This year (2015), my wife and I started a little project. We decided that we want to create a blog where we shared our family life; the highs and the lows, the joys and the pains, and the adventures come along with raising 5 kids while in ministry. Within this project, we wanted an interactive piece. Something that was more than posting a blog and hoping for a few comments.
We also wanted the blog to more than just a place to post our family stuff. While we love our kids, and we want to create great memories with and for them, we don;t want to simply brag about the things we do. Our goal for the blog is to build up and encourage families. We want to speak into the lives of families everywhere and encourage them to pursue God, to live out their faith, and to raising up children to love and live for Christ. So one of the ideas we had was to create a family vlog to go along with the blog.
The family vlog would be a little different from some of the family vlogs already out there. Instead of following the kids around with a camera, we wanted to make the vlog about family life. With a Q&A format, we want to talk about life as we raise our kids. The thought was, let's solicit questions from our readers; questions pertaining to anything and everything family related. We would then take the questions and answer them via the vlog.
A couple of weeks ago, we received our first question. As you might guess, we were pretty excited and at the same time, a little nervous. Well, this past week we recorded our first episode of the Family Vlog. The topic? A good one. Sex. We did our best to answer the question based on what we believe the Bible teaches and what we do within our family when talking about the topic of sex.
So here it is, our first Family Vlog.
Well, there you have it, episode 101! I think content wise we did pretty good handling the question. Video wise, we had no idea the video would turn out soo yellow. But we'll fix that before our next one!
In the meantime, let me invite you to visit our family blog; www.TheHighamFamily.com! We would love your engagement! So send us a comment or a question, and join the conversation as we work at raising stronger families together!
Last week I posted a short blog that asked the question, "How do we love God?"
The question was asked at the start of our worship service at Harvest Church. I wanted to take a moment just before we begun, to remind us of why we had gathered that morning. The past Sunday, I asked a similar question, "How do we love Jesus?"
Like the first, this is an important question for us to conside, especially in the context of being the Church. As believers, or better, followers of Jesus, it is crucial that we know how to love him.
Sure, it's easy to say, and most likely we say often. But I think the evidence for true love is found not just in the words we say, but in how we live our lives.
1. If You Love Jesus, You Will Obey His Commands.
In John 14:15, Jesus says, "If you love me, keep my commands." Short. Sweet. And to the point. If you love me, keep my commands. In other words, in order to demonstrate our love for Christ, Jesus says, do what I have told you to do. Carry out the work. Live the teachings I gave you. Be who you say you are. If we love Jesus, then we are to live accordingly.
2. Be Devoted Learns of All Jesus Taught.
In the book of Acts, chapter 2, we are given a snapshot of what love looked like. As the church is birthed, and the people make the move from a religion to a relationship, the writer af Acts makes this confirming statement. "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachingBE)' data-cr="#cen-NIV-26992BE"> and to fellowship, to the breaking of breadBF)' data-cr="#cen-NIV-26992BF"> and to prayer." (Acts 2:42 NIV) In this new church the focus of the people was on what the apostles were teaching. It says here in verse 42 that they, that would be the people who have surrendered they're lives to Jesus, DEVOTED themselves to the knowing what was that Christ taught. These young believers were committed to learning all that Jesus had commanded. And it didn't stop with learning it, they lived in.
Acts 2, goes on to tell us that not only did they learn it, but they practiced these teaching in how they lived. Verses 44-47 read, "All the believers were together and had everything in common.BI)' data-cr="#cen-NIV-26994BI"> 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.BJ)' data-cr="#cen-NIV-26995BJ"> 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.BK)' data-cr="#cen-NIV-26996BK"> They broke breadBL)' data-cr="#cen-NIV-26996BL"> in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.BM)' data-cr="#cen-NIV-26997BM"> And the Lord added to their numberBN)' data-cr="#cen-NIV-26997BN"> daily those who were being saved."
As we think about how we love Jesus, I believe it comes down to a simple act of obedience. If you love me, Jesus says, then keep my commands. Will you be obedient? Will you choose to love Jesus? Will you devote yourself to all that he taught? And will you live it out in your llife? When we do, we demonstrate our love for Jesus!
It's what the Church is called to do.
I started my day in 1 Timothy 1, again. This time looking at verses 12-17. As I read, I was immediately reminded of God's amazing grace.
1 Timothy 1:12-17...
The Lord’s Grace to Paul
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Paul begins by recognizing his state; by his own admission he was the worst of sinners. Paul, as recorded in the book of Acts, in the Bible, once went by the name Saul. Saul was a member of the religious leadership in the days following Jesus' death, resurrection, and return to heaven. As Jesus followers, the apostles as they were called, began sharing the news about Jesus and the people were placing their belief in Jesus. Saul considered this wrong. It was a threat to the establish tradition of the people. Now everything was changing. Saul determined that he would take it upon himself to elimate anyone who profession a belief in Jesus.
But along the way, Saul encountered Jesus, and Jesus changed Saul's heart. Saul became known as Paul, and Paul began one of the greatest evangelist and church-planter the world had seen. Why? Because Jesus stepped in and change Saul. That's what leads Paul to say, "Thank you."
How is a change like this possible?
Paul says it through Grace. It was the grace of the Lord, poured our abundantly on him. Then with that grace, faith and love that come only from Christ.
So what does this all mean?
Well, I think it means this...
First, I think we have to finally come to grips with the idea of sin. NOBODY likes to hear they are a sinner. Even in the church, when the topic of sin is brought up, many, if not most, will tune out, because we don't like the idea of someone else telling us that how we choose to live is wrong. Especially in a culture where we celebrate sin like it's an achievement worthy of praise and reward. But the Bible is very clear about what sin is, and that everyone man, woman, and child is a sinner.
Here in these verses, Paul says, 'Yes, I am a sinner!" He doesn't hide it or deny it. He instead owns it and makes it known. If fact, you could go as far as to say, that in owner are sin, we bring glory to God because even in our sin, He loved us and sought to save us!
Second, we have to remember why Jesus came to earth little more than 2000 years ago. Paul says in verse 15, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners..." The number one reason that Jesus was born in a stable, grew to be a man, and died on the cross, was to be a sacrifice to sin. Sacrifice? Yeah, I know, it's a scary word. But A sacrifice is the giving up of something for something, usually at great loss to the one giving that something up. In our case, God sends His only son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for mankind.
You see, a long time ago, man was in a good relationship with God. But man chose to disobey a standard that God had set. That disobedience broke the relationship and put a separation between God and man. The damage done was something that man could not fix. He had made is choice and was now left to live with the consequences; this would be sin. That sin has continued to infect us every since that moment. And it has pushed us urther and further away from God.
But here's the deal. God still loved the man and longed for the relationship He had once enjoyed with man. So God made it possible for man to come to God again. The way was through sacrifice. You see, the bible says that penelty for sin is death. Something must die for the wrong things we've done. That death should be ours. It's kinda' like when you own money on your credit card. You made the choice to use the card and buy a bunch of stuff, driving the amount you now own to be tens of thousands of dollars. Now the credit card company comes and say that they want full payment right here, right now. No payment plans, no minimum payments. They want it all. Well there's no way you can write out a check to pay for what you owe. What are you going to do?
Sin is the same. There is no way you can pay for all the wrong you've done.
But what if someone can along, he saw your situation, and because he loved you, he wrote the check. Now you're all paid up. You owe the credit company nothing. And best yet, you owe this person nothing. All he wants is for you to get to know him, have a relationship with him, cut up the credit card never to use it again. You'd be a changed person.
That is what God has done. He sent Jesus to die in your place. He paid your debt. He can forgive your sins. And He wants you to come to know Him, love Him, and be changed through His love and grace. The same grace and love that changed Paul.
So do I believe this?
And I stand with Paul, recognizing that it was the grace of our Lord, that was poured out on me!
How can I know this to be true?
That comes through faith and choosing to believe that Jesus really is who he said he was.
And Church, it's time that we started living accordingly. To engage the world with love, not afraid to call sin, sin, but in love show the world what Jesus did. Let's stop turning a blind eye to the headlines and happening of this world, allowing fear to cloud our own beliefs. Stand on the truth of God's Word, demonstrate grace, and show the world what love looks like.
If you are reading this and you do not know the Jesus who loving died for you, let me encourage you to find a church that teaches the bible, and talk with it's pastor. Or, pick up a bible for yourself, and begin reading it. I suggest you begin with the Gospel of John. You will find it in the New Testament. And as you read, begin by first letting go of what you think you know about Jesus, and let John show you who he really is.
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
The headlines are all a'buzz with chatter over the recent decision of a celebrity to change genders. The secular media has been cheering this person, raising them to a place of prominence with words like courageous, heroic, and brave. I don't know about all of that.
So I've been thinking about all of this, trying to make sense of all that's happening. I have thoughts. Many thoughts. But what are the right thoughts? How should I weigh in? Should I weigh in? With something this controversial, you're bound to upset someone. So as I think about whether I should comment on the Jenner story, I want to share a post that my friend, Walt Mueller, posted. Walt is the founder and president of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, a nonprofit organization committed to building strong families by serving to bridge the cultural-generational gap between parents and teenagers.
I have come to know Walt and appreciate his wisdom and expertise in the areas of culture and faith. I wanted to share his thoughts on the Jenner story, because quite honestly, he's brilliant. As to whether I offer my two cents is yet to be seen. So please take a few minutes to read Walt's post, and let's consider a proper, biblical response as believers in the face of an ever-changing culture.
From Walt Mueller, www.CPYU.org. Walt's blog is called, Learning My Lines.
“Jesus. . . always keep opening my eyes and giving me wisdom.” That’s the prayer I was reminded to pray once again this morning as my heart felt like it was in the grip of conflict.
Last night, I returned from five days spent totally off the grid and out of touch with anything and anyone other than the guys who were with me. I was in the North Woods wilderness of Ontario. When our travels intersected us with a phone signal and we eventually hooked up to wireless, the craziness and pace of the world we had ignored for five days took center stage once again. We had actually wondered out loud what we were missing while we were away. Who died? Have there been any world catastrophes? Did the Phillies climb their way back into first-place? (Not a chance on that last one!)
The connection led to some kind of news about “Call me Caitlyn.” It took some time to process those words and the accompanying photo. Yes, more than we imagined had happened while we were gone.
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Thanks for reading!
This morning, before heading into the office for my 9-5 job, I spent about an hour at my "other" office...okay, it was Starbucks. I wanted to take some time this morning for prayer and personal study. I opened my bible to 1 Timothy. Whenever I think about the responsibilities of being a disciple of Christ, a man, a husband, a father, a pastor, and a leader, I find myself turning towards Timothy and the the words of instruction that Paul gives to his friend and young pastor. I figure you can't go wrong seeking advice from a church planter and mentor for young pastors, right.
I read 1 Timothy 1:1-11, but felt drawn to focus on verses 3 through 11.
Timothy Charged to Oppose False Teachers
(3) As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer (4) or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. (5) The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (6) Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
(8) We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. (9) We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, (10) for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine (11) that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
My eyes were pulled to verse 5.
"The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure hear and a good conscience and a sinere faith."
I asked, what was the command?
Timothy was to stay in Ephesus. He job was to command the people who were teaching a false doctrine and those chasing after the false doctrine to stop. Stop teaching, and stop being swayed by the teachings.
Okay, so in the church in Ephesus, there were ideas about the faith that were false. Ideas perhaps about who Jesus was, what he taught, what he did. Maybe the falsehood included what live as a follower should look like; how believers are to live? Maybe the disception was in what the church should look like, how it was to operate, or how regular worship and teaching were conducted? (These are the questions are was asking myself before reading the rest of the chapter. I wondered what the false doctrine might have been.)
Verses 6 and 7, give us a little peek at some of the problems, meaningless talk and teachers/leaders who want to be teachers/leaders but have no idea what they're doing and saying.
Timothy's job was to root this things out, expose them as false, and to remind the church what it was to be focusing on.
As I sat thinking about this, in the context of church planting and how to answer some of the questions we are facing in regards to what the church should look like/be like, I began to wonder if we have gotten too caught up in the ideas of what we think church should be? Is it possible that we have allowed the current idea of 'church' that populates the majority of the "big church" landscape to become so much the norm, that we might be missing the simplicity of what the church was?
I started reading chapter one of, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. Author, Mark Dever, asks a similar question, What does a healthy church look like? Is it in the music, the building, the coffee and donuts, the children's ministry, the events, the community outreach, the student ministry, the structure of the worship service, the amount of people in the chairs? You see, these are often the standards by which we grade a church. A church is only a good/sucessful church when it confirms to what we think a good church should look like.
I wonder if similar thoughts found their ways into this church that Timothy has been put in charge of? If so, I think Paul is reminding Timothy to remember what the church is suppose to focus on. Paul says, (v. 8) "the Law is good when it is used properly." What was/is the purpose of the Law? To expose our sin. That's what he means in verses 9 through11, the law is what shows us what sin is by giving us God's standard for all of life, including the work of the church. And why do we expose sin? The show our need for a Savior. Enter the Gospel.
Paul tells Timothy, "Hey man, what's being taught isn't right. It's not in line with the Gospel. They're worrying about things that are leading them away from their true purpose of the church. Get them back on task. Stop the false teaching and meaningless chatter. Stop looking to other things that might grow the church, and get back to what works. You want to see the church grow? Get back to God and exercise faith. How? Through Love. What's that look like? It comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and in a sincere faith." (At least, that's how I hear Paul speaking in my head.)
In other words, church growth is a work of God through the Spirit as the body seeks to live by love. Church models and business plans and copying what someone else is doing will not guarantee church growth. But a church who commits themselves to the teaching of the true gospel, depends upon the work of the Spirit, and seeks to glorify God will witness the power of God poured out on His church.
A couple of weeks ago, I friend gave me Mark Dever's book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. It was a bit crazy when he gave it to me, but I have finally forced some time to crack the cover and start reading. Mark is a new author for me, but David Pratt, who penned the foreword, is not. I read David's words and immediately I knew I was going to like this book.
I grew up in the church. I served for 20 years as youth pastor in the church. Now I am lead pastor serving a young church-plant. I have read dozens of books, sat through too-many-to-count seminars, lectures, and keynote speakers, even survived a couple seminary classes all talking about the church and what makes it tick. There are dozens if not hundreds of models, theories, techniques, and ideas of how to start, build, grow, and maintain a church. And for a number of years, I applied some of the models, theories, techniques, and ideas to my ministry calls. And to some degree, each provided some sort of evidence that they worked.
But now, almost 25 years in full time ministry, with the last 3 (almost 4 years) being a lead pastor, I have come to a place where models and gimmicks simply don't interest me. When I began my role of lead pastor, I read every book I could get my hands on that might offer the secret to church growth and ministry success. And as embarassing as it is to admit, I found myself investing in ways to grow a church quickly as my ego told me that I had been around the church long enough to know what a church should look like.
When we started our church-plant I rolled out one of my favorite church models as the framework for how the church would operate. Five biblical principles. Ministry Teams. Relaxed atmosphere. Revelant, hip messages. Good music. Great visuals. After a couple of months I felt a rub, like we were missing something. But we pressed on. While my heart wanted to focus on worship and biblical teaching, discipleship and building relationships, my head wanted to trust what others had done. Success would come; it did for others. But the longer we went, the less growth we saw.
I started hearing, "Be more seeker-sensitive." "Tell more stories." "Shorten the message." "Be more engaging." Yet, in my heart, I felt like God was telling me we were chasing the wrong ideas of what church should be. I found myself in conflict with what I thought a church should look like. I was looking only at what others were doing, trying to replicate their successes. Shortly after the first year, things began to fall a part. I was exhausted and on the verge of burn out. So I went to God's word, looking for wisdom and direction.
A couple of months later I emerged from a dark space with a simple prayer for God, "Bring change." I prayed that God would either change our surroundings or change our circumstances. It came down to a choice for us, God move us out of here because this isn't working, or change what we are doing because we're obviously not doing it right.
Well, God hasn't changed our surroundings. Instead, He has begun to change our circumstances. God started dealy with my own pride and ego. First, came a change in what I thought church should look like. No more seeker-sensitive. It's not biblical. No where do we see Jesus or the Apostles reaching people through feel-good messages, relaxed comfy atmospheres, with great music and visual effects. No more worry about message length or catchy topics. Again, not biblical. Relevence? The only thing that's relevent is the continuous need for people to hear the gospel and for the Spirit to change people's hearts.
What we see in the bible is faithful preaching of God's word, and the submission of the leadership that allowed (relied and expected) the Holy Spirit to do his work. We see a community focused on loving God, loving Jesus, and loving each other. This was the kind of church God wanted.
As I started reading Mark Dever's book, I started to think, "How timely." Over the last 6 months I have focused more on the teaching of God's word. Instead of trying to come up with catchy topics and series titles, stringing together ideas and scripture with the hopes of saying something good, I open the bible and teach what we read, allowing the Spirit to speak to hearts of those in the room.
Worship is no longer focused on giving the congregation something to enjoy and feel good about, but leading the worshipper into the presence of the Most High God. Growing the church isn't about how many people we can get into the chairs, but how we are growing the hearts of those who are alreadying sitting in the room.
I've read the foreword, the prefaces, and the introduction. If what follows stays true to the first four sections of Mark's book, then I will know what I have already determined in my heart to be true. The work of the church is; 1. We worship the Most High God in holy reverence! 2. We devote ourselves to learn all that Jesus
taught! 3. And we live as Jesus lived, loving others in humble service!
Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, by Mark Dever.
I'm sure I will have much more to say in the days and weeks to come, so be sure to follow along.
How do we love God?
This was the question I asked one Sunday morning as we gathered for worship. How do we love God?
I asked the church to read something with me that morning, The Great Commandment, as we call it, found in Matthew 22:37-40.
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all you mind.
Clearly this is important because Jesus, himself, tells us that we must love God, for it's the first and great commandment. But what does that mean, to LOVE God?
Well, to put it simply, to Love God is to worship God; with all that we are, all our heart, all our soul and all our mind. Every part of who we are, in complete awe and reverence. To love God is to worship him.
Worship is 3 Fold…
Worship should be our first priority. Before anything else, we must be a people that love God. And that love must be evident in all that we do.
This week, I want you to consider question, Does my life reflect a life of worship? And, I want to invite you to come humbly to the Most High God, in awe and reverence, and worship the one true, living God; together in weekly worship, in the moments when it's just you and God, and as you live your life as a sacrifice before your Creator.
And that is how you love God.
Jay Higham is a veteran youth worker of over 28 years; having worked with students in the local church and Christian camping settings. Jay is currently serving as the director of family ministry at a church, located in West Virginia. Jay has been married to Amy for over 23 years. Together, they are raising 5 kids, (4 boys and 1 girl). Jay is an aspiring author, blogger, speaker, vlogger, and social media junkie. He is passionate about student ministry, family ministry, and training youth workers to love and serve their students with passion and excellence.