A Few Good Reads

May 26, 2016 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

Why are We Flushing Thousands of Years Down the Toilet?
David Murray addresses the confusion in our culture about gender and sexuality. He wonders why we would rush changes in our culture ignoring thousands of years of precedent and comes up with fifteen reasons why we might do so. “Until we understand the motives behind these decrees and decisions, we’ll never be able to argue successfully at the deepest level of the heart and mind. And we’ll never get to our knees and pray that the God who holds the king’s heart in His hand, just like the rivers of water, would turn it wherever He wishes (Prov. 21:1).”

Don’t Waste Your Summer
School ended for the Summer here in Shelby County yesterday, so Kevin DeYoung’s suggestions for making the most of our summer came at an appropriate time. “In a little over three months we’ll all be moaning, “Where did the summer go? I can’t believe it’s over.” So what can we do over the next hundred days or so to help alleviate that feeling of loss? Or to put it positively, what can we do to make the most of June, July, and August? Here are twenty suggestions.”

What Does the Word “Gospel” Mean in the New Testament?
Since the word “gospel” is integral to Christianity, it’s important to know what it means. R.C. Sproul shares three ways the New Testament uses this word and how this should impact our understanding of what the good news is. “The gospel is under attack in the church today. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get the gospel right and to understand both the objective aspect of the person and work of Jesus and the subjective dimension of how we benefit from that by faith alone.”

Getting to the Heart of Atonement
Speaking of the Gospel, Jesus’ death in our place for our sins stands as an essential element of the Gospel. Therefore, we must have a right understanding of Jesus’ death for us. Bill Mounce explains several words related to the atonement and how they help shape our conception of Jesus’ death. “Everything we need for God’s forgiveness, for the removal of God’s anger, and for reconciliation with God himself can be found in Jesus.”

Living in the Light: Money, Sex, and Power
Tim Keller has often said that the three greatest idols we face are money, sex, and power. In his latest book John Piper helps us keep Christ at the center of our lives so we know how to approach these in the proper way. You can read an excerpt at The Gospel Coalition. “When Christ is our supreme treasure, we are able to keep money, sex and power in their proper place, enjoying them and glorifying God with them instead of rejecting them or worshiping them.”

Missional Motherhood
Many mothers struggle with feeling like the work they do with their children doesn’t feel like it contributes to the advancement of God’s kingdom. Gloria Furman’s new book helps mothers understand how their labors further the work of the gospel. You can read an excerpt at The Gospel Coalition. “Despite the routine tasks and mundane to-do lists, motherhood is anything but insignificant. God has designed motherhood as part of his greater plan to draw people to himself—instilling all women, whether called to traditional mothering or not, with an eternal purpose in nurturing others.”

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photo credit: U Turn via photopin (license)

Often pastors and Christians use well-intentioned, but unhelpful phrases to try to convey the great truths of the Gospel. One of the worst offenders is the phrase, “God gives second chances.” Usually we hear it expressed this way, “We are all sinners and even with the best intentions, we continue to sin.  But God gives us a mulligan, a second chance to redeem ourselves.  As a matter of fact he gives us third and fourth chances.  Our God is so awesome that he gives us unlimited do-overs.”

This sounds good to us because we like to think God is good, loving, and fair according to our standards of good, loving, and fair. We remember the times our teachers let us retake the test or when they gave us an easy extra credit assignment. Men love using their mulligan on the golf course to replace a shank with a perfect drive down the middle of the fairway. And so when we hear God gives second chances like this we like it because we know he sees our best efforts to do the right thing and gives us another shot to make it right.

While this kind of language sounds great on the surface, it actually constitutes some of the worst news people could hear. “God gives second chances” conjures the picture of God saying to us, “okay, you did your best and failed, so I am going to give you another chance to prove yourself.” In what world does this sound like good news?

We don’t always pass the second test. When I use a mulligan off the tee, it’s usually to hit the ball further in the woods. In the same way, when we know what the Bible says about our sinful nature, what makes us think another chance to try our best isn’t going to put us in the position of Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill only to see it roll down again?

When we read the Bible and hear what it says about us, we realize we need something better than second, third, and fourth chances to fail again. Apart from grace, our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. Without Jesus, our best intentions and efforts are filthy rags in the sight of our holy God and leave us in our sins.

Thankfully, because of God’s overwhelming love and grace towards us, he offers us something better than a second chance.

Righteousness

When we consider what the Bible says about our sin and God’s holiness, you soon realize we have a problem bigger than needing another shot at doing our best. We aren’t doing our best. Paul says in Ephesians 2 that we were dead in our trespasses and sins. Then in Romans 3 he reminds us that there is none who is good and no one who seeks for God. We stand before God condemned because of our sins and a second chance would not make things better.
God offers us something better than a second chance. He sent his Son who would never need a mulligan. Jesus perfectly obeyed the Father in all things before offering his life for us on the cross of Calvary. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians that, “For our sake God made him to be sin who knew no sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” This means the person who trusts in Jesus receives the gift of Jesus’ perfect righteousness. We stand before the Father, not with him seeing our sins and failures, but draped in the perfect life of his Son. Why would we want to continue to fail at proving ourselves to God when he gives us a right standing before him as a gift through faith in his Son.

Forgiveness

Picturing the salvation we receive from God as a second chance leaves us with a huge problem. Our failures are still there. Sure, there may be one time we got things somewhat right in our own strength, but we leave a litany of failures and blunders behind us. What are we going to do about those? They can’t simply be erased by one good effort.

“If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Jesus, who obeyed God perfectly, gave his life for us. In his death he took our sins upon himself, receiving in his body the penalty for all our sins. Because he offered himself up as an offering to the Father for us, we receive the gift of forgiveness when we trust in Jesus. No longer do we stand before the Father draped in our failures, instead he wipes them away and holds them against us no longer. No second chances are needed because the Father does not remember the failed first chances.

Justification

We use colloquial sayings about second chances because we have lost the beauty of what God does for us when we come to Christ. “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We beg for more chances because we know we are guilty and we long for acceptance before God. Because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, being accepted by God is not only possible, but it becomes a reality. There’s no need to ask for more chances, because God effects in us an eternal salvation.

We are united with Christ when we have faith in Jesus. We belong to him, he lives in us, and we stand before the Father with the same standing as his Son. The Father doesn’t condemn us, but instead he declares us to be righteous before him. We stand before him as if we had never sinned and robed in the perfect life of his Son. We would have no hope before God if we appeared before him with our shoddy efforts, but because of Jesus we enjoy the experience of being fully right with the Father.

This entire post may seem like arguing over peccadillos, but when we describe God’s salvation wrongly we encourage people to trust in themselves rather than the grace God offers. “God gives second chances” makes us trust in our own works of righteousness and will lead to self-deception that causes people to miss the Kingdom. Abandoning our own good works to trust in Christ alone who gave himself for us leads to salvation which brings glory to the Father. Since what God produces in us through his Gospel is infinitely better than our efforts at self-redemption, let’s run from encouraging people to try harder and point them towards the glorious offer of grace in Christ Jesus.

Related Posts:
Ordinary People and an Extraordinary God

For Further Reading:
The Cross of Christ by John Stott

Knowing God by J.I. Packer

 

A Few Good Reads

May 19, 2016 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

7 Ways Parents Unfairly Provoke Our Children
As parents we tend to spend much time thinking about the ways our children disobey us and how we need to correct their behavior. Unfortunately we don’t spend as much time thinking about our own interactions with our children and how we need to grow as parents. Tim Challies shares seven ways we disobey God’s command to not provoke our children to anger. “Every parent needs to discover it as well. Parental pride manifests itself in a hundred different ways, but perhaps never more clearly than in an unwillingness to seek our children’s forgiveness.”

Making Introductions: The FAQs
Many Art of Manliness posts remind us of manners with either didn’t learn or have forgotten. We need to recover the lost art of manners in our day and here they share an excerpt from an old book on how to make introductions. Since Christians are concerned with loving our neighbors, this will help us to love them well and help them make connections with other people. “Your responsibility doesn’t end with introductions. It’s up to you to fill the awkward pause that may follow the how-do-you-do’s. Don’t direct your remarks to one person. Swing the conversation into some channel where all of you can navigate equally well.”

8 Reasons to Preach Through Books of the Bible
I have been a firm advocate of preaching through books of the Bible for almost two decades now. Jared Wilson shares eight reasons why this is a great practice for pastors and churches. This much needed word should be heard by all. “Contrary to what some have said, expository preaching through books of the Bible has biblical precedent. The two most notable examples can be found in Nehemiah 8, where Ezra preaches through the book of the Law, “giving the sense” (v.8) as he goes, and of course in Luke 24, where “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (v.27).”

The Legacy of Ordinary Life on Mission in the Early Church
Tim Brister embodies how to live as a Christian in a neighborhood as well as anyone I know. He has made living on mission in the everyday the focus of his site lately and his latest post on how the early church did this as well is worth your consideration. “The way God will reach our world may be through a Peter or Paul. But it also may be through “those who were scattered” that went about their lives making much of Jesus and sowing that gospel seed day in and day out.”

Seeing Christ in All of Scripture
This small work looks like it will pack a big punch. Edited by Peter Lillback, this series of essays from professors at Westerminster Theological Seminary shows how the entire Bible points to Jesus. They write from perspectives across multiple theological disciplines, but they all share the same end- to preach Christ. “Interpreting the Bible can be a challenge. Seeing Christ in All of Scripture is designed to help people understand the beautiful, Christ-centered structure of the Bible. This concise compilation of essays provides a unique and practical tool for personal or group Bible study.”

If you grew up in the United States you have spent your entire life hearing that we are on a progressive march towards a society that is more caring, prosperous, intelligent, and healthy than the societies that preceded it. We mock ideas by appealing to what year it is and marveling that people still hold to what we see as outmoded notions in our wise, sophisticated, and tolerant culture.

Any survey of life in our culture in the year 2016 should dispel what C.S. Lewis called our “chronological snobbery” within a few seconds. The leading contenders for President in each of the major parties has an unfavorable rating with the majority of Americans and I cannot recall a time when I heard the phrase, “the lesser of two evils” more often. Our culture sees increasing division as neighbors and fellow-citizens view each other with increasing suspicion and demonstrate no capacity to disagree in a civil manner. Our college campuses have been taken hostage by students who believe they should never encounter an uncomfortable opinion, one particular Presidential candidacy has brought an ugly nativism to the surface for all to see, and the segment of our society who has been begging for tolerance for the last thirty years now seeks to crush every opponent in its path. 2016 is either playing a cruel joke on us or trying desperately to prove that total depravity is real.

Peruse the website of any major news organization, watch a cable news network for fifteen minutes, scroll through your social media feeds, or dive into the cesspool of an internet comment section and you will quickly realize we are not a society marked by anything that could be called wisdom. Ours is not a march towards progress, but a constant regress into foolishness, pride, strife, immorality, debt, and destruction.

We are a people who stand in desperate need for the kind of wisdom to which the book of Proverbs points. Solomon wrote the majority of Proverbs to instruct his son in the need for wisdom and wise living. The first nine chapters constitute his call to reject folly and pursue wisdom. Like any good teacher, he doesn’t tell his son to make wise choices without showing him the beauty of wisdom or to avoid folly without showing the its dangers. He pictures life as two paths leading to distinct destinations and pleads with his son to choose the correct path or face the terrible danger to come.

Chapter 10 begins the short pithy words of wisdom we associate with Proverbs. These memorable sentences, many formed with antithetical parallels, teach give us practical wisdom concerning integrity, justice, righteousness, money, marriage, parenting, work, and speech. Through these a foolish person can learn to walk in wisdom.

When we look at our world and the foolishness marking so many of our lives, we see why American Christians need the centuries-old godly wisdom Proverbs provides.

We Have Foolish Hearts

When we look at the brokenness and foolishness that marks our own lives, we might face the temptation to point our fingers in blame at the world in which we live. However, every Christian needs to admit that the most foolish person we know stares back at us in the mirror every morning. Our lives are often marred by profound foolishness, and admitting this obvious fact clears a trail for us to begin walking toward the path of wisdom.

Solomon tells his son to “keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the issues of life.” The hearts serves as the center of our thinking, feeling, living, and being. The inclination of the heart determines who we are and what we do. Foolish decisions come from a heart marked by foolishness, and so we need to hear the call from Proverbs to seek the wisdom of God.

Every bit of foolishness revealed from our study of Proverbs reminds us of our need for the ultimate embodiment of the wisdom of God, Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 1:24 Paul refers to Christ as “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” When we repent and trust in Christ, we exchange our unrighteousness for his righteousness and our foolishness for his wisdom. Let this remind you that when you see areas of foolishness in your life regarding money, work, or your speech, it should move you to seek Christ who is our wisdom and righteousness.

We Live in A Foolish World

If the foolishness issuing from our own hearts were not a big enough problem, we live in a world which tempts us with constant foolishness. Our world tells us we have come a long way and we know more than any society that has ever existed, but do not let this trick you into thinking we are a wise people. Knowing how to use a touchscreen phone does not make us people who know how to handle life with godly wisdom. In fact, our culture’s proclamations of its superiority constitute its first act of foolishness. Pride comes before the fall, and we never act more foolishly than when we convince ourselves that we are wise.

Synthesize what Proverbs teaches on any subject and we quickly discover our culture’s “wisdom” runs contrary to God’s wisdom. As one of many possible examples, look at Proverbs’ teaching on money versus the world’s view of money. Proverbs connects money to hard work and counsels us to be on guard against the temptation to build up riches quickly. Our culture increasingly rejects hard work while falling for get rich quick schemes time and time again. Solomon encourages his son to save money for possible future calamities and eschew personal debt, while our culture encourages reckless spending and the accumulation of debt.

The wisdom of God through Solomon proves itself to be better than the pseudo-wisdom of our present world. The heart is warmed by a job well done and slowly accumulating a nest egg over time proves itself to be more safe and sure than hastily gained riches. Reckless spending produces a short burst of satisfaction but creates long term anxiety. The accumulation of debt may give us what we want in the moment, but over time demonstrates the reality of the Proverb, “the borrower is slave to the lender.” The world’s wisdom sounds good in the moment, but it leads to misery and destruction.

We Need Practical, Godly Wisdom

As I approach my 39th birthday this Summer, I look back and often feel like Seinfeld’s George Constanza in the episode “The Opposite.” After sitting on a bench and contemplating his life he said, “It became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I’ve ever made, in my entire life, has been wrong. My life is the opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every of life, be it something to wear, something to eat … It’s all been wrong.”

I look back on my life and see a litany of foolish decisions and words, wondering if I am doomed to repeat them in the second half of my life. Thankfully God is gracious, and the grace he offers in Christ doesn’t only forgive us for the past. God fills believers with his Spirit and has given us his word to show us what it looks like to walk faithfully before him for the rest of our days.

Every Christian would benefit greatly from a consistent exposure to the wisdom of God revealed in the book of Proverbs. One great suggestion many have made is to read the chapter of Proverbs which corresponds to each day of the month. (Read chapter one on the 1st, chapter 15 on the 15th, and so on.) Following this plan, if you double up on the last day of months without thirty-one days, would take you through Proverbs twelve times per year.

This seems like a lot when reading the entire Bible once a year feels so difficult, but isn’t the five minutes a day you spend drinking in the wisdom of God worth it? When you think about how much so-called wisdom the world will throw at you in a day, isn’t five minutes of soaking in real wisdom a relatively small investment?  Do this reading instead of scrolling through Facebook during the five minute wait before your next appointment or while waiting in line to pick your child up from school.

Drinking in the wisdom of God makes us humble people who walk trust and depend on him. Guarding our hearts with all diligence prevents us from falling prey to the foolishness of the world. Walking in God’s simple wisdom leads to a life filled with much joy and freed from the scars of repeated self-inflicted wounds.

Related Posts:
Teaching Proverbs to Your Children

For Further Reading:
A Proverbs Drive Life by Anthony Selvaggio

Some sins feel like they stick around for decades. This is especially true for those who deal with a quick temper and outbursts of anger. You see one or both parents struggle with it, you struggle with it, and it seems like a family trait you just have to endure for the rest of your life. Unfortunately the progress seems so slow in fighting it that you face the temptation to give up and say it’s just the way you are.

An uncontrolled temper can do untold damage to yourself and the people around you. When we you lose your temper you say harsh things and act in irresponsible ways. In Proverbs Solomon speaks often about chaos you cause when we fly off the handle.

“A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.”  Proverbs 11:17

“A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated.” Proverbs 14:17

“Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” Proverbs 14:29

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”

“It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.” Proverbs 20:3

Because the Scriptures speak of anger as a sin which causes harm to the people around you, those who wrestle with a quick temper cannot write it off as something they cannot control. Instead you must learn how to control ourselves and put your hot tempers to death.

What can you do to grow in controlling your temper and making progress in self-control?

Repent and Seek Grace

The Scriptures demonstrate with great clarity the sinful foolishness of temper tantrums and losing your cool. Therefore, you must repent when you sin through outbursts of anger. Confess your sin and foolishness to the Lord, asking him to forgive you through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then you must walk in repentance, running from anger and fighting against it with all your Spirit-empowered might.

Using the vocabulary of sin and repentance is necessary when dealing with anger. When we treat you anger as a sin and not just a personality quirk, you begin to take our responsibility to act seriously.

Read the Proverbs

When you think pet sins have been licked is when they come back at you full bore. This is why constant immersion in the Scriptures, and particularly the book of Proverbs is essential. Solomon spoke often to his son about the foolishness of losing his temper, so reading one chapter of Proverbs everyday will serve as a constant reminder of the folly of our anger and the wisdom of learning self-control.

Pray

Anything God calls Christians to do he will empower us to do through his Spirit. You don’t need to only confess our anger, but  to ask the Lord to empower you to exercise self-control and flee the sin of anger. He comes to our aid when we are tempted, so look to him for the help he gives.

Also, when you pray and the Lord delivers you, you know we cannot give credit to the strength of your own will. Prayer acknowledges your need God’s help and when he comes to your aid you know to give him the glory for your deliverance.

Think

In order to fight anger you need to have a better understanding of the workings of your own heart. What is going on mentally before blowing a gasket? Is there a recited laundry list of grievances you are going through or is there a constant irritant which causes the pressure to build up? Know these things, and have a strategy for dealing with them when they come up. When the situation arises and the anger begins to boil, pray and walk away.

Exercise

If losing temper tantrums often comes as a result of stress, then there are practical steps we can take to address this. If stress mounts up it will blow in one way or another, and anger is a terrible way to blow off stress. Take some time to exercise everyday as a way to work off stress in an acceptable manner. Also over time this will help you feel better in general and goes a long way towards helping to fight off anger.

Sleep

How often do you blow your top and blame it on being tired? The fix for this problem is simple- you need more sleep. You might retort you struggle to sleep, but a fight can be waged against this problem as well. Cut out caffeine after 4:00PM, turn off screens 30 minutes before bed, and exercise during the day so you are more tired at night. Getting plenty of sleep gives you greater self-control.

Get Accountability

I hesitate to mention accountability because it can so often be misused or become a crutch. You must understand first of all that you are accountable to God for your attitudes, thoughts, words, and deeds. After understanding your accountability before God, it is good to seek out other Christians to help in the journey. They can ask pointed questions, correct you when necessary, and encourage you to continue on in the good fight.

What are some other steps you can take in the battle with your temper?

Related Post:
When You Lose Your Temper with Your Children

For Further Reading:
Overcoming Sin and Temptation edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor

I won’t be preaching this Mother’s Day. Our family is on vacation and one of our elders will be preaching for our church family.

As a pastor I struggle with what to do for Mother’s Day. The day can be associated with a lot of pain for those struggling with infertility, miscarriage, the death of a mother, or relational estrangement from a mother. Do I really want to have people come to worship to hear the good news and reopen all of their wounds because of a Hallmark holiday?

At the same time, motherhood is a high calling of which the Bible speaks in glowing terms. While the day might not be part of what we would call the church calendar, this cultural celebration offers great opportunities to celebrate the gift of motherhood and look at the biblical injunctions to mothers.

So, if I were preaching this Sunday, this would be the heart of my sermon.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

The Danger Mothers Face

Mothers face endless sources of needless guilt. The greatest sense of guilt you face comes from within yourself as you never feel like you measure up to what it means to be a good mother. There is always something else you feel like you should do, or you cannot stop thinking about that mistake you made.

Our culture doesn’t make things easier on mothers either. You are neglecting your children if you work and lazy if you stay home with your children. You are poisoning them if you fix them processed food and turning them into morons if you let them watch television while you fight the mountain of laundry. You are putting your children in danger if you let them play unattended and smothering them if you keep a watchful eye out. (I could keep going.)

The pressure on mothers begins early and never lets up. At every turn there is a cadre of experts telling you what you should be doing to have a healthy and successful child. If you don’t have them trained to sleep by two months old and meeting developmental milestones at every doctors’ appointment you feel like a failure. You must put together magical and memorable themed birthday parties and enroll them in every possible activity so they can find their passion. Oh, and don’t forget to read to them hours a day so they can develop their vocabulary and imagination.

The cacophony of voices would not be so bad if moms didn’t buy into what they were selling so often. Apart from the Gospel, every person has a desire for self-justification and this takes many forms in our lives. For moms, the temptation is to find your identity and sense of righteousness in being a good mother.

Falling for this temptation leads to two terrible consequences. Either you will feel like you have succeeded and become puffed up with pride so that you look down on everyone else around you or you will believe you have failed and will fall into despair and self-loathing. In addition, when you look to your parenting for self-justification, you put burdens on yourself and on your children that neither of you can bear or were meant to bear.

The Good News Mothers Need to Hear

This brings us to the words of our text. The Pharisees loaded people down with unreasonable expectations leading them to pride or despair. More often though the people were weighed down with despair.

Jesus invites people to come to him. To come to Jesus means to embrace him by faith and to rest in the work he accomplishes for us in his life, death, and resurrection. Through simple faith in Jesus, every one of our sins is atoned for and we stand before God draped in Jesus’ perfect righteousness.

We have no more need for self-justification when we look to Jesus. He invites those weighed down with unreasonable guilt and expectations to come to him, lay down our futile efforts, and rest in his finished work for us.

Jesus’s words serve to remind us that he is a compassionate Savior. He came to earth and experienced every one of our weaknesses and temptations. He knows what it is like to be tired, overwhelmed, and discouraged. He comes to our aid as we face these temptations. The tired and weary soul can come to him and receive grace to help in our time of need.

Jesus also promises to give a different burden when we come to him. No longer does the person who comes to Jesus carry the heavy burden of self-justification. Instead they get to carry Jesus’ burden which is easy and light. The Christian labors, not under the pain of unbearable burdens, but in the great freedom Jesus provides.

This is incredible news for Christian moms. You can carry out the responsibility Jesus has given you, to raise your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, with freedom instead of drudgery. When you are tired, overwhelmed, and confused, you can come to Jesus and he will give you his peace and his help. When you feel insufficient for the task, you can remember God gave you his Holy Spirit to empower you to do everything God has called you to do.

Tired mom, come to Jesus and find rest. Overwhelmed mom, come to Jesus and find peace. Guilt-laden mom, come to Jesus and find forgiveness. Proud and judgmental mom, come to Jesus and find humility and compassion. Whatever your discouragements, whatever your temptations, whatever your fears, come to Jesus and find the help you so desperately need.

Related Posts:
The Joy and Pain of Consistent Parenting

For Further Reading:
Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman

photo credit: bangkok via photopin (license)

photo credit: bangkok via photopin (license)

In our continually disconnected culture, we stand an increased chance of not knowing the people who live and work around us. Often when we do meet someone for the first time, we are so distracted that we can struggle to remember his name five minutes later. Then when we see the person three weeks or a month later we spend the entire conversation trying to remember who he is.

For followers of Jesus we want to love our neighbors as ourselves, and this begins with learning their name when you meet them. Therefore, we want to give attention to learning the names of people we meet as an extension of our living on Jesus’ mission in this world.

Here are three steps you can take if you struggle to remember the names of people you meet.

Say His Name

We have all had the experience of meeting someone, talking to them for two minutes, and not knowing their name when they walk away. When you meet someone for the first time, try to use their name three times when you are talking to them.

Don’t do this in an awkward way by saying “Nice to meet you Steve, Steve, Steve.” Instead make using their name as part of the natural conversation. “Nice to meet you, Steve.” “Steve, what kind of work do you do?” Have you lived here in the area long, Steve?”

By using a person’s name you are engaging more of your senses and mental faculties. If you hear their name but don’t say, you are less likely to remember it. By saying their name multiple times, and working to remember it in the first casual conversation you have a greater chance of remembering it in the future.

Write His Name

You meet a person and have a good conversation with him. You don’t see the person for three or four weeks and run into them in the grocery store. Then the dialogue begins in your head, “oh I met this guy a while back. What was his name again? We had a mutual friend and I cannot remember who it is.” This creates an awkward conversation, but there is a step you can take ahead of time to head this off.

When you meet someone new and believe you will see them around again, write down their name. You can do this with a Moleskine Journal, Field Notes, or in an Evernote file, but write it down. Write down the date, their name, and where you met. Also write down anything you remember about them or the conversation you had. Did they tell you where they grew up, what they do for a living, how many children they have or any mutual friends you may have?

Writing down the people you meet gives you another way of remembering. This causes you to engage more senses and and utilize more brainpower, plus it provides you with even more repetition. Also, writing down their name gives you an avenue for remembering their name that does not depend on your memory alone. If we do this for to do lists and grocery lists, then shouldn’t we do it for people as well?

Review His Name

As with anything in life, we learn things most clearly with repetition. This can be especially true of remembering the name of people you meet. If knowing and remember the people we meet matters, we will give ourselves over to this as well.

Once a week take some time and go through the list of people you recently met. Read through the list and try to picture the people and remember the conversations. Pray for any needs you the person may have mentioned and ask the Lord to give you more opportunities with them in the future.

This may seem like a lot to go through, but when you see someone you have only met a couple of times and call them by their name it makes an impression. It tells them they matter and that you took note of them. In the grand scheme of things it seems like such a small thing, but it can be a powerful way to love your neighbor.

Related Posts:
Recovering the Family Dinner Table

For Further Reading:
The Vanishing Neighbor by Mark Dunkelman

The Art of Neighboring by Dave Runyon and Jay Pathak

A Few Good Reads

April 28, 2016 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

9 Things You Should Know about Harriet Tubman
With the announcement that Harriet Tubman would grace the front of the $20 bill, Joe Carter tells us nine things we need to know about her. Some of these facts bring her sacrificial heroism into greater focus. “Throughout her life Tubman remained either in poverty or on the verge of destitution. She managed to scrape by on her labor, her husband’s pension, and donations from admirers.”

How Do You Explain the Trinity to Children?
Parents typically wrestle with explaining theological concepts to children and few basic Christians doctrines can be more difficult  to explain than the Trinity. Russell Moore offers wisdom on explaining this important truth to our children. “God is one God, and God is three persons in an everlasting relationship with one another, a relationship into which we are invited. That’s not contradictory. God is not one in the same way he is three, or vice-versa. But who can reduce this to some sort of formula or easy analogy?”

Moms, Your Secret Sacrifices Matter

We have four children ten and under, and the last two were born less than two years apart. This post struck a chord with me because I see the sacrifices my wife Beth makes every day. This post reminds moms that their work matters to the Lord and is filled with potential to bring great glory to him. “This is why our humdrum, ordinary, simple days are important: Because we believe they are important to him. In every moment, he is with us. He is in us. He hears us. He sees us. He is, in our days at home as anywhere else, working out his purposes in a thousand ways we cannot see and like and comment on in this life. “

Success is Dangerous
Jared Wilson reminds us of the temptations which accompany what many would refer to as “ministry success.” Something about working through difficult times in ministry make us focus on walking more deeply with Jesus while seeing successes might tempt us to trust in ourselves. “We all prefer success to failure but, really, success is more dangerous. In failure, we know we rely totally on God’s approval and sustaining arm. In success, it is easy to begin looking around, surveying all the territories claimed, all the peoples gathered, all the ministry renown redounding, and we think, ‘Well, lookee here. Look what has been built with my talents, my gifts, my skills, my strategies, my visions, my sweat, my sacrifice.’”

The Whole Christ
I’m hoping to start this new work from Sinclair Ferguson soon as the reviews have been stellar. Combining systematic and historical theology, he helps us understand how to avoid both legalism and license by growing in our love for Christ. “Ferguson shows us that the antidote to the poison of legalism on the one hand and antinomianism on the other is one and the same: the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ, in whom we are simultaneously justified by faith, freed for good works, and assured of salvation.”

Our four children have been a constant source of joy, exhaustion, difficulty, laughter, and many other emotions I cannot list. Our oldest daughter will be eleven this year, our second daughter celebrates her eighth birthday Friday, our youngest daughter turned three a few weeks ago and my is fourteen months old. People see our family and say, “your hands are full.” They are, so is my lap when we read. My heart is also full, and because of our children my knees are calloused and my hair is turning grey.

Below is a list of scattered thoughts on parenting and being a parent. Some come from hard lessons I have learned along the way. Others come from watching other good parents so I can learn from them and I gleaned the most from listening to my amazing wife as she has helped me while we walked through journey together.

1. Parenting is difficult, but it also brings much joy. Persevere when times are hard and enjoy the good times when they come.

2. Men, if you are with your children while your wife is away from home you are not babysitting, you are parenting.

3. Don’t count to three, you’re just giving them a few more seconds to disobey.

4. Every stage of parenting is difficult and at every stage you will be greeted by overwhelming grace.

5. Don’t think family devotion has to be the length of your church’s worship service. Read, sing, and pray. Never underestimate the impact consistently doing these small things will make. Nothing good can happen when you discipline out of anger.

6. Write this over all your parenting, “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

7. Do not ignore your spouse once you have children. Continue to cultivate your marriage. This doesn’t just mean date nights either. Look for the opportunity to spend consistent quality time.

8. Disciplining your children is difficult, but dealing with what happens when you don’t discipline is worse.

9. Start teaching your kids the Bible when they are young. They will drink in more than you think.

10. Sing with your kids everyday.

11. Teach your kids about their family tree, especially by telling stories. It’s good for them to know who and what came before them.

12. Go for walks together as a family, and in the woods when possible. There’s something wonderful about being outside together away from technology.

13. Encourage your kids to serve in the church. They need to learn how to work for something bigger than themselves.

14. If you have multiple children, don’t shame the overwhelmed parent with just one child. You were overwhelmed when you were in their place.

15. Give your spouse lots of grace. Give your kids lots of grace, and allow yourself to experience grace.

16. Teach your children how to carry on a conversation with adults.

17. Yes ma’am. No ma’am. Yes sir. No sir. Your kids need to know how to respect adults and people in authority.

18. When your child trusts in Christ your job as a parent is not done. They need to be taught how to follow Jesus, and you can’t farm this responsibility out to other people.

19. I cannot think of any circumstances under which you should criticize your spouse to your children.

20. Establish an allowance as soon as your kids are old enough to understand so they associate earning money with work.

21. I only remember two birthday parties from my first ten years of life. Keep them simple and have a great time.

22. Eat dinner together as a family often. This gives you the opportunity to talk, laugh, and tell stories.

23. Make your kids go to bed early so you can spend time with your spouse.

24. If you sin against your children ask them to forgive you.

25. Teach your children to admit when they are wrong and to forgive when they are wronged.

26. What will it profit if your child earns a scholarship but you forfeited their soul?

27. I’m not exactly sure of the best way to say this- stop freaking out about your kids so much.

28. Read The Chronicles of Narnia with your kids when they were young. The reaction my kids had when Aslan came back to life and Mr. Tumnus was no longer a statue is one of my favorite parenting moments.

29. Teach your kids to bring their hard questions to you and do your best to answer them. They’ll learn to trust your wisdom as they get older.

30. Do not push your child to be baptized before they are ready. Make sure they understand their need for a Savior and that that Jesus is their only hope.

31. Your kids don’t need to specialize in a sport when they are five. Let them play around with lots of different activities and discover what they like on their own.

32. Make sure that you and your spouse are on the same team when it comes to disciplining your children. Talk about your childrearing disagreements behind closed doors and then back each other up.

33. If your child starts a sport or activity, they don’t have to do it again but they must finish out the season or the year. This will help them learn perseverance.

34. When you have little kids do not get obsessed with them reaching milestones by a certain point. As long as they are healthy and growing they will do everything they are supposed to do eventually. Every child progresses at different rates.

35. The Bible teaches us to love, teach, correct, and discipline our children. Outside of that it does not have much to say, so we should hold the strong convictions which we use to look down on other parents loosely.

36. Even if you were to do a perfect job of parenting it would still take God’s grace to make it effective in the life of your child, so pray for them often.

37. Read to your kids as often as possible. What else can you do which provides great time together, expands their vocabulary, teaches them about life, and enlivens their imaginations?

38. Whatever is going on right now on social media is not nearly as important as your children.

39. If you asked me to hand my child a smart phone or a loaded gun, I would have a hard time deciding which one was most dangerous. With either of them I would teach them how to use it wisely and the dangers associated with misuse.

40. Let them jump in the mud puddle every once in a while. In a few years they will avoid them on purpose.

41. Your kids will not announce, “this is the last time I’m going to climb into bed with you on Saturday morning.” Enjoy the times of laughing and snuggling while you can.

42. Teach your kids that Mom and Dad need time together for their sake. Help them understand their lives will be better when Mom and Dad have a strong, happy relationship.

43. You can do chores and tasks around the house fast and correct without your kids or slow and incorrect with your kids. Many times the slow and incorrect way will be more fun.

44. Halfway paying attention to your kids while they are trying to talk to you will only frustrate you both. Either give them your full attention now or tell them to let you finish what you are doing and you will hear everything they have to say then.

45. Your kids will not take you seriously if you make empty threats when they disobey. Do not make outrageous claims like, “I’ll never let you watch TV again” when you know you aren’t going to follow through. Exercise self-control and only promise discipline you know you will do.

46. Teach your kids how to behave around a dinner table so your experience of eating with them in public will not be the most miserable experience of your life.

47. Make sure your kids know your love for them is never contingent upon their performance.

48. When my father-in-law preached his father’s funeral he said, “when Dad got home from work, that’s when the fun started.” This has always seemed like a great rule of thumb.

49. Make sure your children know it is always better to tell the truth and face the consequences than to lie. The best way to build this into them is for the discipline to always be more stiff if they lie.

50. Do not feel guilty if you need to let your child watch TV so you can get some rest. Parenting with your tank empty will almost always lead to a breakdown.

51. Some of the best parenting advice I have ever heard is to remember your child is your neighbor too. Everything the Bible says about how we are to treat our neighbors applies to how we treat our children.

52. Pray for your children’s salvation in their hearing. Let them know that one of your heart’s greatest desires is for them to know Jesus.

53. Never, under any circumstances, belittle your children or call them names. If you are so angry you think you will say hurtful things to them, walk away and talk to them after you have calmed down. You may forget the things you say in anger because now you feel better but your children will not forget.

54. Fathers, you will wake up, go to work, come home to play with your kids, spend time with your wife, and your day will be over. This is what it means to be a man, so learn to embrace it. Please dispense with the idea that you need a day a week for your hobbies and two nights a week to watch sports. You will not remember the game in a couple of weeks, but what you do with your wife and kids will last past your lifetime.

55. At the same time, you do need time with other adults for fun, encouragement, and recharging. Don’t feel guilty about doing this, but also don’t let it be an excuse for neglecting your family.

56. If you do not feel sufficient for the task of parenting, that is good. You can only parent effectively by the grace of God, so trust in him and pray for his strength.

57. Always point your children to Jesus as the source of their hope, joy, and salvation. Look for every opportunity, as you sit down and as you walk along through life, to proclaim to them the good news of his death, burial, and resurrection. Labor to help them understand their hope is not in being a good kid, but can only be found through faith in Jesus who loves them.

There was no way this list could be exhaustive, so what did I miss?

Related Posts:
The Joy and Pain of Consistent Parenting

To the Parents of Young Children

For Further Reading:
Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

A Few Good Reads

April 20, 2016 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

25 Simple Ways to Be Missional in Your Neighborhood
Living as an effective Christian witness becomes more difficult when you consider the isolation most Americans have from their physical neighbors. Josh Reeves gives us some solid advice for getting to know our neighbors and engaging them with the Gospel. “Below is a list of my top 25. Not all of these are for everyone, but hopefully there will be several ideas on the list that God uses to help you engage your neighbors.”

9 Reasons to Prioritize Personal Discpleship
Too often we neglect the important work of one on one discipleship. Matt Rogers offers a helpful corrective and gives nine reasons why we should make this a priority. “Over the years, the gap between the mission of disciple-making and the actual practice of most Christians grew wider and wider. Many knew they should be making disciples and wanted to do so, but they simply didn’t know how.”

A Simple Cure for Restlessness
Everyone knows the restlessness that comes from not getting the work done we need to get done. Brett McKay has a great suggestion- work when you are working and play when you are playing. “Restlessness occurs when we mix play with our work, and work with our play. A failure to keep these pursuits separate robs us of enjoyment and pleasure in our play, and of effectiveness and satisfaction in our work.”

Discipleship
Mark Dever’s work on Discipleship in the “Building Healthy Churches” series provides a rationale for discipleship with an practical program to pursue. This is an important work for any serious Christian to read. “Before ascending to heaven, Jesus instructed his followers to ‘make disciples of all nations.’ But what does this command actually entail? What does it look like for Christians to care for one another’s spiritual well-being and growth? In this introduction to the basics of discipling, Dever uses biblical definitions and practical examples to show how Christians can help one another become more like Christ every day.”