Raising kids in Christ

I’ve been a youth pastor for 10 years, taught in Christian schools for nearly 15 years and now continue to teach Christian leaders in a seminary. One of the most heartbreaking conversations to have with so many distraught Christian parents is the familiar one where they can’t figure out why their kids aren’t serving God after they raised them in church for 18 years. This is often a spiritual conundrum. Why are pastor’s kids often known as the most rebellious kids? Why are traditional church kids leaving the church in droves? Is it poor parenting or simply individual choices, free will, and the continual drawing out of the world? Trust me I don’t have it figured out, but here are some thoughts from my experience.

The fact is most parents are not the primary educators of their children and the Bible says they should be. They have passed on that God given responsibility to someone else. Parents in a Christian home have given away their spiritual heritage. Perhaps at best, parents have fallen into the trap of dropping their kids off at youth group and kids church hoping the teacher would invest in their students at the expense of them having to actually disciple their own children in Christ while they were at home. I love Christian schools, but they often fall into the same trap.

It is true that the Bible takes on a tribal community sense of bringing up children together which is given partly to the body of Christ. If you truly are living every day in covenant community than you are one of the rare ones that has found what God is offering to us in the family of Christ.

Unfortunately, the modern American “drop off” mentality is far from the mosaic we were given. In an ancient community of Yahweh, the Shema encouraged training your children 3x a day. The Sabbath encouraged the devotion to things of the Lord to be set aside in reflection every week. And lastly, the 7 Festivals of the year encouraged the community to come together remembering the Lord is everything to us. All of these OT events centered around the devotion of community family to deeper intimacy in worship of the Lord. In the New Testament this is the picture of “ALL-IN” discipleship. That we are given new life and essentially must be brought up (re-fathered) in deeper devotion to the Lord every day. It was a call to an OT sense of devotion both to your blood family and those grafted into the body of Christ. When did the church lose this kind of thinking?

Today the church has often enabled parents to “dedicate their kids to the Lord” with the expectation that someone in the church will do the discipling for them. This is a religious disease that we have to heal if we want to see generations walk in devotion to the Lord.

Biblical churches that encourage and hold parents accountable to primary Biblical training are nearly nonexistent. I’m convinced the vehicle God created (the church) for people to actually encounter Jesus Christ and be discipled in Him as a family and community of covenant has become a social club that entertains and caters to the flesh often acting as agents of empowerment away from Biblical parenting rather than shepherding people towards it.

All of us Christian parents have to ask ourselves, “Are we/did we raise our kids ‘in church’ and just expect them to magically serve God the rest of their lives because they heard good teaching in Sunday school/youth group OR are we actually teaching them how to live “in Christ” through covenant discipleship and living example towards biblical concepts in our own homes?”

I’m convinced that the awakening and revival that so many are longing for is actually going to begin in their living rooms and at dining room tables with healthy marriage, family, and sacrificial parenting. I hope people are no longer ok with giving the world 40-60 hours each and not even have an hour a week left for the discipleship of their own children. I pray the next generation sees the glaring problems of this “drop off” model in the face of Biblical advocacy. Let’s start living in covenant community and first and foremost, train up our (the community of God’s) children. Biblically this has always been a family’s first and primary life calling. Let’s get back to that kind of discipleship in the kingdom.

I’m asking parents to make a new covenant to your family. Choose today whom you will serve. Will you choose to train your children or hand them off to be trained? Every child is a student in training. Who is training your children and in what?

Here are some things to consider:

  • do you give the world more time than your covenant family?
  • do you spend more time than anyone else training your children?
  • do you discuss what others are teaching your kids?
  • are you strategically planning what you are training your family? (have you considered a plan or even a scope and sequence?)
  • are you getting help in your covenant community? Two are better than 1
  • do you regularly have teaching with your family? The Shema suggests 3x a day!

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. 

Proverbs 22:6  ESV

“Train up” is the Hebrew verb chet-nun-kaf. It has two meanings.  The first is the assumed root of the word hek, a word that is translated “palate.”  You will find it in Proverbs 8:7 (“All the words of my mouth are righteous.”)  This meaning connects Hek to speech. Speaking life into, through, and over your family. Believing and claiming the promises of Jesus as you commit to the challenge.

The second meaning is “to dedicate or inaugurate.”  This is the usual meaning in Proverbs 22:6. Training is not discipline.  It is dedicating the child to the full expression that God has placed within that child. Teaching, training, and shepherding actively. Holding their hands and guiding them through what matters to God, not what the world says is important.

In other words “Train up” involves both mind and action. A parent is the child’s best encourager, greatest coach and staunchest ally when the parent sees what God sees and does everything possible to assist the child to see it too. It is about parenting with the goal of bringing God’s full expression to life in the child.  And no parent can do such a thing without dedicating that child to the way the child should go.  Set the groundwork for God’s direction.  Set it early and often, multiple times a day. Get a strategic plan and enlist the help of a tribe that is dedicated to you in covenant. And later, when that child is old, he or she will still follow the path God has laid out because the parents made it so abundantly clear.

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Order from Chaos

If you have been around X44 for any time at all you know we talk a lot about CHAOS. The nothingness of the world. This world and everything (everyone) in it are constantly drifting toward chaos and brokenness, it might even be best described as a complete downward spiral. The plan was that we (those commissioned as a royal priesthood) might partner with the sovereign God almighty to keep and cultivate the garden and eventually the rest of the world and bring order to it; yet it seems humanity has failed to restore even just a modicum of that given order. I don’t solely pin this on Adam and Eve, I think we are all to blame, but I also think we can claim this today and be devoted to be agents of transformation.

God brought order from chaos “without form and void” (Genesis 1:2). He organized, he formed, he made, he filled. From that unformed substance emerged the beauty, the order, of this world.

Formless and void – tohu va-vohu reads the Hebrew text.  Which has become an idiom or slang for out of control to many today. There is a lot here that I will hardly touch on in this article. In the context of competing ancient cosmological accounts of the formation of the world, chaos is a terrible and terrifying force.  The force isn’t evil, it is simply untamed.

“In the religion of many peoples chaos stands at the beginning of being and becoming.  It may be understood mythically as Tiamat, as the original water, as the abyss, as night or darkness.  But the decisive point is that it is felt to be something supremely negative, abstracted and unqualified.”[1]

You will notice the words formless, void, darkness, water and deep are all symbols of the uncontrollable, unimaginable forces that existed before the formation of the earth. In the beginning the Spirit of God exhibited purposeful action even in the presence of chaos.  Chaos was mastered by God.  For the original audience, Genesis 1 is about bigger questions than the beginning of the universe.  It is about why there is life and what is the purpose of living. Bere’shiyt bara Elohiym.

The is the canvas of the greatest love story ever told, the greatest deliverance & redemption message, the story of what was lost and beautifully reclaimed. The Hebrews lived in a world of the covenant rather than in a world of contracts.  The idea of contract was unknown to them.  The God of Israel ‘cares as little for contract and the cash nexus as He cares for mere slavish obedience and obsequiousness.  His chosen sphere is that of covenant.’  His relationship to His partner is one of benevolence and affection.  The indispensable and living instrument holding the community of God and Israel together is the law.”[2]

God created people in his image and assigned them a redemptive mission, to keep and cultivate, to bring order from chaos.“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). God meant for his people to make this garden a place of obvious and visible order that would stand apart from the world outside the garden. And as man obeyed God’s instruction to spread out over the rest of the earth, he would extend this order outward, through the region, the continent, the world. This was man’s exercise of dominion, his work of subduing the earth and all that is in it partnering with God as the physical manifestation on earth as God’s “hands” and/or image. That we might be ambassadors of the great creator of the universe.

The Lord brings people out of darkness into light and towards peace (shalom) and intimacy with him. Today we are still on this mission, we still see chaos replaced by order, but unfortunately, we don’t see a lot of it. Chaos is chased away by order where our free will invites Jesus to replace that space. Eventually, or eschatologically, everything and everyone will be either re-gathered or lost.

I believe God could universally bring total “restoration”, and that he has the power to (and may desire to), but I’m not convinced that his “established order” allows this. Perhaps it was only meant for those that freely chose and accepted the devout invitation.

To them someday, a new heaven and new earth will renew the one that humanity has destroyed in chaos, and order will once and for all establish balance and peace. But until then, our mission is to replace the chaos with peace with an image of Jesus to all that might see, bringing heaven to earth right here and right now.

[1] Foerster, ktizo, TDNT, Vol. III, p. 1001.

[2] Abraham Heschel, The Prophets: Two Volumes in One (Hendrickson Publishers, 1962), Vol. 2, p. 10.

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5 fold Ministry Problems & NAR

If you have been in church (particularly a spirit led or Pentecostal church) for more than a few years you have likely heard of the term “five fold ministry.”

In the last 30 years it has become popular to speak of “the five-fold ministry,” as a system of church government with apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. This concept comes from Ephesians 4:11-13, which states that Christ gave “some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.”

Most of the Pentecostal world believes in the 5 fold ministry, and as I don’t disagree with most anything said or taught about the 5 fold gifts specifically, I can also see how this term has become controversial and often thought of as divisive within the body of Christ towards the other gifts. I also Theologically cringe any time a doctrine or movement seems to be derived in large part by a singular text. (In this way the use of Ephesians to frame the 5 fold ministry as a doctrine has often been claimed as a “proof text.”)

One of the first things to consider is that Paul gave us two other lists elsewhere in his epistles. The lists vary from this one significantly. This list in Ephesians wasn’t intended to be a doctrinal model; if it was the NT or Paul sure didn’t do a very good job of articulating that. If the intention was to present the list as a model of hierarchy in the church, I would think it would have been presented much differently. In other words, the laws of hermeneutics simply don’t allow a scholar reader to interpret this way. To my point, 1 Corinthians 12 would speak to an 8 fold ministry where the order is different. In the same way Romans 12 presents yet another list. This Seven Fold list moves leadership to the very bottom, just ahead of showing mercy, and it moves service, teaching and encouragement to the top. It takes some theological gymnastics to make a doctrine out of the list in Ephesians.

Keith Giles shares that, “Jesus was serious when he said that we are all brothers and sisters and that none of us was meant to play the Father, or the Ruler over anyone else. (See Matthew 23:9) The goal in the Body of Christ is that we are all members of one another, and that no one person is given the preeminence over the rest of us.”


If you would like an in-depth theological view of Biblical “leadership” we did an X44 video that is posted below. In this video we show that Apostles are “sent ones” to be messengers and plant churches recognizing gifting areas and beginning the training up in those gifts. Then we go over the other gifts listed. They aren’t offices, or positions of power. There are many other gifts listed in the scripture, at least 22 and there is no reason to promote or exalt some over others. One gift wasn’t intended to be lorded over the others. The design given to us to bring order to chaos was in many gifts of one Spirit.

HISTORY: The 5 fold ministry push is relatively new. It is hard to put a finger on exactly who or where this idea started, but in 1996, Peter Wagner led a conference at Fuller Theological Seminary entitled, The National Symposium on the “Post-Denominational Church.” A few years later he organized a movement called the “International Coalition of Apostles” with Himself as the “Presiding Apostle.” The idea is that they would “restore” the 5 fold ministry of the New Testament church (which I would argue never existed in this way so it can’t be “restored”). From this movement came the “New Apostolic Movement,” (NAR) which established the “offices” of the 5 folds ruling the church. To be clear I really like a lot of Wagner’s work and think he has been one of the leading spirit led “theologians” of our time. I just think the emphasis on this view missed the mark which has unfortunately become what Wagner is most known for.


This conversation also ties into the ramifications of spiritual anointing theology. Some would believe that those anointed should be the only one’s worthy of the 5 fold gifting. This is a problematic notion, let me explain. There is a debate on whether every Christian is anointed or whether some are anointed “more” or perhaps for different “times” than others. (This conversation can get dispensational, but I am not going to open that door in this article.) The Old Testament clearly displays a sense of anointing as the falling of the spirit on someone or something in a sense of the spirits moving, coming and/or going. It is true that an OT King was anointed, but they were also the archetype (foreshadow) of what the people chose over or instead of God. They wanted a king not God to rule them. God anointing a king was to signify that His spirit would be with Him, but the anointed ones more often than not rejected that spirit anointing. God’s spirit was believed (by most scholars) to have moved away from the king in the same way that it moved away from the temple and eventually Israel.

When Jesus came, was crucified, and resurrected, allowing the spirit to fall at Pentecost, He brought equality to the body of Christ. The anointed were reconciled as the calling or return to Edenic thinking as the priesthood of all believers. I was at a wonderful conference last week and a dear brother in Christ (Pastor Jim Cobrae) shared a lesson on the anointed. I fully agree with everything he taught; but I believe everyone in Christ is given this anointing (not just some.) In the same was as an OT King, they can either accept it and let God bring their gifts to maturity or reject it. Often, I would admit that when people teach on “anointing,” the better Biblical definition of what they are describing is being spirit filled not anointed, but that is another post! I will admit that the terms are used interchangeably; but in a scriptural sense of definitions anointing and spirit filling are likely different.

The New Testament Greek word used for “anoint” is chrió which you will notice is essentially the root of the word for Christ Himself and means to “rub into” even to the point of flowing inside of you. As you can see it is a literal word reference in Greek to explain “Christ in us” and flowing through us. In other words, if Christ is in you, you are anointed, you are asked to mature in Him displaying the image of Him by the way you live Jesus out and bear fruit.

You are anointed already if you are in Christ.

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Sabbath + Calendar

Today our pastor delivered a timely message on sabbath. Of course, it sent me down my (usual) rabbit trail road of Biblical exploration. Here are some quotes from my favorite book on rest:

“In a culture where busyness is a fetish and stillness is laziness, rest is sloth.  But without rest, we miss the rest of God:  the rest he invites us to enter more fully so that we might know him more deeply.  ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’  Some knowing is never pursued, only received.  And for that, you need to be still.  Sabbath is both a day and an attitude to nurture such stillness.”[1]

“The opposite of a slave is not a free man.  It’s a worshipper.  The one who is most free is the one who turns the work of his hands into sacrament, into offering.  All he makes and all he does are gifts from God, through God, and to God.  . . . . Virtually any job, no matter how grueling or tedious . . . can be a gift from God, through God, and to God.  The work of our hands, by the alchemy of our devotion, becomes the worship of our hearts.”[2]

“Leisure is what Sabbath becomes when we no longer know how to sanctify time.  Leisure is Sabbath bereft of the sacred.  It is a vacation – literally, a vacating, an evacuation.  As Rybczynski sees it, leisure has become despotic in our age, enslaving us and exhausting us, demanding from us more than it gives.”[3]

“Chronos is the presiding deity of the driven.”[4]

The Sabbath is patterned after the days of creation. Only those who wait on the Lord renew their strength. (I’ll add more on this at the end.)

The Hebrew day starts with when the sun goes down one day and last until the sun goes down the next. Therefore, the first day of your week starts after the sun goes down on Saturday night.

Sunday is the first day and in “first fruits” thinking should be solely given to the Lord. The more in tune you are with God the longer this “first day” lasts. By the time you become an “elder” all of your days should be devoted to the Lord and not yourself… and then there is the day of Sabbath. The coming together to “Rest” in The Lord.

The trajectory of the Sabbath “law” was to keep people on track until the Messiah. First fruits functioned as a stop gap, not a final destination. The hope was that out of devotion to the law, the first day or days weren’t “JUST” the Lords, and the rest of the days the worlds; but that all of the days were eventually reconciled back to the Lord. But that seldom happened individually and never happened communally for Israel. When Jesus came, that was the New Covenant message of redemption, that all days, all peoples, and all things be reconciled to complete Devotion to the Father. -ALL IN

Traditionally, the Sabbath begins with sleep.  It begins in the evening.  The Sabbath meal and “study” would last as long as the candles would burn; and then you would sleep. A return to the womb to the one who created us and to whom we belong. We become unconscious to the world.

That is why in the Bible a city that never sleeps is synonymous with idolatry. It stands in opposition to God’s order and creation.

Sabbath is about trusting the Lord and placing everything back on the Altar of His providence.

Your sabbath represents and reminds you of your freedom in Christ. (EXODUS MOTIF THINKING REMINDED TO YOU 3x A DAY by the SHEMA and then again each Sabbath.) “I must decrease so that He can increase.”  Sabbath is the practice of complete servanthood and submission, becoming nothing. Being reminded of who we are in God and Christ. COMPLETELY

Hebrew Calendar:

The present Hebrew calendar is the result of a process of development, including a Babylonian influence. Until the Tannaitic period (approximately 10–220 CE), the calendar employed a new crescent moon, with an additional month normally added every two or three years to correct for the difference between the lunar year of twelve lunar months and the solar year. The year in which it was added was based on observation of natural agriculture-related events in ancient Israel.[5]

From very early times, the Babylonian calendar was in wide use by the countries of the Near East. The structure, which was also used by the Israelites, was based on lunar months with the intercalation of an additional month to bring the cycle closer to the solar cycle, although there is no mention of this additional month anywhere in the Hebrew Bible.[6]

Based on the classic rabbinic interpretation of Genesis 1:5 (“There was evening and there was morning, one day”), a day in the rabbinic Hebrew calendar runs from sunset (the start of “the evening”) to the next sunset.[7] 

The same definition appears in the Bible in Leviticus 23:32, where the holiday of Yom Kippur is defined as lasting “from evening to evening”. The days are therefore figured locally. Halachically, the previous day ends and a new one starts when three stars are visible in the sky. The time between true sunset and the time when the three stars are visible (known as tzait ha’kochavim) is known as bein hashmashot, and there are differences of opinion as to which day it falls into for some uses. This may be relevant, for example, in determining the date of birth of a child born during that gap.[8]

The names of the days of the week are modeled on the seven days mentioned in the creation story.[9] For example, Genesis 1:8 “… And there was evening and there was morning, a second day” corresponds to Yom Sheni meaning “second day”. (However, for days 1, 6, and 7 the modern name differs slightly from the version in Genesis.)

According to one tradition, the origins of the Hebrew word for ‘evening’ – ‘Erev’ {ערב} – come from the old Hebrew verb ‘Le-Arev’ {לערב} which means ‘to mix’ or ‘to intermingle’ and refers to the special time of the day in which the sunset and light and darkness are ALL present and appear as a ‘mix.’

The Hebrew word for ‘morning’ is ‘Boker’ {בוקר} and it derives from the old Hebrew root B-K-R {ב-ק-ר} which means ‘to break through’, ‘ to penetrate’, ‘to crack’ and refers to the  special time of the day in which the light is ‘breaking through’ the darkness of the night.

In other words, now when ‘God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night’ appeared in the ‘first day of Creation’ it is in fact the invention of the CONCEPT of a DAY. This is why the original Hebrew does not talk about ‘the first day’ but rather the period of time from one evening to the next evening and that is called ONE DAY (‘Yom Echad’).

In terms of “months, the period from 1 Adar (or Adar II, in leap years) to 29 Marcheshvan contains all of the festivals specified in the Bible (Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Shemini Atzeret). This period is fixed, during which no adjustments are made.

There are additional rules in the Hebrew calendar to prevent certain holidays from falling on certain days of the week. These rules are implemented by adding an extra day to Marcheshvan (making it 30 days long) or by removing one day from Kislev (making it 29 days long). Accordingly, a common Hebrew calendar year can have a length of 353, 354 or 355 days, while a leap Hebrew calendar year can have a length of 383, 384 or 385 days.

The mean period of the lunar month (precisely, the synodic month) is very close to 29.5 days. Accordingly, the basic Hebrew calendar year is one of twelve lunar months alternating between 29 and 30 days:

In leap years (such as 5779) an additional month, Adar I (30 days) is added after Shevat, while the regular Adar is referred to as “Adar II”. In Hebrew there are two common ways of writing the year number: with the thousands, called לפרט גדול (“major era”), and without the thousands, called לפרט קטן (“minor era”). Thus, the 2022 was is written as ה’תשפ”ב ‎(5782) using the “major era” and תשפ”ב ‎(782) using the “minor era”. Thus according to the Hebrew Calendar 2023 is 5783.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Exodus 20:8 NASB

Work and “Work” – “The Biblical story of mankind begins with the command, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.’ Work is more than labour. Biblical Hebrew has two words to express the difference: melakhah is work as creation, avodah is work as service or servitude. Melakhah is the arena in which we transform the world and thus become, in the striking rabbinic phrase, ‘partners with God in the work of creation.’[10]

This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 NASB

Yom, the Hebrew word for “day,” is the most common word describing time in the Tanakh. The regular occurrence of day and night not only establishes the routine of our world but also affects the biological clocks of all living things. If you don’t think that is true, just trying staying awake for three or four days.

Essentially God’s calendar is all about Him desiring to tabernacle with us. The entire calendar is based on establishing order to come back to complete intimate partnership with Him.

[1]Mark Buchanan: The Rest of God:  Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath

[2] IBID

[3] IBID

[4] IBID

[5] Talmud, Sanhedrin 11b

[6] Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions (1961) by Roland De Vaux, John McHugh, Publisher: McGraw–Hill, p. 179

[7] Kurzweil, Arthur (2011). The Torah For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons.

[8] “Zmanim Briefly Defined and Explained”. chabad.org.

[9] Hebrew-English Bible, Genesis 1

[10] Jonathan Sacks, The Dignity of Difference, p. 96.

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