Fighting for the Minds of Our Children

“He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.”  These were the words of the ruthless, Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.  Hitler diligently worked to infiltrate the minds of young people with his radical ideology.  Hitler’s plan to control Germany and take over the world focused on children.  Hitler knew that if he won the minds of children, in time he would win the world. 

 More recently, ISIS, has launched a similar plan.  This radical, militant Islamic group is striving to take over cities and countries in the Middle East and beyond.  In their efforts to build up their armies, they actively recruit children.  ISIS, much like Hitler, is on a mission to win the minds of young people.  They believe the words from Hitler to be true, “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.”

There is a battle going on for your mind and the minds of your children.  Solomon knew the importance of the mind.  Listen to his words from Proverbs 4:23.  “Above all else guard your heart, for from it flows the well spring of life.”  This was a message of importance.  “Above all else…”  This phrase should grab our attention.  What Solomon is saying should be at the top of our “to do list”.  “Above all else guard your heart.”  This won’t happen accidentally.  We won’t guard our hearts by chance.  We must take deliberate steps to guard our hearts.  This effort starts by filling our minds with the right things.    

 As Christians, our goal is to be like Jesus.  We actively seek Jesus in our lives.  We want to love the way Jesus loved.  We want to minister the way Jesus ministered.  We want to display His patience to others.  We want to show His kindness to people we meet.  We want to live like Jesus.  We will never live like Jesus until we learn to think like Jesus.  We must fill our minds with Jesus.  This needs to start with our children.  “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.”  We need to win the minds of our youth for the Lord.

 In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he encourages Timothy to continue on in the things he had been taught as a child.  “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

 Timothy’s mind was won for Christ at a young age.  Timothy’s mother and grandmother diligently taught Timothy the word of God.  The scene painted by Paul in these verses is missing in too many homes today.  God’s Word is powerful.  It is God-breathed.  It is profitable to our lives.  It trains.  It corrects.  It makes us adequate in the eyes of God.  It equips us for every good work.  God’s Word works today…if we use it!

 “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.”  These words put into action by the wrong people are terrifying.  These words put into action by godly people provide hope.  God is our refuge.  God is our strength.  The moral and spiritual crisis facing our country can only be overcome by turning our hearts and our minds back to God.  A battle is being fought for our minds and the minds of our children.  It’s time for us to fight for the minds of our children.  It’s time to fill our hearts and our minds with the word of God.

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Right vs. Wrong

Are you growing spiritually? You should be closer to God today than you were yesterday. You should be more mature spiritually today than you were yesterday. One indicator of spiritual growth is the ability to discern between good and evil.
Listen to the words of the Hebrew writer on this matter. “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). The word “discern” indicates the ability to see and identify by noting differences. It is the ability “to make judicial estimation”. A Christian must learn discernment. I must discern between “good and evil”. I must discern between “right and wrong”. I must discern between “truth and error”. Discernment is not a matter of choosing between the pleasant and the unpleasant. What may be pleasant may be bad, and what may be unpleasant may be good. This idea of discernment is the ability to choose that which is best.

Christians often struggle in this area. We are not alone in our struggle. David struggled with discernment when tempted by lust in 2 Samuel 11. Judas struggled with discernment when betraying Jesus for money. The rich young ruler walked away sad from the Christ because he was unable to discern that which was best. Demas made an error in discernment when turning back to the world.

Life is about choice. It is often a choice between “good and evil”. Most are against any attempt to distinguish between good and evil. To many all moral practices are good and almost all religious teachings are right. To these individuals, right or wrong is in the mind of the participant. Right or wrong is not a matter of personal thinking. This thinking does not line up with God’s Word.

There is good and evil. There is right and wrong. God makes these distinctions for us. Isaiah describes the lack of discernment within the nation of Judah with these words in Isaiah 5:20. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light; and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” The Bible speaks of the good man and the evil man. The Bible speaks of good works and evil works. The Bible identifies a good path and an evil path. The Bible encourages us to seek good advice and warns against evil counsel. The Bible challenges us to build a good name rather than an evil name. The Bible speaks of both the good heart, and the evil heart.

The development of discernment is not automatic for a Christian. It takes practice as is described in Hebrews 5:14. The rich fool described by Jesus in Luke 12 needed more practice. This man was smart enough to make money, but he was not wise enough to discern between material and spiritual values. Martha also needed additional practice. In Luke 10, Martha was faced with a choice between something good and something better. The discerning heart chooses that which is best.

How can we develop the ability to discern between “good and evil”? The path to discernment has been laid out in front of us by our Father. Walking hand in hand with the Father will lead you down the path toward discernment.

Step #1—Hope
Moses stands out as a positive example of a discerning heart. Note the choice Moses faced in Hebrews 11:24-26. “ By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.”

Moses had everything the world had to offer at his feet. Money, fame, and power were at his fingertips. Moses chose God over all of this. He “considered the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.” What choice would you make in this situation? If you had everything the world had to offer at your fingertips, would you discern God as being more valuable?

How was Moses able to make this inspiring choice? The Hebrew writer gives us insight into the decision making of Moses with these words; “He was looking to the reward.” Moses’ hope was bigger than this world. Moses hoped for something better; something more valuable; something eternal. He hoped for heaven. When facing a difficult choice, think about heaven. Moses shows us how to postpone instant gratification for something better. Hope can help you make godly decisions.

Step #2—Caution
Solomon offers words of wisdom in Proverbs 22:3. “The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, but the naïve go on, and are punished for it.” Paul also encourages us to be cautious in our decision making in his letter to the Christians at Thessalonica. “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good abstain from every from of evil.” What process do you go through when making an importance choice? What steps do you take to find the best path to follow? Do you take time to “examine everything carefully”? . Take time to investigate the paths before you. “Grab hold of what is good; abstain from every form of evil.”

Step #3—Trust
The path to discernment also involves trust. Put your trust in the right place. When faced with a difficult choice, I wish I could say I’m always brave. That would be a lie. I’m not always brave. I’m not always courageous. Children often become frightened and afraid. How often did you run to the arms of your mother and father when you were scared as a child? I always became braver in the arms of my dad. I instantaneously became more courageous in the presence of my father. You might be too big to jump in the arms of your physical father. You’re never too big for God.

In Genesis 39, Joseph was bombarded with sexual temptation. Day after day he was pressed by Potiphar’s wife. Joseph ultimately ran away from this temptation. Before running, he took a stand. Joseph chose the waiting arms of his Father over the open arms of Potiphar’s wife. In Genesis 39:10, Joseph resists temptation with these words, “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” Joseph was able to discern between good and evil in this situation because he trusted God. When you are faced with a difficult choice, trust God to lead you. Trust God to give you the direction you need. I am braver in the arms of my Father. I am more courageous in the presence of my Father.

Life is about choice. Each day we must make the choice to live for God. The Christians addressed by the Hebrew writer were not maturing in their decision making. They needed more practice. The path to a discerning heart is paved for us by God. Before making important decisions take a walk with your Father and consider your hope; proceed with caution; and trust God.

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The Pursuit of Restoration

Why aren’t more drawn to the pursuit of restoration? Why aren’t more people actively pursuing to restore the church of the NT? Why aren’t more interested in seeking to simply be “Christians”?

I’m convinced many are not interested in restoration because they fail to understand the purpose of restoration. What is the mission of the Restoration Movement? We must understand the mission of the Restoration Movement before we can embrace it. We can better understand what it is by identifying what is isn’t. The Restoration Movement is not an effort to be “conservative”. Some churches are more interested in being “conservative” than they are in pursuing restoration. There are some church leaders who seek the conservative path even over the Biblical path. This is not the goal of restoration! The Restoration Movement is also not an effort to be “progressive” or “liberal”. Some churches seek change just for the sake of change. The Restoration Movement is not an effort to be on “the cutting edge” spiritually speaking. Does it interest you to know that the titles “conservative” and “progressive” are not found in the Bible in regards to the church or Christianity? I have no desire to carry a title that’s not Biblical.

What, then, is the goal of restoration? The Restoration Movement is an effort to be Biblical. Listen to the words of Acts 11:26. “…and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” Do you realize this is the first time the name “Christian” appears in the Bible? It’s a name that makes sense. Followers of Christ should carry the name of Christ. It’s also a name that’s found in the Bible. It’s Biblical! “Christian”…that’s the name I want to carry! I’m not interested in being “conservative” or “progressive”. I want to carry the name of Christ. I want a name that’s Biblical! The mission of the Restoration Movement is to be Biblical. I believe more people would be passionate about this movement if they understood its true mission!

Are you equipped to answer basic questions about the faith? Why do we do what we do in the Lord’s church? There are many who are unable to answer this most basic of questions. We partake of the Lord’s Supper every Sunday because it’s Biblical (Acts 20:7). We give on the first day of every week because it’s Biblical (1 Corinthians 16:2). Our churches are organized with elders and deacons because it’s Biblical (1 Timothy 3). We teach God’s plan of salvation including believing, repenting, confessing, baptism and faithfulness because it’s Biblical. (See John 8:24; Luke 13:3; Matthew 10:32-33; Mark 16:15-16 & Revelation 2:10). The Lord’s church doesn’t practice or teach the things listed above because we want to be conservative or progressive. We practice and teach these things because we want to be Biblical. That is the simple, yet challenging goal of restoration; to be Biblical!

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The Desire for Restoration

Paul’s second letter to Timothy contains several charges for him to preach the truth. Paul warns Timothy that many will fall away from the truth. Examine the following words written from the hand of Paul to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-5.

1 “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

Notice the predictions made by Paul in verse 3. Paul’s predictions sadly came true. With Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 325, Christianity joined hand in hand with paganism resulting in the church drifting far away from the New Testament pattern. Departures from Scripture included the teachings of celibacy, simony, indulgences, purgatory and hagiolatry. The departures became so obvious and glaring protestors sought for changes. The Reformation Movement was born out of the many voices of opposition. Reformation was achieved, but the movement fell short of restoration. A regrettable result of the movement was the competition that ensued between individuals and sects. The voices of dissent within the group of reformers gave birth to the many denominations that exist even today.

Some continued the quest for restoration including Thomas Campbell. Campbell expressed the following: “The Church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally and constitutionally one, consisting of all those in every place that profess their faith in Christ and obedience to him in all things according to the Scriptures … that division among the Christians is a horrid evil, fraught with many evils; in a word, it is productive of confusion and of every evil work.” Restoration has been the mission of churches of Christ for two hundred years. The goal is to achieve the unity prayed for by Jesus in John 17:20-23. The path to this unity is made clear by Jesus words in John 17:17. “Sanctify them in truth, Your word is truth.”

Remember Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3. Paul told Timothy that men would depart from the truth. This continues to happen today. The only way for the church to be unified as Christ desires is to have a standard to bring about unity. The standard is God’s Word. One of the most beautiful pictures in the Bible is found in Acts 2:42-47. This is a picture of what God desires today. Do we have a desire for restoration? Do we have a desire to restore their teaching? Do we desire to restore their passion and zeal? Do we desire to restore their example of sharing? Do we desire to have their same fervor for outreach? God’s desire for His church has not changed. Jesus’s prayer in John 17 describes God’s desire for His church. What is your desire?

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The Appeal of Restoration

The theme of restoration is exciting. The thought of restoring something is appealing to us. Who isn’t thrilled by the prospect of taking something that is old and broken down, and restoring it to an improved condition? We work to restore cars to their original condition. We take on home restoration projects. These projects typically have a beginning point and an ending point. Each restoration project at some point reaches its conclusion. We restore and then we stand back and admire our work.

What do you think of when you hear the phrase “Restoration Movement”? You might automatically think of a time period that has already past. Perhaps your thoughts immediately go to the 1800s. In reality, the Restoration Movement is ongoing. At least it should be. The goal of the Restoration Movement was and is to restore New Testament Christianity. The Restoration Movement continues today.

The theme of restoration flows throughout the Bible. It is a Biblical theme. The OT is filled with restoration efforts. Since the fall of humanity in the garden, God has worked to restore sinners back to a right relationship with Him. The flood is an example of God’s restorative work. When God gazed upon His creation in Genesis 6, He was grieved in His heart that He had created humanity. The flood was God’s work to restore righteousness back to His created earth. The ark, and Noah and his family were God’s vehicles of restoration. The period of the Judges is another example of God’s restorative work. During this time period, leaders sounded the call for Israel to come back to the Lord. Kings such as Hezekiah and Josiah led movements to call the Lord’s people back to faithfulness. God’s prophets also joined in the restoration effort. Isaiah and Jeremiah stand out as messengers of restoration.

The NT also sounds forth the plea for restoration. John the Baptizer prepared the way for the restorative work of the Christ. John described himself “as a voice of one crying in the wilderness.” The cry coming from the lips of John was one of restoration. Jesus was also involved in the work of restoration. Jesus’s ministry could be summed up with many words. One word adequately describing His work is restoration. Jesus taught about restoration. The Sermon on the Mount is a plea for restoration. Jesus’s death on the cross makes restoration possible for humanity.

Why is the Bible filled with all of these examples of restoration? Humanity continually rebels against God. It happened in the garden. It happened while Jesus was on earth. It happens today. Because humanity rebels…restoration is necessary. The NT warns of apostasy. The Bible predicts the apostasy of preachers in 2 Timothy 4. The Bible predicts the apostasy of leaders in the church in Acts 20:28-32. The Bible predicts the apostasy of individual Christians in Hebrews 10. We even see the apostasy of churches in Revelation 2 and 3. Any time there is apostasy, restoration is necessary.

Spiritual restoration is different from our efforts to restore physical things. Physical restoration projects typically have a beginning point and an ending point. Spiritual restoration is ongoing. Humans are sinful. Our need for restoration is ongoing. Churches of Christ are known for their plea for restoration. This plea is sent to individuals and to churches. Our goal is to simply be Christians. Our goal is to be the church found in the NT. We are continually striving to reach these goals.

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Just a Simple Thank You

What is the worst illness you’ve ever faced?  Jesus encountered many sick people in His ministry.   Jesus restored sight to the blind.  He straightened the legs of the crippled.  He brought healing to multitudes.  In Luke 17 Jesus comes across ten men who were inflicted with a horrible disease.  These men were in a hopeless situation.  They were helpless to eradicate their deplorable condition.  These men had been banned from their home towns and were labeled unclean.  Nobody wanted anything to do with them out of fear for their own well-being.  These ten men were outcasts.  These ten men were isolated to a life of solitude.  These ten men were doomed to die an agonizing death.  These ten men were lepers.

As Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem he met this group of outsiders.  In Luke 17:13 we hear the desperation in their voices as they cried out with a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”  As Jesus had done many times before, he heard their cry for help and cleansed them of their terminal diseases. 

What happens next in this story is tragic.  Ten men had received a tremendous gift from the hand of the Savior.  These men could now return to their homes, to their jobs, to their lives because Jesus had compassion on each of them…and now for the tragic part of the story.  Ten men were inflicted with leprosy.  Ten men were healed.  Only one returned and said thank you.  Look at Luke’s description of this scene in Luke 17:15-16.  “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.  He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.” 

Earlier all ten were crying out with a loud voice for help.  Only one cried out with a loud voice to express thanks.  Where were the other nine?  Why weren’t they expressing their gratitude for the tremendous gift they had received?  Ten were healed.  Only one expressed gratitude. 

When was the last time you expressed thanks to Jesus for all he has given you?  Jesus gave these ten men a great blessing.  They were given the gift of life.  Jesus brings life to all people.  Just as Jesus cleansed these ten lepers of their horrible disease, Jesus cleanses us from the disease of sin.  Jesus brings life.  When did you last say thank you for this gift?

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Just Do What You Can

I grew up on a farm in southern Oklahoma.  I learned at a young age there are some things you never say as a farmer’s son.  At the top of this list for me was the phrase, “I’m bored.”  Don’t ever say you’re bored to a farmer.  He’ll find something for you to do in a hurry.  There are a myriad of things to do on a farm.  You never reach a point where every chore is finished and every task is complete.  There is always something else to do. 

 Ministry is much the same.  There is always something else to do as a minister.  Our work is never complete.  There will always be another sermon to write; another Bible class to prepare; another person to visit in the hospital; another marriage in crisis that needs your counseling expertise; another elders meeting to attend; another family to comfort after a death; another fallen away member to try and bring back; another personal Bible study to teach.  The list goes on and on and on.  A minister’s work is never done.  The nature of a minister’s work may cause you to view ministry as daunting and overwhelming.  How can a minister get done everything that needs to get done? 

 The best advice I ever received as a minister helps me deal with the above question.  A wise man once told me, “Just do what you can!”  These words will help you survive in ministry.  Just do what you can!  I believe with all my heart that one person can make a difference.  You can make a difference in the lives of people as a minister.  I have also learned that one person can only do so much.  Our time is limited.  Our energy is limited.  Ministers must not only care of the needs of others, they must also take care of their families and themselves.  Just do what you can!  There will always be work to be done in the kingdom.  There will always be sick people.  There will always be people in need of hearing the gospel.  There will always be families in need of counseling.  There will always be another sermon to preach.  Just do what you can!

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