How To Have Great Adult Small Groups

How to Have Great Adult Small GroupsAlright adults, its your turn.  My last two post were geared toward the small groups of youth at camp and at church.  This was due to being asked to speak to small group leaders of a camp on how to do small groups.  The last 3 years of my ministry has been dedicated to forming small groups (missional communities) for adults in a church plant.  It really doesn’t matter though what kind of small group we are discussing, the principle behind the concept is the same for all groups.  The more time you spend outside of your small group with people from your small group, the better your actual small group will be.

The more time you spend outside of your small group with people from your small group, the better your small group will be.

Leaders, think about what you want for your the members of your small groups or what constitutes a good small group.  What you really want is for people to open up to each other, to share their deep concerns, hurts, praises, and live life with each other.  It can take an entire semester of year to even come close to that kind of bonding between adults if you just see each other in the small group and at church.  However, if there is a concerted effort to spend time with each other out side of the small group meeting time, when you sent down for the group time, it will be a much more valuable time.

For example, I recently had a group plan to all go eat with each other after church.  A very old yet simple and effective idea.  They finally left the restaurant after over 3 hours of talking with each other.  They got to know one another on a whole new level, a fun and social level.  I attended that groups next meeting and it was one of the most productive small groups I have ever been a part of.  Everyone participated and shared their thoughts and opinions like they had never been closer.  They didn’t have to spend that time getting into each others lives, they were already in each others lives so they could move forward in their purpose.

So how does this look for your Adult Small Groups?

  • It’s Just Lunch

How crazy are our work days?!?!  Sometimes its hard to even find time to eat.  On the flip side, many of us spend our lunches in networking groups where lunch is part of the deal.  If you as a leader will simply schedule lunches far enough out with your group members, they can make it and they will find it a much needed breather from work.  Furthermore, if your group members will begin to schedule lunches with each other they will find friendships begin to flourish.  These aren’t bible studies, prayer meetings, or counseling sessions.  It’s just lunch between friends getting to know each other.

Every time you meet with each other it doesn’t have to be a bible study, prayer meeting, or counseling session.  It really can just be friends.

  • DYI

Have a “Honey-Do” list a mile long?  Or maybe your buddy just got a new dog and has to put up a fence.  Or your friend is having a baby and really needs to get the walls painted and ceiling fans hung before the baby arrives.  Perhaps there is a new craft or nicknack that you want to make.  Or maybe someone you know has been sick and their lawn is over grown and the shrubs look hideous.  I think you get the point.  If there is something to do and or work on, it is a great time to spend time with each other.  Beside the fact that and extra set of hands is always helpful, think of the time you get to spend with each other and shoot the breeze.  If you shoot the breeze enough with someone, eventually the storm in their life or yours will come and you can face it together.  My own salvation story revolves around a handful of men spending time with me teaching me how to use my hands to build a building.

If you shoot the breeze enough, eventually the storms will come.

  • Play Dates

I’m admit out of my league here, but think I need to mention it.  If you have young kids, there is no better fun for them and a reprieve from having to entertain them, than having them play with other kids.  This can easily be done during the week if you don’t have to work or even after work.  But then how much fun is a simple grill out on the weekend and have someone over for a play date with your kids.  The kids get to play together and you get some great time to just hang out with people your age.

  • Sports & TV Shows

Ok, back to my wheelhouse.  Where I live, every Saturday in the fall  has the possibility to be an event.  All I need is a reason to get together will some friends and eat; most of the time we call that the big game.  Honestly, there are Saturdays where I go to 3 or more houses to watch different games.  These are the times when you can just be yourself and cheer for your team and talk “polite” trash about the other team and more importantly spend time with people.  If you are intentional about this, your small group can easily be a part of these events.  For a long time I have been getting together to watch TV shows.  I remember in college a bunch of us would get together to watch Survivor and Friends.  To tell you the truth, I don’t even like Survivor (except for the games), but I would go just to be around those people.  Right now, I get together with a group of people on Sunday nights to watch a certain show that will remain nameless (it’s The Walking Dead).  At this point, we watch the show and discuss it, but we are really there to be with each other, not for some stupid show.  But, its those times of conversation during half time or during commercials or after the game that we really get to know each other.

I don’t even like what I am watching, I just want to be with the people.

  • Community Missions

Want to get close to a group quick, serve with them.  Do something for someone else.  Walk the streets of a neighborhood and pick up trash, all you have to do is talk and pick up garbage.  Go sort food for the city food pantry, all you have to do is sort and talk.  Build a wheelchair ramp or roof a house for someone, all you have to do is build and you got it, talk.  Get the point.  People love to tell stories, our stories are our lives, tell each other your stories and you know each others lives.

Of course there are other ways to spend time with each other, these are just a few.  Get out there and get to know each other, then when you sit down to spend time with God together, watch God do some incredible things.  I have promised again and again, if you will spend the time outside of your small group time, you will have great small groups.

 

 If you will spend the time outside of your small group time, you will have great small groups.

© Jonathan Haley Uhrig 2014

Not Remembering Is Better Than Forgetting

string finger

“It seems the older I get the harder it is to remember.”  This would be an unusual statement, except it comes from my 24 year old brother.  Even worse was my response to him, “just wait until you get to thirty!”  It is true though, the older you get the harder it is to remember and the more we tend to forget.  I have an untested theory on this, kinda like how it seems that days get shorter and shorter and time flies by as you get older, its all has to do with proportions.  A 5 year old has lived 1825 days, where as a 30 year old has lived 10,680 days and a 75 year old has lived 27,375 days, its all about the ratio.  A day in the life of a 5 year old is still a big deal, they have only had 1825 of them, by the time you’re 30 its just another day among 10,000ish, and when your are 75 another day is, “well it’s… wait, what’s today?”.  Life is gets increasingly more chaotic as you grow older.  You have to deal with more and more and ever increasingly have to decide what you are going to deal with at all.  We find if easier to forget things because there just is too much going on to deal with everything so we tend to forget.   One of my missional community leaders has a 95 year old, godly mother-in-law.  His favorite saying about her is, “she has forgotten more about scripture than I will ever know.”

But does God forget?  Can God forget?

In a bible study I wrote for our missional communities, I listed some scripture and asked the question, “What does God do with our sin?”  In a footnote to my leaders I said, “please resist saying that God forgets our sin.”  One of my leaders wrote me an email asking me to explain why we don’t say God forget our sin.  Here is the short answer.

Sin is Not Lost in the Chaos

With all that we have going on we can get lost and forget.  Think about all the tools we have to remind ourselves of what we have going on.  Some people keep note cards in their pockets, calendars, post-it notes, even our phones tell us when something is going on or reminds us to pick up something from the grocery store.  If God is omniscience, knowing all things, He cannot forget.  God knows the past, present, and future.  It would be a mistake to say He forgets.

There isn’t so much going on that God has to try keep up with everything and some of it just gets lost in the chaos.

Let me let you in on a little secret every pastor wants to tell his congregation.  Please, please, pretty please, if you have something important to tell me, don’t tell me before service, I have so much going on in my head before service I just can’t remember what you tell me.  And don’t tell me as you are leaving, cause everyone else is going to tell me something, it will get lost in the chaos.  If this were the case for God, our prayers would be foolish.

Sin is Important to God

I admit, it is so hard to keep up with everything people tell me, especially if it isn’t important to me.  Cars have never really been my thing.  I really just don’t care that that 703XWE has a 304 in it and can do zero to a hundred and infinity in 3.459 seconds.  First, I have no idea what any of that means.  Second, where can you go a hundred and infinity?  If you tell me something about a car other than it has gas and its ready to go, I will forget it, because it doesn’t matter to me.  However, there are things in my life that I desperately want to know.

Our sin killed His Son Jesus, God isn’t going to forget that.

Sin matters to God, it’s important.  Too often we are told to “forgive and forget.”  There are things that are done to people that are so terrible they will never forget (murder, rape, divorce, betrayal…), however they can forgive.  Our sin killed God’s son, He isn’t going to forget that, but He does forgive and separates the penalty of sin from us.

God Has Dealt with Our Sin

We do all sorts of things to remind us of things going on in our life so we don’t forget, and we still forget.  We even forget the good, fun moments in our lives.  We have all been sharing stories when someones says, “remember when…?” and we answer, “Oh my!  I completely forgot about that.  We have to be reminded of what we forget.  If God can forget our sins, how about my next sin would remind him of all my other sins.  Or if God forgets sins, He has to be very forgetful God.  No, instead of forgetting our sins, God deals with our sin.

Psalm 103:12  as far as the east is from the west,  so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Micah 7:19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

Isaiah 38:17 Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish.  In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.

Jeremiah 31:34  No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord.  “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Hebrews 8:12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.

What does God do with our sins

  • God removes them from us and separates us from our sin in 2 different directions so that we are never associated with them again

  • God ties them to concrete blocks and throws them into the sea, so our sins are dead and no longer attached to us

  • God puts our sins behind His back, He puts Himself between our sin and us

  • God remembers our sin no more, He doesn’t forget them, he just doesn’t bring them back up to be held against us

Our God does not forget our sins.  He has dealt with our sin with Jesus’ work on the Cross.  Let this be reassuring to you and embolden your faith in Christ.  If God just forgot our sin it only makes sense that God could be reminded of our sin.  But God chose to deal with our sin and separate its consequences from us.  Think about the movie lines,  “To get to him, you have to go through me!” or “Over my dead body!”  This is exactly what Christ has done with our sin and the consequence of death.  God is saying, death, if you want them, if you want those that belong to me, you will have to go through me.  Jesus looked death right in the face and said, over my dead body.

God not remembering our sin is way better than a forgetful god.

 © Jonathan Haley Uhrig 2014

Good Fruit – Not Your Fruit

strawberries

“You will know them by their fruits.” – Matthew 7:16

Spring is here and finally there is good fresh fruit in the grocery store!  The farmers market and street markets are getting sweet fruit in.   Candy can’t hold a light to a delicious bowl of fruit.  Why do you think that the majority of candy is based on fruit flavors?  There just isn’t any substitute for the real thing.  Yeah candy is good (I’m that big kid who keeps a bowl of candy around at all times), no doubt about that,  but watermelon flavored candy taste nothing like a slice of watermelon on a hot summer day.  However, when you peel an orange and bite down into one of those perfect God designed wedges and your jaw locks up because its too tart, you wish you had an sugar coated orange slice piece of candy.  Or when you bite down into that crisp, grass green Granny Smith Apple right into a bruised spot that mushes into your mouth, yuck!  You instantly know when you have gotten into some bad fruit.

You instantly know bad fruit!

Jesus speaks of fruit several times in scripture.  He is usually is speaking of what our lives produce in relation to the world, both good or bad.  Jesus does get angry at that one tree and tells it that it will never produce fruit again.  That tree got sad and withered up fast.  Jesus tells us that we can identify other believers because of their good fruit and non believers because of their bad fruit.  On the surface this looks like this is saying that those that do bad things He doesn’t know and those that do good belong to Him.  But we know that you cannot work for your salvation.  Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus, so this isn’t a lesson in being bad or good.  And then Jesus talks about how if we aren’t attached to the vine or the tree then we can’t produce fruit at all. We can really get lost in all the fruit talk.  Let’s try to clear it up.

Bad Fruit.  Is it Really Fruit at All?

“A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit.  A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.  So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.  Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” – Mathew 7:17-20

Strawberries!!!  I love strawberries especially as a dessert.  Strawberries dipped in chocolate, strawberries covered in powdered sugar, strawberry slices with sugar and put on pound cake, strawberries cut up and frozen in homemade ice cream, or strawberry cake with cream cheese icing with slices of strawberries on top!  Did I mention I like strawberries?  Just give me a basket of fresh strawberries and I’ll make sure to make myself sick.  But if I bite into a strawberry that is still too green or a strawberry that’s been bruised or a strawberry that is too far past ripe, you better believe I am spitting that nasty thing out of my mouth.  It’s bad, I don’t want it, in fact, I have to inspect the next couple of strawberries to see if they are good.

If its not good and sweet, its not fruit.

Webster’s Dictionary defines fruit as “the sweet and fleshy product of a tree or other plant that contains seed and can be eaten as food.”  If its not sweet, it’s not fruit!  If someone doesn’t want to eat it, it’s not fruit!  Jesus tells us that we can identify people by their actions.  If peoples actions aren’t sweet then they aren’t fruit.  If there are actions that no one wants then that action isn’t fruit.  Websters goes on to further define fruit as “a reward that comes from someone’s action.” Rewards are by definition a good thing.  If someone’s actions aren’t good, then they aren’t fruit.  But what if the fruit is good,?  What if someone’s actions are sweet?  Here is where we start to have a slight problem with the ability to produce fruit in the first place.

Can We Produce Fruit at All?

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” – John 15:4

The problem here is being good. Romans 3:12 tells us that “No one does good, not a single one.”  We are all bad trees!?!?  That just can’t be can it?  We all know that there are good people out there doing good things that do not follow Jesus.  But we can never forget that everyone was created though Jesus and for Jesus (Colossians 1:16)!  Just because people don’t follow Jesus doesn’t mean they can’t do good things, they just won’t be fruitful.  If we are not in Christ then we cannot produce fruit!  We may be able to do good things, but producing fruit just isn’t going to happen.

Followers of Jesus produce fruit.

Jesus is begging us to be active in our faith, to pursue Him continually so that we don’t have to be disciplined by the Father, because if we aren’t producing fruit as believers, we will be pruned again and again until we produce fruit.  As believers, we will produce fruit.

The Fruit Belonged to Jesus the Whole Time!

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10

Scripture tells us that as followers of Christ that we have the Holy Spirit living in us and that we are to keep in step with the Spirit.  If you read Galatians 5:22-23 carefully we will see that we are not producing fruits ourselves, but that the fruit being produced belongs to the Holy Spirit.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”  This is the fruit that is to be evident in our life, this is how we are recognized as a follower of Jesus.

The good works that we do already belong to Jesus.

If we aren’t doing good works, producing good fruit, then we don’t belong to Jesus and we will not walk into the good works He has prepared for us to do.  See, even the good works that have to be done already belong to Jesus, He already had them planned out for us to do.

If we could produce good works on our own we could work for our salvation and there is no need for Jesus.  Since we are not good then we must completely rely on Christ for our goodness.

***Thanks Bill Schroder for the great conversation and your wisdom.

 © Jonathan Haley Uhrig 2014

1 Simple Prayer You Need to be Praying Regularly

hands raised

Recently I was asked a question by a youth pastor.  The question isn’t new or revolutionary, in fact I have heard it many times and I have asked it several times while teaching both youth and adults.   He asked me, “Does your life make people want Jesus?”  I thought about that question for a moment and did not respond the way I thought I would.  The answer to the question I think… is no.  Looking at my life, I am not sure there is much of my life people would want.  In fact there isn’t much of any other life I would want either.  So I responded back, “Whose life does make you want Jesus?” and “Whose life would you want?”

Pick A Life

If I was going to pick someone’s life to have it would be a professional athlete.  Are you kidding me, 6’7″, 195 pounds, a 4.4 40,  325 lb. bench press, a .325 batting average and a contract of $20 million for 4 years… any day of the week!  But there is much of even that life I don’t want.  If we turn to the Bible for a life that someone would want, I’m not really sure we find one.  Do you want Abraham’s life, cause being 100 years old with a baby and no home doesn’t really sound that attractive.  How about Noah, talk about lonely.  Isaiah, that’s what we all want to be responsible for – telling everyone of the coming doom.  So how about Daniel?  Don’t forget he was an exile and if the outcome was good or not, he was thrown to the lions!  David, the man after God’s own heart, surely his life we would want.  Don’t forget he ran for his life, lost his best friend and then for the on top of it all would you want to be the example of infidelity for thousands of years?   Peter, though I can relate to both his denial of knowing Jesus and bold proclamation of Jesus and all that he saw, I’m still not sure his life makes me want Jesus… Oh’ yeah, crucified upside down.  Paul? because 2 Corinthians 6:4-10 is exactly what we want for our lives!

but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love;by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”     – 2 Corinthians 6:4-10 (ESV)

Only One Life

Truth is there is only one life that makes us want Jesus.  That’s Jesus! (Exclamation Mark)  And His earthly life, pretty sure we don’t want.

Jesus’ life makes us want Jesus.

However, when we look to Jesus on the cross we see God’s Mercy, God’s Grace, God’s Love, God’s Wrath, God’s Forgiveness, God’s Patience, God’s Sovereignty, God’s… We could go one here and all we did was look at Jesus on the cross.  We can see this time and time again in Jesus.  For the rest of the lives in the Bible, they are desperately waiting and in need of Jesus or pointing to Jesus as the treasure of life.  As far as our lives, do they make people want Jesus?  Though nothing wrong with the original question, there may be a better question.  Does your life tell other’ about Jesus?  Do your words point people to Jesus?  We have to remember that we can’t save anyone, we can only point to Jesus.

1 Prayer We Need To Be Praying

So this whole post was about a prayer right?   All of the above goes into this prayer.  This youth pastor I was talking to has a very dedicated prayer life.  He is the guy that when he says that he is going to pray for you, you have no doubts that he is praying fervently for you.  He said, “It all comes down to one thing.   Do you want Jesus?”  For our lives to boldly proclaim Jesus, we must want Jesus in the first place.

“It all comes down to one thing.   Do you want Jesus?”

Recently I have been dealing with some normal but difficult issues and have gotten to the place in my prayers where I didn’t know how to pray any further.  My prayer simply became, “Jesus I need You.”  What I really needed, what we really need is Jesus.  The answer to our prayers is Jesus.  If comfort is what we are looking for, God responds by sending us Himself.  When our prayer is for a miracle to save someone form cancer, God responds by giving us Himself.  When we run out of words to pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and gives us Himself.

I hope Jesus revealing Himself in my life makes you want Jesus.

Our lives have to mirror Jesus and so what we need is Jesus.  We need for Jesus to give us Himself.  No, my life doesn’t make you want Jesus.  I hope Jesus revealing Himself in my life makes you want Jesus.  Only Jesus makes others want Jesus.  Make praying for Jesus to give Him more of Himself a regular, if not daily prayer.

***Shout out to Dusty Fowler, youth pastor at Willowbrook Baptist Church, a roommate, a friend, and a brother,  Keep it up Duck!

 © Jonathan Haley Uhrig 2014

Read More Scripture!

HB Backdrop

Ad nauseum I tell my church they need to be reading scripture.  Forever we need to be in the discipline / habit of reading God’s word.  The lack of scripture reading is among the leading problems with Christians and churches today.

God went to great lengths to make sure we have His word.

Overwhelmingly, I am convinced that if the majority of believers read scripture on a frequent basis that their lives would change, their churches would change, their communities / cities / states would change and eventually the nation and the nations would change due to the power of the living word.  I believe that a lot of people’s Christian walk is stagnate because they are seeking God for Him to reveal what He wants them to do or they are waiting and listening for God to tell them something.  These same people don’t read the scriptures as a source to hear from God.  God went to great lengths to protect His word so that we would have it.  Why?  He has already said so much that applies to our lives today.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  – 2 Timothy 3:4-17

God has already given us all that we need to know for salvation and obedience toward Him.  This is the sufficiency of Scripture.  We either believer it or we don’t.  If the bible really is inerrant and sufficient then why aren’t our lives invested more into the words on its pages.  Instead most of our churches are filled with biblical illiteracy.   Thom Rainer in a recent blog post gave us 3 benefits of a church that reads scripture.

The Results of Biblical Literacy

We know that we should be reading and studying the Bible. But what are the results when actually accomplish this? Let me share three results of increased Biblical literacy:

  1. We Grow Spiritually as Individuals. A 30-minute sermon once a week is not a sufficient time in the Word. If we expect to mature as followers of Christ, we must commit to a lifestyle of letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16).
  2. Our Churches Are Healthier. Healthy churches are made up of healthy members. Church members who dwell in the Word overflow with the fruits of the Spirit. They are patient, loving, joyful, and others-focused.
  3. We Reach More for Christ. Biblical literacy is the foundation for evangelism and missions. We should not expect to be motivated to tell others about God’s love for them if we are not engaged in His word. Conversely, when we are dwelling in the Word and it is dwelling in us, we can’t help but tell others the good news of Christ.

There are many tools to help you read scripture.  I urge you to find one.  There are tons that are sent to your smartphone each day so you don’t even have to remember, you just have to read.  We have no excuses, if its a long passage or one verse, read everyday!

Get in God’s word and read!  Let the Holy Spirit teach you!

Thom Rainer’s Blog Post: http://thomrainer.com/2014/04/22/biblical-literacy-church-three-benefits/

3 Steps To Raising Disciples – By Matt Blackwell

family in park

As a parent, God has entrusted you with a tremendous privilege and responsibility. The Bible speaks frequently to parents offering encouragement, wisdom and instruction.  Before Shannon and I had kids I remember having a conversation about how we would be different than our friends who were letting their kids drive the family’s schedule and priorities.  We vowed to be different, that was until we actually had our first kid.

We realized very quickly that there is an inertia that drives parents towards having a kid-centered home.  Their noise, needs, desires, activities, homework, etc. require parents to diligently avoid being consumed by the tyranny of the urgent.

“Kid-centered homes produces self-centered adults.”

Parents have to work hard to build a Christ-centered home and not a kid-centered home, because a kid-centered home produces self-centered adults.  Parents have to constantly strive to take their kids out of the center of the family and remind them that Christ is the center.

Mom and dad, you are the leaders in your home and as such you are uniquely positioned to keep your eyes fixed on God and your finger on the pulse of the family. The kids that God has entrusted to you are your primary disciples. And as their mom and dad you have the privilege, joy and responsibility to lead them.

Check out what the bible tells parents in Deuteronomy 6:5-9,

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

Here are a few observations about disciple making for parents from these verses:

 Step 1 – “On your hearts”

Let the Word of God and the love of God be on your heart. The best discipler is a disciple.  The best leader is first a follower.  Your primary call as a disciple maker is to know the Word, love it, and live it.  How are you doing in the areas of prayer, sharing your faith, and reading your Bible?  As a parent your first step in making disciples of your kids is to be a disciple.

Step 2 – “Impress them on your children”

Parents can impress the things of God on their children through discipline and delight.

Discipline

The greatest context for teaching kids comes through consistent discipline.  One of the things that I’ve realized is that while I waver in my consistency in leading family devotions, our kids never waver in their need to be disciplined.  The bible speaks of disciplining kids often:

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” Proverbs 23:13–14

The purpose of discipline is to gain a hearing.  Most of the time our kids are running around so fast that they don’t stop long enough to really hear what we are saying.  The goal of discipline isn’t just behavioral modification but heart transformation.  Through discipline we slow them down and create the opportunity to teach them the truths of repentance, grace, forgiveness, and kindness.

“The purpose of discipline is to gain hearing.”

A parent’s role, especially a Father, is not to crush his children but to cultivate them.  Through discipline, parents should seek to cultivate their kids so that they become self-disciplined and not continually need a wooden spoon or a timeout or jail cell to have them live rightly.

Delight

Our role as leaders in the home is to equally delight and discipline.  It is not loving to delight in your kids without correcting them, just as it is not loving to discipline them without delighting in them.  The bible reminds us of the joy of having kids:

“The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.” Proverbs 23:24–25 “…the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:11–12 “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” Proverbs 29:17 “Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” Psalm 127:3-5

Parents, you are to rejoice in and delight in the blessing of your kids today, not in some future version of them.  Before any parent disciplines their children, they are commanded to delight in them.  This means that most of your time is spent enjoying your children, encouraging them, laughing with them, being affectionate with them, and enjoying them so that there is a deep bond of love and joy between your children and their mom and their dad.  The backdrop of your discipline is delight.

“The backdrop of your discipline is delight.”

Step 3 – “talk about them…”

Finally mom and dad, make disciples as you go.  Look for opportunities as you drive to practice, play at the park, or put the kids down to bed.  Don’t let discipleship be isolated to Sundays, but let it be a natural part of your day.  It’s not weird for your kids to hear you talk about what you love and are passionate about.  So talk about what God is teaching you and ask them what God is teaching them.

“Parents, discipleship must be a natural part of your day.”

You can’t delegate discipleship.  You take the lead and look for opportunities to “talk about these things” as you go.  Try to create places where your kids ask questions.  Use family devotion times, serving together, going to church together and asking them what they learned as ways to have some conversations.  And be patient, because most of those conversations will be short and fruitless, but there will be one every so often that is powerful and transformative.

This is the way of discipleship: patient obedience over the course of years builds a firmly rooted disciple who will bear much fruit.  And that is what we are praying that our kids to become.  Mom and dad, keep your heart engaged in the Word of God, delight in your kids, correct them when necessary, and look for opportunities to have fruitful conversations that lead them to Jesus.

Original Post: http://www.vergenetwork.org/2014/04/21/raising-disciples/

Why I Love the Empty Tomb

happy easter

Good Friday?  Strange to title such a grotesque day in history as good.

With today being Good Friday and what we as believers celebrate as the day that Christ was crucified on the cross I thought I would take a moment and take a look at the  2 major events that are celebrated over the Easter weekend.  The gospel is clearly lived out and told through the crucifixion of Christ on the cross and the empty tomb of His resurrection.

Sin on the Cross

In the post “What Does Jesus Save Us From?” I explained that we are saved from God’s wrath.  We experience God’s wrath because of our sin (Romans 1:18-32).  What we as humans are desperately in need is for someone to save us from the consequence of our sins, to forgive us of our sins, to pay the penalty of our sins.  God know that the only thing that would satisfy His wrath would be the overwhelming payment of the death of His son Jesus.  How great is it for someone to believe that God would send the rescuer from His own wrath and He sent Himself!  The penalty of our our sin is death (Romans 6:23).  See, someone had to die for our sins, and who is good enough to pay that penalty?  Definitely not us.  Jesus being God in the flesh is the only one who could satisfy the penalty for us, so He endured the cross, shed His own blood, and died in our place.  He took the penalty of our sins upon Himself on the cross.

Our sins are paid for and forgiven on the cross of Christ, but that’s just half of the story, half the Gospel.  What would have happened if Jesus stopped at the cross?

The Empty Tomb

Having our sins forgiven is a miracle in itself, but if God stops there, if He stops with Christ work on the cross we are left forgiven but not alive.  For us, just having not to bear the wrath of God would have been enough.  This is the extreme mercy of God!  But this is not enough for our God!  He wanted us alive!  To live for eternity worshiping Him, living life to the fullest in His unhindered presence.  It is for this reason that on the third day God raised Jesus from ‘the dead (Acts 10:40).  This is the extreme grace of God!  When God raises Jesus from the dead, He paves the ways for us to also raise to life when our earthly bodies die.  When Jesus followers find His tomb empty what they don’t realize they are looking at is how their own tombs will be, how our graves as believers will be…EMPTY!

It Takes Both

If Jesus is just raised from the dead, then our sins are still unforgiven and we have to deal with the wrath of God.  If Jesus is just crucified on the cross then our sins are forgiven but we have no hope of eternity.  This is why this Easter I am asking you to praise Jesus for both the cross and the empty tomb.  Romans 10:9 says,

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

It is believing that God raised Jesus to life after His death on the cross that saves us from God’s wrath!

This is why I love the empty tomb!

 © Jonathan Haley Uhrig 2014

 

 

If Prayers

If Prayers

if

Spent some time in Wichita, Kansas and gleaned some great lessons from my new friends there.  Let me share…

Have you ever wanted to pray a prayer that allows God to have full control of a situation and have no idea how to?

What happens to your prayers when you let God have that much control of your situation?

I’ve always wanted to be able to pray bold prayers where I trust God to do incredible things in my own life.  Honestly, I am pretty good at praying bold prayers for others and I really do believe that God can and will move in the lives of others.  But for some reason, it’s hard for me to pray extremely trusting prayers.  Yes, this does show how much I want to be in control and have relinquishing control.  It’s a daily fight.  But what if one little word could change everything?  IF.

IF is a simple yet powerful word.

That can’t be it, that can’t be all to it.  IF?  Really?  That’s the brilliant word you came up with?  That’s it!  IF.  What happens when you start adding IF to your prayers?  Watch how simply yet powerful the little word becomes.

IF God you want…

This little word has revolutionized my prayer life in just a few short days.  It makes it easy for me to give control over to Christ.  Jesus used it why shouldn’t we.

 “My Father, IF it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  – Matthew 26:39

If God you want me to _____________, then make it happen.  If Lord you want _______________ for me, then give it to me.  If Jesus you have for me a _____________, I trust you will give it to me.   So simple, but once you say “IF” there isn’t anything else you can do.  That little word places complete control into God’s hands.

Give “IF prayers” a try, see how it works in your life, see if it allows you to give control to our savior.

*Thanks to Pastor Jason Villianueva and Aviator Church.  Keep up your faithful work with Christ.

 © Jonathan Haley Uhrig 2014

Words From Joe: Part 6 – Your Suit

Words From Joe: Part 6 – Your Suit

Suits-season-2This is the last of the “Words from Joe” series.  Joe is one of the wises and most humble men I have ever met.  I hope I have shared his wisdom with you as much as he shared with me.  The 30 minute conversation we had has impacted my ministry more than any single conversation I have ever had.  Thank you Joe.

God designed your suit for you and it will only fit you.

Joe said, “God designed your suit for you and it will only fit you.  It will never fit anyone else and anyone else that attempts to put on your suit, it will always feel awkward.  I would be too tight, too loose, too small or way to big.  Your suit is designed to move with you and always be perfect.  Our suits may be made out of the same material but one is made for me and one is made for you.”

God has put me in the very spot he wants me.  Better yet, when God wants me in a different context or different situation, He will put me there.  I only have to obey and wear my suit.  Same for you.  You have a unique suit that is made just for you, it will fit no one else like it fits you.  Know that God has you where He needs you and you only need to obey and wear your suit. Don’t try to wear a suit that belongs to someone else, you know it won’t fit you.

Jeremiah 1:5 (NIV) “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…”

 © Jonathan Haley Uhrig 2014

Words From Joe: Part 4 – God’s Plan

Words From Joe: Part 4 – God’s Plan

blue prints

Thirty minutes with a guy that I have just met is not a lot of time to give him credibility and listen to his words.  But Joe, earned trust in a matter of seconds.  It was his spirit, his humble spirit.  It is his uselessness, humble, kingdom minded spirit that was apparent and drew me in.  This was Joe’s first lesson he gave me and I saved it for last.

I have been looking for a full time job in the ministry and getting frustrated as time goes by.  I’m ready!  As I finished introducing myself, I told Joe I had graduated seminary a few months earlier and looking for a job. “I just am tired of waiting”, I sai

d. In his mellow, South African / Australian, deep voice he said…

“Waiting is hard, but you can’t have plans for God.”

So why do so many of us try to plan out how we are going to do ministry? How we are going to restore the church? How we are going to …

Joe continued.  Noah didn’t have a plans to build a boat and definitely no plans on how to build an ark.  God provided the wood and the plans on how to build the ark.  Then He provided the animals and the rain, remember, God even shut the door. Noah was not involved in the plans, he just had to show up.

Moses didn’t have any plans of freeing Israel from Egypt, that would be ludicrous.  God made

the plans, gave him the words and the miracles.  What are Moses’ plans when he gets to the Red Sea, nope he doesn’t have any, God did.  How does Moses plan to feed a

n entire nation in the middle of the desert, he had no plans, God did.  Ten Commandments…God.  How about building the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant.  Moses was given all the plans by God,

who provided all the material.  Even Moses’ kid, God had the plan, Moses’ plan messed up.

An entire army bearing down on Israel and mocking them.  Does Saul have a plan?  Nope.  God Does.  Example after example, over and over again, it’s God’s plans.  How about saving Christians from Saul’s (Paul’s) wrath.  No plans there, but God shows up and not only stops Paul from harming believers, sends Paul out to bring the message to Gentiles.  Bet that was never on Paul’s radar.  What are the disciples to do, Jesus is gone and they have no plans.  That’s right, God has plans and saves thousands with one sermon from Peter.

Here was Joe’s question to me, “Why is it that we try to make plans to grow a church?  Is it not our job to just show up and do God’s plan?”

Matthew 16:18
“And I tell you that you are Peter,and on this rock I will build my church,”

Who is building who’s church?  Jesus will build His church.  It is not our job to build the church, that’s Jesus’ job, God’s plan.  Our job is to follow God’s plan.

Matthew 28:18-20
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

“Jesus will build his church if we are making disciples.”

That’s the plan. Jesus will build his church if we are making disciples.

Originally Posted August 2nd, 2009

 © Jonathan Haley Uhrig 2014