Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka. Photo taken by the ACLU of Alabama.

Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka. Photo taken by the ACLU of Alabama.

In three weeks Southern Baptists from all over Alabama will gather at Lakeside Baptist Church for the Annual Meeting of the Alabama Baptist Convention. We will celebrate what God has done among us in the last year, hear of plans for the future, and elect officers to lead us for the next year. Each year the State Convention passes resolutions. These non-binding statements express the concerns and opinions of Alabama Baptists on important events in our churches and culture.

This year I wrote two resolutions and submitted them to the Resolutions Committee. The men and women who make up the committee will review them and choose to present them to the convention as written, present them with modifications, or choose not to present them at all.

The first resolution addresses the issue of prison reform in Alabama. I wrote about the issue of prisoner abuse in our state correctional facilities a few months ago and am encouraged at the creation of the Alabama Prison Reform Task Force. This resolution calls on churches to proactively minister to at-risk teens and discover what they can do to minister in our prisons. It also addresses our elected officials and asks them to take action to end the abuse in our prisons.

Resolution on Prison Reform in Alabama

WHEREAS all men and women are made in the image of God and should be treated with dignity and respect (Gen. 1:26-27); and

WHEREAS Scripture teaches that Jesus came into the world to save even those who would be thought of as the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15);

WHEREAS Jesus reminds us that how we have treated the least among us, including those in prison, reflects our attitude toward him (Matt. 25:31-46); and

WHEREAS Alabama’s prisons have twenty-seven thousand inmates in facilities that were designed to hold thirteen thousand inmates; and

WHEREAS thirty-five percent of inmates re-offend within three years of parole; and

WHEREAS the physical and sexual abuse of prisoners in Alabama has been a documented and ongoing problem; and

WHEREAS the Alabama Legislature created the Alabama Prison Reform Task Force to address these issues and bring recommendations in 2015; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the messengers to the Alabama Baptist Convention meeting at Lakeside Baptist Church on November 11th and 12th, 2014 call upon the Governor, Attorney General, and Alabama Legislature to take action to end all abuse in Alabama prisons immediately; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we commit to pray for the work of the Alabama Prison Reform Task Force; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we commend those churches who are currently active in prison ministry; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we encourage these churches to make ministry opportunities in our state prisons known to other churches so they may be involved as well; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we encourage churches to develop ministries to at risk teenagers in their communities, sharing with them the love of Christ and teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we ask the Christian Life Commission and the Alabama Baptist to keep Alabama Baptists informed about these problems and prison reform efforts; and be it finally

RESOLVED that we send a copy of this resolution to the Governor, Attorney General, President Protem of the Senate, and Speaker of the House.

A Few Good Reads

October 10, 2014 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Husbands, Hold Your Wife’s Hand
R.C. Sproul Jr. shares the most important lesson he learned through his wife’s illness and death. “It is both awkward and encouraging the feedback I have received over the past few years for the writing I have done during my beloved’s illness, homegoing, and absence. I especially rejoice when I hear that the things I have written have served another in a time of hardship. It remains my intention to use what I have written in a book in the future. That said, I still believe that the most vulnerable, most insightful, most helpful thing I wrote all along this journey was this brief tweet: That is likely my deepest regret, that I did not hold her hand more.”

What We Won’t Regret
After reading R.C. Sproul’s post, Kevin DeYoung wrote a great list of other things we won’t regret. “We won’t regret playing hide and seek with our children. We won’t regret turning off the t.v. and putting the phone away.”

Men and Porn: An Introduction
Men and Porn: Why is the Pull So Strong?
The Possible Pitfalls of Porn
How to Quit Porn
The Art of Manliness is one of my favorite sites and this week they wrote a series of posts on men and pornography. While Brett McKay identifies himself as a Christian, most of what he shares comes from a biological, psychological, and sociological perspective. He explains why men are attracted to porn and why it is so destructive, along with extensive advice for quitting porn. While not agreeing with all of his conclusions, you will find this to be a helpful set of posts. (Side note: if you find yourself agreeing with everything that one person writes, you likely aren’t thinking deeply about what they are saying. Since this is true, I don’t know why we always feel the need to preface things with “I don’t agree with everything he says.”)

The Art of Manliness by Brett and Kate McKay
Speaking of The Art of Manliness, their book provides a helpful collection of advice for men. They talk about manner, dress, and all types of “manly skills.”

The Dude’s Guide to Manhood by Darrin Patrick
Most of the links today have been aimed at men. I try to read as much as I can on manhood and this is the best on I have read in the last year. Darrin walks through what it looks like for a man to love Jesus, his, wife, and his kids. He also shows how a man can produce instead of merely consuming and how he can live on mission through his local church.

 

photo credit: smilla4 via photopin cc

photo credit: smilla4 via photopin cc

Several studies over the last few years examined the habits of families at dinnertime. While more families are having dinner together five nights a week than they were fifteen years ago, a concerning percentage of families still don’t gather around the table for dinner on a regular basis. No one needs to spend much time thinking about why this might be the case. Practices, long commutes, the easy availability of fast food, and homework war against this simple, yet effective family practice.

In our lives we tend to ignore important things to focus on urgent things. Practice, homework, and squeezing in an extra thirty minutes at work feel urgent. It seems as if these things must be done and they must be done now. Taking the time to share a meal together does not invoke the kind of urgency other tasks do, but its importance cannot be overstated. Here are three basic reasons that we need to recover the family dinner table.

A Time to Talk and Laugh
If you asked me to name the first image that came to my mind from my childhood, it would be sitting around the table with my family. At the family table we laughed, we told stories, and we learned about life. We pray our daughters will have the same memories from the family dinner table. Typically we try to get our girls talking about the things they have been doing and are interested in. At every family dinner we end up having a discussion about something from my or my wife’s childhood. When the conversation lulls, one of my favorite things to do is to make up a story about something I dreamed the night before. I never know where the story is going when I get started, but by the end we are all laughing. This time of connecting has been invaluable for our family as we get the chance to make sure we aren’t missing time with each other in the midst of our sometimes hectic schedule.

A Time to Eat Healthy and Develop Good Habits
One of the few alternatives to the family dinner table is eating out at a restaurant or getting fast food and eating in the car. There are times this becomes necessary, but we need to work to make those times fewer.  A post on CNN shared a study which found that children who ate at home with their families were more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables and less fried foods and soda. While it is difficult to find healthy options eating out, eating at home can ensure your family eats healthier. Also children learn how to help pitch in during family dinner. They learn responsibility through helping to set the table and clean up for themselves after dinner.

A Time for Family Bible Reading and Prayer
One of the greatest challenges to family devotion can be finding a time to get everyone settled down. Family dinner provides a built in time for family devotion. Family devotion does not have to be the length of your local church’s worship gathering. It should just be a simple time of Bible reading, prayer, and singing. If your children are small, I recommend the Big Picture Story Bible or Jesus Storybook Bible. As your children get older you can transition into using your preferred Bible translation. Currently our family reads a portion of the Gospel of Luke and we discuss it together. This time rarely lasts longer than ten minutes since we have an eighteen month-old. When you sing together, choose songs that are age appropriate. In fact many hymns are easily singable for children. Our children picked up “Jesus Loves Me,” “Come Thou Fount,” and “Be Thou My Vision” when they were pretty young. For our youngest, she loves the song, “My God is So Big.” Prayer time should focus on specific family needs, praying for friends, praying for opportunities to love your neighbors and praying for your children.

Family dinner time does not offer a panacea for all possible families problems, but it can significantly affect your family’s relationships.

Related Posts:
Nine Lessons from Nine Years of Parenting
How to Do Family Worship

For Further Reading:
A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home by Jason Helopoulos

A Few Good Reads

October 2, 2014 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio from the Desiring God National Conference
The plenary sessions from this year’s Desiring God National Conference focused on Romans 8. I’ve heard great reviews of these messages and can’t wait to listen to them and several of the breakout sessions.

Internet Trolls are Narcissists, Psychopaths, and Sadists
This Summer I experienced the world of internet trolls for the first time in a while when I replied to Sam Ponder on Twitter and agreed with her point that the objectification of women leads to violence against women. Suddenly I had several people that I have never met and did not reply to start hurling invectives at me. I’m just a guy in Birmingham, Alabama, but those who have achieved celebrity in our culture experience this phenomenon every day. A recent study examined the psychology of internet “trolls.” “An internet troll is someone who comes into a discussion and posts comments designed to upset or disrupt the conversation. Often, it seems like there is no real purpose behind their comments except to upset everyone else involved. Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response. What kind of person would do this?”

‘Some of My Best Friends are Black’ and the Baggage of History
Collin Hansen interviews Jason Williams, the Urban Ministries Pastor at Briarwood Presbyterian Church. “Using this book, (Some of My Best Friends are Black,) as our conversation starter, Williams and I recently met at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham and recorded a half-hour interview about his memorable journey as a white man bridging ethnic divides. We invite you to listen in and consider how God may be calling you to love your neighbors across ethnic lines in your own city.”

Domesticating the Bible Again
Some of last week’s debate about the practice of spanking in the Bible has continued. Jonathan Merritt, who last week argued the rod was only for guidance, linked to the work of William Webb and said all uses of the rod in the Old Testament were beatings. David Prince once again answers Merritt and provides solid biblical evidence for the discipline of children. “One thing is clear Jonathan Merritt does not have a biblical position on the issue of corporal discipline. He is simply against it and will embrace any argument to oppose corporal discipline—even contradictory ones.”

A Meal with Jesus
I have worked through A Meal with Jesus three times and looked through portions of it countless times. This book helps us recover a simple practice for fostering community and mission- a shared meal. Amazon marked it down to .99 on Kindle this week and you would benefit from it greatly.

Repenting of Our Lack of Sleep

September 29, 2014 — 2 Comments
photo credit: just.Luc via photopin cc

photo credit: just.Luc via photopin cc

Americans sleep less than their forefathers did. Stress, caffeine, television, and the internet work together to deprive us of one of the things we need the most. Unfortunately we trick ourselves into thinking we don’t need sleep. In fact, we are tempted to see ourselves as weaker for needing sleep. When I was in Seminary, there seemed to be an unspoken competition to see who could go the longest on the smallest amount of sleep. Not sleeping to study for Seminary classes almost seemed to be more spiritual.
We even seem to have biblical evidence for our lack of sleep. The writer of Proverbs tells us to, “Go to the any, O sluggard, consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” This passage shows us that excessive sleep must be renounced and the one who fails to get out of bed will ultimately come to poverty. This passage rebukes laziness, but when we only hear this passage we fail to grasp everything the Bible teaches about sleep.

We often fail to think about what our daily habits say about our view of ourselves and our view of God. When we push ourselves morning to night seven days a week for days on end we demonstrate that we have a Messiah complex. We think the world will fall apart if we are not constantly doing something. We face a major dilemma though. We cannot keep going day in and day out without feeling terrible and lashing out at the people around us. We were not made to function on a lack of sleep. The Psalmist says in 121:4, “Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” Only God does not need sleep. He is the one who made the world and who sustains the world. The world would fall apart if he took only a moment off, but we are not him.  Much to our chagrin, we find that the world continues to function quite well while we sleep. Sleep reminds us that God is God and we are not. John Piper said this as only he can, “Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. Once a day God sends us to bed like patients with a sickness. The sickness is a chronic tendency to think we are in control and that our work is indispensable. To cure us of this disease God turns us into helpless sacks of sand once a day.”

In addition we need to see sleep as a gift from God he freely gives us out of his love for us. Psalms 3 and 4 each seem to have been written by David during difficult times of distress. In Psalm 3 he spoke of the many foes rising against him, and from the title of the Psalm he was likely running from his son who wanted to take his throne. He prayed to the Lord in Psalm 4 and then addressed men asking why they would turn his honor into shame. In both cases, he appeared to be in danger. The last thing you want to do when you are in danger is go to sleep. You can hear David thinking, “if I go to sleep I will be killed.” While we might not face things this life-threatening, we think we must stay up later or get up earlier to do any number of things because we believe they must be done by us this moment or terrible things will happen. Look at what David said in Psalm 3:5-6 and 4:8. “I lay down and slept; I woke again; for the Lord sustained me. I will no be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.” “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” While David feared for his life he laid down and slept, then he woke up because the Lord kept him and protected him. In Psalm 4 he expressed that he could go to sleep in confidence because the Lord would make him dwell safely. In each case, sleep was an act of faith on David’s part, acknowledging that God was the one who sustained him and not him by himself.

In Psalm 127:2 we read, “It is vain that you rise up early and go to late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” We work hard, stress ourselves out, stay up late to make up for procrastination, over schedule, and think we have to do it all. In the process we make ourselves miserable, sick, unproductive, and more vulnerable to Satan’s schemes. God offers us sleep. It seems so simple, but we refuse this gift from a lack of faith. We must repent of our idolatrous notion that the we, our family, our friends, and the world need our constant activity. No one around us is ultimately dependent upon us. Instead, let us get up in the morning and faithfully work during the day. When you are done, come home, eat, and relax with your family. Read a good book or actually sit down and have a conversation. Then at the end of the day, go to bed and get the sleep you require. You will wake up in the morning to find that God was equal to the task of working while you weren’t.

Related Posts:
The Benefits of Slowing Down

For Further Reading:
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney

A Few Good Reads

September 25, 2014 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Family Meals are Important
Brian Howard shares why we should prioritize the family dinner table. He offers four great things that happen during family meals. “At our house, we make it a point to have family meals as much as possible. We have dinner together at least 5 nights per week and often have breakfasts or lunches together on the weekends. When I say “together” I mean that we sit down at our table, eat the SAME food and have CONVERSATION together as a family. It is important enough that I decided to write a blog post about it.

Do Christian Parents Have a Moral Rationale for Spanking?
David Prince responds to Jonathan Merritt’s recent post where he argued against the practice of spanking children. Merritt quotes Michael Eric Dyson to contradict the traditional understanding of “the rod” in the book of Proverbs. Prince counters with exegesis and theological reasoning to show the biblical rationale for spanking. “Corporal discipline is no parenting panacea and a spanking-only approach to parenting is a harmful repudiation of the biblical testimony. A Christian parents’ ultimate goal is to point to and clarify the gospel to their children. Verbal instruction and correction, along with consequences for actions and restitution when possible, will be the more consistent form of discipline and training of one’s children. Nevertheless, there are times of willful defiance when the controlled, loving use of corporal discipline will accomplish what words cannot in driving folly out of the heart of a child (Prov 22:15).”

Recovering Redemption
I’ve just started working through this book by Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer. They work through how any of our issues, sins, and addictions can conquered through the Gospel. “Recovering Redemption, written with a pastor’s bold intensity and a counselor’s discerning insight, takes you deeply into Scripture to take you deeply inside yourself, discovering that the heart of all our problems is truly the problem of our hearts. But because of what God has done, and because of what God can do, the most confident, contented person you know could actually be you—redeemed through Jesus Christ.”

 

 

medium_2961970653Last week PBS aired Ken Burns’ new documentary on the lives of Teddy, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt. He began with Teddy’s childhood in 1858  and worked through the death of Eleanor in 1962. While many aspects of their life story are worthy of attention, an episode in Eleanor’s childhood caught my attention. Her mother believed she was not a beautiful child and even mocked her looks by calling her “Granny.” Eleanor felt unloved as a child but found an opportunity to remedy that when her mother began to suffer from horrible headaches. She rubbed her mother’s forehead and this was the only thing that gave her mother relief, changing her mother’s attitude towards her. One of the commentators remarked that Eleanor learned she could feel more loved if she was useful.

Aside from being a heartrending story of a young girl who was not loved as she should have been by her mother, this serves as a reminder of the way we can approach finding our identity and significance in life. Aren’t we all tempted to root our sense of significance in our usefulness or in our accomplishments? When you do this, you will deal with pride on the days you believe you are performing well. On the days when you feel like you’re failing, the sting of despair threatens to overwhelm you.

When we find ourselves groping in the darkness looking for something to hold on to for a sense of significance, we need to remember the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus died for us and was raised from the dead to give us new life, we can receive an identity not based on our performance, but based on Jesus’ work. The Apostle Paul uses the phrase “in Christ” to refer to the Christian’s new identity. By faith God joins us together with Christ so that we are in him and he is in us. Because of our new identity, God removes the guilt of our sin and declares us to be right with him. He adopts us as his children and promises that we will reign as fellow heirs with Jesus Christ.

A few months ago Ray Ortlund, pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, shared about what they call “The Immanuel Mantra.” “I’m a complete idiot, I have an incredibly bright future. Anyone can get it on this.” These three statements stuck with me because they ring so true to reality and to the teachings of Scripture. When I base my identity on my performance, I end hating myself because I can never perform up to my own expectations. However the Bible teaches that I can experience a bright future because God judges me on Jesus’ work and not on my own. The best news of all is that anyone can get in on this. God freely offers the Gospel to us all based on his mercy. Since this is by sheer grace, no one can earn it and no one has gone to far away to be reached by it.

Today, whether it was a bad day or a good day, is the best day to stop letting your days define you. As long you base your identity upon your performance, pride or despair will always be close by. The Gospel gives us a new identity, rooted in God’s work for us in Jesus, that never changes. We can find our significance and satisfaction in him, and in who he has made is to be in him, because of free mercy and grace. Perhaps Jerry Bridges said it best, ““Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace.  Your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”

Related Posts:
17 Quotes That Have Shaped Me
What I Tell Myself in Difficult Times

For Further Reading:
The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges

photo(1)The Lord blessed me early in my Christian life with friends who put good books and preaching tapes in my hands. (Yes tapes, it was the late 90’s.) During this time I have written down many quotes that stuck out to me from sermons, articles and books. This document now covers sixty-four pages. It is almost always in my recent documents as I am constantly adding to it and looking for quotes from it.

Below you will find the seventeen quotes that have had the greatest impact on me. In some cases I have been shaped by multiple quotes from an author on the same subject. In those cases I chose the one which best represents the heart of what has impacted me. Some of these have books and page numbers and others were written down listening to sermons.

“When one person says, ‘I forgive you’ to another, he promises
–    I’ll not bring this matter up to you again.
–    I’ll not bring it up to others.
–    I’ll not bring it up to myself. (i.e. dwell on it).”
Jay Adams
 Theology of Christian Counseling, 222.

“Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace.  Your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”
Jerry Bridges
The Discipline of Grace, 18.

“We ruefully acknowledge how self-centered we are after we have an argument with someone.  Typically, we mentally conjure up a rerun of the argument, thinking up all the things we should have said.  In such reruns, we always win.  After an argument, have you ever conjured up a rerun in which you lost?”
D.A. Carson
The Cross and Christian Ministry, 14-15.

“We want to say to people, it is okay to not be okay, but it is not okay to stay there.”
Matt Chandler

“Most gospel ministry involves ordinary people doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality.”
Tim Chester and Steve Timmis
Total Church, 63.

“Our people do not so much need their heads stored, as their hearts touched, and they stand in the greatest need of that sort of preaching, which has the greatest tendency to do this.”
Jonathan Edwards

“The fact that Jesus had to die for me humbled me out of my pride.  The fact that Jesus was glad to die for me assured me out of my fear.”
Timothy Keller
Reason for God, 200.

“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine.  A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not properly run on anything else.  Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself.  He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed, or the food our spirits were to designed to feed on.  There is no other.  That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without about religion.  God cannot give us a happiness and a peace apart from Himself because it is not there.  There is no such thing.
C.S. Lewis
Mere Christianity, 54.

“How do you know whether a man is a Christian?  The answer is that his mouth is ‘shut’… You do not begin to be a Christian until your mouth is shut, is stopped and you are speechless and have nothing to say.”
Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Exposition of Romans 3:20-4:25, 19.

“When I preach, I regard neither doctors nor magistrates, of whom I have about forty in my congregation.  My eyes are on the servant maids and the children. And if the learned men are not well pleased with what they hear, well, the door is open.”
Martin Luther

“It is surprising how seldom books on parenting talk about prayer. We instinctively believe that if we have the right biblical principles and apply them consistently, our kids will turn out right. But that didn’t work for God in the Garden of Eden. Perfect environment. Perfect relationships. And still God’s two children went bad.”
Paul Miller

“Contrary to popular belief, the notion that God will not put on us more than we can handle is unbiblical. God always calls us to do more than we can handle, and he does this in order to bring us back to him as the source of our strength and power.  He lays supernatural tasks on us because he wants us to rely on him for supernatural strength.”
Darrin Patrick and Matt Carter
For the City, 176.

“At the heart of every pastor’s work is book work.  Call it reading, study, meditation, cogitation, reflection, exegesis or whatever you will- a large and central part of your work is to wrestle God’s meaning from a book and proclaim it in the power of the Holy Spirit.”
John Piper

“The habit of putting off is fatal to spiritual leadership… Most decisions are more difficult a day later, and you may also lose such an advantage by such details… A helpful method for overcoming procrastination is to set deadlines and never miss or postpone even one.  A lifelong reader was asked by his friends, ‘How do you get time for it?’  He replied, ‘I don’t get time for it; I make time for it.’”
J. Oswald Sanders
Spiritual Leadership, 99.

It has been said by some one that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with the solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God. We shall be obliged to feel—”Great God, how infinite art thou, What worthless worms are we!”
Charles Spurgeon
New Park Street Pulpit, 1.

“The essence of sin is we human beings substituting ourselves for God while the essence of salvation is God substituting Himself for us.  We… put ourselves where only God deserves to be; God puts Himself where we deserve to be.”
John Stott
The Cross of Christ, 99.

“The gospel makes us Christians, not ascetics. Jesus Christ did not die and rise for you so that you would stress out about whether you’re being spiritual enough. So take a nap. Go for a walk in the woods. Play with your kids. Eat some chocolate. Watch a good movie. Christian, you are free. Parents of young children know what a chore chart is. It is how we assign chores to each child and how we remind them of these chores. Sometimes we organize the chart according to a child’s age, aptitude, and interest. Different chores go in different columns. The tyranny of hyperspirituality pictures the Christian life like a chore chart. But the gospel frees you to rest. It puts the first six days in Christ’s column and the seventh in yours. Do we strive? Yes. But “let us therefore strive to enter that rest . . .” (Heb. 4:11).”
Jared Wilson
Gospel Wakefulness

A Few Good Reads

September 18, 2014 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“When Your Church is not Revitalizing”
I wrote this post for The Gospel Coalition for pastors who are struggling in a revitalizing situation where new life is not happening. Pastors in difficult situations must learn to find their identity in Jesus and not in their work. They also wrestle with the temptation to stop doing the things that actually matter and it is imperative that they resist this temptation by working consistently on the most important aspects of ministry.

The Roosevelts
Technically this does not count as a good read. Ken Burns’ latest documentary covers the lives of Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Their lives, actions, and policies shaped the course of our nation and laid the groundwork for much of American life as we know it today. They were also fascinating people and Burns tells their story in engaging detail.

“You Can’t Catch Sin Like a Cold”
Barnabas Piper writes about our tendency to treat people who live in obvious and outward sin. We can tend to retreat from them as if their sin is contagious. “We don’t “catch” sin. It’s in us from birth. We are sin carriers. It’s only by the grace of God that we can become immune to the virus that lives in us, that we can live a life without its symptoms oozing and coughing and exhaling out of us onto others. Because of the work of Christ we are able to choose whether or not to sin.”

The Great Divorce
I have read several people in the last few days call this their favorite C.S. Lewis book. Amazon has a great Kindle deal on it this week.

medium_5483359493The indictment of Adrian Peterson last week ignited a nationwide discussion about spanking. Many used this as an opportunity to make a point about all forms of spanking. Armed with social science studies and emotional stories of child abuse, they argued that all spanking is child abuse which psychologically damages children. Their jumping on this situation to push their agenda surprised no one.

What I did find surprising has been the chorus of voices defending spanking. Charles Barkley defended both Peterson and the practice of spanking in an NFL Today interview with Jim Rome. The Huffington Post offered this summary of the discussion.

“I’m from the South. Whipping is … we do that all the time,” the former basketball star, who was born and raised in Leeds, Alabama, said. “Every black parent in the South is gonna be in jail under those circumstances. I think we have to be careful letting people dictate how they treat their children.”

When Rome contended that it doesn’t matter where someone is from because “right is right and wrong is wrong,” Barkley disagreed.

“I don’t believe that because, listen, we spank kids in the South,” he said. “I think the question about did Adrian Peterson go overboard. … But, listen, Jim, we all grow up in different environments. Every black parent in my neighborhood in the South would be in trouble or in jail under those circumstances. … As far as being from the South, we all spanked our kids. I got spanked, me and my two brothers.”

Many Southerners echoed Barkley’s sentiments this week. I’ve read countless people refer to the spankings they received as children and how those spankings helped form their character. Others have said they would be in trouble if Child Services began investigating the way they disciplined their own children.

Unfortunately many who wish to defend the practice of spanking have picked the wrong case to make their point. Texas authorities released pictures which were used as evidence against Peterson and while I have no desire to render a verdict in his case, they do not look like anything that results from what could be considered constructive parental discipline. When Solomon said, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him,” he was not sanctioning the bruises and lacerations these photos reveal.

Another issue needs to be addressed in some of the defenses of spanking offered this week. Losing your temper with your children is not discipline. Solomon spoke as often of the folly of an uncontrolled temper in Proverbs as he did about using the rod to discipline your children. When you lose your temper with your children because of something they have done, your children stop thinking about their actions and start focusing on how angry you are. You cannot correct their sin by sinning yourself. James’ words in 1:20 must be written over all of our parenting. “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Lasting spiritual fruit cannot be brought into your child’s life by flying off the handle and disciplining them in anger.

In our polarized society, we quickly take sides on an issue without thinking about the consequences of our decisions. If Christians try to jump on the Adrian Peterson bandwagon in order to defend the practice of spanking, it will be a losing battle. This case is not an opportunity to defend spanking; it is a reminder that the purpose of discipline is not to punish children for wrongdoing. The discipline that the Bible advocates corrects, teaches, and instructs. Christian parents discipline because we have a heavenly Father who disciplines us. The writer of Hebrews said “the Lord disciplines those whom he loves.” He does not so punitively and cruelly, but lovingly and correctively. He disciplines his children not to take out his frustrations on us, but for our growth in his grace. We would do well to let his model of discipline shape our attitude about discipline.

Related Posts:
When Your Lose Your Temper with Your Kids
Teaching Proverbs to Your Children

For Further Reading:
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman