A reading plan for Passion Week

“And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer’” (Luke 22:15 ESV).

This coming Sunday begins what many Christians call Holy Week or Passion Week. It is called “Passion” week because of its connection to the Greek word πάσχω (pas’-kho) which is usually translated as “suffer” in the New Testament. This is the word that Jesus used to describe His crucifixion.

A wonderful way to remember Christ’s passion is to visit the Holy Land. I’ve had the privilege of visiting Israel several times. In the attached photo, I’m visiting The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which traditionally contains the empty tomb. Here, I’m touching the Stone of Anointing, a slab of reddish stone flanked by candlesticks and overhung by a row of eight lamps. It commemorates the place where the body of Jesus was laid, anointed, and prepared for burial.

But you don’t have to go to Israel to remember Christ’s suffering and resurrection. In fact, all the church buildings, slabs and memorials added through the ages by well-meaning church folk can be a distraction. I’ve found that reading the Scriptures that describe the Lord’s final week leading up to the Cross, the Tomb and the Resurrection to be just as moving and beneficial to my spiritual life. With this in mind, I offer this daily reading plan for Passion Week for your edification.

  • Palm Sunday – The Triumphal Entry. Read Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, or John 12:12-19.
  • Monday – Clearing the Temple. Read Matthew 21:10-17; Mark 11:15-18, or Luke 19:45-48.
  • Tuesday – Teaching in the Temple. Read Matthew 21:23-24:51; Mark 11:27-13:37, or Luke 20:1-21:36.
  • Wednesday – Anointed in Bethany. Read Mark 14:1-11.
  • Maundy Thursday – Last Supper & Garden of Gethsemane. Read Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22:7-23, or John 13:1-30.
  • Good Friday – Crucifixion and Death. Matthew 27:1-56; Mark 15:1-41, Luke 22:66-23:50, or John 18:28-19:37.
  • Saturday – In the Tomb. Read Matthew 27:57-66; Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, or John 19:38-42.
  • Easter Sunday – The Resurrection. Read Matthew 28:1-13; Mark 16:1-20, Luke 24:1-49, or John 20:1-31.

There are two weeks in the Bible that the Lord inspired its writers to make daily diary entries. They are the seven days of creation and Passion Week. In the first week, He made the world, and in the second, He brought its redemption. God must have thought these two weeks important enough to keep a journal…

… And one worth reading and meditation.



This is an edited version of an earlier post I wrote on April 10, 2014.

4 ways to be intentional about relationship building

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

We want to be a church that is intentional about relationship building. It is one of the three major focuses of our purpose statement, which states that we exist to make disciples of Jesus Christ who have a growing heart for God, heart for each other and heart for our world. But how are we going to grow in our “heart for each other,” if we aren’t intentional about building relationships?

The truth is, we are like Legos when it comes to relationships. We have a limited number of spots on our “relational blocks” to connect to others and when our block is full, we stop trying to connect. This makes our church look cliquish when guests visit our church. Sure, it is human nature to want to be with our usual connections, but the result is true nonetheless, guests don’t feel welcome.

How can we become more intentional about relationship building, while at the same time being aware of the “Lego Theory” of human nature? I recently read a blog post about how Pastor Karl Vaters teaches his church to leverage their relational value. He uses the acronym “GIFT” to encourage his members to be intentional about relationship building. I think these four steps would be helpful to our church too.

G — Greet someone you’ve never met.

I — Introduce somebody to someone they’ve never met.

F — Follow-up on someone you’ve met recently.

T — Thank someone for a job well done. 

What do you think would happen if everyone in our church started giving out a GIFT every week at church? I think our guests would feel more than welcome. They would soon feel like family. And the beautiful thing about following GIFT is that it takes into account the “Lego Theory” of human nature. Your relational block may be fully connected, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t help new people connect to each other. “Greet” them and then “introduce” them to someone else who is relatively new too. Help them get connected.

Let’s start giving out GIFTs this Sunday. I believe it will cause relationship building to be a mark of our church.

Do you have a favorite fishing hole?

‘And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”‘ — Matthew 4:19 (ESV)

Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John to leave their nets and follow Him, promising that  He would make them “fishers of men.”  Jesus is still calling people to follow Him that He might make them fishers of men. With this call of Christ in mind, we have cast a vision for our church that we desire to make disciples who have a heart for our world marked by being intentionally evangelistic. We also desire to see our church grow a more invitational culture, so that its members are always inviting people to Jesus and into His church. We have given everyone a challenge that they invite at least one person to church by Easter weekend.

We’re constantly working to train our members on how to share their faith and how to invite people to church. The truth is, no matter how we spend on social media and advertising, over 80% of our first-time guests still indicate that they were invited personally by a friend or relative. I don’t think this will ever change. Jesus invited His disciples personally and so must we.

We have several tools that you might use to invite people to church., but recently we’ve been offering a unique invite card for every new sermon series. These business-size cards are easy to carry and easy to use. We’re encouraging every church member to keep a supply in your wallet, purse, and in your car. We even have postcard sized generic invite cards at our Guest Services table that you can pick up and keep with you to invite people to church.

As a pastor, I spend most of my days around church people, working to help them follow Jesus more fully. As a result, I have to be intentional about “fishing” for people that don’t follow Jesus. That’s why I’ve developed a habit of eating at the same restaurants, shopping at the same stores, getting a haircut at the same barbershop. Not just because I like the food or the haircut (I do), but because I want to build relationships with the waitresses, cooks, clerks, owners and barbers. I call these places my “fishing holes.” They are my favorite places to go where I learn all the employees and owners names, I learn about their families, and I discover their needs, so I can pray for them and perhaps lead them to Jesus and into His church.

I keep a stack of invite cards in my truck, my backpack and in my wallet. I carry a stack with me and place them at the checkout of my favorite fishing holes. I no longer even have to ask permission because of my ongoing relationship with most of them.

I usually just say, “Hey _____ (I call them by name), I’m putting some new invite cards at your checkout. I hope you’ll come visit and tell your customers about it too.”

They usually smile and say, “Thank you Pastor Gary.”

I’ve even had some of them, like my Muslim friend, Rafael, dump out his own business cards from a special holder on his counter and put my invite cards in their place.

“You don’t have to do that, my friend.” I said.

“Yes I do. You’re doing good work in our city.” He replied.

Last week, at one of my favorite restaurant fishing holes, I recognized my waitress as one that had been there a few years ago, but had not been working there for some time.

“Where have you been?” I asked. “I remember you used to work here. What was your name again?”

“Jessica.” She replied with a smile. “I took off because I had a baby. But now she’s old enough for me to return part-time.”

“How is your baby and what’s her name? I’d love to see a photo of her.” I said.

She told me her name, but then her lower lip started trembling. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“She’s just getting over an earache, and earlier today I had to take her to get shots, so now she’s really fussy…”

“And now, Mommy is at work worrying about her baby?” I interrupted.

“Yes.” She whispered with a tear in her eye.

“Let’s pray for her right now.” I said, while she stood at my table bowing her head with me.

“Thank you.” She said when I had finished praying.

A week later, I took my wife, Robin, out to eat at the same restaurant. I scanned the dining area looking to see if Jessica was there. She was. I introduced my wife to her and asked, “How’s your daughter? Is she doing better after the shots?”

“Oh yes. Thanks for praying for her.” She answered with a big smile. “But would you keep praying for her and for me. I think she’s teething now.”

Both Robin and I agreed to pray for her and the baby. And of course, we had to offer a few tips on teething babies.

I love fishing in my favorite fishing holes. Do you have one?

So, don’t forget the invite challenge: Every member invite one person to church by Easter weekend.


Why we’re changing our service time

“Christ makes the whole body grow as God wants it to, through support and unity” – Colossians 2:19 GW

Beginning Palm Sunday, March 25th, we will be changing our first worship service time to 9:15 AM. Our second service time will remain 11:00 AM.

Why are we changing our first service time?

First, we’re growing. Have you noticed how crowded it is between the first and second services? We need to have a little more time between services to let the first service exit, pick up their children, and leave the campus before the second service attenders start arriving. This will become especially important in the coming days as we add capacity to our children’s space with the completion of phase one in our master building plan. This additional children’s space will put more pressure on our adult worship space for seating. By adding an additional 15 minutes between services, it will give us time to seat the second service more efficiently. Because we’re going to need people to sit in every seat in the house as we grow and as we wait for further expansion of our building.

Second, we want to have more flexibility in our worship services. Currently, there is no flex time in our service to add a song, or a feature, or to go a little long in the sermon. We need a little more breathing room in our services. The additional 15 minutes will give us that room.

So, those are the two major reasons we’re changing the first service time. In the coming days, ministry teams should be hearing from their respective leaders to let them know how this service time change will affect them. Thank you in advance for understanding our need to flex as we grow and for your support and unity as we make such changes.



Vision Sunday Recap

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” – Proverbs 29:18 KJV

Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” – Habakkuk 2:2 ESV

This past Sunday we talked about the importance of being in alignment with God’s Word and with one another visionally. With this in mind we shared the following statements in order to show how they are in alignment with God’s Word and also to rally our church family to be unified in pursuing these statements together with the help of the Holy Spirit. The three key statements that we have written together are our Purpose Statement, our Vision Statement and our Mission Statement. Our statements are based on two key Scriptures, The Great Commission and the Great Commandment:

The Great CommissionMatthew 28:18-20 (ESV) 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The Great Commandment: Matthew 22:37-39 (ESV) 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

PURPOSE STATEMENT (Explains “why we exist” as a church):

Our church exists to make disciples of Jesus Christ who have a growing heart for God expressed in passionate worship and generous giving, heart for each other expressed in authentic fellowship and devoted discipleship, and heart for our world expressed in intentional evangelism and sacrificial service.


VISION STATEMENT (Helps us “see” what we can be with God’s help):

“Saturating Eastern NC with churches of Christ-followers who have a heart for God, heart for each other, and heart for our world.”


MISSION STATEMENT (A definition of our key target, what we offer and what makes us unique): We invite people to . . .

“Come as you are and be forever changed by the love of Jesus!”

These statements are only words until we put prayerful action behind them. Yet, I am convinced that the Lord will empower us to accomplish that which He has called us to do, if only we will depend on Him as we move forward together.

May the Lord bless us with strength and unity to do the gospel work He has called us to do!


Five keys to sustainable ministry

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” – Romans 12:11-12 (ESV)

I’m writing this blog on my annual study retreat. I usually try to find a place at the beach or in the mountains the last week of the year, where I can eliminate distractions and focus on hearing from God. I’m thankful for an understanding wife and an understanding church that allows me this time to rest, reflect and recharge. I’ve found such times to be one of the keys to a sustainable ministry, so that I don’t become “slothful in zeal,” especially as I get older. I don’t want to burnout, nor become lukewarm. I want to stay red hot for Jesus until He calls me home!

I think there are at least five keys to sustainable ministry:

1. Take time to refuel spiritually. The apostle Paul wrote, “Be fervent in spirit.” The word “fervent”means “to burn, to be hot, to be zealous.” He wrote to Timothy, who was apparently struggling with a season of timidity in his ministry, that he should, “Fan into flame the gift of God which is in you” (2 Tim. 1:6). We must take responsibility for our own spiritual zeal. Retreat to advance. Take time to refuel your spirit.

2. Remember that you’re not their savior. There’s only one Savior. That’s Jesus. He’s God and you’re not. Stop trying to save everyone. Only Jesus saves. As Paul said, “Serve the Lord.” You’re a servant, not the savior. The real motive underneath our desire to “save” everyone is probably suspect anyway. Isn’t it that we are people-pleasers? We want people to like us. So, we rush around answering every email, text message and phone call, not wanting to disappoint anyone. Be the Lord’s servant. Let Him be the Savior.

3. Anchor your joy in gospel hope. Hope is like a rope. It is not some flimsy wish that prompts us to say things like, “I hope it doesn’t rain.” No, gospel hope is substantial. It is like a rope anchored on one end to the resurrection of Christ and passing through the veil of heaven where Christ sits at the right hand of the Father until His soon return. If we set our hopes on temporal things, we will nearly always be disappointed.  Even when we focus on ministry success (whatever that means), then our joy is attached to whether we achieve that success. This leads to a driven, joyless, roller coaster life of ups and downs. As Paul said, “Rejoice in hope.” Anchor your joy in gospel hope, not temporal things!

4. Persevere through times of pain. There will be times of tribulation. They come without warning. We are tempted to feel that such times will never end. Yet, every season has a beginning, middle and end. Don’t give up! Paul wrote, “Be patient in tribulation.” The other temptation when faced with pain is avoidance. How can we avoid the pain? What if we quit or turn back? Will that stop the pain?

I’m reading a book during this study break entitled, Leadership Pain, by Samuel Chand. His thesis is that effective leaders produce growth, which causes change, which causes loss, which causes pain. Therefore, growth = pain. Or as others have said, “No pain, no gain.” So, don’t become impatient in pain, nor try to avoid it. Instead, as Chand quotes Kenji Miyazawa saying, “We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.”

5. Pray more, strive less. Ministry seems to attract “Type A” people, those who are driven to succeed in everything. Yet, ministry also seems custom designed to break those same people. As one older pastor counseled a younger church planter who was just starting out, “You will suffer.” But this suffering shouldn’t drive us to quit, it should drive us to our knees. Praying is especially hard for those same Type A people. Sure, they pray, but then they feel that it’s up to them to accomplish the results through hard work. But what if the most effective way to work is by being “constant in prayer?” This is the hard lesson that those who would have a sustainable ministry must learn. Pray more and strive less.

Sustainable ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. May those that follow the above five keys continue to burn with zeal until the end of life’s race.

Three gift ideas for Jesus’ birthday

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:10-11 (NKJV)

The wise men traveled a great distance to worship the newborn King. When they finally found Him, they worshiped Him and gave Him three gifts: “gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

What gifts will you give to Jesus this Christmas? After all, it is His birthday. You might not know what to give Him. I mean, what do you give to the One who has everything? Well, almost everything. Because perhaps He doesn’t have you. Have you given Jesus you? Have you given Him everything you are and everything you have?

Let’s consider the three gifts the wise men gave Jesus to inspire our own giving this Christmas:

1. Gold – A gift fit for a King. Have you surrendered control of your life to King Jesus? Have you confessed Him as Lord? That’s the first and most important gift you can give HIm. Will you give Him your life? And having given Him your life, will you give Jesus first place in your Christmas celebrations this year?

2. Frankincense – A gift fit for a Priest. Frankincense was a main ingredient in the incense the Jewish priests burned in the Temple. It represented the prayers of the people to God.  A priest is a mediator, one who stands between God and man, acting as a go-between. Yet, Jesus is the only perfect priest. He is the Great High Priest, the only One who can reconcile us to God. As Paul wrote Timothy, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

Who are you praying for this Christmas? To give Jesus the gift of frankincense is to  give Him your prayers. Who is far from God that you would pray the Lord would bring them near? Will you pray for family members, for neighbors, and friends to come to Jesus? Will you pray for the unreached peoples in the world to come to Jesus? (Follow this link for an up-to-date list of unreached people groups: https://joshuaproject.net).

3. Myrrh – A gift fit for a Savior. Myrrh was mixed in the wine offered to Jesus on the cross. It was one of the spices used on His body when they laid Him in the tomb. When you give Jesus the gift of myrrh, you remember His sacrifice. You remember that He died to save you from your sins. To give Jesus the gift of myrrh is to give Him your sacrificial offering. What would Jesus have you sacrifice for? Wouldn’t He want you to sacrifice in order to reach the nations? His Great Commission was that we “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).

One way you can “go” to the nations this Christmas is to give a sacrificial offering to help support those who are already going to the nations. You can partner with us by giving your most sacrificial offering to the “Christmas Missions Offering” this Sunday. The entire offering will be used in international missions work, a large portion of which will be sent to the International Missions Board. Simply make your check out to the church and put  “Christmas Missions Offering” on your giving envelope. And we’ll make sure it all goes to our international partners.

Now you have three gift ideas for Jesus’ birthday: 1) Make Jesus your king, 2) pray for people far from God, 3) give your most generous offering for international missions.

After all, Christmas is supposed to be about Christ. It is His birthday we celebrate.



Eight things to remember when attending church

“Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3 (NLT)

During this Christmas season when we are seeing even more guests attending our services, it seems good to remind our own church members of a few important items. All of these reminders have the idea of “thinking of others” as you go to church.

1. Be on time. Our guests come early. As members, we should already be there to greet them.

2. Save the best parking for our guests. Many of our committed members choose to park in the side parking lot to leave the better spots for others. Besides, the exercise is good for you!

3. Take a seat near the front. It encourages the worship team. It makes it easier for late arrivals to find a seat.

4. Take crying infants to the nursery. We love babies, but we also love to hear the Word of God. Don’t let your child be a distraction. That’s why we offer childcare.

5. Take notes during the sermon. It encourages the pastor and the visitor. Plus, it will increase your own learning.

6. Write on and turn in your Connection Card. When others see you completing it, they will feel more comfortable doing it too. Use it for prayer requests and other needs. Use it to encourage the worship team.

7. Don’t leave the worship service early. We’ve noticed several members leaving during the time of response. Please stay until the end of the worship service unless you serve on the greeter team. Leaving early is a distraction.

8. Talk to someone you don’t know. Get outside you comfort zone. Follow the “3-minute rule.” Take the first three minutes after the service to meet someone you don’t know before you get with your usual group of friends. We have guests every Sunday that are looking for connection.

As church members, we want to follow Christ who considered the needs of others before their own. You’ll be amazed how living for Christ and others will actually help meet your own needs too.

The only thing that counts is…

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” – Galatians 5:6 (ESV).

“Neither moral exertion nor moral failure counts. Period.” – Tim Keller, Galatians For You

The apostle Paul wrote that the only thing that counts is “faith working through love.” Neither circumcision [representing legalism, which is a reliance on good works for salvation], nor uncircumcision [representing licentiousness, which is unrestrained immorality] count. Both legalism and license are equally bankrupt approaches to life. They are like two ditches that humanity falls into, rather than walking by faith in Christ on the road called LOVE.

Why is this the only “road” that counts? There are at least three reasons that faith in Christ, which energizes perfect love in us, is the only thing that truly counts.

Three reasons only faith in Christ counts:

First, only faith in Christ brings us into a right relationship with God. Neither legalism nor license count toward making us right with the Father. Neither our best performance, nor our worst performance counts for anything.  Why? Because it isn’t about our performance at all. It’s about Christ’s. Our best work will bring us no closer to God, nor will our worst drive us any further from Him. We are already so separated from God that the only way to be made right with Him is through faith in Christ’s perfect work. Receiving Christ through faith, we need no longer struggle in our own self-effort. God accepts us as His own children because we have believed in Christ. We can rest in this new relationship with the Father.

Second, only faith in Christ gives us a new identity in God. Neither legalism nor license make for worthy identities. As Paul wrote earlier in Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Old identities are superseded by the new identity “in Christ Jesus.” This does not remove our former distinctiveness of culture, class and gender, but it does give a new and unifying identity of being “one” in Christ.

The believer who struggles with legalism must beware that it is not their identity of being a good Baptist or Catholic, Presbyterian or Pentecostal that counts. It is only being “in Christ” that counts.

And those who would misuse the liberty they have in Christ as a license for the flesh, must also beware (see Gal. 5:13). For identifying according to fleshly desires will lead to a selfishness that consumes both them and those around them. They must put off old identities and put on Christ.

Third, only faith in Christ energizes a new character in us from God. Neither legalism nor license are able to change our inner character. In fact, they both work to bring out the worst in us. For they are both based on self-effort and they are energized by the flesh, which is the old sinful nature.

The legalist cannot walk on the road of perfect love because legalism reveals a character of pride, judging others, and guilt at their own continual failure at law-keeping. Trying to follow the law only energizes their flesh to rebel further. Try telling a toddler “No.” You will quickly discover how the law triggers the rebellion of the flesh.

The licentious have given up on trying to follow the law. They may even deceive themselves into celebrating this as freedom. But what they are really doing is giving themselves over fully to their lusts, which enslaves them to the very sin they practice. If they continue in their sin, they will experience a hardening of the heart that is no longer receptive to the Spirit of God.

But the one who has placed their faith in Christ will receive the Holy Spirit, who will empower and direct the believer to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16) and bear the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22), which is primarily LOVE, along with the other eight godly character traits as well.

Faith in Christ, which works itself out in love, is the only thing that counts. It is the only thing that makes us right with the Father, gives us a new identity as children of God, and conforms us to the character of Christ. Legalism and license count for nothing. Christ’s love is the only thing that counts.



Bible studies in the breakfast nook

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” – 3 John 4 (ESV)

This past Wednesday as I was studying the Bible with both my sons in our breakfast nook, I experienced a very thankful moment as I considered the work that had been done at that table through the years. For a moment, I saw them as they once were, when we first started studying in the breakfast nook together.

The breakfast nook in our home has really been the place where we have eaten family meals and done Bible study since we first moved to Wilson in 1987. Our children were ages five (Stephen), two (Jonathan) and one (Erin) when we first arrived. We wanted to establish a regular time to teach them the Bible, so we decided to make it part of our dinners together every evening.

Yet, because our children were so young and at various stages of development, we came up with a game we called the “Bible Quiz” to keep their interest. The game went like this. I would tell a short Bible story in my own words, then I would ask questions from the story to each child. I was careful to match the difficulty of the questions to the child’s age. If they got the question correct, I gave them a penny. The first child to receive five pennies won that evening’s Bible Quiz. We even made Bible Quiz Jars for each child to store their pennies and kept them prominently on the kitchen counter as a daily reminder.

If I told the story of creation, I would ask little Erin, “Baby girl, who created us?” “God?” She would answer with an uncertain face. She was always a little shy in her answers at that age. Plus, I’d have to “shush” her older brothers who always wanted to answer for her. Then, I’d give her a penny, noting that she was now in first place. To which both boys would shout about how easy her question was and how it wasn’t fair because she had gotten to go first.

Then, I’d get more specific, “Fini (Jonathan), what was the name of the man and woman that God created?” He’d answer confidently in his little scratchy voice (he sounded like an old man at that age), “Adam and Eve!” “Right!” I’d say. “Here’s your penny. Now, you’re tied with Erin.”

Finally, I’d get to five year old Stephen. “Phanos, yours is a three-parter. Are you ready for it?” “Yessir.” He’d respond (If he didn’t, I wouldn’t ask the question until he did). “OK. Who was the first son of Adam and Eve, who was his younger brother, and what did he do to his younger brother?” Looking up thoughtfully at the ceiling for a moment, he would then look at me and answer, “Cain was the older brother. Abel was the younger one. And Cain murdered Abel.” “Right!” I would exclaim, tossing a penny his way for him to catch. “Hey, I only get one penny? That doesn’t seem fair” (He was always concerned about fairness). I’d respond, “Yeah, life isn’t always fair son. Get used to it.”

We played the Bible Quiz game after supper every evening for years. If we forgot, one of the kids would complain. They loved it. But it got more complex…

Because we had taught them so many stories, certain questions became standard  features of our nightly repertoire. As Erin got older, she started getting more questions like, “Who were the three Hebrew children who got thrown into the fiery furnace?” Or “Name the four gospels.”

By the time Jonathan was eight years old, he and Stephen were starting to get questions on the same level. For instance, I’d ask, “Once their was a Babylonian king who trembled in fear when a disembodied finger wrote on his palace wall… What was the king’s name, what was written on the wall, who interpreted the writing, and what did the writing mean?” Both boys would start jumping up from their chairs, waving their hands, saying “I know! I know!” before I even started asking the question part. “OK, Fini, what’s the answer?” He was starting to outgrow the old man voice now, he’d  confidently respond, “The king was Belshazzar. The writing on the wall was ‘Mene, mene, tekel, parsin.’ Daniel said what it meant. And it meant that you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting and your kingdom will be divided between the Medes and the Persians.”

“Come on, Dad.” Stephen would complain. “You know that we already know that one.” As I tossed a penny Jonathan’s way. “Give us something harder next time.”

And the questions have gotten harder. . .

Fast-forward to this past Wednesday, I was sitting at the breakfast nook with my sons again. I study with my teaching team here every Wednesday to prepare sermons for our church’s two locations. This coming Sunday, Jonathan, who is our Rocky Mount pastor and a chaplain in the NC National Guard, has his monthly weekend of service. So, we needed to cover his pulpit this weekend and Stephen, our pastor of worship and youth, volunteered.

There we all sat, studying the same Bible in the same breakfast nook. Jonathan was busily looking up the verbs in the Greek. “Dad, take a look at this word “adoption” in Galatians 4:5. It has the same root as the Greek word for “son.” Did you know that?”

“Hmm…” I started to respond.

Then Stephen interrupted before I could answer with, “Dad, I’m not sure you saw how the phrase ‘put on’ Christ in Galatians 3:27 implies clothing. It’s like Paul is saying we are ‘clothed in Christ.’ I think we really need to work this out in our application. Don’t you?”

“Hmm…” I began.

Then, it happened. In my mind’s eye, these two grown men sitting in my breakfast nook studying the Bible with me, appeared as two little boys, just as they had looked so long ago.

“Well Dad, are you still with us?” Both their faces seemed to say, as they looked my way, wondering why I was taking so long to respond to their questions.

“Yeah. I’m here. What was your question again?” I finally replied.

Now today, I’m sitting here at the same breakfast nook thinking about all the great meals and Bible studies we’ve had here together. I can imagine no greater joy than to live to see my children “walking in the truth” of God’s Word!