What Does Passion Week Mean to You?

There is no more important holiday celebration for those who are followers of Christ than the day we call Easter. While the origins of this name are not absolutely clear (some say it originated from the pagan goddess of Spring, Eostre; others think it is related to an old German word that meant ‘east’ or ‘dawn’), it is a name that has long been associated by many Christians with the day of Christ’s resurrection. Even so, I prefer calling it Resurrection Sunday.

Whatever name you prefer, it is the reason behind the existence of our faith. Our faith is founded upon the fact of Christ’s death and resurrection. Without the resurrection, our faith is meaningless or ‘futile’, according to Paul. It is the most important fact of human history we must teach our grandchildren.

With that in mind, I wonder what measures most of us take to prepare ourselves for this critical, celebratory day? I’m not simply talking about a liturgy (which can be very useful, by the way). This is about a personal journey to retrace the events of this week leading up to our Lord’s horrible crucifixion. I doubt we can begin to comprehend the price He paid for us. We rejoice in the Resurrection, but if we are to adequately teach our children and grandchildren the magnitude of the price our Savior paid for our sin debt, we ought to ponder the events of this Passion Week. 

To help you do that, I have listed some of the events in Jesus’ life during this week with Scripture references. I would encourage you to visit these passages each day and ponder the intentionality with which our Lord directed his steps toward the Cross. I have included a question for each day to help you process this Passion Week journey.

Palm Sunday (Matthew 21; Mark 11; Luke 19; John 2)

  1. Jesus rides on a colt into Jerusalem as the crowds shout “Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” 
  2. Spends the night in Bethany

Question: What does Jesus’ kingship really mean, and in what ways do you also miss what it means?

MONDAY (Mark 11:12-19)

  1. Back to Jerusalem 
  2. Jesus clears the Temple
  3. The Pharisees plot to kill Jesus

Question: The Bible says we are God’s Temple. Ask God to show you how you might be dishonoring that ‘temple’?

TUESDAY (Mark 11:20 – 13:35; Luke 20:1-21:36)

  1. Returns again to Jerusalem 
  2. Parable of the Tenants
  3. Paying taxes to Caesar
  4. Widow’s offering

Question: How do the teachings of Jesus in these passages reveal what Jesus’ mission was and how ought these to shape your life as a follower of Christ?

WEDNESDAY (Luke 21:37-38)

  1. More teaching in the Temple 
  2. Signs of the end of the age (Luke 21:5-36)
  3. Judas agrees to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16; Luke 22:1-6)

Question: As Jesus talked about signs for the end of the age, what do you think He meant by telling us to “keep watch”? How are you keeping watch?

THURSDAY (Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14:12-72; Luke 22:7-65; John 13:1-18:27)

  1. Passover with the disciples
  2. Gethsemane
  3. The betrayal and arrest
  4. Before the Sanhedrin
  5. Peter’s Denial

Question: What did these different events of this day reveal to you about our Lord’s heart towards us, even in our weaknesses?

GOOD FRIDAY (Matthew 27:1-61; Mark 15:1-47; Luke 22:66-23:56; John 18:1-27)

  1. Judas hangs himself
  2. Before Pilate
  3. The crucifixion
  4. The burial

Question: As you ponder the excruciating agony our Lord suffered on this day, do you have a better grasp of the depth of suffering He endured for you? How does that impact how you live your life now and the importance of telling the next generations what He has done for us?

The Dangers of Social Media on Relationships

Did you know that 20 percent of divorces involve Facebook? As a Facebook user myself, I was not surprised by this statistic. Facebook’s convenient social engagement – sometimes couched in the privacy of a message inbox – is an excellent way to stay in contact with old friends. But this convenience is also why Facebook can be dangerous for marriage. Brenda and I have a continual conversation on this topic. Social media is largely harmless, but if not approached with discretion it leads many down a path of emotional (and even physical) infidelity. We are not blind to this potential – and you shouldn’t be either.

Social media may not always be used in positive ways. Understanding the pitfalls can help you be aware of the potential dangers of social media on today’s relationships. Darren Adamson, PhD, LMFT, Chair of the Department of Marriage and Family Sciences at Northeastern University, lays out three potential dangers facing couples:

1.Social media serves as a distraction from focusing on the interactions that nurture relationships. “Social media use can become compulsive,” explains Adamson, “making it difficult to manage the amount of time spent on it.” In one study, American college students describe abstaining from social media the same way they describe drug and alcohol withdrawal—cravings, anxiety, feeling jittery.

2. People share their best lives on social media, so couples sometimes compare their mundane lives with other’s exciting lives, which can create destructive comparisons. “This can lead to discouragement with one’s primary relationship,” says Adamson. That discouragement can lead to conflict, fear, unrealistic expectations—why can’t you be like the partner portrayed in the social media posts? —or an overall discontentment with the relationship.

3. There is the potential for another relationship that looks so much better than the primary relationship. This can lead to extra-couple relationships that ultimately can destroy your marriage.

Guidelines for Maintaining a Healthy Balance Between Social Media and Relationships

As evidenced by couples who do use social media to their advantage, it is possible to have healthy relationships and be actively involved in social media. In fact, a 2013 study in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that people who share information about their relationship on Facebook were comfortable in their relationship. However, that setting guidelines on how to effectively use social media can mean the difference between a healthy use of social media in a relationship and taking it into the danger zone.

1.Don’t use social media as a negative point of comparison for your relationship. If you feel compelled to make comparisons involving your relationship compare where your relationship is today with what it was like a year ago—or five or ten years ago for those in a long-term relationship. Let the results of the comparison prompt changes in behavior that can build your relationship.

2.Spend time nurturing your relationship. Do things that create closeness in your relationship and do them regularly without distraction. This means leaving the cell phone/tablet at home—out of sight and out of mind. The distraction factor is one of the biggest challenges with social media. According to a study by Scientific American, the presence of a cell phone/tablet can be detrimental to interpersonal relationships.

3. Do not maintain a separate social media life. Share your social media world with your husband or wife. Spouses should not just share passwords – they should keep no secrets on social media. All messages, groups, and statuses should be open to your spouse. Just as it would be unsafe to keep secrets with a “real life” friend of the opposite sex, it is equally dangerous to keep even the smallest secrets from your spouse online. This may seem extreme, but in the world of social media we cannot be too careful. The protection of a screen gives a false sense of security, privacy, and even intimacy. This is why Brenda and I have a continual conversation about our social media channels, updating one another on who messaged us, what we’ve said lately, and the news we’ve received.

Social media is a part of our modern society, but there are also dangers in social media if couples let it get out of control. One thing you must keep in mind that social media is exactly what the name implies—media. It is not a separate and distinct world. It does not sustain relationships, because it is based on virtual reality that, by its nature, is not able to support the activities required to make a relationship work. That is up to you as individuals, and it still requires old-fashioned hard work and time invested in your relationship to make it thrive!

When Equality Does not Mean Equality

I am not a political activist, nor do I intend to become one. There is a difference, however, between being an activist and standing up for the truth, especially when it is suppressed and impacts our children. That is never more necessary than when powerful people seek to change foundational truths created by our Creator in an attempt to shut down any conversations or disagreements about a matter of utmost importance.

Such is the case with a recent announcement by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to give its full support to the proposed Equality Act through a celebrity driven video campaign. Contrary to what its name implies, the Equality Act soon to be introduced by House Democrats proposes anything but equality. As Andrew Walker wrote for The Gospel Coalition, this bill represents the “most invasive threat to religious liberty ever proposed in America” and “equates Christian ethics with hatred and bigotry.”

You may be wondering why I would bother with this topic in a blog about grandparenting. The reason is simple: God instructs us to teach our grandchildren the truth. For two decades I have talked about and written about this biblical mandate God gave to parents and grandparents for all times. We are mandated to tell the next generations the truth about who God is, what God has done and why He has done it. That includes the truth about who we are as male and female created in God’s image.

Fight for the Truth

If another generation is to know the truth—ALL of God’s truth, including what He says about sexuality and gender—it won’t be because our politicians and lawmakers are proclaiming it. It won’t be because celebrities promote it. It will be because godly men and women boldly and faithfully make it known generation to generation. But let us also remember that we teach and fight for what is true because it is true, not because it suits us or our ‘cause’.

We are responsible to teach our grandchildren the Gospel and the truth about things like God’s view of sexuality and gender. When a culture or a nation forces a lie on our children, we need to fight for the truth. That does not mean being vicious, unkind or unwilling to listen to other opinions. It does mean knowing what is true and boldly standing up for what is true, not just for Christians, but for all men.

Andrew Walker is right when he says, “Christians need to do a much better job of explaining the rationale and merits of their beliefs around gender and sexuality. We do not believe these are sectarian truths applicable only to Christians. Rather, we believe how God patterned creation in Genesis is the blueprint for human flourishing. If we don’t contend for the legitimacy and rationality of our views, they’ll end up being sidelined as intolerant and harmful—to the detriment of all.”

So, grandparents, I encourage you to engage with your grandchildren about these matters. Be ready to explain what God says and why it is important to believe what he says. Below are links to two articles I recommend reading, and a book I believe can be helpful to you in these conversations. These are conversations we need to have because they are conversations others are already initiating with your grandchildren in the public arena. We can’t afford to be lulled asleep on these matters for the sake of our grandchildren.

Important Resources

The Equality Act Accelerates Anti-Christian Bias by Andrew Walker

BreakPoint: The Equality Act vs. Religious Freedom by John Stonestreet

A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World by John Stonestreet

GRANDPAUSE: Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.(Nehemiah 4:14)

Smartphone Conversations for Grandparents

Do you ever grow tired of the constant intrusion of smartphones in everyday life? Have dinner time conversations with your grandchildren been reduced to tweeting and texting activity while face-to-face human interactions almost come to a halt?

Few grandparents have much to say about whether their grandchildren are allowed smartphones, let alone when and how they use them. Mom and Dad have primary responsibility for how it’s played out. Everywhere, that is, except in your home space. 

Grandparents, you are in a position to determine the parameters for smartphone use in your home, if you are willing to set an example. You are the king and queen of your home, and you can help change the way your grandchildren think about and use their smartphones. It requires some intentionality and grace, and perseverance.

Before I share some ideas, you must first believe you can have a transformational impact in your grandchildren’s lives, even when you are not living close by. The Bible makes it very clear that grandparents are just as important as parents in teaching and training our grandchildren to walk in the truth. If your grandchildren are young, you can establish that influence early on by reading Bible stories and other good stories with them, and by talking with them about both the good things and the dangers of technology.

If your grandchildren are older grade schoolers and teens, we may assume they don’t want to hear anything grandma and grandpa have to say. That will be true if we only criticize and “preach” at them about stuff we don’t like. If, on the other hand, we establish an atmosphere of trust and vulnerability (we can still learn some things too), the opportunities are there to engage them with conversations that cause them to think more judiciously about the choices they make. 

Now, for a few ideas regarding smartphones in your home…

  1. Assess your worldview about God’s creation. Does it line up with Scripture or culture? If  God created man in HIs image, he also created him to create good things. Does that include technology, or is it inherently evil? Like all of God’s creation, it is good, but like everything else it is under sin’s curse. Still, if the bad side of technology is all you talk about, your grandchildren will have little interest in hearing what you have to say. That’s why the Gospel is so significant. God can redeem even technology. 
  2. Determine to be tech-savvy.Know what you’re talking about. You don’t need to be an expert, but invest some serious time in learning about the capabilities, dangers and purposes of smartphones. A smartphone is not neutral. It has a specific purpose—communication, but it also has an accompanying power to influence thinking and action. Do you know how to have conversations with your grandchild about these things? If not, I recommend you check out this free resource produced by AXIS Ministries. You might also want to share it with the parents of your grandchildren.
  3. Build a culture of blessing in your home.Make it a regular practice to intentionally speak a word of blessing over each of your grandchildren when the opportunity arises. There are so many negative messages coming at them. Your words of blessing and value as image-bearers of God can be transformational. We have a free download called Creating a Legacy of Blessing that can help you make the most of this tool.
  4. Establish meaningful guidelines for smartphone use in your home. Here are ways to build a focus on relationships and less technology dependence. I call them Tech-Free Zones or Recess Periods:
    • Family Table: Let it be understood that mealtime is set aside for family interaction. No smartphones or other devices are welcome at the family table. This is too valuable a time to allow smartphones to disrupt.
    • Other tech-free zones/recess periods: When the grandkids come to visit, help them understand the value of personal interaction by creating tech-free recess periods (pre-planned activities) in which smartphones are turned off and put away out of temptations reach. Here are some examples: baking cookies together, reading a book, working on a puzzle, sharing stories. You probably have a lot more ideas you could create for doing life together without smartphone interference.
    • Special Outings: If your grandchildren are old enough, plan for some outings with them where smartphones are not allowed (assign one person in charge of the emergency phone). These could be visits to a museum, zoo, play, picnic, etc. Make plans for things they would enjoy doing, but no smartphones allowed.

(You’ll find a few other suggestions in my book: Courageous Grandparenting)

Grandparents, you can tell yourself that it is not your responsibility to teach your grandkids about their use of smartphones or any other technology. But that is cop out. God’s design is that we should work together—parents and grandparents—to train up a child to walk in the truth.

If you and your adult children are not on the same page about this, make sure you are on the same page with God’s truths about life and His creation. Ask God for wisdom and understanding to help your grandchildren avoid the dangers and make the most of technology for God’s glory and purposes.

How to Make Sure You Don’t Drown in Shallow Water

Have you ever known someone recognized for doing so many good things throughout their life, only to end up in late life doing something so very foolish that it discredits everything they’ve done before?

As grandparents, that’s the last thing we want to happen in our lives. Yet, it is not inconceivable to do something foolish in our later years which, in the eyes of our grandchildren, invalidates everything we claim to be true. The thoughts of such a thing probably horrifies all of us. How do we make sure that does not happen?

At the Legacy Coalition Summit in February, Crawford Loritts, pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, GA, spoke from 1 Kings 2:1:4 as a reminder that, while there are no guarantees when it comes to legacies, we must remain diligent as the ‘incarnation of God’s mission.’He reminded us that you and I could be the last voice of our generation that our grandchildren will ever hear. We want that voice to be heard and taken seriously.

Because that is important to us, Pastor Loritts takes us to this passage when David knew it was his time to die so we might learn for such a time as ours. I believe the message he delivered at the Summit is one every grandparent who is a Christ follower needs to hear.

He shows us three important things David wanted Solomon to remember as he was taking over the throne. These are things we also must remember if we are to be that incarnation of God’s mission for another generation. Here’s how Crawford Loritts presents them:

  1. Live courageously!  David says it this way: “Be strong and show yourself a man.” Remember, Solomon did not grow up with the same hardships and challenges that his father did. Solomon lived in a palace with all the attention and privileges of a royal heir. David knew this could pose a problem for Solomon, so he reminds him that he must become what the position requires. We are all called to courageously step to the plate and rise to the call God gives each of us, which is usually stuff over our heads. It takes courage to do the right thing, especially when so many other voices would encourage easier options.
  2. Live obediently! David tells his son to “observe what the Lord your God requires: walk in His ways and keep His decrees and commands…” (vs. 3).  Here’s the thing, we don’t have the option of picking and choosing those parts of God’s truth we like and ignoring the rest. We dare not communicate to our grandchildren that biblical truth is reserved only for weekend church services. They need to know that God’s Word is what directs all our life, that He is Sovereign, that He made you, and that He alone gives us the positions we have in life. If we want our grandchildren to walk in the truth, we must also walk in it—all of it.
  3. Live faithfully! “Walk faithfully before me [God]” and teach your descendants to do the same because it matters. David wanted Solomon to understand that greatness is not a product of orchestrating your own life. It is the product of faithfulness to God and others. We are called in Christ to faithfulness. That means we must put on ‘blinders’ when it comes to anything else that would distract us from that faithfulness (something Solomon failed to do in his later years).

We may point our fingers at Solomon’s unfaithfulness in the end, but we too must guard ourselves from selling our souls to images we create of greatness. Pastor Loritts reminded us that greatness is not about our gifting—something grossly overrated. It is about our faithfulness—something often tragically underrated. Faithfulness, in the end, will solidify our legacy–that which endures after us. Unfaithfulness will disintegrate it.

These are good words worth pondering and putting into practice. Let us not grow weary in well-doing lest we drown in shallow water when our life counts most. May you leave an enduring legacy worth outliving you. 

NOTE: The video of this session with Pastor Crawford Loritts will be available soon. Click here to watch for this and other plenary speaker sessions you can download.

What Does it Mean to be a Gospel Shaped Grandparent?

After a speaking session about intentional grandparenting, a grandmother approached me to say how much she appreciated my emphasis on intentionality. “I’ve decided to be intentional about getting my granddaughter to come to church with me. If I can just get her to church, she will be exposed to the Bible and the Gospel.”

As I explored this more with her, it became clear that this grandmother did not understand her responsibility to share the Gospel with her granddaughter. It was the reason she was so determined to find a way to get her to church, so the “professionals” could do it right.

That was ten years ago, and it awakened me to the sad reality that too many grandparents have a similar misunderstanding of their responsibility to their grandchildren. “If I can just get my grandkids to church, then everything will work out” is a common notion. I realized that more emphasis needed to be place on understanding what the Gospel really is and our responsibility to talk about it in our own families. I also realized we need to know what it means for our lives to be shaped by that Gospel. 

You will often hear me use Gospel-shapedas a description for biblical grandparenting. It is also the motivational factor for the title of this blog and my signature book—Courageous Grandparenting. Additionally, it is why I have chosen to work closely with my friend at Renewanation, Josh Mulvihill. We are working with several ministry partners to build the Gospel Shaped Family web site where discipleship resources, blogs and events will be collected to encourage and equip Gospel-shaped parenting and grandparenting. 

Five Essentials

So, what does it mean to be a gospel-shaped grandparent? Here are five essential things I believe describe the essence of what it means:

  1. It means having a clear grasp of how the Bible defines Gospel.
    • The Gospel is the good news that by God’s grace I am saved FROM His wrath, deserved judgment, and just condemnation for my sin—an egregious offense against His holiness.
    • The Gospel means new birthin which I am saved FOR good works. I am made alive in Christ to display His glory and bless others.
  2. It means a new way of thinking, living and seeingthrough the lens of a biblical worldview(seeing the world and all of creation as God made it). It is the way of truth in which my mind is renewed, my life is marked by a desire to magnify Christ in everything I do or say, and repentance is a perquisite to wholeness. The Gospel so transforms me that great joy springs from an all-satisfying delight in Him. My driving desire is to make much of Christ in the eyes of my grandchildren and others I encounter.
  3. It means my desire to share the Gospel with my family, including grandchildren and great grandchildren, is priority #1. I will not outsource to others what is my responsibility as one of the most influential people in my grandchild’s life. It is mine and I take it seriously.
  4. It means my life is driven, not by despair over the condition of the world, but by hope in the promises of Godand my eternal reward. I follow Christ and His commands knowing He is with me and has given me everything I need to fulfill His purposes through me believing that a glorious inheritance awaits me.
  5. It means prayer is my first offensive and defensive weaponry against the schemes of the enemy, and my declaration that I am utterly dependent upon the power of God to do through me more than I could ever imagine or think.

As a grandparent, does your life bear witness of these vital realities? Is your approach to grandparenting shaped more by Gospel transformation or cultural validation? It takes courage to embrace the former. And, while a Gospel-shaped life is no guarantee your grandchildren will respond to the truth, there is little doubt that those whose lives are transformed by the Gospel will make an impact because God who is at work in you.

May God give you sufficient courage so that now and always Christ will be exalted in you… for the sake of another generation who needs to know the truth that the Gospel really does set us free.

What’s On Your Watchlist? – Part 3

There’s an old story of two Englishmen who traveled to Africa to explore the wonders of the interiors of Africa. They hired native tribesmen to serve as their guides and set out on their expedition. Thoroughly engrossed in the adventure and wonders of Africa, they soon realized that they had wandered farther than expected. Speed would be of the essence if they were to catch the next ship at port to return home. If they missed the ship, it would be weeks before another ship would show up.

They quickly ordered their belongings packed and told the tribesmen they would need to travel quickly to make up the time they had lost. For two days they marched feverishly through the jungle. On the morning of the third day, the tribesmen stubbornly refused to move. The Englishmen pleaded, even demanded they move on if they wanted to be paid, but they would not budge. Finally, the leader of the tribesmen spoke. “We have been moving too fast,” he explained. “We must stay here and wait for our souls to catch up with us.”

What is the Soul?

The subject for the last three weeks has been soul care, but what is the soul? It’s an ongoing matter of debate in theological circles. I don’t know what these tribesmen imagined their souls to be, but they knew it was important, and that the soul moved at a different pace than the body. 

Whatever your understanding of the soul, there is general agreement that it is that part of our being that is spiritual and connects us to the Father as His image-bearers. The heart and the mind are distinct components of our being related to soul. How we think, feel, relate and worship determine the condition of our soul. 

In her book, Soul Nourishment, Deborah Haddix, one of our Prayer Team leaders notes that “Our soul is like the silent, invisible yet necessary Central Processing Unit (CPU) of our person. Our soul, and thus our soul’s health, is the driving force behind everything that matters to us.” I like that—the CPU of our person. I also like John Ortberg’s description: “It is the coolest, eeriest, most mysterious, evocative, crucial, sacred, eternal, life-directing, fragile, indestructible, controversial, expensive dimension of your existence.” It’s a wondrous mystery.

Jesus addressed the crucial and “expensive dimension” of our soul when He said: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37). Our soul is who we are and our connector to our Creator. It is the center of our passions, beliefs and eternal destiny. It’s what makes us distinct from the rest of creation. It is eternal, and it needs redeemed. 

It also requires calculated care. Thus, we need to pay attention to the words of Jesus: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). 

Rest for the soul—letting our soul catch up with our frantic pace—is essential. God wanted His people to understand that when he spoke through Jeremiah: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). There it is again… rest for our souls.

How Do We Find It?

But what is this rest for our souls? How do we find it? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Want it bad enough to do what God says. The tragic reality of the Jeremiah passage is that God knows men’s hearts. “But you said, ‘We will not walk in it [the good way]’” (verse 16). What a typical response of man’s sin nature. If you are not convinced rest for your soul is important enough to make some different choices, you won’t find it.
  2. Admit the ‘good way’ and ‘my way’ are not the same thing. This is choosing the path of coming, taking up, and learning. Coming to Jesus is when I open my hands, let go and surrender my need to be in control. Taking up His yoke is choosing to lean on His grace as His work, not the burden of my works. Learning is choosing to stop and listen to the voice of God through His Word and His daily activity in my life.
  3. Create time and space with God.The quality of your life and its impact will be directly proportional to your relationship with God in Christ Jesus. If you don’t nurture that relationship with time and space to hear God speak, your soul will shrivel and so will the impact you have upon your grandchildren.

What’s on your personal watchlist for the new year? Does it include soul care? Soul care requires intentionality. Intentionality kicks in when I understand enough to say, “I must stop and let my soul catch up.”

GRANDPAUSE: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  -Jesus
(Mark 12:30)

What’s on Your Watchlist? (Part 2)

#2: Your Mind

“Ideas have consequences… bad ideas have victims.” -John Stonestreet

We started the year putting our focus on a personal “watch-yourself-closely” watchlist. As image bearers of our Creator, we must watch our heart, our mind, and our soul lest we fall prey to a shriveled soul—what I call ‘elderitis’. When a grandparent is afflicted with ‘elderitis’, their ability to influence their grandchildren to know and walk in the truth is diminished. We need to take Moses’ instructions seriously to watch ourselves closely.

In my previous post, I addressed matters of the heart. Now, we switch our attention to the mind. John Stonestreet’s comment that ideas have consequences ought to alert us to the fact that not every idea or Facebook post is true or worth giving our attention. It is our responsibility to carefully assess everything we let into our minds, taking every idea seriously because they do have consequences. It’s why Paul wrote, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

The thing about the mind is that it is a window to the soul. What we regularly allow our mind to absorb, what we dwell upon, will impact the condition of our soul. Guarding our mind is not the same as not allowing ourselves to be exposed to what is not true. We can’t avoid that. Rather, taking our thoughts captive involves sorting through the boatloads of information we receive through the lens of what is true—God’s Word. We make an intentional decision to guard, proclaim, and dwell on what is true, noble, lovely, admirable, pure, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). 

Guarding the truth presumes we know what is true. What we believe to be true shapes our worldview. Our worldview determines what we think and what we do. It comes down to whether we believe God is the source of all truth, or something else. 

If the Gospel has transformed our hearts, then the Word will transform our mind. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern (way of thinking) of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). 

Renewing Your Mind

How do we train (renew) our mind so that our souls are inclined to God’s good and perfect will? Here are four suggestions:

  1. Get in the Word. If you want a mind renewed, not according to the pattern of the world, but according to God’s pattern for life, you need to know what the Word says. Pay particular attention to Jesus’ teachings and how he addressed false teaching and ideas. Spend time in Proverbs and the Psalms to feed your mind with practical wisdom and truth that endures.
  2. Read good books that stimulate you to apply God’s truth to the world in which you live. There are some great Christian authors but there are also non-Christian authors who will stretch your thinking and illuminate the validity and glory of God’s Word. His truth does not break under the scrutiny of worldly ideas. 
  3. Engage the world around you. Be in the world, but not of it. Know what is going on in the world and let God’s truth expose it for what it is. Hang with people who will stimulate your thinking and test what you believe, and who are willing to examine what they believe in the light of what you know to be true.
  4. Talk to your grandchildren about truth. If you want your mind to stay sharp, open yourself to the questions and examinations of your grandchildren. Let them know you are not afraid of their questions or doubts, but gently lead them to explore and examine their own assumptions in light of the truth.

Truth does not flinch or recoil in the face of falsehood. It never falters in an assault of lies. What are you doing to prepare your mind for such an assault? You can’t guard the truth if you don’t know what it is. A healthy soul is dependent upon a renewing mind–that ongoing process that we dare not neglect lest we fall victim to bad ideas. Guard your mind for the sake of your soul, and the souls of your grandchildren.

What’s in Your Watchlist? Part 1

Your Heart

We can’t fake it, but we must fight for it. We can’t manufacture it, but we must work at it. If we neglect it, the consequences are devastating. What is it? The condition of our soul.

By now, most everyone who will make a New Year’s resolution has made it. The majority of resolutions involve losing weight, eating healthier, or some other personal goal we didn’t keep in previous years. I’d like to suggest a different kind of resolution—making a personal ‘watchlist’. 

Moses told the Israelites as they were about to take possession of the land God promised to them, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely!” (Deut. 4:9). Some translations say, “Keep your souls diligently”. Let’s follow Moses’ advice and create a soul watchlist. 

Your soul matters because it impacts life in two ways: Your mental, physical and spiritual health, and your legacy. If neglected your heart shrivels in despair and your faith becomes shallow, thin and irrelevant. If your faith would be described as thin and irrelevant, there would be little reason for your adult children or grandchildren to desire to carry on that legacy. 

Assuming you care about the condition of your soul, let’s talk about building a grandparents’ personal care watchlist this year. If we do not heed Moses’ words of wisdom and guard ourselves well, we will have nothing to give to our grandchildren that would help them live well in a world that does not function well. I know you don’t want that. I certainly don’t.

So, the next three posts will zero in on the three vital components of our humanity as image bearers of God that should be on our watchlist: heart, mind and soul. How we care for our heart and mind directly impacts our soul. The inclination of our soul shapes our heart and mind. We’ll explore how to guard them well—guard not only in the sense of protecting, but also healthy maintenance practices. The condition of our heart, mind and soul exposes what we truly believe to be true, and where we place our trust. Where we place our trust reveals the source of our greatest satisfaction and joy in life. And that influences what our family chooses to believe.

The Wellspring of Life

Let’s start with the heart—the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23). Our heart (not that thing beating in our chest) is our personal treasure chest. In it we will discover what we truly value in life. That’s why Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). In other words, what we treasure reveals what and who we love. What we love will determine whether our heart is filled with greed or gratitude.

I was blessed and honored to know a man who did quite well in life by human standards. Though not immensely wealthy, he lived in a nice but not extravagant home. He led a major ministry for many years and was in demand as a speaker. Yet, for all that we could say “he had going for him”, he had a heart inclined toward the things of God. 

While I knew him most of my life, I never really knew a lot about his family. He died a few years ago, and the church where his funeral was held was filled to capacity with people whose lives had been touched by him–especially his children and grandchildren. For a man who loved having a good time with his family, what stood out were the things his family talked about most. 

Those would be his family and, most of all, his Savior. He loved singing praise songs and hymns with his family and friends. He loved giving and going out of his way to help a friend and bless others. His grandchildren enjoyed many fun times with their grandpa, but what they talked about most was how much he treasured his family, his relationship with Christ, and the opportunities to tell others about His Lord. This was a man whose heart was good and full of gratitude.

What would your grandchildren say you treasure most—right now, because that is what they will talk about at your funeral. 

Here are two ways to keep your heart well:

  1. Prayer: Ask God daily to give you His spirit of wisdom and understanding so that you may know Him better and discern what is best. (Ephesians 1:17; Philippians 1:9-11)
  2. Practice Christ’s command to love as He loved us. (John 13:34-35)

As we begin this New Year, let’s make sure our hearts are on the watchlist so that the things we treasure are those things that will last well beyond our years and the generations that follow.

GRANDPAUSE

God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.  -John Piper

Don’t Miss the Peace!

“’This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.”  Luke 2:12-14

WEEK #4: THE INCARNATION
Light the Candle of Peace
Read Isaiah 9:6

They mystery of the incarnation is that God became one of us—God in the flesh. “For unto us a child is born”. But not just any child—but the One who is called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”. 

Ponder the wonder of this incredulous act performed on our behalf. It is a doctrine we dare not ignore, for the amazing reality of the Incarnation draws us to Himself, as it did the shepherds that night. This was a birth worthy of the heavenly host assembling in that country side to sing praises to God, for who lay before us that night was Mighty God, Prince of Peace in the flesh.

That grand moment in human history is so far removed from us in our day that we easily miss its significance. We have created our own traditions which, if we are not careful, can obscure the wonder of this night. 

Millions of exhausted Americans rush through the holidays glad that another shopping frenzy is winding down and a new year waits just beyond the horizon. Of course, there are still gift exchanges to be done, Christmas decorations to put away, and pounds to be shed after all the parties are done. When it’s all over, will we look back and say “Is that it? What did I miss?”

Just like last year, our misguided focus on things causes us to miss the whole point of Christmas… again. We missed His coming. Oh, of course, we read the Christmas story and sang some carols. But we still missed His coming, and His peace. 

The Central Message

Jesus came to dwell among us and reveal what it looks like to love as the Father loves. His time on earth began with a manger and ended with a cross and empty tomb. But it’s not the end of the story. He will be coming again.

Central to the whole Christmas message is that this Savior whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, and whose life was sacrificed for ours, will return again and raise us to immortality. Those who love Him and follow Him will be raised to eternal life in a new heaven and new earth. Those who missed His coming, and therefore, His everlasting peace, will face judgment in His Second Coming. 

On that day, the Savior who came in the flesh as a baby, will come as a mighty, all-powerful King to reign forever. We will reign with Him in absolute peace! That is the point of Handel’s famous Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah oratorio: “And He shall reign forever and ever! Hallelujah!”

Do you believe that—you know, the Second Coming of our Lord and our bodily resurrection? What about how you observe Christmas suggests you believe it? Craig Blomberg, New Testament Professor at Denver Seminary, is right: “If we really believed that one day the new heavens and new earth pictured in Revelation 21-22 will be ours forever, we’d stop trying to get everything before we die and be content to wait, using our goods in this life to serve the least, the last and the lost.” 

What Does Your Life Say?

So, how about it, Grandma and Grandpa? How does the Christmas story affect your peace? What will your grandchildren learn about the peace that passes understanding from your life? Will they learn that life is all about stuff—the person with the most stuff wins? Or will they discover in you an indescribable peace because Christ is your greater treasure and delight? 

Christmas will be over in two days. Perhaps this would be a good time to re-establish new priorities and perspectives about peace on earth in light of eternity rather than trying to find it in all the stuff we lavish on one another. As the New Year approaches let’s build our life purpose around the wonder of God’s love, and a fervent commitment to love as He loved us. 

Who knows… it just might rouse another Hallelujah chorus from the heavenly host singing His praises because His peace is indeed evident among His people.

GRANDPAUSE: “The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; And He shall reign forever, and ever, King of kings and Lord of lords, Hallelujah!” –Handel (Hallelujah Chorus)