Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Power of Questions

Thinking

Never underestimate the power of great thinking questions.

I recently read a news article about Christian apologist Josh McDowell and his son, Sean. In it, the two were talking about how they want their children to take ownership of their faith and not just believe only because that’s what their parents believe.

One of the best ways for parents to help kids grow in their faith is by answering questions with questions.

Of course we’re not saying that kids get to decide what truth is, Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). It’s still up to parents to help kids understand the truth of the Bible. We’re talking about growing in faith and applying God’s truth in our lives.

“A question is always better than an answer,” Sean McDowell says. “Why? Jesus asked a ton of questions when he knew the answer…[Jesus] wanted to elicit faith and it builds a relationship and gives you insight into what somebody is thinking.”

When a parent asks more questions, instead of answering their child’s questions it opens a dialogue with the child. And by the end of the dialogue kids have more convictions over what they believe and take ownership of their faith.

Relationships and great questions go hand-in-hand. Here are some tips for you to get started asking great questions with your kids.

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  1. When reading the Bible or after church. Review questions are great, but instead of right/wrong questions, ask questions that start with “What could you do…” or “What if…” or “Why do you think…” These sorts of questions will get kids thinking and discussions started. Remember, you don’t have to think of a “correct” answer to your questions. If something comes up that needs addressing, dig into the Bible, or ask Pastor Oren.
  2. After school or a social event. Great questions during this time might not even need a question mark. Have kids tell you about their day and what they experienced. You can tie in recent Bible messages as well. Say, for example, your kids are learning about loving others. You can ask, “Tell me about bullies in your school.” Follow it up with a discussion on loving those who are hard to love, and you got yourself some great car-time discussions.
  3. When kids have questions. Going back to what Sean McDowell was saying, a question is always better than an answer. Any time you can get kids to think about their faith is a major win. Here’s an example from Sean McDowell’s life. A parent once asked him how to respond to her daughter’s question, “does God love Osama Bin Laden?” His response… “Oh, that’s easy,” he told her, “you say, ‘what do you think?'”

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Jesus is the ultimate teacher. Again, recall how many times Jesus responded with questions. Here are some examples:

Matthew 5:46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

Matthew 9:5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?

Matthew 12:48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”

Jesus didn’t ask questions to gain knowledge or to find out what others were thinking. Jesus wanted those around Him to think. We can learn from the master teacher and incorporate great questions into our family time. Take time to ask your kids some questions today. You’ll be glad you did.

-David Jennings

The Front Steps

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The Front Steps

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:3

Matthew 5-7 contains the most influential and substantial sermon on the Christian life ever given by any one person in all of human history. Therefore it should be no surprise to us that this particular sermon was Jesus who spoke this message. In these three chapters of Matthew’s gospel, we see what is expected of those who belong to God by faith in Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount has often been viewed as a “moral checklist” for Christians to follow to ensure their entrance into heaven. But this sermon is not a way to be saved; it is a revelation of who is already saved. It is a kingdom message for kingdom people. As Jesus sat down to teach those who followed him (5:1-2), he spoke in such a way to compel people to consider their own hearts first, before they ever began to evaluate their actions. Jesus is concerned about our character before he is about our deeds. The reason for that is simple: If Jesus has your heart, then your deeds will reflect that spiritual reality. So, Jesus begins with kingdom character (5:3-12) before he gets to kingdom living (5:12-7:27). To say it another way, unless we study, understand, and apply the first part of this message, we will not be obedient to the commands of it. So, Jesus starts with what we call the Beatitudes.

If the Sermon on the Mount could be viewed as a house, then the Beatitudes are the front steps to that house. Without the steps no one can get into the house. It is an elevated, lofty house; one that you can see from a distance (Matthew 5:14). If the Beatitudes are the front steps, then the very 1st Beatitude I would say is of most importance, because it is the first step. In fact, I would say that without it, we cannot even get to the front porch, much less through the front door. Jesus says Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. If we desire the blessing of knowing God, then we must start with acknowledging our spiritual condition. There can be no “dwelling in house of the Lord forever” without first knowing and confronting our sinful poverty before the Holy God of the universe. Understanding our spiritual depravity in light of God’s holiness is the first step to obedience (Isaiah 6:1-5).

We will not and cannot be holy as God intends for us unless we face our spiritual depravity, poverty, and weakness. When Jesus says blessed are the poor in spirit, he is saying the happiest people are those that know they cannot be truly satisfied in their sinful state. The poor in spirit are helpless, weak, hopeless, and without answer for their condition. Every man, in all of history has been spiritually poor (Romans 3:23), yet not everyone has admitted that reality. The poverty of soul is true whether we acknowledge it or not. The difference is that those who come to God admitting they are poor will receive the grace needed to relieve their poverty and make them wealthy in Christ (2 Corinthians 8:9).

A poor man can either accept his poverty and deal with it in the right way, or he can deny it and pretend like he is not poor at all. Only those who are willing to acknowledge their need will receive the blessedness of God. The word blessed means “happy”, but it is not used in the same way that we use it today. The word blessed in the Bible had a deeper meaning in relation to someone receiving favor from another person, usually of someone of high social rank or authority. Jesus uses the word blessed because any person who comes before God admitting their spiritual poverty will be happy, or will be shown favor by God. The favor of God flows from God’s grace and our denial of ourselves. To be blessed of God, we say “I am not, but you are. . .” In this, any person can be blessed. What does God do to show us favor?

He glorifies his name in us – Romans 15:9

He loves us unconditionally – Romans 8:31-39

He makes us holy as He is holy – 1 Peter 1:16

He sanctifies our souls to make us like Jesus – 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

He dwells within us – John  14:26, Acts 1:8, 2 Timothy 1:14

He forgives as much as is necessary – Psalm 103:12

He waits for us – Isaiah 30:18

He is patient with us – Romans 2:4

He gives us good things – Matthew 7:11

He comforts us in our affliction – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

He promises eternity free from pain and death – John 5:24

All these blessings should make us “happy”. The blessings of knowing God are possible because He is gracious, merciful, and kind to those who acknowledge their spiritual poverty. No man can stand before God as he is and not be either changed or destroyed (Isaiah 6:1-8). Let us all admit our impoverished condition and fall on the mercy of God that he might bless us and make us happy in him.

Act of Approach

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A Prayer for today and every day:

 

Unchanging Lord,

I praise you continually for permission to approach your throne of grace,

     And to lay my wants and desires before you.

I am not worthy of your blessings and mercies

     For I am far gone from innocence

My depraved nature reveals itself in disobedience and rebellion;

My younger years discovered in my heart the roots of discontent, pride, envy, revenge.

Remember not the sins of my youth, 

  Nor the multiplied transgressions of my later years,

     my failure to improve and use time and talents,

     my abuse of your mercy and blessings,

     my wasted Sabbath days of rest,

     my perverted seasons of grace,

     my long neglect of your great salvation,

     my disregard of the Friend of sinners.

 While I confess to you my guilt, help me to feel it in the depths of my heart,

     with self-denial and genuine sorrow, yet

     to remember there is hope in You,

     and to see the Lamb that takes away sin.

Through Him may I return to you,

     listen to you,

     trust in you,

     delight in you,

     obey your Word,

     be upheld by you

 Preserve my understanding from the error of my flesh,

     my affections from the love of idols,

     my lips from speaking evil,

     my conduct from the stain of vice,

     my character from the appearance of evil,

           that I may be harmless, blameless, rebukeless,

           exemplary, useful, light-giving, prudent,

           zealous for your glory

           and the good of my fellow man.  Amen

 

Translated from The Valley of Vision #262