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Category: Family Discipleship

Why we’re using a Catechism in 2024

We introduced the New City Catechism to our Sunday liturgy (order of worship) on Sunday. The New City Catechism (NCC) is a set of 52 questions and answers designed to help us remember the core teachings of Scripture. Like the Apostles’ Creed, the NCC is another intentional effort to ensure that everyone who makes Grace Life Church their home church is adequately discipled in God’s Word. Why?

Because sound doctrine leads to a sound life.

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:11–14

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” 

One of the main responsibilities that God has given the Pastor-Elders of Grace Life Church is to help shepherd and disciple members of Grace Life to the fullness of Christ. This is Christian maturity.

Understanding the wonderful truths of Scripture leads to our spiritual maturity. As the Apostle Peter would write in his first letter:

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:2-3)

The New City Catechism is a tool in the tool chest of growing in God’s Word and understanding sound, Biblical doctrine. Let’s answer a few questions about this new tool we are using at Grace Life.

 

What is a Catechism?

For most of church history, the Christian church has utilized catechisms to teach doctrine to children and adults. A Catechism is a method of teaching that includes an oral element. It is also done within a community (i.e. Sunday church gatherings, Sunday school, small groups, etc).

The word “catechism” comes from the Greek word “Katecheo”, pronounced very similarly to catechism. We see this Greek word mentioned in the New Testament.

“Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue”. (1 Corinthians 14:19)

“Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.” (Acts 18:24–25)

If you notice from these two examples, catechisms are both for our instruction and to instruct others. Intentional community discipleship.

 

Why are we specifically using the New City Catechism?

The New City Catechism is not the only catechism available to the church. In fact, it’s quite new compared to several others. The NNC was written and made available in 2012.

The Heidelberg Catechism (1563), the Westminster Catechism (longer and shorter versions) (1648), and the London Baptist Catechism (1689) are a few examples of catechisms used throughout church history. The Heidelberg and Westminster Catechisms are predominately used within Presbyterian churches. Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, Richard Baxter, and many other pastors and theologians took advantage of catechisms in their ministries.

While these catechisms are very thorough and, for the most part, follow Scripture, the New City Catechism offers a fresh, updated language that is built off of these historical catechisms. You can read more about the layout of the New City Catechism on their website

The New City Catechism builds off of a rich foundation and brings modern tools to help equip the church with sound doctrine.

 

How can I use the New City Catechism?

The catechism will fall short if you only take advantage of it on Sunday mornings. We’ll read the week’s question in our LifeGroups and post reminders in our weekly Newsletter and on social media. But it will also take effort on your part.

Here’s how you can use it at home.

  • Read the question to your spouse or your kids and then have them respond with the answer.
  • Have someone read you the question and then you respond with the answer.
  • Play the corresponding song with your kids. (Parents, this will help you memorize it as well)
  • Download the New City Catechism app in your app store and follow along with weekly readings, songs, and additional resources.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. 

It’s my prayer to see you grow in the fullness of Christ and it is my joy to come alongside of you and help you deepen your roots in the wonderful doctrines of Scripture.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

A Prayer for our kids as they return to school.

It’s pretty remarkable how quickly a summer flies by us. We trade in our beach chairs for school desks and our summer vacations for scheduled routines. The new school year is filled with a household of emotions. The kids are dreadfully excited to return. They will see their friends again, but they are not looking forward to the work. The parents are, well, pretty much in the same boat. There is excitement for the school year to start, but an anxiousness that surrounds the return. We know that the culture we live in is seeking to devour our children. It is not a Christ-centered culture and we know the dangers – physical, emotional, mental, and intellectual – that brings. 

Here’s what I know. It is a good practice to pray for our children on a consistent basis. And as we head into the new school year, I want to offer this prayer on behalf of our children and I encourage you to spend time preparing them and praying over them as the new school year begins.

 

Gracious Father,

With boldness we come before your throne as your children (Hebrews 4:16), welcomed into your presence by the righteousness of Jesus that has covered our sins. You, Jesus, our king of kings, Emmanuel our God with us, are magnificently beautiful and you are the radiance of the Father’s glory (Hebrews 1:3). 

In you Jesus, we have redemption through your blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which you have lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of your will, according to your purpose, which you have set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in you, things in heaven and things on earth (Ephesians 1:7-10).

Your Word says in Proverbs 3:5-7, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil”.

As we head into another year of school, another year of activities, another year of busyness, Father we lift our children up to you. You have blessed us with these little ones, some of which are not so little anymore, and you have entrusted their care to us. There are moments when we’re not sure how to parent them and even how to protect them, so Father help us to do so in the way that you have cared and protected us. 

We pray that as our children head back to school, that you will protect them from evil. Protect them from evil attacks and evil ideologies. Protect them from the schemes of the devil that seek to take them away from you. Care for them when they are out of our care.

Lord, we pray that our kids will trust in you with their whole heart. That the faith of their parents will become their faith. Stir within their hearts a need for salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Convict them of their sin and regenerate their hearts. More than anything in this world, more than wealth, or comforts, or prosperity, we long to see our kids come to know you as their Savior. Help us Lord to point them to Jesus in all things. To disciple them along the way. To show them the incredible truths from your Word. Help their hearts to not be anxious, but to trust that you are with them every step of the way.

Lord, we pray that our kids will not lean on their own understanding, but in all their ways acknowledge you. The world believes the knowledge of Christianity is foolish and seeks to take a generation of kids with them. Help our kids to see the foolishness of sin in this world. Help them to lean into your understanding. Help them to live according to your good and beautiful design. We know your Word never returns void. We know your Word is true and right and sufficient. Holy Spirit, remind them of the Words of Scripture. Remind them that the Words of God are far better than the words of this world. We pray that our kids will acknowledge you in private and in public. That they will stand bold for the gospel as they face peer pressure. 

Lord, we ask that you go before our kids. Direct their paths. Only you can make them straight. The plans we have for them, the plans they have for themselves are nothing compared to your will in their life. We know your will for them is their sanctification and that they live their lives for your glory and your glory alone. We pray that no matter if they are eating or drinking, they will glorify your name. Help them not to be wise in their own eyes, but to fear you in all things, to see your greatness, to see the beauty of your eternal salvation.

Lord, we pray that you will help us as parents to carefully shepherd our children. Be with us as we send our kids to school, off to college, or keep them at home to teach them. We ask that you give patience to every home school mom and dad, give them rest and wisdom, and the support they need. We ask that you be with every mom and dad fighting the anxiousness and worry of dropping off kids and helping them navigate new schools and new friendships. Help us as parents to trust in you as well. Help us to know you are directing our paths and making it straight.

Thank you, Lord, that we are your children and you care for us and love us far more than we will ever realize. Help us to seek you, knowing that you came to seek and save us. Help us to live out your Word all the days of our lives. Thank you for your sovereign care over us all.

In your holy name, we pray,

Amen

A Prayer for our Children

As Mother’s Day approaches, I want to offer this prayer on behalf of our children and encourage you to pray over your children daily. The prayer comes from Proverbs 3:5-7.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. – Proverbs 3:5–7

Gracious Father,

With boldness we come before your throne as your children (Hebrews 4:16), welcomed into your presence by the righteousness of Jesus that has covered our sins. You Jesus are magnificently beautiful and you are the radiance of the Father’s glory (Hebrews 1:3).

In you Jesus, we have redemption through your blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which you have lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of your will, according to your purpose, which you have set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in you, things in heaven and things on earth (Ephesians 1:7-10).

Your Word says in Proverbs 3:5-7, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil”.

Father, we lift our children up to you. You have blessed us with these little ones, some of which are not so little anymore, and you have entrusted their care to us. There are moments when we’re not sure how to parent them and even how to protect them, so Father help us to do so in the way that you have cared and protected us.

Lord, we pray that our kids will trust in you with their whole heart. That the faith of their parents will become their faith. Stir within their hearts a need for salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Convict them of their sin and regenerate their hearts. More than anything in this world, more than wealth, or comforts, or prosperity, we long to see our kids come to know you as their Savior. Help us Lord to point them to Jesus in all things. To disciple them along the way. To show them the incredible truths from your Word. Help their hearts to not be anxious, but to trust that you are with them every step of the way.

Lord, we pray that our kids will not lean on their own understanding, but in all their ways acknowledge you. The world believes the knowledge of Christianity is foolish and seeks to take a generation of kids with them. Help our kids to see the foolishness of sin in this world. Help them to lean into your understanding. Help them to live according to your good and beautiful design. We know your Word never returns void. We know your Word is true and right and sufficient. Holy Spirit, remind them of the Words of Scripture. Remind them that the Words of God are far better than the words of this world. We pray that our kids will acknowledge you in private and in public. That they will stand bold for the gospel as they face peer pressure.

Lord, we ask that you go before our kids. Direct their paths. Only you can make them straight. The plans we have for them, the plans they have for themselves are nothing compared to your will in their life. We know your will for them is their sanctification and that they live their lives for your glory and your glory alone. We pray that no matter if they are eating or drinking, they will glorify your name. Help them not to be wise in their own eyes, but to fear you in all things, to see your greatness, to see the beauty of your eternal salvation.

Lord, we pray that you will help us as parents to carefully shepherd our children. Be with us as we send our kids to school, off to college, or keeping them at home to teach them. We ask that you give patience to every home school mom and dad, give them rest and wisdom, and the support they need. We ask that you be with every mom and dad fighting the anxiousness and worry of dropping off kids and helping them navigate schools and friendships. Help us as parents to trust in you as well. Help us to know you are directing our paths and making it straight.

Thank you Lord that we are your children and you care for us and love us far more than we will ever realize. Help us to seek you, knowing that you came to seek and to save us. Help us to live out your Word all the days of our lives. Thank you for your sovereign care over us all.

In your holy name we pray,

Amen

Family Sunday

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

Every month that has a fifth Sunday, we intentionally keep our Elementary Kids (K5-5th) with us in what we call “Family Sunday”. Family Sunday serves as an opportunity for us as parents (and fellow church members) to train our children in the importance of gathering with the entire church body. We intentionally help them turn in their Bible, sing the songs, fill in the notes for the sermon, and serve while also showing them the joy in doing these things for the glory of God.

This is what Family Integrated Worship looks like at Grace Life Church. We don’t worship separately as families, but together. It’s one of the reasons why we keep our kids in with us while we sing.

What we teach our children now is what they will often hold on to as they grow older. We show them the joy of gathering with the church. We show them how to follow along to a sermon. We show them how to stand and sing. Family Discipleship is modeled. Kids learn by observing and when they observe you loving the Jesus you are teaching them about, it will solidify what you are teaching them.

Here are a few helpful tips to prepare you for Family Sunday.

Let your children know they will be with you the entire service and tell them what to expect.

Nobody likes surprises or changes in routine, so prepare your children for Sunday’s gathering. Tell them that you expect them to sing along, read along, sit still, and listen carefully.

Teach your children how to listen to a sermon.

Attention spans are not getting any longer. Screen time and easily scrolling through apps train our children to have a short attention span. It’s training us too. It’s why YouTube ads are a few seconds and why Social Media platforms like Instagram and TikToc limit video length.

So how can we expect our kids to sit through a 30 minute sermon? We do so by teaching them. As they try to sit through a sermon, help them try to sit in their chair. This means they sit with you, not their friends. This may mean you are constantly telling them to sit down, but children need guidance and they need it reinforced. Allow them to color and draw, but do so by encouraging them to color or draw something related to the message. If they can read and write, encourage them to complete the notes in the church program. Avoid giving them toys, devices, or other items to keep them occupied. Doing so is practically teaching them that a sermon is not important.

PRO TIP: Bring snacks and drinks with you!

Discuss the sermon on your way home.

The car ride to and from the church gathering is an incredible opportunity for family discipleship. On the way home, ask them what they learned from the sermon. Ask them what they learned about God. Ask them why church and God’s Word is important. Ask them what their favorite song was. Take advantage of the Sunday gathering being fresh on their minds to instill in them the importance of the gathering of the local church.

A short note from the preacher to the parent.

In closing, let me make a few remarks from my perspective as the preacher. I love family Sundays. I love seeing the kids participating in the service both in singing and answering the questions I ask while I preach. My prayer for them is that they hear more sermons on Sunday morning than KidLife lessons. If that happens, then they’ve spent several years in church.

I’m often asked, “Are you distracted while you are preaching?” The answer is usually “no”. I am not usually distracted during Family Sundays mainly because I’ve prepared for the distractions. Yes, your children will stand up. Yes, your children will be chatty. Yes, your children will squirm. But don’t think it’s a distraction to me or to anyone else.

Why? Because I (and the older folks of our church) understand that seeing kids in a Sunday gathering means there is life and a future in this church. It brings us joy to see the kids in there with us.

It’s why I love seeing your kids on Sunday. I’m their pastor too and I want them to know that I will always be there to point them to Jesus and I’m never too busy or too distracted to pay attention to them.

Parenting is hard work. But it is a good and satisfying work. We have an incredible opportunity to point our kids to Jesus.

Let’s not waste it.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

Why we are having a Passover Seder

We are just days away from Easter Sunday, the day marked on our calendars to set aside and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In reality, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus every time we gather because we understand our gatherings are in vain if Jesus does not resurrect from the dead.

As we prepare to gather on Easter Sunday, there are two events that we host that are intended to draw our hearts to the finished work of Jesus Christ: Passover Seder and Good Friday. Both of these events I encourage you to attend with your family.

The Good Friday service is a time where we look directly at the brutality of the cross of Christ and sit in the violence of the crucifixion for the sins of the world. We will also participate in the Lord’s Supper together. Register for Good Friday here.

The focus of this post is on the Passover Seder. Let me first state that hosting a Passover Seder is in no way required for Christians to participate in. In fact, if we required it, we would be in the wrong! (See Galatians, Colossians 2, Romans 14) We are no longer under the Jewish Law, but we have freedom in Jesus Christ!

We host the Passover Seder simply as a discipleship opportunity for the entire family that connects the teachings of the Old Testament to Jesus. We constantly say at Grace Life that the Bible is one big story of Redemption, meaning, as Sally Llyod Jones states, “Every story (in the Bible) whispers His name”. While we won’t go into the full meal that was celebrated in the Old Testament, we will look at how the different elements of the meal connect to Jesus. Here’s an excerpt from the book we read from at the Seder.

Passover is the oldest and most important of Jewish religious festivals, commemorating God’s deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and his creation of the Israelite people. In its earliest forms it marked the beginning of the Jewish religious year (Ex 12:1; because of changes in calendars, later Judaism observed the beginning of the year in the Fall with Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana). It is based on the rituals of ancient Israel preserved primarily in Exodus 12-14 in which Israelites celebrated their deliverance by God from slavery in Egypt. The term Passover refers to the tenth and final plague God brought upon the Egyptians to persuade Pharaoh to let the people go, the death of all the firstborn of Egypt. In obedience to God’s instructions, those who believed placed the blood of a lamb on the door posts of their homes, so that God would pass over” those homes. The festival actually celebrates the entire sequence of events that led to the Israelites’ freedom from slavery. While thoroughly based in those historical events, the celebration encompasses much more as it becomes a vehicle to celebrate the very nature of God and His gracious work in the world. It is in this larger dimension that Jesus adopted the Passover service as a sacramental remembrance of God’s new work of deliverance in the Christ, and allows Christians to celebrate this ancient festival.

One of my favorite aspects of the Passover (and really the Jewish culture as a whole) is the family integration. Our culture sends kids off to different classes and places but in the Jewish culture, the family was always together. I love family integrated worship. I love our Family Sundays and I love serving alongside of our kids. The Passover Seder provides an opportunity for families to sit together, participate together, and celebrate Jesus together.

At the Seder, your children will have a role at the table. They will participate just as if they were in a Jewish household, but they will clearly see that all of this is about Jesus. Any opportunity to point our kids to Jesus is an opportunity we must make.

And really that is why we do it. The more we can understand how the Old Testament points to Jesus, the greater appreciation we will have for God’s grand story of Redemption. From the beginning (Ephesians 1) God’s plan to redeem people from their sin was going to be through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Passover looked forward to His coming, we now look back at His finished work and look forward to His soon return. And when that day comes, we will gather as the people of God around the table and eat and celebrate all that Jesus has done for us.

If you haven’t already, register your family for the Passover Seder here.

Resources for Christian Parenting

In January of this year, a news story broke of a 12 year old young girl who attempted to seriously harm herself. After the parents did some investigating, they learned that the school counselor allegedly encouraged this young girl to transition. The parents alleged their daughter was given a new name and they were never informed about it, which they believe led to their daughter’s pain.

A story like this is unfortunately very familiar to us now. We’ve read and watched with our own eyes as kids are encouraged to attend drag shows, read essentially pornographic material as they explore their bodies, and consider abandoning the design God has for them. We respond with anger and sadness and deep concern, but as we watch and read, we internally say, “That wouldn’t happen here.”

 

Except the story above comes to you from a school in our own county. 

 

In the story of Cain and Abel from Genesis 4, the Lord confronts Cain regarding his offering and says to him, 

“but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it’.” (Genesis 4:5–7)

Sin and evil is crouching at the door waiting to attack. Sin’s desire is to take us out and to rule over us. And the devil himself, while not omnipresent, is seeking to devour us. It’s why Peter says,

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

As parents, we have been given the responsibility to care, protect, and disciple our children. We have been entrusted by their Creator to nurture them and raise them up to know the Lord. And I think we can all be honest in saying, parenting today is challenging! But what I want to encourage us today is parenting has been the same for all of history. The distractions are different, the culture is different, and the temptations are different, yet at the core is the same root issue: your child is a depraved sinner. (Romans 5:12) 

This past Sunday, we looked at Deuteronomy 6:1-9 to see what the Bible has to say about Christian parenting. We looked at this text because it is not helpful to give you five steps to better parenting because those steps often treat the symptoms and not the disease. I wanted to give you a Biblical foundation to your parenting. 

Parenting in a hyper-sexual culture is not for the faint of heart. Boys and girls are introduced to some form of pornography between the ages of 5 and 10. From a Christian perspective, the goal is not just to prevent porn exposure, but rather to teach God’s design for sex, establish clear and open communication, and acknowledge the dangers.

There is a difference between not allowing access to YouTube, social media, or even iPhones or iPads and teaching them God’s design for sex. Instead of a mindset of preventing porn exposure, we need to have a mindset of preparing for porn exposure. This provides action steps when your child is “accidentally” exposed to pornographic material (whether explicit or inexplicit such as provocative television commercials) or their eyes begin wandering at the pool or beach. Yes, we prevent, but we also prepare.

We prepare them for porn exposure by teaching them the truths of Scripture and the importance of accountability. If you notice, we take the same first measures in our parenting as we do in our personal fight against sexual sin.

Scripture teaches our children God’s design.  Our children need to know that sex is God’s design between a married man and woman for life. We are proclaiming God’s design for marriage, sex, and gender because it is God’s design that is actively being attacked in our culture. We fight the lies of Satan with the truth of God. Any conversation concerning sex should be grounded in Scripture and celebrated as a gift from the Lord for a husband and wife. Read to them God’s design for sex and marriage from Genesis 1-2.

Open communication leads to intentional accountability – Talking to your children about sex in an age appropriate manner makes you the expert on the topic. They hear it from you first before they hear it on the playground or in a video game chat. Most importantly, they hear the truth behind sex found in God’s Word. Regardless of the topic, teaching the truth of God’s Word to our children before they hear the lies of the world will serve them well.

As you seek to be Biblically grounded parents, take the time to open the Bible and candidly talk to your children about God’s design for sex and their bodies. Here are a few additional resources that will help you in this conversation:

The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality by Luke Gilkerson

God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds by Kristen Jenson (Ages 3-6)

Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids by Kristen Jenson

Raising Teens in a Hyper-sexualized World by Eliza Huie

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON GENDER AND SEXUALITY

God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew Walker

Good God, Gay Girl by Jackie Hill Perry

Transgender by Vaughan Roberts

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung

I pray the truths from Scripture and these resources will encourage you in your parenting. And as always, if you ever need help, please let me know.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

A Back to School Prayer

Today is the official first day of school for K-12th grade students in Clay County. It’s pretty remarkable how quickly a summer flies by us. Now, we trade in our beach chairs for school desks and our summer vacations for scheduled routines. As we head into the new school year, I want to offer this prayer on behalf of our children. This is the prayer from our Sunday, August 7th gathering and can serve as a prayer for you to pray over them as well.

 

Gracious Father,

With boldness we come before your throne as your children (Hebrews 4:16), welcomed into your presence by the righteousness of Jesus that has covered our sins. You Jesus, our king of kings, Emmanuel our God with us, are magnificently beautiful and you are the radiance of the Father’s glory (Hebrews 1:3). 

In you Jesus, we have redemption through your blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which you have lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of your will, according to your purpose, which you have set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in you, things in heaven and things on earth (Ephesians 1:7-10).

Your Word says in Proverbs 3:5-7, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil”.

As we head into another year of school, another year of activities, another year of busyness, Father we lift our children up to you. You have blessed us with these little ones, some of which are not so little anymore, and you have entrusted their care to us. There are moments when we’re not sure how to parent them and even how to protect them, so Father help us to do so in the way that you have cared and protected us. 

We pray that as our children head back to school, that you will protect them from evil. Protect them from evil attacks and evil ideologies. Protect them from the schemes of the devil that seek to take them away from you. Care for them when they are out of our care.

Lord, we pray that our kids will trust in you with their whole heart. That the faith of their parents will become their faith. Stir within their hearts a need for salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Convict them of their sin and regenerate their hearts. More than anything in this world, more than wealth, or comforts, or prosperity, we long to see our kids come to know you as their Savior. Help us Lord to point them to Jesus in all things. To disciple them along the way. To show them the incredible truths from your Word. Help their hearts to not be anxious, but to trust that you are with them every step of the way.

Lord, we pray that our kids will not lean on their own understanding, but in all their ways acknowledge you. The world believes the knowledge of Christianity is foolish and seeks to take a generation of kids with them. Help our kids to see the foolishness of sin in this world. Help them to lean into your understanding. Help them to live according to your good and beautiful design. We know your Word never returns void. We know your Word is true and right and sufficient. Holy Spirit, remind them of the Words of Scripture. Remind them that the Words of God are far better than the words of this world. We pray that our kids will acknowledge you in private and in public. That they will stand bold for the gospel as they face peer pressure. 

Lord, we ask that you go before our kids. Direct their paths. Only you can make them straight. The plans we have for them, the plans they have for themselves are nothing compared to your will in their life. We know your will for them is their sanctification and that they live their lives for your glory and your glory alone. We pray that no matter if they are eating or drinking, they will glorify your name. Help them not to be wise in their own eyes, but to fear you in all things, to see your greatness, to see the beauty of your eternal salvation.

Lord, we pray that you will help us as parents to carefully shepherd our children. Be with us as we send our kids to school, off to college, or keeping them at home to teach them. We ask that you give patience to every home school mom and dad, give them rest and wisdom, and the support they need. We ask that you be with every mom and dad fighting the anxiousness and worry of dropping off kids and helping them navigate new schools and new friendships. Help us as parents to trust in you as well. Help us to know you are directing our paths and making it straight.

Thank you Lord that we are your children and you care for us and love us far more than we will ever realize. Help us to seek you, knowing that you came to seek and to save us. Help us to live out your Word all the days of our lives. Thank you for your sovereign care over us all.

In your holy name we pray,

 

Amen

Redeeming the Sunday Morning Car Ride to Church

For close to seven years, my family drove in separate vehicles to our Sunday gatherings at Grace Life. I left early for setup and Julie came a little later with the kids. The roughly 20 minute drive was an opportunity for me to “preach” my sermon to the empty car and spend time in prayer. But that all changed when we moved into our new space. For the first time, my family rode together to church.

It took some time for everyone to get adjusted to our new routine. What I mean is, it took me a while to get adjusted to making sure the kids were ready to get out the door. It also changed the car rides for me. I was no longer a pastor headed to preach, I was now a dad taking his family to church. I had to repurpose our time in the car on Sunday mornings.

In Deuteronomy 6, the LORD tells his people the importance of keeping the truth of God’s words front and center and teaching them to your children.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [5] You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. [6] And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. [7] You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. [8] You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. [9] You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. – Deuteronomy 6:4–9

There’s a line here that’s relevant to this conversation: “When you walk by the way”.

In the Old Testament, people mostly walked when they needed to go somewhere. Today, we go places in our cars. No one, no matter how much they want to, can escape the moving car. The doors are locked and seatbelts are in place. It’s the perfect time to spend time in prayer and help your children love and value the local church gathering. You have an opportunity to prepare their hearts for church. Here’s what this can look like, but first, a few encouraging notes on “Ride to Church Discipleship”.

Anyone can do it. No matter how far along you are in your Christian faith, no matter how old your children are, and no matter if it is just you or just you and your spouse, anyone can participate in “Ride to Church Discipleship”.

Get your children involved. It’s easy to take charge of reading or praying, but reading isn’t advised while you’re driving. Getting your kids involved is easy and safe!

You only need a few minutes. Is your ride to church five minutes? That’s fine! You can accomplish “Ride to Church Discipleship” in just a few moments. Is it 20 minutes? That’s okay too! Find a landmark and begin “Ride to Church Discipleship” when you pass the landmark each week. This will also help establish a routine for your kids.

Here is what “Ride to Church Discipleship” looks like:

Have someone read the Scripture for the sermon.

Every week, we’ll share the text of Scripture for the next sermon so you can read ahead. (This coming Sunday’s sermon text is from Hebrews 11:23-30.) As a church, we gather together to hear God’s Word preached so we can know Jesus more and the power of His resurrection in our lives. Reading the Sunday morning text helps prepare our hearts for the gathering.

If you have a child who can read, have them read the text. The Bible is written in such a way that even new readers (with a little bit of help) can read. If the driver is the only reader, you can use the Bible Audio from The Bible App, read the text in the driveway before you leave, or when you are stopped at a red light. Even if your child is preschool or younger, reading Scripture to them is a great practice and the routine will be normal when it comes time for them to read.

 

Ask, “What are you most excited about gathering with the church this morning”?

It’s very easy to speak negatively about the church. It’s a tool the enemy uses and what he’s doing is using negativity about the church to bring disinterest to children. Many kids grow up to be non church attending adults because parents either spoke negatively about church or they didn’t make church a priority. Don’t let this be the case for your family. 

Talk to them about singing and praying and preaching and friendship. Explain the importance of the church as the people of God. Jesus did not establish the church for people to check off and check out. No, he wanted people to grow together in friendship and in their faith. Going all in in the life and mission of your local church is essential to the discipleship of your children.

 

Pray Together

Once again, have one of the kids pray and then follow it with a prayer of your own. Of course, praying with your eyes open is certainly acceptable! Be sure to pray for the preacher. (This week, pray for Lawrence Wilson as he preaches). Pray for our band as they lead us to sing to Jesus. Pray for their KidLife teacher. Pray for Grace Life Church. Pray for the Elders. Pray for people who the Holy Spirit places on your heart. Pray for missionaries around the world. The prayer doesn’t have to be perfect, but as we go by the way, we are showing our kids the importance of talking to God.

The car ride to church can be spent listening to the radio, sitting in quiet, playing with toys, watching videos on a device, or we can redeem those few minutes by spending time in prayer or disciplining our kids to love the church, the people whom Christ died for.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

What our kids need to know.

“Dad knows everything”. That was my dad’s response to me and my siblings almost anytime he said something impressive. We would be sitting at a red light and somehow, Dad had this incredible ability to know exactly when the light would turn green. He’d count down and say “green” right when it turned and we would, in awe, say “How did you know that?!”

“Dad knows everything”.

I don’t know how long it took for me to realize it was all a schtick and my dad was just watching the crossing sign countdown, but nevertheless, eventually I learned my dad actually didn’t know everything. And now as a dad, I find myself playing the same game at red lights with my kids and giving the same answer when they (for now) are shocked, “Dad knows everything”. Soon, they’ll realize I don’t know everything. Soon they realize that I’m not perfect. And that’s okay. 

While we as parents don’t know everything, there are certain things we do know and we should desire to teach these truths with certainty to our kids. And we should want them to know them deep within their souls. 

 

They need to know how much Jesus loves them.

There is no greater truth than the message of the gospel. The life changing power of Jesus Christ and Him crucified is what I long for my kids to know. I want them to know that they are sinners and God sent His only Son to this earth to die for them, conquer death for them, and to give them eternal life. (John 3:16)

Taking every opportunity to share the gospel message with our kids demonstrates the importance of the message. We share with them this gospel message because it is real to us. We’ve been covered by the blood of Jesus and our sins have been forgiven. This incredible reality is what we long to see in our kids. 

We tell them how much Jesus loves them. Jesus loves our kids so much He gave His life for them. Jesus loves our kids so much that He took on their sin so He could place His righteousness on them. No matter how much we love our kids, Jesus loves them more. Only Jesus can give them eternal life and I want them to know it. 

 

They need to know how much we love them.

While I teach them that Jesus loves them more than I do, I’m going to demonstrate that through loving them like no one else on this earth. Both of my kids are uniquely made by a powerful Creator (Psalm 139:14). They have different personalities and different interests. Loving them means knowing them. It means knowing their little hearts, ambitions, interests, and fears. Loving them means often doing things that are of no interest to me but I know will make their day.

Loving our kids means we take the time to teach them the truths of the Bible (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Family discipleship is the responsibility of the parent. The church is to come alongside the family and help, but at the end of the day, we as parents are to be intentional in making disciples within our homes. We take time throughout the day to point our kids to Jesus. We take moments in the car, at the park, and getting ready for bed as opportunities to teach our kids the goodness of our God. What great privilege then to teach our kids about God! As one pastor said, “The greatest contribution we make may not be something we do, but someone we raise”.

Loving our kids also means there are good and necessary times to tell them no and to stick with it. Parenting is hard work and the good work means we have to do the hard work. That often means sticking with our no’s (Matthew 5:37). God has placed our children into our care and we are to steward that responsibility well. We are to love them in such a way that that brings them up to know the Lord (Proverbs 22:6) and at times it requires a stern voice that knows what is best for them.

 

They need to know that following Jesus in all things is absolutely worth it.

As we have recently learned from our sermon series in Ecclesiastes everything in this world is empty and meaningless and not worth holding on to. There is far more to this life than money and materials and entertainment and status. Yet, we must be careful that we are not raising our kids to find their joy and satisfaction in these pleasures. 

Jesus promised to us a life and life abundantly (John 10:10). It may not be filled with wealth or a nice home or even good health, but a life with Him is far better than a life without. The joy and satisfaction that they will grow up to search for can only be found in Jesus. A life in Christ is worth living, and this is a truth we must remind them everyday. Jesus is better than anything this world has to offer. 

If there is one truth we must instill in our children, it is that Jesus is better. We teach them this and pray the Holy Spirit will bring them to the knowledge of Jesus for the salvation of their sin. I don’t know everything, but I do know that I love my kids and I want them to know how much Jesus loves them and that following Him with their lives is absolutely worth it. Let’s commit to making sure they know Jesus, and let’s pray that we too will know Him more each and every day (Philippians 3:10).

 

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

Resources for Fighting Sexual Sin

We concluded our Ten Commandments Sermon Series this past Sunday by looking at the Seventh Commandment. Typically, we would preach on the Seventh Commandment after the sixth, but Covid disrupted the sermon calendar, leading to the last sermon of the series being on the Seventh Commandment. If you haven’t had a moment to listen to the sermon, listen to it here.

Because of the depraved view of sexuality that is running rampant throughout our culture, it is important that we as Christians take every measure to fight against the sin of sexual lust. Jesus commands us to do whatever it takes to rid our hands and eyes of this disastrous sin (Matthew 5:27-30). As we all seek to pursue Christlikeness in all things, I want to provide as many resources as I can to help you in your walk with the Lord, both personally and parentally. 

 

PERSONAL RESOURCES

There are two gracious gifts the Lord has given us to fight sin that rightfully take place at the top of this list: the Scriptures and the Church.

Within the Scriptures, we see the depravity of our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9-10). We see countless calls to abandon sexual immorality and to flee youthful passions (1 Corinthians 6:18-20; Colossians 3:1-5). We see the importance of confessing our sins, not just to the Lord, but to each other for the purpose of help and restoration (1 John 1:9; James 5:16; Galatians 6:1-10). The Scriptures and the Church are a reminder to us that God is committed to our holiness. His will for us is our sanctification!

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. – 1 Thessalonians 4:1–8

The Scriptures remind us, and the church should as well, that we are no longer condemned because we are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1-2). To pursue holiness is to eradicate sexual sin from our lives. If you are fighting sexual sin, fight it with the truth and power of Scripture alongside brothers and sisters in Christ who deeply care for your soul (Ephesians 6:10-20).

Here are additional resources to help you in your fight against sexual sin.

ANTHEM a strategic acronym by John Piper

Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace by Heath Lambert

Pornography: Fighting for Purity – a 31 Day Devotional by Deepak Reju

Sexual Sanity for Women: Healing from Sexual and Relational Brokenness by Ellen Dykas

Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys who are Sick of Porn by Tim Challies

Covenant Eyes – Screen Accountability

 

RESOURCES FOR PARENTS

Parenting in a sexually-hyper culture is not for the faint of heart. Boys and girls are introduced to some form of pornography between the ages of 5 and 10. From a Christian perspective, the goal is not just to prevent porn exposure, but rather to teach God’s design for sex, establish clear and open communication, and acknowledge the dangers.

There is a difference between not allowing access to YouTube, social media, or even iPhones or iPads and teaching them God’s design for sex. Instead of a mindset of preventing porn exposure, we need to have a mindset of preparing for porn exposure. This provides action steps when your child is “accidentally” exposed to pornographic material (whether explicit or inexplicit such as provocative television commercials) or their eyes begin wandering at the pool or beach. Yes, we prevent, but we also prepare.

We prepare them for porn exposure by teaching them the truths of Scripture and the importance of accountability. If you notice, we take the same first measures in our parenting as we do in our personal fight against sexual sin.

Scripture teaches our children God’s design.  – Our children need to know that sex is God’s design between a married man his wife for life. We are proclaiming God’s design for marriage, sex, and gender because it is God’s design that is actively being attacked in our culture. We fight the lies of Satan with the truth of God. Any conversation concerning sex should be grounded in Scripture and celebrated as a gift from the Lord for a husband and wife.

Open communication leads to intentional accountability – Talking to your children about sex in an age appropriate manner makes you the expert on the topic. They hear it from you first before they hear it on the playground or in a video game chat. Most importantly, they hear the truth behind sex found in God’s Word. Regardless of the topic, teaching the truth of God’s Word to our children before they hear the lies of the world will serve them well.

Take the time to open the Bible and candidly talk to your children about God’s design for sex and their bodies. Here are a few additional resources that will help you in this conversation:

The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality by Luke Gilkerson

God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds by Kristen Jenson (Ages 3-6)

Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids by Kristen Jenson

Raising Teens in a Hyper-sexualized World by Eliza Huie

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON GENDER AND SEXUALITY

God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew Walker

Good God, Gay Girl by Jackie Hill Perry

Transgender by Vaughan Roberts

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung

 

I pray these resources will aid you in your fight against sexual sin, but more importantly, I pray your heart will find joy and satisfaction as you behold the beauty of the Savior. Please contact me or another Elder if you need counsel in fighting sin. Let’s pursue holiness with a pure heart.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt