From the Podcast: Learning Friendship from Children

From the Podcast: Learning Friendship from Children

By Kent Bass


We just released a Striving Together podcast episode on friendship. If you haven’t listened to it yet, I hope you will soon. Pastor Shane and Pastor Manny had a helpful conversation about what it looks like to experience friendship, especially in the context of the church.

Of particular note to me was a small anecdote Shane shared about one of his children becoming new friends with another child. What struck me was the ease at which young children can (generally) develop friendships. Kids can walk into a room, start playing with complete strangers, and walk away confident the person they were playing with is a new pal–almost as if they had been friends from birth. Why does it seem so easy for them?

Children don’t bring cynical judgments into relationships

One of the barriers we face in developing friendships is our cynicism. We think, “That person wouldn’t want anything to do with me. And even if they did, they probably wouldn’t understand how to care for me.” Whether it’s our personality or past experience, we can view relationships with a “glass half empty” lens. Cynical assumptions don’t breed relational depth.

Children don’t bring fearful expectations into friendships

Shane mentioned fear being a barrier to relationships, and I wholeheartedly agree. Even though we can pride ourselves on being more reasonable and rational than children (monsters aren’t real) we allow our “mature” fears to dictate how we interact with others. “If I opened up and shared about who I am and how I feel, if they really knew me, they wouldn’t want to be my friend.” Fear tries to convince us we are sovereign, that we know for sure what will happen. Living as if our “what if?” fears are certainties will keep us from the kind of vulnerability that friendship requires and thrives on.

What can we learn from kids?

Cynicism and fear certainly aren’t the only barriers to friendship, but what I appreciate (and often learn) from my own children when they encounter problems is this: they are quick to come to me. Monsters under the bed might seem ridiculous to me, but their irrational fears lead them into my arms.

This is the kind of childlike faith that Tony preached on from Luke 18. “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (vs16-17). The faith of a child is the recognition of need and the belief that God can provide. Childlike faith embraces dependence on the Father.

What obstacles keep you from experiencing friendship? As you face these obstacles, does your faith in God lead you toward him and others, or do you turn inward in disbelief? Let’s be a people who depend on God. In his wisdom, he has given us a family of faith to provide us with care and support. Let’s strive together to embrace the gift of friendship.


Kent is a native of southern Illinois and a graduate of the University of Illinois. He holds an MA in Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He met his wife Hope at a Christian sports camp in Pennsylvania in 2007. They got married in 2010 and have four kids: Silas, Anna, Grace, and Asa. He is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan and loves talking about the intricacies of the golf swing. As a pastor, he loves having a front-row seat to watch how Jesus transforms people’s lives.

IDC AdminFrom the Podcast: Learning Friendship from Children

Resolved: Living to Please God

Resolved: Living to Please God

By Kent Bass


Every January we find ourselves having familiar conversations about resolutions. What kind of resolutions have you made in the past? Even if you don’t make resolutions a yearly habit, you have probably thought about them. Most of us try eating better, exercising regularly, and reading our Bibles more consistently (there’s still plenty of time to catch up if you’ve already fallen off the “Bible in a year” wagon).

I rarely hear someone make resolutions that aim at their heart, desires, or motivations. Allow me to challenge you in that vein: What would happen if you resolved to please God in all that you do this year? If you think that is unrealistic, in one sense you are correct. Redeemed and forgiven children of God still sin on occasion (or many occasions). But the presence of sin shouldn’t keep us from setting our sights on lofty and glorious goals, like pleasing God. This is exactly what the Apostle Paul does in 2 Corinthians 5:6-10.

“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith and not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

Could there be a better goal than pleasing God? You might be tempted to think that pleasing God is realistic for an apostle, but unrealistic for a “regular” believer. “My sins are too great,” you might say. You are right—your sins are great. But Paul was no different. He knew he was a great sinner. In his first letter to Timothy he remarked, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim 1:15). Our belief in the gospel necessitates that we come to terms with the depth and magnitude of our sin. But our belief in the gospel also beckons us to lift our eyes heavenward and strive to believe in the riches of God’s grace and mercy. This grace and mercy not only free us from the penalty of sin, but they also equip us to live in ways that please Him.

Living with the motivation of Jesus

We see this God-pleasing motivation in the life of Jesus when he explains, “And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (John 8:29). Jesus isn’t simply telling us something about the result of his actions (he pleased God). He is also teaching us about his motivation and mindset (he desired to please God). If Jesus always pleased God, it’s because he intended to please God. This is encouraging because we have been given the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5). The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is working in you right now to shape your heart and mind to be like Jesus’s heart and mind (Rom. 8:10-11). Like our Savior, we can please our heavenly Father. The next time you feel temptation rising in your heart, ask yourself this question: “Lord, how can I please you in this moment?” In moments of difficulty, this simple question will serve as a compass to orient your attitudes, actions, and words in a Godward direction.

Living how God intends

We need this kind of regular reorientation because our natural tendency is to please ourselves, not God. This is problematic because pleasing God is at the very heart of his intention for us: “Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more” (1 Thess. 4:1). Paul reminds the Thessalonians that his proclamation of the gospel was intended to teach them how they ought to live so that they can please God. The gospel makes us right with God positionally and shows us how to live before God practically. We need to think about pleasing God because God intends for us to please him.

Living in light of heaven

Finally, notice the eschatological theme of 2 Corinthians 5:9. Paul says, “whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” When he says “at home or away,” he means on earth or in heaven. This means that pleasing God is an everlasting goal, not just an earthly goal. Pleasing God will be our heavenly theme for all eternity. If God intends for us to pursue what pleases him forever, why not start now?

As we strive together in this new year, let’s resolve to please God. Not only do we have the word and Spirit of God empowering us in this effort, but we have the glorious privilege of pursuing this alongside one another.


Kent is a native of southern Illinois and a graduate of the University of Illinois. He holds an MA in Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He met his wife Hope at a Christian sports camp in Pennsylvania in 2007. They got married in 2010 and have four kids: Silas, Anna, Grace, and Asa. He is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan and loves talking about the intricacies of the golf swing. As a pastor, he loves having a front-row seat to watch how Jesus transforms people’s lives.

IDC AdminResolved: Living to Please God

Lifestyle Discipleship: Good Followers Make Good Fathers

Lifestyle Discipleship: Good Followers Make Good Fathers

By Matt Steele


In his excellent book Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp writes: 

The only safe guide is the Bible. It is the revelation of God who has infinite knowledge and can therefore give you absolute truth. God has given you a revelation that is robust and complete. It presents an accurate and comprehensive picture of children, parents, family life, values, training, nurture, discipline. All you need to be equipped for the task of parenting.

Brothers, we must be men of the Book if we are going to undertake the task of parenting in a way that honors God and blesses our children. We will not succeed if we parent by our own power.

Pastor John Piper comments, “Dad should take the initiative to make sure that plans, processes and people are in place to build a vision of God, truth and holiness into the lives of the children.” That’s how we bring our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

The great news for all of us is that we don’t do this on our own. We have one another (the Church) for help and support. We are a family together

Let’s look together at just one verse and see what it says about parenting. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” 


What are some ways in which it is possible to provoke our children to anger? Inconsistency in discipline is one way. Hypocrisy is another. Whenever someone tells me they have an angry child, I always ask them to tell me about their own anger issues. Our kids will always learn from our example. What are your children learning from you?


This phrase means to provide for, especially with nourishment. We are to raise our children with an overtone of care. This is the same phrase that Paul uses in Ephesians 5:29 when he writes, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.”

Love must be our attitude and posture as we give discipline and instruction to our children. We have an excellent model for how to do this: our Heavenly Father. He is the one who is working all things together for our good. Do our children know that we are attempting to work all things, including discipline and instruction, together for their good? Brothers, if we do this, we will show them what our God is like.


Discipline is the set of actions that we take in order to give our children the facilities, skills and character to live their lives for the glory of God. This same idea is found in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

It is also found in Hebrews 12:7-8: 

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

We show, with our words and our actions, how to walk in a way that is Christ-exalting. We also show the consequences of not doing so. Fathers, if you and I are not students of the word of God, devoted to prayer, and active in Christian community, this task will be too much. We will operate with insufficient power and offer our children nothing but flawed, worldly wisdom.


This phrase is not about teaching our children. It is about warning our children. See how it is used in other passages in Paul’s letters:

Colossians 1:28 – Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:14 – And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all

1 Corinthians 4:14 – I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.

Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

We must be actively warning our children of the consequences of living a life without regard for God and His word. If God truly has given us everything we need for life and godliness (and He has) we owe it to our children to give and teach them this insight.


Finally, we see the direction we should be pointing our children: the Lord. Our parenting should always be through the Lord, and for the Lord.

Fathers, in order to be active disciple-makers in your home, you must guide all your works and ways by God’s word, depend on God’s wisdom and strength, and make everything in your life about the glory of Christ. The most important work that you and I have to do is raising up the disciples that the Lord has given us in our own homes. Let us live and raise them in such a way that they grow to see Christ as their greatest treasure and the goal of their existence.

Matt and Laura Steele have been married for 24 years. Parents to 6 kids, they are blessed to have both biological and adopted children. The Steeles have also spent time as foster parents. Matt is employed by Cepheid as a Manager of Sales Training and Development, while Laura homeschools the kids. The Steeles are from Texas and moved to Raleigh from Lake Villa, IL. Matt and Laura are graduates of Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Matt has a Masters from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Matt and Laura are certified Biblical counselors.

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Sick Kids and Empty Graves

Sick Kids and Empty Graves

By Trevor King


Recently, my wife and I endured another sleepless night with sick children. Both of our girls were sick and, being extremely young, couldn’t have any medicine to help alleviate their symptoms. This kept them both up, which kept us up. On top of that, our youngest was teething, which meant endless fits of crying for days. Even when moments of silence miraculously occurred, we both heard their cries in our ears.

After numerous nights awake with a sick and teething toddler, tensions were high. I’d like to say that we never lost our cool. I’d like to say we were exemplars of grace and compassion at every moment. But that wasn’t the case. We were stressed, exhausted, and frustrated. Sadly, even looking at the sweet face of a tired, sick, and hurting baby, it was hard not to be frustrated with her for not sleeping and not letting us sleep. In moments like this, I’m often reminded of something a professor of mine used to repeat: “People and circumstances don’t determine your behavior; they only give you an opportunity to reveal what’s in your heart.” And in those moments, it becomes clear that my heart is a wreck.

Maybe you can identify with us. Perhaps it’s comforting to know that none of us are alone in those moments. Life can be hard, and the day-in and day-out parenting challenges can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially when sleep is elusive and the sound of crying babies becomes the soundtrack to our lives.

During this bout of crying and sickness, when I felt utterly overwhelmed, I was reminded of a passage in the Bible that points to God as our comforter in times of difficulty. And in reading that passage, I was drawn to one verse in particular:

“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9).

It’s easy to dismiss this verse as inapplicable amid the  challenges of first-world life. Most of us don’t feel like we’ve received the “sentence of death” (even though multiple nights with a crying baby might make us think otherwise). So bringing this verse to bear might seem overly dramatic, but I don’t think it is.

Life is hard, and in a fallen world, as fragile beings, we can feel overwhelmed. The pain points of life can feel crushing. Sometimes it feels like things are as bad as they can get. When we feel defeated, we identify with Paul. It is right and good to honestly confess that life is hard. Things are not the way they are supposed to be, and we feel it in sickness, soreness, sleeplessness, and sorrow (you’re welcome for that).

But we also see in this verse several truths that comfort our hearts:

God is sovereign over our afflictions.

Paul is quick to remind us that God raises the dead. This is a direct reference to Jesus (and perhaps Lazarus), who was raised from the dead. Even in the darkest moments of Jesus’ life, God had not lost control of the situation. Christ’s death was not outside of God’s sovereign plan. God didn’t abandon Jesus in his darkness; so what makes us think he would abandon us in ours? Even when the trials of everyday life feel overwhelming, we can have confidence in the God who watches over us with compassion and love.

God uses our afflictions to teach us to trust him.

Our suffering, though often inexplicable, is not without purpose. Paul writes that they felt the sentence of death so they would trust God in their circumstances. While we may not always understand our afflictions, we know the God above them. We may fear near death, but it reminds us to trust and rest in the God who conquers death.

God promises to comfort us in our afflictions.

This should give us hope in our valleys of darkness. We can find comfort that we are not alone in suffering. We have a Savior who identifies with us in our afflictions. But more than that, we have a Savior who has overcome affliction. He conquered death, sin, sickness, and sorrow, and his victory is ours. Though the momentary darkness seems unrelenting, dawn is coming.

God will deliver us from our afflictions.

When the new dawn appears, when light bursts through darkness finally and with finality, we shall be delivered. Our God raises the dead, and he will raise us. He has promised to deliver us, and he will surely do it. In the next verse, we see the promise that God has delivered and will deliver us: “He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and he will deliver us. We have put our hope in him that he will deliver us again…” (2 Corinthians 1:10). Our greatest enemy is defeated, and we have hope in the daily struggles of life. But more than that, our Deliverer will bring us near to himself, our greatest comfort. In the end, we get Him.

Whatever challenges you face today, if you feel overwhelmed and afflicted, take comfort in the promise that God is sovereignly using your circumstances in ways unseen. In the pit of this broken world and its struggles, lift your eyes upward and trust the God who raises the dead.

The grave could not hold our Savior, and because of him, it shall not hold us. 

Trevor is originally from Oklahoma and serves on staff at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Mid-America Christian University as well as a master’s degree and a doctorate from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a fan of good coffee, bookstores, and superheroes. Trevor and his wife, Ashley, raise their daughters in Wake Forest.

Blog AdminSick Kids and Empty Graves

Fears Reveal Loves

Fears Reveal Loves

In a world full of danger, it’s natural to experience fear. The biblical command to “not be afraid” that we see throughout the Scriptures should clue us in to this reality. But the presence of fear doesn’t explain the reason for fear. Why are some people afraid of spiders, and others are not? Why does conflict paralyze some, but doesn’t seem to bother others? Why do some people struggle with social anxiety, and others seem to thrive on being the “life of the party?” To understand why we are afraid, we have to look within.

What does fear reveal?

In short, our fears reveal our loves. Fear reveals what we hold dear, what we love, value, and treasure. So an essential step in navigating fear is cultivating an awareness of our heart, which is what Jesus tells us to do in Matthew 6.

For anyone who has battled fear and anxiety, Matthew 6 is a popular chapter. In verses 25-34, we see Jesus addressing anxiety by calling our attention to our Heavenly Father’s care. “See the birds,” Jesus says. “See the flowers,” Jesus says. If God cares for them, then he will care for you. Don’t be anxious about those things; instead, seek God’s kingdom: love what God loves, pursue what God pursues. Live how God lives. However, to fully understand how to do battle against fear and anxiety, you need to back up to verse 19:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Loving what God loves

Jesus points us to one of the most important truths about life: where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. In other words, what you love will greatly impact how you live. If you love that which is heavenly (what God loves), your heart is secure. If you love that which is earthly—what can fade, be destroyed, or taken from you—your heart is vulnerable. And a vulnerable heart will oftentimes be revealed through fear or anxiety. If you treasure something that isn’t secure, you will have no choice but to be fearful. You will be afraid (or anxious) that you won’t be able to have the thing you love. You will be afraid (or anxious) that you won’t be able to keep the thing you love. Loving the kingdom of God will always require us to understand our temptation toward loving the kingdom of this earth.

Loving as God loves

There’s a slight wrinkle to this process of discerning your heart. What if you experience fear and anxiety that seems to be centered around something “good?” Take the safety of your family as an example. Shouldn’t I love my wife and kids? Shouldn’t I care about what happens to them? Shouldn’t I value them, treasure them, and seek to protect them? Of course I should. So if I Iove something or someone I’m supposed to love, why am I sometimes afraid or anxious? 

In some cases, the issue is not what we love, but how we love it. Sometimes our loves are disordered—we love things we shouldn’t love. Sometimes our loves are misordered—we love things in ways we shouldn’t love them. My wife is amazing, and my kids are precious, but contrary to popular sentiment, they are not my “all in all.” They don’t provide me with ultimate comfort, satisfaction, or peace. And I can’t provide that for them. True peace, comfort, and satisfaction can only come from Christ. When the good things of our life take up more space in our hearts than God, we open our hearts to vulnerability in the same way we do by loving things we shouldn’t love. 

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells us to “seek the kingdom of God” because he wants our lives to be centered on and wrapped up in the things God loves. He wants us to treasure righteousness, peace, truth, and the love of others. He wants us to set our hearts on him, not on the perishing things of this world. He wants us to experience the peace and freedom of loving and trusting him wholly and completely. That includes trusting him with the good things we love most. Not only does Jesus want us to love what God loves, but he wants us to love as God loves.

Learn to discern

So when you find yourself anxious, take a deep breath and peek into your heart. Ask yourself some questions: What are you setting your affections on? What is consuming your mind? What treasure are you pursuing or trying to hold onto? Then ask God to redirect or reorder your loves. Ask him to help you love what he loves, the way he loves it. Finally, thank him for being a good Father who has given you access to the kingdom of heaven, an inheritance that will never perish or fade, a treasure secured by his sovereign power.

Kent is a native of southern Illinois and a graduate of the University of Illinois. He holds an MA in Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He met his wife Hope at a Christian sports camp in Pennsylvania in 2007. They got married in 2010 and have three kids: Silas, Anna, and Grace. He is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan and loves talking about the intricacies of the golf swing. As a pastor, he loves having a front-row seat to watch how Jesus transforms people’s lives.

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