage was part of the theocracy of Israel—God was recognized and trusted as the actual Head of State. Yet even in Israel, parents had the primary responsibility of spiritual training.

The church does not have primary responsibility, it’s intended by God to play a complementary role. We cannot abdicate our responsibilities. God designed the home and the family expressly for training children in the ways of the Lord. It’s a high priority to God!

Can we expect the church to help? Of course. Should we hold the church accountable if it doesn’t provide support and guidance? Yes! But spiritual training and character building begin with those who have the most influence—parents, siblings, extended family. If our values are Bible–based and truth–driven, children will inherit a great deal of that.

How are we to train those in our purview?

Deuteronomy makes the method clear: “These commands…are to be upon your hearts”—that is, internal, not just external; a way of thinking–and–living, of being, not just a way of talking. God’s principles from Scripture are to be constantly taught and modeled through earnest effort and sincere application. When was the last time you talked to your child or grandchild (or your brother or sister) about the Bible or about Jesus? What are you waiting for? The world will never do it!

These verses say, “Talk about the principles of God when you hang out at home with your family, go to their activities, or wherever you see life happening. Have spiritual conversations when you’re putting them to bed and getting them up for the day. Put the teachings of God in front of your family members (yes, even when they are adults).

Teach by spoken word, literature, music, images and by personal example, the things God will one day hold us responsible for teaching to our families. Godly older siblings can have a hand in the spiritual maturing of their brothers and sisters too.

In an Our Daily BreadTM devotional, Martin DeHaan wrote about his uncle who had grown a cucumber inside a clear glass bottle. The ’cuke was almost as big as the bottle, and could never be removed without damaging the vegetable, or the bottle.

His uncle would never tell him how he got that ‘cuke in there and as a young lad he was puzzled. One day his mother explained to him that when the cucumber was tiny and still connected to the life–giving vine, it was maneuvered carefully inside the bottle. As it grew, it filled the bottle more and more until it wouldn’t come out. Then the vine was cut and, voila, it looked like a miracle had occurred.

Start when the cucumber is small, and great things are possible. Start when the child is young and you can have a miraculous godly influence on that precious little one.

What priority is the spiritual training of others?

If we made it up the ladder to CEO or only to manager or just laborer, will God punish us for not being a “success”?

What if we had the nicest house in the neighborhood, or could only afford a modest home? God will not care, unless it keeps us from being generous and joyful in giving to His Kingdom work.

Will we be accountable if we earned all the educational degrees possible in our field (not something I discourage), though it meant giving up family time or ministry opportunities?

If our chosen lifestyle is so expensive that we cannot support what God is doing at home and abroad, what questions will we have to answer on Judgment Day?

If we saw every movie that came out (regardless the moral or ethical values they espouse), will we have to answer for what we spent our time doing?

If the resources we would otherwise use to support missions and reaching people with the Good News were spent on the classic car under the cover in the garage—ouch! What could I say to God?

This exercise is all about the priorities by which we live and make our daily choices. In 2021 will we choose the road to family blessing even over such good things as career, relaxation or education?

NEXT Time: make a biblical, specific and intentional plan for Service to God . . .

Where do you want to go in 2021? You can decide!

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What is ‘milk’?

The word ‘milk’ in Hebrews 5 refers to the bare–bones teachings of Christianity. Christians who live on milk, not solid food, have been forgiven, have begun to read the Bible and make attempts at prayer. They may attend church more than they used to. They know that they should resist bad habits like foul language, temper tantrums and so on, though they aren’t always successful. They might have started putting a little something in the offering, and they come to Christian functions expecting to have their own needs met. They probably don’t give much thought to others’ needs or of contributing to others’ welfare.

The person living on milk is like the baby that hasn’t yet started eating the good stuff. Hebrews is saying that even though the readers have been Christians long enough to move from milk to solid food, still they haven’t grown as you would expect. In a sense, they are still spiritual Hermies: pathetic, anemic, lazy or unwitting. They continue on in their spiritual babyhood, sucking the bottle, having pureed peas spooned into their mouths, not liking the taste but lacking the will or the way to prepare and digest a delicious Ribeye. They choose not to advance their own spiritual wellbeing, or they lack the basic instruction to mature as God expects.

What is ‘solid food’?

Moving beyond basic Christianity to spiritual maturity is ‘solid food;’ from salvation to sanctification, defined as “being set apart by God for His sacred use.” Solid food is growing from reading a few verses and wondering what they mean or how they apply, to devouring the Bible in–depth, with help and support, as necessary.

I would be remiss not to point out the value of a Bible–based college and seminary to help instill personal and ministry maturity. In essence, to BECOME MORE!

Maturity includes faithful participation in many corporate growth opportunities. Moving from Christian infancy to maturity is developing spiritual disciplines and personal habits that please God. A good starting point is the “Fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22–23.

Growing to maturity encompasses learning to give joyfully and generously to the work God is doing in the world. It is maturing beyond just wanting our own needs met; now looking for opportunities to serve the Body of Christ in ministry.

The Hebrews author was disappointed to find that even though the readers had been Christians for a while, they were still sucking milk out of a bottle, when they could have been eating steak off the grill. All this talk of growing spiritual maturity raises the question . . .

How do I compare?

How does my Christian maturity today compare to the way I was in December 2019? Or 2009? Or the day I trusted Jesus as my Savior? What areas in my faith have matured? God forbid, have I actually slipped backwards?

If I have not grown as I should because I chose poorly, will I choose personal spiritual solid food and maturity this next year over spiritual baby food? And where can I find the help and guidance I need to grow up from infancy or toddlerhood to competent, capable Christian disciple?

NEXT Time: What is your map for godly Family Life?

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