On My Bookshelf

Talk to anyone who’s been in my church office more than twice, and they’ll tell you I’ve thrown the book at them. Almost literally. In the course of many conversations, I keep finding myself leaping to my bookshelf, grabbing something off the shelf, and recommending it to my guest because our conversation led us right to it.

If sharing books is wrong, I don’t think I wanna be “right.”

I’m eager to make recommendations. It allows me to share wisdom from others who have spoken into my life. It’s better for these books to be read than to stay on my shelf, keeping their secrets to themselves. Here are some authors who have helped me greatly as I grow in understanding God’s will and God’s world.

On My Nightstand Right Now

Commentary on Galatians (Luther). This man preaches to my soul. I’m compelled to stand for the gospel, without flinching and without compromise. It’s a conversation between Paul and Galatia AND Martin Luther. #flythew

Radical (Platt). I really want to follow this up by reading Ordinary (Horton). It seems like a good tension to sustain.

Highlights from 2016 Reading

Onward (Russell Moore). With the waning of the Moral Majority / Religious Right that Gen X / Millennial tightrope walkers like me have inherited, I was thankful perpetually for how Russell Moore expressed the tension I feel as a Christian in America today. He also shone a light on the path for what to do next.

Christianity and Liberalism (J. Gresham Machen). This book was written almost 100 years ago. The message is no less urgent today. Christianity and Liberalism are at odds on every core doctrine of faith: the Bible, God, Jesus, salvation. We must not pretend that we are still the same at heart.

Luther’s Large Catechism (Martin Luther). Luther is readable, practical, and helpful. This Large Catechism is meant as the Parents’ Guide to his Small Catechism, giving parents explanations on what they need to teach their kids everything in the small Q&A version.

Orthodoxy (G. K. Chesterton). I didn’t know this was a biography until I got started. It’s free-flowing, kind of like a Ralph Vaughan Williams Fantasia in writing. It has all the freedom of Donald Miller or Bob Goff, with a piercing ability to connect us to God deeply (and, well, with orthodoxy).

Same-Sex Attraction and the Church (Ed Shaw). All that the title says and much more. The Christian sexual ethic commonly strays into so many captivating myths. Shaw speaks them plainly, persuades us compassionately, and pleads with us to change the attitudes of our hearts for the love of God and others.

Books I’m Embarrassed Not to Have Read Yet (or Lately)

Desiring God (Piper) – not yet. I’d gladly push this to the front of my 2017 reading list! How have I missed this?

Knowing God (Packer) – not lately. My high school friend Margaret gave me a copy when I graduated. I’m ashamed that I’ve lost it! I would love to soak it in again, now that my brain has grown in its ability to absorb this level of reading.

The Prodigal Church (Wilson) – not yet. My dad says I NEED to read it, and I believe him!

The Pilgrim’s Progress (Bunyan) – not yet, kind of. This is technically “on my nightstand” in my queue after Luther’s Galatians commentary. I loved being in Margaret Zee’s stage play in 2013 and hearing the audio commentary on the whole story from the Renewing Your Mind podcast this year. But I don’t remember reading the whole thing, unabridged. It’s time.

Anchors for Christian Living (outside the Bible)

Screwtape Letters (Lewis). I try to read this one every summer. Thirty-one letters written “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11). The edition I bought in 2002 also had “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” for an epilogue. I never feel like I’ve really finished the book without reading this, too.

The Pursuit of God (Tozer). This short book contains prayers at the end of each chapter that I review regularly in my own prayer time. It’s heartfelt, meditative, honed in on the glorious vision of God above all else. I’m thankful to let it lead my heart back to God.

The Cost of Discipleship (Bonhoeffer). I’d do well to re-read this one, or at least the first four chapters. Bonhoeffer taught me the difference between cheap grace and costly grace, and the vital connection between belief and obedience.

The Chronicles of Narnia (Lewis). I have two favorites. First, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, out of respect for the classics and the vibrancy of the gospel there. Second, The Silver Chair: how quickly we let our minds be led astray! How frustrating it is when we struggle to do the will of God we do know!

How I Serve and Lead Others in the Gospel

9 Marks of a Healthy Church (Dever). For years this had been “the best book on church leadership I’d never read.” I’m convinced that these marks are crucial to a healthy church, and I’m burdened to see them embraced in the church.

The Explicit Gospel (Chandler). Can our church members explain the gospel clearly? Do they know when they’re hearing it and when they’re hearing counterfeits? May God have mercy on us, servants of Christ, if we obscure or neglect the Gospel! I’m compelled to share this with our youth, in my preaching, in one-on-one conversations and discipleship – or simply in telling someone the Gospel for the first time.

Lectures to My Students (Spurgeon). This begins with The Minister’s Self-Watch: every minister must be sure he himself is saved, first! It impressed upon me a sobriety about the ministry necessary for every servant of God in His church.

Westminster Shorter Catechism / Heidelberg Catechism. I keep coming back to these to review the fundamentals of the faith. They equip me with helpful answers to big questions:

Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requireth of man.

The duty God requireth of man is obedience to His revealed will.

[My only comfort in life and in death is] that I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

Random Shout-Outs

Confessions (Augustine). A must-read. Learn how your life story can, dare I even say ought to, point to God in every moment.

Robinson Crusoe (Defoe). I’ve never put this side-by-side with the Confessions, but this may be the English fictional version of it. I was amazed at the Godward focus of this account in every chapter. Miss Boman, I apologize for not having actually read it in 9th grade; it was well worth it when I finally did.

The Smell of Sin (and the Fresh Air of Grace) (Everts). You know how people have their favorite dive or diner, and who cares if the rest of the world hasn’t heard about it or doesn’t like it? This is my hole in the wall. You’re invited; I think it’s phenomenal, in parts 1 and 2.

Best Piece of Wisdom about Reading

If you haven’t read this before, listen to some wisdom from C. S. Lewis shared in his introduction to On the IncarnationYou’ll do yourself the best favor by reading the introduction itself, but at minimum, contemplate this rule:

It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.

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When My Vote Affects Your Power

If my vote for the President of the United States matters – I hear often that it does – then it’s fitting to say how I intend to spend it.

The simplest start for me is that I’m not voting for Mrs. Clinton. She had me at “expanded abortion rights.” There are many things which give room for error, but this is not one of them.

I’m also not voting for Mr. Trump. He has the characteristics of a fool. He is brash, inflammatory, arrogant; keep going with words like that until you’re content. The book of Proverbs repeatedly warns those who are wise to stay away from such men. Those who help set up such men with power will do so to the sorrow of their nation and themselves.

I’ve heard it said, “Most of the votes for Donald are really votes against Hillary.” Logically, a vote for anyone who is not Hillary is a vote against Hillary. It’s not true that only a vote for Mr. Trump is a vote against Mrs. Clinton. If you don’t want Hillary in office, then vote for Donald – or Gary, or Jill, or Evan, or Zaphod Beeblebrox if you wish.

“But you don’t understand! Only one of those two will win!” That’s likely. And a vote for either of them is still a terrible choice. What, then, about winning keeps motivating American citizens to vote for terrible people? A chance to nominate Supreme Court Justices? The hope against all hope that one will mess up this country more slowly than the other?

Our sole motivation has been revealed: Power.

Voting for Hillary OR voting for Trump puts you, Voter, in the driver’s seat. It gives you (the illusion of) control. “Wasting your vote” on a third party is unconscionable because those who do have no regard for Power and throw it away – they throw your Power away. They treat the Power of their vote as nothing. It’s as bad as not voting. Maybe worse!

I have yet to read something to challenge this idea, or even to name it: My Vote = Power. Christians, do you really think God can only work His will in this nation if you cast your vote for the bad man or woman? Are you fearful that your vote for a more righteous candidate will be all for naught, truly wasted?

The Lord knows those who are His, and “how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:9). The Lord continues to urge us to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with [our] God” (Micah 6:8). Are you acting justly, in this situation and not for the sake of a later one, without a bias for Power, in casting a Yes vote for either front-runner? Would you trust God to rescue you from trials sure to come if you willingly let your Vote of Power go elsewhere?

I’m not sure we’ve even considered the implications of a third party vote. Wikipedia marks whenever previous election winners received less than an absolute majority (<50%) of the nation’s votes. It’s happened 18 times already America’s 57 electoral cycles. Should that not be the case this year, of all years? Wikipedia also notes the total votes for each candidate.What would happen if the two front-runners receive millions fewer votes this year? What if the winner’s total votes dropped from almost 66 million to 46 million or less? That would be a worthy signal to our nation. Far be it from us to act so short-sighted that we don’t consider the effects of our “wasted votes” beyond this election cycle alone.

We don’t know what tomorrow may bring, or what candidates are in store for Election 2020 and beyond. But we must contemplate the patterns we set for ourselves by our actions today. Let us demonstrate an unswerving ultimate confidence in the sovereignty of God over all the nations in the past and the future by our confident obedience to the wisdom of God in the present.

Let Power rest with God, and may obedience sustained by trust come from us.

Access Point

You love Pokemon Go or you hate it. We all have our reasons. Here’s something I’m capitalizing on thanks to this phenomenon: new openings to talk with strangers.

Some people hate the game because of the slackjaw zombie trance-walking of 20- and 30-year-olds, as they scan their screens for new characters. But walk up to said zombie and say, “What level are you?”, and their eyes will brighten no matter what their reply. Ask them, “What team are you on?” If they’re level 5 or above, they’ll have a team, and if they haven’t gotten there yet, see what team they’re thinking about joining. Ask what their best Pokemon is. Ask where they’ve been hunting, or ask if they themselves are from the area. The best part of the game may be that we quickly know who’s playing it and that, no, they’re not too busy to meet you and strike up a conversation.

I picked up a middle school student from church Friday afternoon to hunt together for Pokemon in our humble downtown. As we walked, we saw a car that had slowed to a stop outside a funeral home. It had to be a Pokemon car. I pointed it out to my friend, and we chuckled. Then the back window of the car rolled down, and a 10th-grade or so boy shouted, “Hey, are you playing Pokemon?” And suddenly the predictable questions and silly delight of playing the same game connected us with a family who was driving in from Indianapolis to visit the dad’s hometown. We compared Pokemon, teams, levels, gyms, and parted happily after making new friends.

Yes, it’s a game. It’s silly. It’s Japanese bug-hunting, geocaching, and iPhone gaming rolled into one. If the App Store crashed big time and the game was destroyed, life would go on JUST FINE without it.

Here’s the end game for me: I want conversations about Jesus to happen so simply, so naturally, so easily. Imagine a guy walking down the street reading his Bible (slackjawed zombie or otherwise). You walk up to him and say, “Hey, what are you reading?” (as in, “Are you playing too?”). Ask, “How far along are you?” (as in, “What level?”). Ask, “What are you learning / discovering about God?” (as in, “What Pokemon have you found?”). I am jealous for the opportunity to begin these conversations as quickly as conversations with PokePlayers.

If this scenario looks totally unrealistic, this has happened before and was given for our example. A Christian named Philip met an Ethiopian man along the road (Acts 8:26-40), and the Holy Spirit told Philip to catch up to him. This Ethiopian was reading the Bible, but he admitted to Philip that he couldn’t understand it. Philip hopped aboard the Ethiopian’s chariot and started to point him to Jesus from Isaiah 53:7-8 . It all just happened as someone was reading the Bible going down the road, and Philip allowed to God’s Holy Spirit to direct him.

Consider making it a rule of life that whenever you see someone reading the Bible that you’ll strike up a conversation with them. Or when you see someone praying, that you’ll listen for God’s voice and consider asking if you can pray for them too. If the chance to talk with a stranger is so wide-open with Pokemon, a matter of zero eternal importance, would you take the chance to talk with someone about the good news of our eternal hope: salvation through faith in Jesus Christ?

Perhaps, if conscience permits, you can get the conversation going with someone over just Pokemon.

Church Clique-Bait

To an outsider, they’re isolating, depressing, hurtful. To an insider, they’re empowering, supportive, and sustaining. We’re baited by cliques in spite of what we say.

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Sure, we know cliques are bad. Maybe even the Bible tells us so. We suppose Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39); James says not to show favoritism to certain people over others (James 2:1-4); Paul says we need to remember that we used to be separate, excluded, foreigners, but now we’ve been brought into the fold (Eph. 2:12-13, 19); or Moses commanded the people of God not to treat foreigners and outsiders badly, because they knew how it felt to be foreigners when they lived in Egypt (Lev. 19:33-34). So cliques are bad, and especially for Christians, especially in churches.

So why do cliques form so much in church? When we know they’re so bad, when the Bible says we’ve been there and should know better, why do we keep them going anyway? Five possibilities bubble up when the heat turns on our consciences.

(1) Because we forget what it’s like to be on the outside of cliques looking in. What a relief it is for us to have a set of friends we think like, act like, and enjoy life like! Do we remember what it was like to be the new kid in town? To not know where to sit at an All-Church Potluck Dinner? Have we forgotten who kindly took notice of us and waved us over to their table? – who didn’t ignore us because they had better stuff to talk about with their already-made friends, but took a special interest in us? People took risks to welcome us in, but we forget that after we’ve settled in.

(2) Because we’ve never been on the outside. We grew up in church; actually, we grew up in this church, like we grew up in this school district, or this community club. The friends we have now are the ones we ran around with in diapers. If someone new comes in … that’s their choice, we guess. They can find friends like we have after they spend 10, 20, 50 years here. In truth, we’d feel completely awkward trying to break in a new friend because we’ve hardly ever done that before. We’ve never asked what it feels like to gaze over a room of happy relationships without us because the idea hasn’t even occurred to us.

(3) Because we’re comfortable with old relationships. When someone brings up the closed-off nature of our group, we’ve said aloud or to ourselves, “I have enough friends.” This isn’t an introvert saying. We outgoing extroverts seek out our own cliques (sorry: group of friends) before engaging the wallflower at the party, in the office, further down the pew. It takes work for us extroverts to walk past the people we know and already like in order to sidle up to someone we know zero about. And if someone else has zero old relationships … they’ll find a way to make them in time. Why is this our problem?

(4) Because cliques make me feel good / stable / better about myself. Friends who already like us guarantee us a boost in the self-esteem category. It’s like we’re pre-approved for a friendship loan with them, not applying and hoping for the best. The gossip we’ve heard? We’ve been saving it for the friends we know will give us gratifying eye rolls and fitting laughter at other people’s pettiness or ridiculous behavior. A new person might not give me the sure-fire boost for my day I’ve been looking forward to. They usually want someone to care about their own fears and insecurities, and eventually they’ll find someone who will.

(5) Because we’re scared to risk making new friendships. Why relive middle school? Why stick my neck out again? Why risk rejection, investing time in someone who might not like us after two months or two nights? If none of our friends are coming to a neighborhood party / a charity fundraiser / a Sunday School class / a get-to-know-you event, what’s the point in going out? Life is hard enough when we have to make new friends. Why volunteer for that?

For these reasons our church cliques don’t just begin: they thrive. They flourish, watered and nurtured by our insecurities, our worries, our fears, our comfort, our privileged positions. Perhaps we who are most fearful of finding ourselves surrounded by cliques are we who are deepest in them. We create the environment we most desperately fear to be on the other side of.

Is it true? Maybe.

Is it permanent? Never.

Even as we dare, bravely, to read these truths about our fears and friendships, we show the story isn’t over. We now face a choice between clique-bait or clique-break. One path will give momentum to this pattern of isolation and fear; the other extends a hand of mercy to someone on the outside. We’ve been the new kid in Sunday School; now we can plunk down next to him and welcome him or her. We’ve held an awkward plate of fried chicken while scanning the crowd for a safe table; now we can wave our hand to that person and tell our kid to scooch cover for a guest. We’ve “liked” on Facebook the story of the Buddy Bench on the school playground for kids without someone to play with; now we live the “like” by breaking out from our friend circle to invite a new buddy in.

buddybench

from buddybench.org: Mandeville Elementary School

 

“Enemies in War, in Peace Friends”

In preparing to preach on July 3, I read the Declaration of Independence – perhaps my first time ever in its entirety. Just before the end, author Thomas Jefferson took a surprising turn, addressing family and friends across the sea. Here’s what I’d never noticed:

Nor have We been wanting in attention to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

If words like “magnanimity,” “conjured,” “consanguinity,” or “acquiesce” don’t often come to mind, here’s a quick translation. Jefferson says, We’ve been asking our British family and friends for help. We’ve told them what’s going on, the King’s unfair laws and actions towards us. We’ve reminded them why we left to come here, and we’ve kept asking them to do something – after all, we’re family, and to do something is the right thing to do.

But, Jefferson continues, they haven’t listened to us. It’s like they’ve been deaf towards us. And if they won’t pay attention or lift a finger to help when we’re being wronged, then they shouldn’t be shocked that we have to part ways. Yes, we’ll continue to be friends in peacetime. But if we have to fight another nation for our basic rights, we’ll even fight them, too.

Here’s a strong comparison: King George III of England and Satan. Did King George refuse to agree to wholesome and necessary laws for the common good? So did Satan in the Garden of Eden. Did King George keep an oppressive army among us during “peacetime”? So does the devil, waging war daily against our souls. Did King George obstruct justice and act unfairly towards the colonists? Every act of the devil defies the justice of God: relaxing laws and punishment against oppressors, while denying justice to the helpless and the weak. The harsh tyranny of King George only reflects the wicked reign of the devil, the “prince” of this world, which continues every day among every nation of earth (John 12:31; Ephesians 2:2, 6:12).

Now imagine asking your mother, your father, your sister, your brother, anyone in your family back in England to help you set things to right against King George. “Find your representative, and make sure he speaks up for me – me, your son; me, your sibling; me, your own flesh and blood! Take a stand against what our nation is doing! Picket, or strike, or write a letter! Please, at least do something!”

And what does your family do?

Nothing.

Nothing but perhaps write a letter to you, saying, “Cheer up; it won’t go on forever. Sure, it’s wrong, but it’s not going to get worse. Look on the bright side! Every cloud has a silver lining! Don’t worry, be happy!” Meanwhile, troops storm your house, devour your meager supply of food, claim your beds for their own, and drag innocent men and women across the sea on false charges to intimidate you into submission.

How many times had the early Americans asked those whom they trusted to act and to be their voice to help them – and they were refused? Ignored? Rejected? Not worth stepping up for? Can you imagine how hard it was for our founding fathers to put those words above on paper? To declare independence not only from the wicked tyrant of a “king,” but from one’s flesh and blood, one’s own family across the sea?

What if it was the same in the kingdom of God?

What if this is the same perspective Christians must have when family or friends hold us back from following Jesus Christ?

Dad tells you not to join a Christian on-campus group like InterVarsity or Cru because any “Christians” who get together during the week but not on Sunday must be a cult. Grandma pleads with you not to become a missionary because you’ll keep her from ever seeing her grandchildren. Mom tells you to get an abortion because the shame of her going to church and owning up to her pregnant daughter out of wedlock is too much for her pride and status. Sister grows more distant from you because you keep going to church on Sunday mornings in the summer instead of joining her and the family camping. For some of us, every time we try to do something to fight the devil and to strengthen both our own faith and our family’s faith, it feels like our family stands on the other side.

Jesus declares the Christian’s independence in Luke 14: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters––yes, even their own life––such a person cannot be my disciple” (verse 26). Hard words! Yet they have found an echo in our nation’s history. Who is the Christian’s family? Jesus again: “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50). Whoever will refuse to take the side of the oppressor, the devil, and will stand firm for justice in the sight of God: this is more family than flesh and blood who would not.

If our own family chooses to side with the devil instead of with Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords, we have a heartbreaking choice to make. Would that we should always be in friendship and at peace! Better still, would that our family would join in rebelling against the devil and every power under his control! Yet even America’s founding fathers recognize what true Christian allegiance also demands: “Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.”

Christ and Accountability

A friend recently asked for help getting back on track with God. Something he asked for was accountability: someone to pester him for his own good, ask questions that others might not, goad and guide on the path towards Christ. What a welcome invitation! What a joy and benefit on both sides! That one should welcome the questions, and that another should be welcome to ask them!

What questions do we ask, then? Surely we could ask enough to have a full-scale interrogation if we ran wild with them. One way to guide a discussion as one Christian friend mentors another is to consider Who Jesus is – and how we live that out every day.

The three “offices” of Christ are Prophet, Priest, and King. He speaks the truth about God as Prophet because He is God, the Word made flesh (John 1:14). He is our great High Priest Who once and for all made the perfect sacrifice to take away our sins (John 1:29, Hebrews 10:10). He is our King, to Whom every Christian pledges ultimate allegiance, Whose laws we follow, and to Whom we bring honor, tribute, and glory (Psalm 2, Matthew 28:18-20, Revelation 5:11-13).

So if Jesus is our Prophet – How are you listening to God? Have you been learning the truth about Who God is, what He has done, and what He expects of us from the Bible? Reading the Bible is fundamental to growing as a Christian. What questions have come up as you read His story? Where are you seeing His truth collide with false messages in the world around you, or guiding your decisions in new ways?

If Jesus is our Priest – Is everything right between you and God? Jesus died to set things to right, to reconcile us to God by His death and resurrection (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Have you confessed / admitted your sins to Him? Are you hiding anything from Him, worried what He might think or about what He might do? Can you trust Him to love you still, no matter how you’ve fallen? Do you still want Him to take away your sin?

If Jesus is our King – How are you following God? If we love God, we will keep His commandments (John 15:13). Obeying God has a way better payoff than following our sinful desires and the devil! What have you learned is part of following God instead of your own plans? What are you trying to do differently or better today, this week? How can I pray with you, for you? The basics of reading the Bible, praying, gathering with other Christians, serving in Christ’s name, and telling others about Jesus are a great set to start with. Look inward: are we producing love, joy, peace, patience, and other spiritual fruit? Look around: are we loving one another in the family of God? Look outward: are we extending the love and mercy of God to those around us?

I’m so grateful for this opportunity to reunite with a friend who wants to draw close to God again. And you, reader? Might God bring someone into your life that you can help draw closer to God? Or do you want someone to be asking you these questions from day to day, week to week? Your constructive thoughts and ideas are very welcome below!

First Five Verses for Our Kids

What are the first Bible verses you remember learning? Did you learn them at home? My wife Brooke and I want to make this normal for our kids: learning and practicing at home what mom and dad say is most important in our lives. Psalm 119 reminds us to hide God’s Word in our hearts so we might not sin against Him, and Deuteronomy 6 tells us that God expects me and Brooke to train our daughter and son in the faith when we’re sitting at home, when we’re hitting the road, when we’re going to bed and when we’re getting up in the morning. So where to begin?

Brooke and I started with the North Star Catechism – developed by folks at Sojourn Community Church, with questions at different stages for different ages, well-intentioned and useful in lots of ways. It got us to thinking: What do we want to fill our children’s heads with? What are the foundations, the building blocks for our children’s faith? Here’s where we’re at so far.

Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

The opening line of the Bible is a classic. This verse is paired with the North Star Catechism’s first question and answer: Who made you and everything? (God made everything and me.) And, as Fraulein Maria points out in The Sound of Music, the beginning is a very good place to start.

Deuteronomy 6:4 – Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.

Thanks to North Star again, we taught Caroline this: Are there more gods than one? (No. There is only one true God.)  It’s straightforward, and it’s something we take for granted. It’s also a great set-up for the next verse, both of which Jesus quoted when asked what the greatest commandment is.

Deuteronomy 6:5 – Love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.

If Jesus says this is the most important commandment, I want my kids to have it down pat. I love when Caroline puts her hands over her heart, points down to the soles of her feet (sole/soul), and then brings her arms up for muscles with all her strengf!

John 3:16 – 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.

It used to be a popular verse in America, thanks to sign-wielders at football games in the ’90s. No matter its popularity status, it still sums up God’s good news well! Maybe one day we and our kids will learn the whole conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3?

1 Corinthians 10:31 – So whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.

This verse connects well with Westminster’s Q&A 1: What is the chief end of man? (Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.) Colossians 3:17 is also a terrific fit, but this verse is just shorter. How can we as parents not do our best to teach our children what life is all about? Even parents who believe children need to figure it out for themselves live and teach in agreement with this belief, either by intentionally not teaching it or intentionally teaching as many beliefs as they can think of.

Here’s where we stand with our first five verses. These – not counting the Lord’s Prayer we say at bedtime (Matthew 6:9-13) or the Aaronic Benediction we give when we leave the house (Numbers 6:24-26). We’ll probably tag on Ephesians 6:1-3 soon, starting with: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

Your thoughts? Your favorites? Your preferences? All would be welcome in the comments below!