Discipling our Children

This message is designed to do two things:  1) call our parents to attention and 2) give vision and direction to continued parenting.
I’ve enjoyed many conversations with friends in Williamson County.  Being a pastor I naturally take a pastoral interest in the parenting philosophies of our culture.  Parents are deeply concerned for their children.  Christian parents especially want their children to be taught the rudiments of the Christian faith.  Many parents attend churches that have children’s programs because they look to these programs to deliver results!  Williamson County TN is blessed with many vibrant children’s programs and there is a lot of choose from.  What you will hear from church leaders though is that the church is unable to provide the biblical instruction and guidance needed for a child’s Christian development.  Why?  There are 168 days in a week and the church gets how many of these hours, 1-2?  Entrusting the church with the work of teaching a child his/her faith is an unsustainable model.  For sure, the church supplements and supports but it cannot carry the responsibility.
We get some helpful guidance in Deut. 6:7.  Here and in Ephesians 6:1-2, this responsibility is for the parents.  We do not speak of outsourcing.  No.  Christian education is primarily and personally the job of parents!
Here the Lord is instructing parents of faith to be diligent, meticulous, and intentional in the transmission of their faith.  The Shema, Deut. 6:4 (Hear Oh Israel, the LORD our God is One.) and the following verse in 6:5 (You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind) form the bedrock of what is taught.  A lot was at stake here, namely, the integrity and life of a nation!  Children might forget their God.  This would result in God’s firm disciplinary displeasure.  Finally, the faith-fueled practice of observing these commands and teaching them would count to them as righteousness.  It was and continues to be the obligation of parents to teach the gospel to their children.
Paraphrasing verse 7 in today’s language, parents talk about the Lord at the breakfast table, on the way to school, at the supper table and as they go to bed.  They constantly drill, drill, drill the gospel and love of God.  It is as natural as breathing.
Parents may well say, “I agree.  However, I’m not sure where to start or even how.”  First, the north star of biblical parenting is the instruction of love for God.  Whatever we do and however we do it, teaching our children to love God with EVERYTHING they have is number one!
George Barna, in his book, “Revolutionary Parenting: What the Research Shows Really Works” gives some helpful guidance on this question.  The context of this book is this.  They interviewed the parents of successful and flourishing “spiritual giants” to discern how these parents worked out their parenting.  Novel approach, right?  While not a fool-proof plan, this approach does promise some helpful insight on what we might call best practices.
They found that first, these parents really believed and practiced their faith.   They made parenting their number one priority, as opposed to a career or pursuing self-interest.  Most of these households were single income homes.  Parents intentionally spent time with each of their children, daily.  They also testified that these families discussed faith and practice together, as a family.  And secondly, these families together practiced prayer, worship, and Bible study.  These parents took on the role of coaches and were not afraid to issue out orders and commands.  They were also very intentional about where they were going.  The spelled out goals for their children and pursued these rigorously.
There is no perfect plan for parenting.  It is work.  There are parents who are listening here or reading who may be in pain over wayward children.  They may wonder, what happened.  Ultimately, children become adults and choose their own way.
There are pitfalls in parenting to be sure.  If parents rely on “do as I say but not as I do” it will only carry children so far.  Eventually, our actions and hearts will reveal more than our words.  For this reason, may parents first and foremost believe and practice the gospel of Jesus.  Why not first enjoy what we preach?
This message comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-9.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

Discipleship at FCC

In working through our Corporate Covenant, we come to that portion focused on discipleship.  What I would like to do is share some personal history, develop some definitions, and point the way forward for us as a people of God.

As to personal history, here we go.  From the time I was born, I have attended church.  My parents always took me.  During high school, college, seminary, as a single adult, and now as a married man with children, I have always attended church.  Most of the models I’ve had the privilege to be in have stressed the gathering time as the primary means of discipleship.

For example, Sunday School, Sunday morning worship, and Wed. night prayer were the primary vehicles of discipleship.  Mission was largely accomplished one-on-one.  The goal was to get unbelievers to the church services, more or less.  The vehicles of Sunday School etc. were sufficient to disciple people.  This may be a little simplistic and it may be contrary to what my leaders intended.  Either way, it was my takeaway.

For me and perhaps for many of you, at FCC, this was the paradigm.

This construct did facilitate a disconnect between the person who showed up at church and the person who lived life away from church.  Additionally, the idea was, get information at the services and then you will be a better disciple.

The difficulties with the paradigm I’ve yielded to for many years is simple.  How can you practice the works of Jesus when discipleship is largely church service and information oriented?

In Matthew 7:24-27 Jesus says that everyone who hears his [Jesus’] words and does them is the wise man who builds on the rock.  Everyone who hears his words and does not do them is like a foolish man who builds on sand.

A disciple of Jesus is a person who lives life the way Jesus lived life.  Discipleship is that process of learning how to live the life that Jesus lived.  To disciple someone is to teach them to live like Jesus lived.  This process includes the classroom but it also includes real life.  This includes learning the three areas of focus in our Lord’s life:  UP, IN, OUT.

The leadership of FCC is responsible to see that discipleship is implemented and celebrated here correctly.  We do not support an information based model of discipleship.  For this reason, in the last two years we have changed a lot of how we do things.  We have Missional Communities.  Here we practice the three rhythms of Jesus.  We don’t just talk about them, we do them.  Even at a corporate level, we are developing rhythms of practice as opposed to rhythms of information.

The goal is very simple.  We want to teach and equip the people of FCC to live a life like Jesus lived!  Presently we have added two vehicles to help us better translate this to our fellowship:  Missional Communities and Huddles.  We frame discipleship in terms of practicing UP, IN, and OUT.  We fight to guard against information based discipleship, instead, adding imitation, and innovation.

This message comes from Matthew 7:24-27.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

 

Cinnamon Sunday for sweet fellowship on New Year’s Day! YUM!

Join us in Cinnamon Sunday for sweet fellowship on New Year’s Day! SPECIAL TIME – 10am

A cinnamon bun sitting on a plate.

The time is from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM. Yes you read right because Cinnamon Sunday is falling on New Year’s Day this year we pushed back service for a half hour. This will give everyone a chance to relax and catch our breath from the Christmas Season and bring in the new year of 2017.

Everyone is to bring something sweet and cinnamon to share with our fellowship and if you have drinks other than coffee to share you are more then welcome to bring that as well.

Merry Christmas to all!

Our Christmas Eve Service for 2016 – New Place and 2 Service Times!

combinedchristmaseveservice-december24_2016

On December 24, 2016 we will be having our Christmas Eve Service with area churches.

This year it is being held at the Hope Church at 1715 Columbia Ave., Franklin, TN 37064. (Formerly, Nashville Family Church, at the location where we have held our Easter Sunrise Services)

There are two service options: 3:30 PM or 5:00 PM. Please attend whichever time fits your family needs. (This is not a potluck like we have done in the past.)

Merry Christmas!

Directions:

Kept in Perfect Peace

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.

Isaiah 7-8 records an amazing word which YWH gives to Isaiah and the faithful.  Two nations were preparing for war against Judah.  They were coming.  Fear was in the air, doubt, and distress were rampant.  This coming catastrophe highlighted the sources of salvation, to which people looked.  Some looked to the necromancers.  Some looked to foreign governments.  Those who did found out the hard way that that no salvation was to be found here.

In chapters 7 and 8 the Lord describes the psychological state of two groups of people:  those who trust YWH and those who do not.  Those who trust him are in a state of peace. They are confident, they are firm, they literally experience the sanctuary of God.  Those who do not believe are characterized by fear, distress, worry, and madness.  They placed trust in things which proved unreliable.  Then, when urged to trust God they respond in ridicule and anger!  In the end, they have nowhere to turn and are ultimately released into a life of darkness, isolation from God and isolation from hope.

In chapter 36 of Isaiah we see the entire nation practice trust in YWH when Assyria came to besiege Jerusalem.  The words of the king of Assyria were specifically designed to plant doubt in the minds of God’s people.  He urged them to not trust God.  He pointed to all the cities he had just destroyed as evidence of the futility of faith in God.  Hezekiah, under the onslaught of this scoffing and ridicule approached the Lord and appealed for help.  Help came!  The Lord killed off the entire Assyrian army, 185,000 strong!

In assimilating this revelation to our souls let’s note two things.  First, trust in Christ literally results in a mind that is at peace.  This is not theoretical or intellectual.  Trust in Christ literally translates to a mind that is at rest.  Second, trust in Christ literally influences outcomes.  The Lord fights for those who wait for him (Isa. 64:4).  Christ will come through for you.

This message comes from Isaiah 8:11-22.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

To the Church at Sardis

The fifth church Jesus addresses, of the seven, is Sardis.  This one is different.  Jesus’ tone is different.  It is different because Jesus doesn’t commend them for anything, as in, anything.
Their problem is two-fold.  One, they have a reputation on which they rely.  Rather than focusing on actual health, they look to others’ opinions to determine their standing before God.  Two, their works are not complete.  Rather than focusing on their mission, they more or less walked away.  The end result is death.  They are dying by apathy and neglect.  It is a sad state.
The counsel Jesus gives to this church is simple.  Wake up and get after it.  They are to repent of their disobedience, pick up the pieces, and resume their mission.  If they do not, he will come upon them suddenly and deal with them decisively.
Yet, there are a few that haven’t gone along with the flow!  They are still pure!  It is not a foregone conclusion that everyone gets sucked up in the dysfunction.  Some have kept themselves white and this brings our Lord great pleasure.
To those who hear and respond to his words, Jesus promises white garments, eternal life, and fame in heaven.
This message comes from Revelation 3:1-6.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

To the Church at Thyatira

Thyatira was a city that buffered two larger regions.  It was an outpost city, a military garrison of whatever region was prominent.  It was also home to numerous guilds and trade groups.  More importantly though, it was the place where Christians gathered to follow God.
Our Lord introduces himself as the judge and the implementer of judgment.  His eyes are like a flame of fire and his feet are like burnished bronze.  The eyes see past drama, facade, and deception.  The feet tread upon every form of dysfunction and evil.  May we appreciate his lordship over the church…
Jesus commends this church for their love, faith, service, and faithfulness.  We have a church who gets out there, loves the people, and serves.  Jesus commends them for this.  They are doing better now then they were at the beginning!  These are good signs of growth and maturity.
However, there is a major problem.  This church, collectively, tolerates a false teacher/prophetess.  She has been warned and yet she persists in teaching others to eat meat offered to idols and commits fornication.  This is a problem.  Her followers are also culpable just as her non-followers are culpable in their passivity.  Jesus says that Jezebel has no further opportunity to repent, he will dispatch her.  Her followers will have one more opportunity to repent or he will retire them.  Aside from their toleration of Jezebel and her teaching, Jesus has no more words for the passive crowd.
We may think that Jesus isn’t showing much mercy.  This is untrue.  He has warned Jezebel in the past.  This isn’t the first time this has come up.  We need to remember too that the sin is severe and life-threatening.  It is life-threatening in the sense that if this church doesn’t confront this immorality she will lose her identity entirely in the sea of pagan culture.
The church today is fighting a battle against the inroads of sexual immorality too.  Same-sex marriage falsehoods are infiltrating the church and destroying her from without.  Complacency and disobedience will not save any church.  Purity in doctrine will lead to purity in practice.  Even so, love and service must be maintained.
Finally, Jesus promises to the one who overcomes that he/she will rule and reign with him.  To the victor goes the morning star!  If someone can hear what Jesus is saying, let him hear and respond.
What we are hearing Jesus say to the church is that unholy teaching and practice will not be tolerated.  The identity of the church is at stake.  If she doesn’t get this right she will forfeit everything including her unique status as the church.  We must go to battle in preserving sound doctrine.  It matters.

To the Church at Pergamum

The city of Pergamum was the most distinguished city of Asia.  So said Pliny the Younger, an ancient historian.  The city was wealthy and very focused in their allegiance to the Roman Emperor.
To this church, Jesus introduces himself as the one who has the two-edged sword.  This is an offensive weapon designed for more than intimidation.  He references the words that he speaks as weapons and this message is to the church.  His character is revealed to us as someone who sees the situation rightly and who will enforce his will.
The church had struggled with fidelity to Jesus but was prevailing.  Even while living in the shadow of Satan’s headquarters, they insisted on fidelity to Jesus.  One of their own, Antipas was martyred there and Jesus references this event.  Even when Antipas was taken, the church would not recant.  The temptation to deny Jesus is real but also subtle.  Contextually, offering a pinch of incense to the emperor could free a Christian from prison.  This church didn’t take the bait.  Nor did they succumb to fear.
However, even while flourishing in fidelity to external threats, the church had allowed internal weakness to enter.  The corporate entity allowed false teaching to take root.  Basically, they allowed the teaching of idolatry and fornication to flourish, in their midst!  While seeming clear to us, it wasn’t that clear to the church at Pergamum.  Contextually, pagan worship consisted of offering sacrifice to idols, eating the meat in a ritual of worship, and then following this up with fornication on site.  Somehow the church had convinced themselves it was ok, perhaps for outreach purposes to indulge in this activity.
The warning came down.  Either deal with this or I’m coming to make war against this group.  To the perpetrator, this doesn’t sound like a winning proposition, does it?  They were challenged to repent right away.
Finally, to those who responded rightly, Jesus promised two things:  hidden manna and a white stone.  These two things may sound archaic or strange to us.  This hidden manna would be the sustenance which he provides in himself.  The stone simply speaks to that new identity he gives us in him.  What a marvelous promise.
In conclusion, the church at Ephesus was pure in doctrine but tainted in love.  The church at Pergamum was externally good but internally compromised.  Their desire to be relevant went too far and they lost their soul.  May we be diligent to preserve sound doctrine and our identity in Jesus.

To the Church at Smyrna

The church at Smyrna did not receive any rebukes, only commendation and counsel.
Jesus introduces himself to this church as the first and the last, the one who passed through death into life. Both of these titles are fitting in light of Smyrna’s difficult situation.  Jesus can speak to all of us from the standpoint of having been there and experienced the entire gamut of suffering, death, and resurrection.  This makes him a qualified leader to his people.
The commendation Jesus has for them pertains to their faithfulness in the midst of struggle.  The ethnic Jews are assaulting them with slander and yet they remain faithful to Christ.  This faithful perseverance in the midst of struggle brings pleasure to Christ because it is for him.
The counsel he gives them is to not fear.  Why?  They are about to be imprisoned and some will be put to death.  They need to be firmed up in courage, not fear.  Furthermore, they are counseled to be faithful unto death.  The temptation would be to withdraw from Christ’s plan and in treachery exercise non-trust.  No.  They need to be faithful.
This faithfulness will pay off with the crown of life.  This is what awaits them on the other side.  The second death, hell itself, will not hurt them for they will be under the protection of Christ.  These are the things that await them if they are faithful uno death.
These words of Jesus are good.  Are we in the midst of tribulation?  Persevere, he knows.  Are we experiencing uncertainty?  Yes.  He knows.  May we not fear and may we not resort to treachery in breaking trust with Jesus.  Let’s be faithful as we endure testing.  Coming out on the other end we will be tried as pure gold.  May we yield to his purposes for our good.

To the Church at Ephesus

The church at Ephesus was the leading church of Asia Minor.  It was the leading city of Rome in Asia Minor.  Paul spent two years there, Timothy pastored there, and eventually the Apostle John would live there.  It was a blessed city.  It was also a thoroughfare of the ancient world.
Jesus’ words to this city speak to commendation and rebuke.  To his delight, they fight the battles he wants them to fight.  This church valiantly warred against false teachers.  They did not tolerate error.  They fought and fought hard, consistently without fatigue.  Why?  They fought for “his” namesake.  Their motivations were right.  They were serving the master.  Additionally, Jesus commended them for their hatred for the work of the Nicolaitans.  This emotion toward false doctrine was the very emotion Jesus shared!
However, along the way, they also walked away from love.  They didn’t love one another as much anymore nor did they love God so much anymore.  In the midst of the battle, their love cooled.  Perhaps love was viewed as youthful zeal.  Maybe they took one too many hits in their battles with false teachers.  Whatever the case, their love was gone.
The remedy is clear:  remember, repent, do what you did at first.  If they do not obey, Jesus will extinguish the church.  These are hard words but Jesus, the ultimate prophet speaks true words.
Finally, the congregation as a whole is admonished to take heed to the words of Jesus.  He who is able to hear, should hear.  The one who overcomes will be granted a reward, to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of God.  What  precious promise to the believers.
As we reflect on these wonderful words of Jesus, it is clear that he loves when his people war for truth.  He approves mightily when we war against false teaching and call out the people who pedal the false teaching.  Battling for truth, persevering, all for his namesake is wonderful and precious!  I’m not sure this church traded in love for sound doctrine.  They had both for a while and walked away from one.  Love for sound doctrine and battling for purity is good and right.
However, are we loving God and loving people?  Have the battles been so many that we no longer love with a childlike love?  Have the scars and hurts so piled up that we no longer care.  Has life gone on so long that the “thrill of living is gone?”  May we become like children and love one another with an innocent and trusting love.
This message comes from Revelation 2:1-7.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.