What is Water Baptism?
Water baptism is not a personal choice, but a command for believers. Jesus established water baptism as an ordinance when He gave the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:16). Baptism is a public, outward testimony that indicates a personal, inward faith. It gives evidence of the inner change that has already occurred in the believer’s life when he or she was “born again” through faith in Jesus Christ. Baptism identifies the believer with the message of the gospel, the person of Jesus Christ, and other believers. It associates the believer’s death to the old life and his or her resurrection as a new creation in Christ (Romans 6:1-8, Colossians 2:12).
Who Should Be Baptized?
All born-again believers in Jesus Christ-and only believers-should be baptized. (Mark 16:15-16, Acts 8:12, 36-38, 16:31-33, 18:8)
Should Infants and Children Be Baptized?
After Peter spoke at Pentecost, “those who gladly received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:41). In the New Testament, every instance in which a person was baptized and his or her identity was given, that person was an adult. In light of the Scripture, infant baptism must be ruled out, because infants cannot receive the Word of God and understand it. However, infants are to be dedicated to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:26-28). Children may be baptized if they d understand God’s Word and receive Christ as Saviour.
Is Water Baptism Necessary for Salvation?
The Bible clearly teaches that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and according to God’s mercy (Titus 3:5). The thief on the cross next to Jesus had no time to be baptized; yet Jesus promised that he would be with Him in Paradise that day (Luke 23:43). The Bible contains no record of Jesus baptizing anyone - a strange omission if baptism were essential for salvation. The Apostle Paul declared, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…” (1 Corinthians 1:17). This clearly indicates that salvation is a response of faith to the gospel-not the act of baptism. Therefore, water baptism is not an act of salvation, but an act of obedience.
When participating in water baptism with Lagoonside Church:
Please bring a swim suit, a towel, a dark colored t-shirt and shorts to wear over your swim suit.
(Scripture Portion: Luke 15: 3-24)
Anyone who has any doubts as to the importance of the doctrine of repentance needs only to read the solemn words of our Lord Jesus Christ recorded in Luke 13:3. The Bible is full of this subject, and the word is used over one hundred times – fifty-eight times in the New Testament alone. Yet, someone has rightly said of repentance that it is “the missing note in modern evangelism.” It was the key-note of New Testament preaching: John the Baptist began his ministry with a call to repentance (Matthew 3:2); our Lord’s first word was “Repent…” (Matthew 4:17); those whom He commissioned were commanded to preach repentance (Mark 6:12 and Luke 24:47); there is joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10); Peter preached repentance (Acts 2:37-38); Paul preached repentance (Acts 17:30-31); and repentance leading to faith is everywhere laid down in the Bible as the condition of salvation (Acts 20:21).
1. WHAT REPENTANCE IS NOT
Repentance is to leave
The sins I loved before;
And show that I in earnest grieve
By doing so no more.
3. HOW REPENTANCE IS BROUGHT ABOUT
4. WHEN IS THE TIME TO REPENT?NOW – Acts 17:30-31. Look up what is one of the best verses in the Bible – 2 Peter 3:9 –
“The Lord is…patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Endurance Running with the Witnesses
The book of Hebrews was written to a church that was over time settling into the world and losing its wartime mentality, starting to drift through life without focus, without vigilance, and without energy. Their hands were growing weak, their knees were feeble. It was just easier to meander in the crowd of life than to run the marathon.
In Hebrews 2:1 and 3, the writer says that “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. . . . How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” So into the church has crept the disease of drifting and neglecting. People are growing careless, spiritually lazy, and negligent.
Take Care Then, in Hebrews 3:12–13, he warns again:
Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
He has heard that some are no longer “taking care.” They have begun to have a kind of lazy sense of security. A false notion that nothing really huge is at stake in their small group meetings or whether they meditate on the Bible or take time alone to pray or fight sin. They assume all will be well. Hebrews is written to teach them otherwise.
In Hebrews 5:12, the writer says,
"For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,"
They made a profession of faith and went into a passive, coasting mode. This is utterly wrong. God means every saint to be moving forward to new gains of strength and wisdom and holiness and courage and joy — from getters to givers, from being taught to teaching.
One more illustration: in Hebrews 12:12-13 the writer says,
Heb 12:12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,
13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed."
He is talking in images here of their spiritual condition: weak hands, feeble knees, crooked paths.
Lay Aside Every Encumbrance, "... Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, .” This command does not come out of the blue.
“Fight the fight of faith on the basis of Christ’s spectacular death and resurrection.” This is the point of the whole book. Endure, persevere, run, fight, be alert, be strengthened, don’t drift, don’t neglect, don’t be sluggish, don’t take your eternal security for granted. Fight the fight of faith on the basis of Christ’s spectacular death and resurrection. And show your faith the way the saints of Hebrews 11 did, not by coasting through life, but by counting reproach for Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt (Hebrews 11:26).
So the main point of this text is the one imperative: run! (Hebrews 12:1). Everything else supports this — explains it or gives motivation for it. Run the race set before you! Don’t stroll, don’t meander, don’t wander about aimlessly. Run as in a race with a finish line and with everything hanging on it.
To this end, verse 1 says, “lay aside every weight, and sin which so easily entangles us.” I remember the effect this verse had on me as a boy when I heard someone explain that we must lay aside not only entangling sins, but “every encumbrance,” that is, every weight or obstacle — things that in themselves may not be sins.
This was revolutionary. What it did (and I hope it does the same for you) was show me that the fight of faith — the race of the Christian life — is not fought well or run well by asking, “what’s wrong with this or that?” but by asking, “Is it in the way of greater faith and greater love and greater purity and greater courage and greater humility and greater patience and greater self-control?” Not, “Is it a sin?” but, “Does it help me run? Is it in the way?”
Don’t ask about your music, your movies, your parties, your habits: What’s wrong with it? Ask: Does it help me run the race? Does it help me run for Jesus?
Hebrews 12:1 is a command to look at your life, think hard about what you are doing, and get ruthless about what stays and what goes.
“But That’s Just the Way I Am” One of the criticisms I have of some forms of psychology (not all) is the tendency to neutralize texts like this by labeling people with personality types that have no value judgments attached. For example, if a person tends to be passive you give them one label, and if they tend to be aggressive, you give them another label. No type is better than another type.
Then along comes a text like this which says that passivity and coasting and drifting are mortally dangerous. The race might not be finished if we don’t become vigilant and lay aside not only sins, but also weights and hindrances. If we are not careful, we can be so psychologically fatalistic that we read over a text like this and say, “Oh that’s not for me, that’s for type A people, or INTJs.” That would be a tragic mistake.
I know that there are personality differences, some more passive and some more aggressive. Each has its weaknesses and strengths. The passive people are in danger of coasting and neglecting and drifting and the many enslavements that result. The aggressive people are in danger of impatience and self-reliance and judgmentalism. And there are strengths: the passive people are less prone to murmur, complain, and retaliate. And the aggressive people are more given to bring about needed change.
But when it comes to the book of Hebrews, and Hebrews 12:1 in particular, it is a great mistake for any of us to say: this command to run is not for me. This command to lay aside entangling sins is not for me. Or this command to lay aside weights and encumbrances is just not the way I am wired.
Rather, all of us should listen and obey. Here’s what I would suggest. Between now and Heritage Day, pick a day or a half day and get away by yourself — away from the house, the phone, the beeper, the TV, the radio, and all other people. Take a Bible and a pad of paper and plan your Spring run with the Lord Jesus.
On that pad of paper, note the entangling sins. Note the seemingly innocent weights and encumbrances that are not explicitly condemned in the Bible, but which you know are holding you back in the race for faith and love and strength and holiness and courage and freedom. Note the ways you subtly make provision for these hindrances (Romans 13:14): the computer games, Social Media, the hidden alcohol or sweets, the television, the DVD's, the magazines, the novels. In addition, note the people that weaken you. Note the times that are wasted, thrown away.
God has not spoken his commands for nothing! When you have made all these notes, pray your way through to a resolve and a pattern of dismantling these encumbrances, and resisting these sins, and breaking old, old habits. And don’t rise up against the Bible at this point and say, “I can’t change.” It is an assault on God if you read Hebrews 12:1 and go away saying: “It can’t happen. Hindrances can’t be removed. Sins can’t be laid aside.” God has not spoken this command for nothing. And this entire book is written to undergird these practical commands.
So go back and read the book of Hebrews and ask God to take all the glorious truth that is here — about the superiority of Christ, and the power of his death and resurrection, and the effectiveness of his intercession for you — and make this truth explosive with life-changing power. Carry some of the story to your study group or Christian friends and get them to pray for you or with you. Find someone you trust and ask them to check in with you and support you. That is what Hebrews 3:12–13 says we should do. Don’t drift from this moment. Before this day is over choose a day or a half-day and get away to plan your Spring run with the Lord Jesus.
Motivations to Run
Now, what about motivation? That’s what the rest of this text is. First, let’s look back and then forward from this command to run.
1. A cloud of witnesses surrounds us.
Verse 1 says, “Since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us . . . run.” So the first motivation I want us to see is this cloud of witnesses. Who are they and what does their witnessing mean? They are the saints that have lived and died so valiantly by faith in chapter 11. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, and all those who suffered and died, “of whom the world was not worthy.”
But what does their “witnessing” refer to? Does it refer to their watching us from heaven? Or does it refer their witnessing to us by their lives? The word “witness” can have either meaning: the act of seeing something, or the act of telling something. Which is it here? I think it is the act of telling. The verb form of this word “witness” (martureo) is used five times in Hebrews 11 (in verses 2, 4 [twice], 5, 39) and always refers to the giving of a (confirming) testimony rather than the mere watching of an event.
So I take the witnesses of Hebrews 12:1 to be the saints who have run the race before us, and have gathered, as it were, along the marathon route to say, through the testimony of their lives, “By faith I finished, you can too!”
The best way to illustrate this, I think, is with Hebrews 11:4, where the writer speaks of Abel and says, “Through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.” So Abel is in the cloud of witnesses, and he is witnessing to us by his life through the Scriptures. This is the way all the witnesses of Hebrews 11 are helping us. They have gathered along the sidelines of our race and they hold out their wounds and their joys and give us the best high-fives we ever got: “Go for it! You can do it. By faith, you can finish. You can lay the weights down and the sins. By faith, by the assurance of better things hoped for, you can do it. I did it. And I know it can be done. Run. Run!”
So be encouraged when you plan your Spring run with the Lord. There are dozens and hundreds and thousands of those who have gone before and who have finished the race by faith and surround us like a great cloud of witnesses who say: “It can be done! By faith, it can be done.”
2. History is waiting for you.
Then there is another motivation in verses 39–40. It says,
"Heb 11:39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect."
This is followed in 12:1 by “Therefore . . . run.” The “therefore” means that verses 39–40 are a motivation for our running. Since this is true, run! How is it a motivation?
“We all come into the fullness of our inheritance together.” I take verse 39 to mean that when the believers in the Old Testament died, their spirits were made whole and perfect (as Hebrews 12:23 says), but that they do not receive the full blessing of God’s promise, which is resurrection with new bodies in a glorious new age with all God’s enemies removed and righteousness holding sway and the earth filled with the glory of God. They did not receive that promise yet.
Why not? Why must the saints wait, without their new resurrection bodies? The answer is given in verse 40: “Because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” In other words, God’s purpose is that all his people — all the redeemed — be gathered in before any of them enjoys the fullness of his promise. His purpose is that we all come into the fullness of our inheritance together.
So the motivation is this: when you go away to plan your Spring run with the Lord, think on the fact that your life counts to God and to them. Your finishing the race is what history is waiting for. The entire consummation of the plan of the universe waits until every single one of God’s elect are gathered in. All history waits and all those who have lived by faith crowd the marathon route to urge you on, because they will not be perfected without you. Nor you without them.
3. Jesus creates and perfects our faith.
Perhaps two more very brief motivations from Hebrews 12:2. The first is that the fight of faith is not done in our own strength. When you go away to plan your fall run with Jesus, verse 2 says, “Look to Jesus the author and perfecter of your faith.” Don’t look to your own resources and say, “I’ve tried before. It won’t work.” Fix your eyes on him. The battle is a battle of faith: will you believe that the things he promises are better than the bad habits that you use to cover your sadness?
But more than that, Jesus doesn’t just respond to faith with his help. He works to author faith and perfect faith. He works to begin it and he works to complete it. Faith lays hold on Jesus for help, because Jesus laid hold on the heart for faith. Hebrews 13:21 says that God works in us what is pleasing in his sight through Jesus. He is the author and the perfecter of our faith and we should sit with our Bible and our tablet in the park overwhelmed with the stunning truth that, behind every good resolve and plan of attack for this fall, God is at work in us to will and to do his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12–13) — to sustain and perfect our faith.
4. We will experience the joy of triumph at the end.
Finally, this writer wants us to be motivated to endure in our run with Jesus this fall the same way Jesus was sustained in his painful run. Continue in verse 2: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross.” It is not a morally defective thing to be sustained in the marathon of life by the joy of triumph at the end. The reward of seeing God and being free from all sin is the greatest incentive of all.
“The reward of seeing God is the greatest incentive of all.”
So if it seems that there are going to be some temporary losses when you run this race with Jesus, you are right. That is why Jesus said to count the cost (Luke 14:25–33) before you sign on. But the marathon of the Christian life is not mainly loss. It is mainly gain. “For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross.” It is only a matter of timing. If you see things with the eyes of God, there is a vapor’s breath of loss and pain, and then everlasting joy (2 Corinthians 4:17).
When you take your day away, with Bible and tablet, to plan your fall run with Jesus, think on this, think on this: “the sufferings of this present age are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to the children of God” (Romans 8:18).
So, let us lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin, which so easily entangles us, and let us run with Jesus.
The Lord has been using willing men and women to take the Gospel all over the globe.
Here at Lagoonside we are very blessed to have the Golson family for a number of years already and they have accomplished so much. To learn more about them, here is a brief testimony time of their Story.
You can view their story here
Encouragement A Scripture Reading — 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. — 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Loving others includes encouraging one another. In Romans 12:7-8, Paul lists encouragement among the gifts of grace. When people accomplish a common objective together, all are encouraged. Fellow believers encourage one another to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
The Thessalonian Christians faced struggles and an uncertain future. Paul wrote to encourage them, reminding them of their faith and love and hope in Christ, all of which prepared them to be ready for the Lord’s return. And with these assurances they could keep encouraging one another and building each other up.
The gift of encouragement is important in our lives. Encouragement is a gift in the home, the workplace, the church—wherever we find ourselves. We can come alongside others and be there for one another. We can listen, comfort, console, affirm. It’s a way of living out the command to love one another.
Take time to recall the people who’ve been encouragers in your life. They’re the ones who were there when you thought you’d never laugh again. They were the ones who listened to you; whereas others just talked. Then ask yourself, “When was the last time I encouraged someone?” It’s not difficult, and the people you encourage are so blessed by it.
"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." Hebrews 10:24-25
Lord Jesus, help me to recognize the struggler or the lonely—anyone who needs your encouragement of love and hope today. In your name, Amen.
There’s just a Thursday with an extra name: Ascension. It’s not just the world that has ignored the festival. The Church seems to have lost interest as well. Most congregations have elected to forgo a worship service on Ascension and those that cling to the tradition count on few to attend.
Ascension day is every bit as much as Good Friday, Easter, and Christmas. It deserves to be celebrated. For those still unconvinced, here are seven reasons to rejoice on Ascension Day:
1. Jesus ascended so that the Holy Spirit could descend.
The Spirit is the promised “other Comforter” essential to the life and growth of the Church—no Holy Spirit, no Church, no faith, no salvation. Jesus ascended to send the Spirit.
2. Jesus reigns now over everything.
He has been enthroned at the Father’s right hand, and the full glory of the Godhead is His. The ascension is His coronation ceremony and highlights the splendor and authority of Jesus over every king, ruler, and nation.
3. The ascension was the plan from the very beginning.
Just as the passion and resurrection were predicted in the Old Testament, so too was the ascension. Jesus’ extraordinary visible ascent is the essential capstone of his earthly ministry.
4. Jesus ascended bodily.
After his resurrection, Jesus showed himself to the crowds and disciples. They touched his scars and ate with him. Immanuel, God with us, is now at the right hand of the Father interceding on our behalf.
5. The commission announced by Jesus is now in full force.
Just as a death must precede the implementation of a will, so the ascension of Jesus must precede the implementation and empowerment of the command to the disciples (you included) to witness the reality of Jesus to the world.
6. The ascension of Jesus is a preview of the promised consummation.
At the Last Day Jesus will return as He went: physically and visibly. It will not be a “spiritual” or metaphorical return, but an actual coming of His physical body. No one is going to miss it.
7. Jesus is Lord.
Not only did Jesus come back from the dead, but He now reigns on high. He is Lord of all creation. He is Lord of your life.
Whether or not anyone else joins you, you’ve got much to celebrate on Ascension Day. At the very least, take a moment to gaze skyward, study a cloud, and offer a prayer of thanks and praise and anticipation to the one who now reigns on high and who is coming soon.
COMMON-UNITY with God and with others is indispensable to the Christian life. The communities of this world are broken, and never provide the ultimate place of acceptance and belonging that we all long for. Jesus died on the cross to create a new diverse community (common-unity), that seeks to share and show acceptance based on what God has done instead of what we do to earn people's approval.
We want to help you easily start and develop a relationship with Christ that will start and develop relationships with others, so we provide small groups of people that meet on a semester basis throughout the week to share the hope of Christ through relationships, the Bible, and prayer. These small groups are all little communities that reflect this new community made up of people from diverse backgrounds and situations who unify around the person and work of Jesus.
We base our Small Group model on the example of Jesus and the early church as described in the Bible. In Acts, you can read about how small group meetings in homes helped lay the foundation for tremendous growth.
Prayer is a dominant theme throughout Scripture. We are called to pray for one another (James 5:16) as well as those who mistreat us (Luke 6:28). When we pray for someone, it brings the attention off our ill-will and rather helps us focus on what God wills us to do in the life of that person.
Related to prayer is the idea of confession. First John 1:9 emphasizes the importance of confessing to God what we have done wrong to demonstrate how sorry we are for what we did. When we are the offender, this step is key to reconciliation. When we have been offended, it is helpful to ask God to search our heart to see if we have erred.
Similar to confession is the act of repenting. Repentance requires leaving the old way of life and walking in a direction. This step is essential in reconciliation because it shows that there has been behavior modification (Luke 17:3).
After spending time seeking the Lord, it is necessary to talk with the person with whom we have the broken relationship. Beginning difficult conversations can be awkward and it is tempting to talk about the person rather than talk to them. However, confrontation is biblical and healthy (Matthew 18:15-17). When meeting with the person, it is helpful to remember James’ teaching to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19).
5. Take Responsibility
When we meet with someone in conflict, it is important to remember to take responsibility for our offenses. The goal of the conversation is restoration. Therefore, we must aim to speak openly and honestly about our actions and feelings (Ephesians 4:25; Matthew 7:12). We expect the same courtesy.
6. Make Amends
In some instances, we might need to offer to make amends for where we have offended someone to restore the relationship. We see this concept in Scripture in the life of Zacchaeus, the tax collector. After he repented to Jesus, he gave the people he cheated four times the amount in return. He went beyond what was expected to make things right. Likewise, we should be willing to try to improve the situation of those we offend.
7. Be Humble
Reconciliation is difficult. This can especially be true if we were the one who has been hurt. The temptation is to play the victim. However, we must remember that we are all sinful. Thus, we need to remain humble in our conversation (Philippians 2:3-11)
As we approach reconciliation, a key element is forgiveness. The term describes the removal of guilt. Scripture commands that we forgive one another because God has forgiven us (Colossians 3:13). Jesus speaks of the consequences of unforgiveness (Matthew 6:15). It is important to note that forgiveness should take place regardless of the result of any conversation. Forgiveness is one-sided and is enabled through the power of Christ. Therefore, we should offer it to any offender, regardless of whether we feel like they deserve it.
When guilt is removed, love remains. Since we have forgiven on our side, we are free to show love. This is Jesus’ command to his disciples and is how we grow as a Body of Christ. If the other member has not yet forgiven, we can continue to show love and pray for the situation.
Not all situations resolve immediately. Some take decades to reconcile. If this is the case, do not lose heart. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 states, “we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (ESV). We serve a sovereign God whose greatest desire is to reconcile the world. Have faith and trust him.
Gentleness is supporting others during their times of weakness so that they can achieve their full potential in the Lord.
Definition One Hebrew word for gentleness is anah. It is a root word with a wide range of meanings: “to look down; to depress, to humble oneself; to be bowed down; to be afflicted, humbled; to weaken oneself.”
The Practical Expression of Gentleness
Gentleness is demonstrated in our responses to others, especially those who are under our care. We are to discipline ourselves in order to recognize the weaknesses and limitations of others and respond to them with soft answers and patient encouragement. We are to nurture them with joyful singing, wise answers, crying out to the Lord on their behalf, and lifting them up when they falter.
The Biblical Models of Gentleness
1. A shepherd caring for sheep The very life and health of the sheep depend on the gentleness of the shepherd. The understanding of a gentle shepherd is expressed in Jacob’s reply to his brother, who wanted the sheep to travel with his four hundred men. “And he said unto him, My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die. Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly [gently], according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure” (Genesis 33:13–14).
The Lord compares Himself to a gentle shepherd in the following passage: “Behold, the Lord GOD will come with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:10–11). The Hebrew word for gently lead in this passage is nahal. It means “to lead with care; to cause to rest; to bring to a place of rest; to guide; to refresh, protect, sustain.” Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). 2. A mother with her infant Paul uses the concept of gentleness when describing his love and care for those whom he led to Christ: “We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children'' (I Thessalonians 2:7)
The Greek word for cherisheth is thalpo. It means “to keep warm, to foster with tender care.” It carries with it the picture of a mother hen covering her young with her feathers. A nursing mother knows that her infants are very vulnerable and easily damaged by harsh treatment or neglect. She knows that they are dependent on her for loving care, nourishment, and protection. In I Thessalonians 2:7, the word Paul used for gentle means “to be kind, mild, affable.”
How a Gentle Spirit Is Developed
We learn gentleness at the hands of those who are gentle with us. One of the reasons God allows suffering is to provide us with opportunities to express gentleness to others. This concept is reflected in the definition of the Hebrew word gentleness (anah): “to stoop, humble oneself, bow down; to be afflicted, humbled; to weaken oneself.” The concept of gentleness through humbling oneself was taught by Jesus to His disciples when He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). “Come unto me,” Jesus said, “all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls'' (Matthew 11:28–29). The word lowly means “low lying, humiliated” and denotes being of low degree, brought low, humble, cast down. In order to teach us how to be lowly, God carefully takes us through trials. In them, He gives us comfort and counsel so that we will be prepared to share with others who are going through similar trials. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (II Corinthians 1:3–4).
How Gentleness Makes Us Great
Twice in Scripture, David testifies, “Thy gentleness hath made me great” (II Samuel 22:36, Psalm 18:35). In these passages, the Hebrew word for great is rabah. It means “to increase greatly or exceedingly, to enlarge; to become many, to make much; to multiply.” Gentleness begins with pain and sorrow and ends in an abundant increase. This is the way of God. If we die to ourselves, we will live; if we give bountifully, we will receive bountifully; if we sow in tears, we will reap in joy. The life of Jabez is a beautiful picture of the meaning and potential of gentleness. Jabez means “sorrow.” His mother gave him this name because she “bare him with sorrow.” Names in the days of Jabez were very important. Often they were predictors of a person’s future. However, Jabez wanted to change the focus and goal of his life, so he called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested” (I Chronicles 4:10).
How Gentleness Is Basic to Wisdom
When James describes the qualities of wisdom, he includes gentleness: “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). The gentleness that comes from true wisdom is the result of an understanding heart. That is exactly what Solomon requested from the Lord: “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people” (I Kings 3:9). The Hebrew word for understanding in this passage is shama. Shama is used in the following passage for the word hear: “Hear [shama], O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them” (Deuteronomy 5:1). Thus, gentleness is the result of a hearing heart. The word shama is also translated obey in Scripture. As we listen to the Word of God and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, we will escape the harshness and corruption of the lusts of the flesh and experience the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23). The word gentleness in this passage is chrestotes, which refers to moral excellence in character and attitude. A practical expression of wisdom and gentleness is to speak evil of no one and to seek peace and harmony with everyone. “Put them [all believers] in mind to . . . speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men” (Titus 3:1–2). “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient” (II Timothy 2:24). Gentleness is supporting others during their time of weakness so that they can achieve their full potential in the Lord.
Personal Evaluation and Application
How gentle are you?
• Have you developed self discipline and humility in order to be attentive to the hurts and needs of others?
• When you give instructions or responses to others, do you take into consideration their weaknesses and limitations?
• Do you have a shepherd’s mind-set toward those who are looking to you for spiritual leadership or example?
• Have you translated past pain and suffering in your life into reminders to protect others and prepare them to have a right response to any offenders?
• Are you irritable and reactionary when people with needs intrude upon your time or energy?
• Do you speak evil of someone you dislike? • Do you look for ways to teach those who are not as spiritually mature as they should be?
• Do you give a soft answer so that you do not offend or discourage others?
• Do you see potential in others and purpose to help them grow in the Lord?
Dads, don’t give up on leading your families in worshiping Jesus.
As difficult as it was to have our church buildings closed for several months, one of the surprising graces for many families has been the recovery of family worship. Yet in this recovery, many dads — including myself — discovered our shortcomings as family worship leaders.
Despite my role as one of our church’s pastors, I admit that in our home, family worship can at times feel more forced than joy-filled and more frustrating than fruitful. On many occasions, I’ve felt tempted to throw in the towel altogether. Perhaps you can relate. That said, we know that God’s will for fathers is to raise their kids “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), and that faithfulness requires pressing on in the strength of the Holy Spirit.
Consider three common obstacles that often hinder dads in their efforts toward joy-filled family worship of Jesus.
Typically, when we think of family worship, we imagine the whole family huddled together to share in prayer, Scripture, and song. That’s not a bad way to think about family worship, but the first hurdle requires you to take a step back from intentional times of worship and to consider what else is competing for your family’s worship. The reality is, your family is always worshiping someone or something and, if you don’t consider the competition, you may be surprised to find that despite intentional times spent in God’s word and prayer, your family’s worship of Jesus may still be coming in second place.
You can identify what is competing for your family’s worship by doing a personal assessment of where and how your family spends the bulk of its time, money, and attention. Even more importantly, dads, draw in your wives and children, inviting them to help you determine what is most important in your family’s life. Ask questions like:
For all of the talk within the church about family worship, so few men and fathers today grew up in homes where Jesus was regularly worshiped, the Bible was consistently read, or their fathers played an active role in their spiritual maturation. Husbands and dads know they should be leading their families in worship, but many of us have received little practical discipleship in how to do so. As a result, many men feel as though they are inventing the wheel when it comes to family worship — and the wheel typically doesn’t roll smoothly at first.
I have found that when I’ve tried to hide my insecurities about leading my family spiritually, I’ve actually made our times around God’s word and in prayer painfully awkward and strained. Instead, when I’m honest about the weakness I feel to adequately lead my family, I experience God’s grace at work in and through me the most.
So, dads, clear the hurdle of awkwardness by naming your insecurities as they relate to leading your family in worship, and trust that in your weakness the Lord will prove the sufficiency of his grace and power (2 Corinthians 12:9).
3: Mere Knowledge
Deuteronomy 6:4–9 gives both the goal and mechanism for family worship. The goal is to cultivate a love for God that brings him glory, and the mechanism is saturating your life with his word.
The danger for many dads is to make family worship hardly anything more than an intellectual exercise. I know that I’ve been too easily satisfied at times with my children simply reciting the right answers about whatever passage of Scripture we’re studying or topic we’re discussing. Knowledge is good and necessary, but it’s not enough by itself. God’s chief concern is that the truth of his word is impressed upon our hearts: “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6). The goal of family worship doesn’t end with learning; it ends with love.
“The goal of family worship doesn’t end with learning; it ends with a changed heart.”
With love as the goal, dads, take the lead in drawing out your family at an affectional level. One of the best ways to do this is to set the tone by expressing how you’re seeing God at work in your own heart. Encourage your wife and children with what the Lord is teaching you and ways you’re seeing him make you more like Jesus. Help them see how the gospel applies to their joys and sorrows, and encourage each of them in the particulars of their lives.
As you approach family worship, clear the hurdle of mere academic exercise by remembering 1 Corinthians 13. If you have family devotions but have not love, you are a noisy gong and ultimately gain nothing. Pursue love, and you gain God.
Consistency Is Key
Family worship is significant but surprisingly simple. Dads, you don’t need to overcomplicate leading your family in worship. God has given you his word, and his Holy Spirit, and promised to work in and through your weakness. With the Spirit’s help, repent of ways your family has valued other activities and worshiped things above Jesus. Then set aside regular times to read the Bible together, sing, discuss, and pray.
Your family’s worship will not always feel profound (though it is!). You will certainly face all sorts of distractions — from wriggly toddlers to defiant teenagers. Sometimes family worship will feel forced. At other times it will feel frustrating. But consistency is key.
God’s word never returns empty and always accomplishes what he has purposed (Isaiah 55:10–11).
So, don’t give up even when you feel like your efforts are fruitless. Fight the good fight of faith, and trust that God will use your perseverance in family worship to cultivate deeper love for him and neighbor. Be faithful, and leave the results to Jesus, the true worship leader of your home.
Should you like more helpful guidance on establishing a devotional time each day with your family, please let me know and I will gladly be there for you to offer encouragement and help to get going or keep going.
Faithfully In Christ