One of the most sobering moments in history came when the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land. God had given them the law at Mount Sinai nearly 40 years earlier, and, because of their lack of faith, they had wandered the wilderness ever since. Now it was time for the next generation to enter the land.
So Moses led the people to reaffirm God’s law. Throughout the book of Deuteronomy, they were reminded of the commandments that were to set them apart as God’s people. And then in Deuteronomy 28-30, God spoke through Moses to make the stakes very, very clear. Obedience brings God’s favor and blessing in the land of promise; disobedience doesn’t. In fact, disobedience would lead to dire consequences.
In this pivotal moment, Moses summed up the situation:
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).
The picture is really clear. He says, “You’re at a fork in the road. You have to choose one direction or the other. It’s not an option to just stay where you are. You’ve wandered in the wilderness for all of these years; you’re about to enter into the Promised Land. But how will you do it? Will you do it on your own strength? Will you fail to take a risk like the previous generation did? I’m setting before you a fork in the road, and these two roads lead to two very different destinations. One leads to life; one leads to death. One leads to blessing; one leads to suffering. And you have to make the choice.”
Choices are part of God’s plan. God parents us as children all through Scripture by giving us the freedom to make decisions. When you open your Bible and start at the beginning, you don’t have to read very far to see this. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden. Were they robots? Were they controlled? No, God gave them free will. He did it willingly, knowing that it set Him up for all sorts of potential pain. He knew this perfect world He created could be devastated by the results of sin. But He realized love isn’t love at all if there’s no choice involved in it. So He took the risk of building choices right into the very fabric of creation.
The free will to choose between “life and death, blessings and curses” shaped the course of Israel’s history throughout the Old Testament and into the New. And the New Testament gives us the same dynamic: You can do what God says, or you can ignore what God says. One way leads to fellowship with Him and eternal life, the other doesn’t.
In the story of the Prodigal Son, the good father allowed his son to make a choice. It was a bad choice, and I’m sure it grieved the father. But this model parent couldn’t make the decision for his son, even though the decision would hurt. That’s not how love works, and that’s not how children grow to maturity.
In our parenting, we have to allow our children to make choices, just as God allows us to make choices—even bad ones. We need to place age-appropriate boundaries around those choices—you don’t allow a five-year-old to squander his inheritance, for example—but the decision-making processes of a child have to be developed in real decision-making situations. That’s part of their training.
When children learn how to make wise choices under your supervision, they will be much more likely to make wise choices when they are out on their own. The decision-making skills they get from you will eventually translate into their relationship with God. And when they come to a fork in the road, they will be well-equipped to choose obedience and fully experience the promises God has put before them.
by Phil Tuttle
Raise Up A Child
No matter how good you are with children, we could all use some biblical instruction and solid skills when it comes to raising and guiding them. And although skills are good, it helps to have some encouragement, with a huge dose of patience, and a big helping of a sense of humor! You’ll find all of that with Raise Up a Child!
Andy Stanley, Pastor of North Point Ministries in Atlanta, GA.,–
“Phil Tuttle has tackled one of life’s most difficult topics: parenting. In Raise Up a Child, through humor and solid principles, Phil teaches us how to develop our heavenly Father’s perspective on raising godly children. Get this curriculum (or invite an instructor to teach it live). Learn it, live it, and give your children and grandchildren a gift that will last for generations.”
This series isn’t just for parents! Teachers, grandparents, caregivers, small group leaders, camp leaders and more will benefit significantly from this study!
Raise Up a Child conveys practical parenting wisdom through four easy-to-remember “compass points” uniquely taught from Luke 15’s Prodigal Son story. These principles offer much needed help and hope. With this resource, children will likely grow up to be more mature, responsible, loving, and secure.
As Easter approaches, I’d like to challenge you with a question: What does the resurrection of Jesus mean to you? Is it central to your faith? Perhaps you or someone you know claim to be a Christian, but you’re not quite sure about the evidence for the resurrection – could it be fact or could it be myth?
Regardless of where we stand on this issue, what I’ve learned is that both Christians and atheists agree that the resurrection is the central issue to Christianity. That’s because if the resurrection isn’t true then we’re still in our sins, and following Christ is meaningless! Both believers and non-believers agree that if Jesus rose from the dead then we have an intellectually feasible argument that the claims of Christianity are true. If he didn’t, then all of Christianity falls.
The Apostle Paul wrote about the importance of the resurrection in his letter to the Corinthians. He wrote, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith… For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor. 15:13-14, 16-17)
Believing in Jesus’ resurrection is not optional for us as Christians. There is no other name under heaven by which one can be saved, and no other method of salvation other than belief in and identification with Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and ascension.
So how can we know if Jesus really rose from the dead? This has been the question for the last two millennia and continues today, especially in the past few centuries with the advent of progressive historical, archeological and textual fields of study. The Bible and its claim of resurrection continue to be under intense criticism and attack, yet the evidence of the resurrection is convincing.
And here’s I want you to know: You don’t have throw your “brains in the trash” to be a Christ follower. The fact is, we can know the truth. The reality is we most likely have all the information we’ll ever have about Jesus’ life, death and the subsequent events, contained in the Scriptures.
Consider for a moment just some of the most compelling evidence for Jesus’ resurrection:
- Old Testament prophets predicted it.
- Jesus predicted it openly and numerously.
- After Jesus rose from the dead he appeared 12 different times to over 500 eyewitnesses in multiple locations and times over a 40-day period.
- The transformation of the disciples was radical. They went from being fearful cowards to confident followers who weren’t afraid to die for their faith. People don’t knowingly die for a lie.
- The explosion of the church started in Jerusalem, the same place where we could document that the resurrection happened. For 25 years, right where Jesus did his teaching, people could ask questions and get answers from hundreds of eyewitnesses.
So what does this mean to us? Here are three implications for examining the evidence of the resurrection:
- It validates Jesus’ claim that He is “the way the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)
- It gives us a hope for the future. Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live also.” (John 14:9)
- It offers spiritual life right now. “By the acceptance of this good news you are saved.” (1 Cor. 15:2) “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16-19)
In the end, rejecting or accepting the work of Jesus is not an intellectual issue – rather, it’s always a moral issue. What matters, is not only what happened nearly 2,000 years ago, but also its implications for today. The good news is that those who are in Christ can expect their own resurrection from the dead and life with God for eternity.
Taken from the course Why I Believe by Chip Ingram.
As the dust settles after an uncertain time, a lot of questions rise to the surface—questions about our future. “What will be next?” “Could we be targets?” And closer to home, “Will my family be safe?”
The truth is that none of us knows exactly what our nation will face in the immediate future. But no matter how uncertain the future may seem, let me remind you that God’s people have been here before.
Remember Moses? To a generation of enslaved Jews, it seemed like there was no hope. Then God sent a child named Moses, who would lead them out of captivity. God took the worst of times and brought about a miraculous deliverance.
Remember Elijah? Oppressed by an evil dictatorship and a completely pagan environment, he thought he was the last believer left on earth. But God was in control. He had a game plan for revealing His glory to a nation submerged in wickedness.
Remember Daniel? Israel had been scattered to the four winds, and Daniel and his friends were abducted into a ruthless, godless culture. Babylon was as powerful as it was wicked, and vigorously opposed God’s remnant. But God acted, using a faithful few to dramatically influence an entire nation and accomplish His purposes in the midst of chaos.
And don’t forget Jesus. What about the state of the world when Christ was born? Moral decay and religious hypocrisy had relegated spirituality to a hollow, rotten husk of pretense and fear. But into that context, God brought eternal life to the entire world in the most improbable of packages: a baby boy.
The biblical record reminds us that the world has been on the brink of disaster on more than a few occasions. We may be inclined to worry or lose hope, but God reminds us that nothing can thwart His purposes. “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD” (Proverbs 21:30, NIV). An uncertain world stirs men from their complacency and provides tremendous opportunity for harvest. The question is, “How do we prepare to face the future with wisdom, boldness, and purpose?”
First, we can face the future with confidence when we trust that God knows all about our problems today and is in control of our tomorrows. We are not at the mercy of our culture. We serve a sovereign God who is never surprised by circumstances. And the wickedness of our day does not have Him up against a wall.
Isaiah 40 reminds us that “the nations are like a drop in a bucket . . . [God] sits enthroned above the circle of the earth . . . He reduces the rulers of this world to nothing . . . He is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.”
Even so, God’s sovereignty is not a license for us to do nothing. We can find comfort in His omnipotence even as we train for service. We need to be ready, prepared in mind, heart, and spirit for the part He will ask us to play.
This means that we need to think accurately. Biblically! Consider the revolutions mentioned above; every time God used His people to dramatically influence their culture, He did it through the transformation of people’s thinking.
We need to educate ourselves about the issues and respond in times of “uncertainty” from a biblical framework. Think through what it will look like to share your faith, meet physical needs, and provide emotional support under the current circumstances.
A Strategic Plan
The issues on our horizon are daunting. If there ever was a time for Christians to step up and think clearly, it’s now.
We must remember that our goal is not to “glorify a country” or merely maintain and protect our own personal comfort and lifestyle. Rather, our goal is to understand what “dual citizenship” really means. Remember that we are strangers in this world (1 Peter 2:11), yet we are called to make a real difference in the world around us.
How can we seize this moment in history? By living our lives based on the firm foundation of God’s truth when everything else around us is unsure. You may not feel like a Moses, Elijah, or Daniel, but the lessons of their lives can provide you with biblical examples of how to fulfill God’s purpose in these uncertain times.
No one knows what the future holds in the coming months and years. War against terrorism threatens to linger, and we can only speculate the impact it will have on our daily lives. But if we look to God to develop in us confident hearts, transformed minds, and a strategic plan of action, we will stand firm as the Moseses, Elijahs, and Daniels of our time.
Excerpted from the message, How to Face the Future in Times of Uncertainty, by Chip Ingram.