A Few Good Reads

September 12, 2014 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bill Maher on Christianity and Islam
Some in our culture have attempted to draw parallels between conservative Christianity and militant Islam. This started just hours after the attacks of September 11th and continues to this day. While insulting Christianity and the Bible, Bill Maher does go on to defend Christians in this discussion with Charlie Rose. When Rose insinuates that some Christians can be just as dangerous as ISIS, Maher shuts him down immediately. While Maher is no friend of Christianity, this discussion is fascinating.

John Piper’s Message to Ray Rice
Most of America watched in disbelief this week as TMZ released the tape of Ray Rice striking his then fiance in a hotel elevator. In a special episode of Ask Pastor John, John Piper answers, “What do complementarian Christians say to Ray Rice?” This quote was particularly striking. “Your manhood, as God designed you, and as Jesus Christ the Son of God can remake you through a faith relationship with him, means conquering your selfish impulses with the realization that real men don’t hit women. Real men protect women. Real men don’t use women to provide for their appetites. Real men use their strength to provide for a woman’s good. Real men are not led by the leash of their temper. Real men master their temper and lead women out of harm, not into it.”

He Must Increase; Our Churches Must Decrease
Living in the church planting world has opened my eyes to the way churches market themselves. It is not uncommon for new churches to start in an area and act as if no church had done fruitful ministry there until they showed up. Jared Wilson confronts trend and shows that our trumpeting of the greatness of our churches must end and the proclamation of the greatness of Jesus must grow. “No, a gospel-centered church doesn’t aim to be the anything-est church in town because it’s not comparing itself to other churches, but to the holiness of God, which will shrink the church down to size in its own estimation and make her hunger for the holiness that only comes from the riches of Christ in the gospel. A gospel-centered church aims to be a gospel-proclaiming church in town. Because that would be glorious.”

photo credit: Nebojsa Mladjenovic via photopin cc

photo credit: Nebojsa Mladjenovic via photopin cc

We live in interesting days. For several centuries Christians enjoyed a privileged place in American society. In large part our symbols, traditions, and way of life were not merely tolerated, but set the direction for American society. This reality began slowly eroding during the 1960’s and now no longer exists in most regions of the United States. Open hostility towards Christians is growing in our society as evidenced by the derecognition of InterVarsity Fellowship by the California State University system last week. In addition, if you are a Christian who is politically conservative you are seeing things deteriorate on two fronts. Not only are you watching the beginnings of a systematic marginalizing of Christians, you observe helplessly as our government refuses to do anything about our porous borders, enact laws without congressional approval, bungle our nation’s security, and spend our nation into insurmountable debt. You are witness to a new American government that doesn’t protect first basic Amendment freedoms, act in the economic best interest of hard-working Americans, or value the security of Americans at home and around the world.

How are Christians, particularly those who are theologically and politically conservative, to respond to these new realities?

1) Conservative Christians must adjust to the loss of our privileged place in our society and see it as an opportunity instead of an obstacle. Think about the earliest Christians. They had no representation in government. There were no protections for them and they lived on the absolute margins of their society. Some were killed, some were run out of their homes, and others saw their homes ransacked. They did not respond by lashing out at the society around them. The writer of Hebrews reminds them that they, “joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” Early Christians responded humbly, remembering they had a lasting possession in heaven, and that the hostility of the world around them was a reminder of their ultimate hostility towards the God who made them.

The times when Christianity enjoyed a privileged place in society have been a glaring exception in world history. We should learn from our forefathers in the faith and imitate their faith in the face of difficulty. Don’t get angry in the face of hostility towards Jesus, the Gospel, and Christian morality. Instead let the presence of this hostility remind you that we live in a broken world where people desperately need the grace of God available in Christ alone. They just don’t know it.

2) Conservative Christian must reassess the way we disagree with our neighbors, fellow citizens, and leaders. It is not uncommon for me to scroll through my social media timelines and see multiple Christians referring to the President and other leaders as “evil,” “stupid,” or a number of other insults. Christian, reflect on the grace you have been shown by God. You were dead in sin and a rebel who had broken God’s law. Left to yourself you were worthy of divine judgement. God in his grace sent his Son from heaven to give his life in your place. He died on the cross bearing the weight of your sins and died on the cross to give you new life. You became a Christian, not by getting your act together, but by the grace of God in Jesus Christ alone. You are now forgiven by God, adopted by God, and filled with the Spirit of God. You are a fellow heir with Jesus Christ and will reign with him for all of eternity. None of this was earned. Every drop of it is grace. Is there any scenario where insulting the President of the United States, any elected official, or any other person made in God’s image is consistent with the grace you have been shown in Christ? May I humbly submit that the answer is a resounding “no?”

Paul’s instruction in Colossians 4:5-6 speaks to the way Christians speak to and about others. “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”  Notice several things in these two verses. First, Paul calls Christians to demonstrate wisdom in our relationships with those who are outside of the faith and immediately turns his attention to the way we speak. Read the book of Proverbs and you will quickly realize that our spiritual maturity is measured by the way we speak. Paul says our speech should “always by gracious.” Always means always. No exception clause exists that allows us to use ungracious speech when we believe the time is right or when we want to vent. Gracious speech always marks God’s people and we must pursue growth in this area.  Using gracious speech does not mean that we never critique things or offer contrary opinions, but it means we do so remembering the grace we have been shown and hoping others experience it. Eternity hangs in the balance in the way we speak to and about other people. Our gracious speech may become the means God uses to draw a person to faith in Christ, but our rough, unkind speech may continue to drive people away from the faith we claim to be contending for.

Related Posts:
Learning to Watch Our Words
How Enemies Become Friends

For Further Reading:
Resisting Gossip by Matthew Mitchell

photo credit: Mirko Chessari via photopin cc

photo credit: Mirko Chessari via photopin cc

One of my first stops every morning is Ray Ortlund’s blog at The Gospel Coalition. In a post last week entitled “How church conflict escalates to the nuclear option” he referenced a 2012 9Marks post about how conflict escalates in a church and I think the description is spot on. I’ve seen this play out more times than I care to rehearse.

1.  An offense occurs.
2.  A biased view of the offense is shared with friends.
3.  Friends take up the offense.
4.  Sides begin to form.
5.  Suspicion on both sides develops.
6.  Each side looks for evidence to confirm their suspicion.  You can be sure they will find it.
7.  Exaggerated statements are made.
8.  In the heat of conflict those involved hear things that were never said and say things they wish they had never said.
9.  Third parties, no matter how well intentioned, can never accurately transfer information from one offended party to the other.
10.  Past offenses unrelated to the original offense surface.
11.  Integrity is challenged.
12.  People call each other liars.
13.  Those who try to solve the problem (e.g., church leadership) are blamed for not following the proper procedure and become the new focus.
14.  Many are hurt.

Mike McKinley, the author of the original post at 9Marks, believes a church will have difficulty “pulling out of the nose-dive” once step 5 is reached. He is probably correct, but there is a way for people in a church to cut off conflict before reaching this stage. The parties who are angry with each other simply need to sit down and talk face to face. This seems obvious, but how often do people walk through life angry with each other when a simple conversation could begin to heal the divide?

Jesus advocates this approach in Matthew 18:15. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” Notice how Jesus says this should be done. When another person sins against you, go and tell them, keeping it between you and that person alone. We tend to talk to everyone about the offense except the person who actually hurt us. When this happens we miss an opportunity to reconcile with the other person in an appropriate way. He could grow from the encounter and also could have an opportunity to explain himself. How many times have we been offended about something we misunderstood? If you are offended by another brother or sister in Christ today, go and talk to them personally instead of talking to others who can do nothing to right the wrong.

What should you do if you do not want to talk to the other person? Solomon offers one alternative. He says in Proverbs 19:11, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” If you do not want to talk to another brother or sister who has offended you, this is your only other option. You can overlook the offense, and it is a glory to do so. If the offense is so great that you cannot overlook it, then you must go to the other person. The Bible does not present gossip as one of your options. Staying angry and bitter will only hurt your own soul. Overlook the offense or talk to the person who hurt you. You may only bring other people into the picture if the personal conversation goes nowhere. Even then, only one or two other people should be involved and the goal is the restoration of the relationship.

The church’s witness in your community is at stake in how you choose to handle personal conflicts. You can either commend the Gospel by lovingly speaking to the offending brother or bring shame upon the Gospel by gossiping and backbiting. If you choose to lovingly speak to the person who offended you, you can win back the relationship you had with them and the beauty of the Gospel is demonstrated to those around you. This also cuts off church conflict before it starts, allowing the church to continue walking in unity. Isn’t this what Jesus had in mind when he said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another?”

Related Posts:
How Enemies Become Friends
How Emotional Blackmail Happens in Church

For Further Reading:
The Peacemaker by Ken Sande
The Gospel by Ray Ortlund

A Few Good Reads

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

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

Stupid is the New Smart
Daniel Flynn writes about our culture’s downplaying of culture and learning. He particularly laments trends in education and library that elevate video games and YouTube to the level of reading good books. “People are too lost in the virtual life. They have lost track of how to live the real life. New amusements have not made old distractions obsolete. Americans spend more than two and a half hours every weekday watching television. The figure has risen since the advent of the digital age. By way of comparison, Americans spend about twenty minutes per weekday reading and about fifteen minutes “relaxing/thinking.” How we spend our leisure time is largely a waste of time.”

The Osteen’s Donald Sterling Moment
A YouTube clip of Victoria Osteen saying we don’t obey God for God, we obey God for ourselves has been making the rounds this last week. Hans Fiene finds the general response to the clip encouraging and hopes it opens people’s eyes to the larger issues with Joel Osteen’s ministry. “Like Sterling’s TMZ tape, yes, Osteen’s comments are bad. Yes, the 37-second clip is a rambling mess born from almost incomprehensible Biblical ignorance. Yes, I hope these comments cause Osteen disciples to seriously reconsider their devotion to the most mega of America’s megachurches. But if these words succeed in toppling the Osteen empire, isn’t it a bit anticlimactic when the Osteens have said a thousand things that are even more theologically indefensible during their time at Lakewood Church?”

Fifty Shades, Twilight, and Teaching Women to Desire Abusers
With the Fifty Shades of Grey movie on the horizon, Joe Carter asks what we are teaching young women by promoting this series. He points to sociological studies about the behaviors of young women who have read all three books in the trilogy and appeals for us to steer young women in our culture in a different direction. Walking through some specifics of this series and Twilight, Carter shows that we are actively encouraging young women to pursue men who have abusive personalities. “Social science continues to show us the connections between normalizing abuse and risks for young women — a connection that shouldn’t be surprising to Bible-believing Christians. The question is, what are we going to do with the information? Are we willing to do what it takes to expose the pop culture apologias of predatory violence, or will we join the choir of voices telling young women they can find satisfaction by surrendering to an abuser?”

The Pastor’s Kid
Barnabas Piper’s book The Pastor’s Kid is currently free on Kindle. I read this book yesterday and am working on a post about some things I learned. This will be helpful for any pastor or church leader.

Knowing Scripture
I mentioned this book last week as one of ten books that have stuck with me through the years. R.C. Sproul outlines how to read the Bible and gives some helpful rules for interpreting Scripture.

2882-LukeMS002acopyRecently a friend pointed me to Matt Cutts’ TED Talk “Try Something New for 30 Days.” Cutts got the idea from Morgan Spurlock and determined to try something new every month. One month he took an interesting pictures every day and another he worked every day towards writing a 50,000 word novel. (That’s one thousand, six hundred, and sixty-seven words a day.) He explains that by implementing small, incremental changes for thirty days you can develop a new habit naturally.

Watching this video reminded me of a challenge I was given as a new Christian to read through the book of Proverbs each month. Since Proverbs has thirty-one chapters, you can read one chapter a day and make it through the book in a month. Yes, there are several months where you will read two chapters on the last day of the month and four on the last day of February.

David’s son Solomon wrote the majority of Proverbs as advice to his son for living wisely. He wanted his son “to know wisdom and instruction, to receive words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity.” The first nine chapters contain Solomon’s argument for the beauty and desirability of wisdom instead of folly.  They serve as the argument for hearing the words in the rest of the book. The remainder of Proverbs are the short snippets we normally think of when we hear of Proverbs. He offers practical advice and godly wisdom for nearly every facet of life. I have never read a chapter of Proverbs without one of these short statements sticking with me for the rest of the day.

When you look at our world and our own lives you recognize how badly we need wisdom. My encouragement and challenge to you this month is to read the entire book of Proverbs. Don’t just read it quickly to check it off of your list. Read each chapter with a pen or pencil in your hand. Underline verses in your Bible as they strike you and jot down questions and thoughts in a journal. Genuinely interact with what Solomon says. Then take one or two lines that struck you and let them start your prayers for that morning. Maybe you need to pray for help in a particular area, repent of sin, or rejoice over places in your life where the Lord has grown you. Think of the verse or verses you prayed through throughout the day. Take this month and really get to know Proverbs, praying God will use it to grow you in wisdom.

Related Posts:
A Bible Verse That Changes All of Our Relationships
Teaching Proverbs to Your Children

For Further Reading:
A Proverbs Driven Life by Anthony Selvaggio

photoNo one who has been paying attention would deny that we are living in a politically polarized society. From taxation to gay marriage to the border, we have gone to our respective corners and are ready to come out fighting. It helps to have God on your side in a political debate. After all, what better ace in the hole is there than “God agrees with me?” Both sides of the political spectrum are not afraid to use the Bible to suit their own ends and this is especially true in the debate over economic policy. Those on the right point to the Bible’s emphasis on personal responsibility and love “if anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” Their liberal adversaries appeal to Jesus’ care for the poor and the countless Biblical texts about social justice.

Today I was reading the twenty-eighth chapter of Proverbs and noticed again how the Bible strikes blows against both the right and the left’s views on economics. For example, verse 8 says, “Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.” This verse condemns what is commonly known as usury, which is charging exorbitant interest to the poor. What a blow against the kind of unrestrained free markets that make a few rich off the backs of the poor! The writers of Scripture recognize that the poor are often in desperate circumstances and will need to borrow money from those who have a lot of it. The rich are tempted to take advantage of the poor’s desperation to make even more money and dig them into a deeper hole by making them more dependent. The writer of Proverbs says this may profit in the short run, but will ultimately lead to a person’s demise.

Only eleven verses later the writer tells us, “Whoever works his land has plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.” Now he emphasizes personal responsibility. While many in our culture assume that anyone who has a lot of money had it given to them, we see here that the one who works hard provides plenty of bread for himself. This commends a culture of hard work and refutes the idea that able-bodied men should be able to earn a living off the back of another man’s work. Instead the one “who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.” The writer rebukes the idea that we should penalize those who have worked hard and give it to those who refuse to do so.

My major point has not been to show what Proverbs 28 says about money as much as to challenge the idea that any one party or faction has God on their side on every issue. This passage rebuked both unrestrained free markets and wealth redistribution. There will be issues where the right is right and others where the left is right. On others they will both be dead wrong. Unfortunately for believers we tend to identify ourselves with our political parties instead of being first and foremost identified with Jesus. Please recognize there will be many times that Jesus and your political party will be at odds. When that happens, side with him.

Related Posts:
Why Do Many White Conservative Christians Deny the Reality of White Privilege?

For Further Reading:
Money, Possessions, and Eternity by Randy Alcorn

indexSome friends began sharing the top ten books that influenced them on social media this week. One of them asked me to post my ten most influential books and it took a while to trim down the list. Good books tug at your heart and make you think. My list includes some Christian classics you would expect and a couple of fiction books that helped me understand human more completely. I was tempted to add Laura Hillenbrand’s amazing book Unbroken to this list, but I just finished it yesterday and time will tell how I’m impacted by it’s amazing story.

Jayber Crow
Wendell Berry’s Port William novels impacted me in many ways as I read through them this Spring. Jayber Crow is the story of the Port William’s barber. Both parents died when he was young and he never married. Through this work I saw again the importance of community, place, and living life where you are. Jayber Crow also showed a great attentiveness to the people around him that has reminded me not to be distracted when I am around other people. The entire series is great, but this stayed with me the longest.

Chosen by God
Early in my Christian life I began wrestling with the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace. Even though a plain reading of Romans 9 and Ephesians 1 supported these doctrines, my heart resisted and my head threw out objections. R.C. Sproul’s classic look at the sovereignty of God in salvation helped me see the goodness of God in election. He also shattered my objections through his discussion of the fall on the human will.

Gospel Wakefulness
This book by Jared Wilson still affects me even almost daily even though I read it over two years ago. He shows what it means for us to be awakened to the realities of the Gospel. The chapters on depression and spiritual rhythms constitute some of the best thoughts I’ve read on the subjects. This book is a good to read at the beginning of the year to orient your heart and affections.

Knowing God
Some books are meant to be savored. This is one of those books. I’ll never forget reading Knowing God on a mission trip to Scotland in 1997. Packer talks about God in way that is real. The biblical text has saturated his thinking and he has spent time in the presence the Bible’s God. This book opened my eyes not only to who God is, but to who we are in Christ. The chapter on adoption is worth the price of the book.

The Cross of Christ
If you tell me that I need to recommend one book for Christians to read, I think this would be it. John Stott walks through the Bible explaining the nature of Jesus’ death on the cross. He shows the need for the atonement and how Jesus gave his life in our place bearing the wrath of God for our sins. Then he discusses how Jesus’ death brings forgiveness and redemption.

The Catcher in the Rye
J.D. Salinger narrates this classic through Holden Caulfield. Reading the thoughts of this fictional character walking through struggles no one could see reminded me of the battle going on in the minds of many people. His struggles with identity, depression, and rage are not different than what many of the people we encounter on a daily basis deal with. This book reminded me that people are often dealing with inner turmoil and talking to no one about it.

Desiring God
“God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him.” These words taught me an approach to Christianity I had never heard. “Satisfied in God.” Those words had never entered my mind. Reading the Bible after reading this book showed me that this theme was everywhere. Desiring God so revolutionized my thinking that I’m constantly saying things I’m sure came from the book, but now they are such a part of me that I don’t feel like I’m quoting John Piper.

The Art of Neighboring
“In this life, we can do only a few things really well; I think it’s a good idea to make certain that one of those things is what Jesus says is most important.” Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon write this referring to Jesus’ command to love our neighbors. They give their readers a test to determine how well they know their neighbors and then give practical steps to help us understand how to love our neighbors well.

The Deliberate Church
The Lord has used Mark Dever to shape my thoughts on church life in a profound way. One of the most helpful things I did in Seminary was to go spend a weekend at Capitol Hill Baptist in Washington to learn about their leadership and church life. Deliberate Church shares everything we learned that weekend and then some. Dever and Alexander talk about how elders are gathered and what they do when they gather as well as how the congregation is gathered and what they do when they gather. The chapters on elders meetings are worth the price of the book.

Knowing Scripture
This is another R.C. Sproul book I read early in my Christian life. This book helped me understand how to read and interpret the Bible. He walks through the different genres of Scripture and how we should interpret them. One especially helpful chapter gives some basic rules for interpreting the Bible. My well worn copy of this book has a sentence highlighted in almost every paragraph of that chapter.

The GirlsLast week the oldest of our three daughters turned nine and today she told me she will be twenty in eleven years. I nearly stuck my fingers in my ears and ran away screaming. Before she came along, I was convinced I would be a great parent and had all the answers. Then that seven pound baby girl was born and I suddenly forgot everything I though I knew. Parenting has been difficult and immensely rewarding. It revealed areas of sin in my life I didn’t want to face, but also has been a tool God has used to make me more like Jesus. Parenting together has strengthened our marriage and helped us learn how to work as a team. Also parenting has been a joy to me. Our girls make me smile and laugh everyday.

As our youngest is now a toddler and we have another child on the way, I’ve been reflected on some things the Lord has taught me through this journey. This list is not intended to be exhaustive as there are more things that could be said, but here are nine things I’ve learned from our nine years of parenting.

Work on Your Marriage
Yes I realize this is a post about parenting, but if you are married with children you don’t have the option of putting your marriage on hold to raise your children. Get your children in bed so you can have some time together before you go to bed. Do everything you can to have date night at least a time or two per month. Spend time together talking about something other than the kids. Laugh together and have fun together. A healthy marriage often leads to healthy parenting.

The Family Dinner Table is Your Friend
If you were to ask me to name an overwhelming image from my childhood it would be sitting around the dinner table laughing with my family. Naturally this was something I wanted for our children as well and the benefits of trying to eat several meals together around the table at night have been legion. At the table we talk with our girls, laugh with our girls, tell stories to our girls, teach our girls, and enjoy our girls. Some of the best times of connecting we have with our girls are around the table.

Ask for Forgiveness When You are Wrong
We do not enjoy admitting when we are wrong. This can be especially true when it comes to our children. We don’t like to admit when we have wronged them because it possibly gives our children the upper hand against us. As hard as it may be, if you have falsely accused your children of something, made a mistake that negatively affected them, or lost your temper with them; apologize to them and ask for their forgiveness. Don’t use it as a time to correct their behavior or point out how they contributed to what you did. Just say you were wrong and ask them to forgive you. This models repentance for your children, teaches them to own their own sin when they are wrong, and builds trust with them.

Losing Your Temper is Lose/Lose
Write James’s words, “the anger of man cannot achieve the righteousness of God” over all of your parenting. When you lose your temper with your children, it undermines whatever good you may have been trying to do in disciplining them. They stop listening to what you are saying to them and only think about the fact that you are angry with them. Work hard from the heart to keep control of your temper, modeling for your children how to love your neighbor and how to exercise self-control. This way they can focus on what they need to learn instead thinking about how much your tone scares them.

Discipline for Disobedience, but not Mistakes
One of our children loves to sneak into the refrigerator and pantry to get food when we are not looking. We have warned her not to do this repeatedly and even child-proofed the pantry to keep her from getting in. Then one day we heard her teaching her sister how to get around the child-proofing. We know she sneaks food when we are not looking because she always makes a mess. The first few times she got in trouble for sneaking food when she wasn’t supposed to, I think she believed she was getting in trouble for making a mess. We learned to say to her specifically why she was being disciplined. Spilling milk is not disobedience; it’s an accident. Pouring milk when you’ve been told not to do it without permission is. Make sure you are clear with your kids that mistakes are okay, disobedience is not.

Teach the Gospel in Everyday Life
The temptation when we think about teaching the Gospel to our kids is to only think about family devotions and taking our kids to church each Sunday. Teaching our children the Gospel does take place through family devotions and our local church body, but it takes place in other ways as well. Talk about the Gospel with your children as an everyday part of life. This is what Moses had in mind in Deuteronomy 6 when he tells us to talk of these things when we sit in the house and when we walk by the way. When you want to encourage your child to be kind, remind them of the kindness God has shown to them through Jesus.  Use the love of God to teach about loving your neighbor. Talk about your own spiritual life, listen to good Gospel-centered music together, and let the language of the Gospel shape the language of your home.

Answer Their Hard Questions
My children ask many questions I would prefer not to answer. Either the answer is complicated or uncomfortable to talk about. They are going to get their questions answered somewhere though and I want them to know they can come to Mom and Dad with their questions. This means we have long repeated talks about spiritual truths, explaining them the best way we know how. The hardest conversations are the ones that bring up the ugly side of life or the pain of this world, but these subjects must be discussed. We’ve had many talks about death, divorce, war, poverty, and a host of other issues I didn’t think we would talk about before a tenth birthday. The conversations are not always comfortable, but they build trust and allow us to help shape our daughters’ view of the world.

Stop Freaking Out About Them
I meet many parents who are afraid they will unalterably damage their children before they are old enough to speak. The truth is that you are not going to “screw up” your child if you love them, teach them, and treat them with respect. These fears come from our desire to control everything and parenting shakes our control issues like few other things in life do. God is in control and you aren’t, so raise your children in the way he has laid out in his word and trust him. He’s good and he does good. (Closely related to this is the ridiculous list of things we believe we must provide for our children so they can have a magical childhood. Release yourself from the pressure of having to provide your child with amazing experiences all the time. It’s nothing but guilt-inducing madness created by burdens that God hasn’t put on you.)

Have Fun with Them
This is closely related to my last point. Sometimes we get so caught up in doing things for our children that we forget to do things with them. In most communities, there are so many children’s activities to choose from and you can end up spending your days taking your children to things you watch them do. I’m not saying to pull your kids off all of their sports teams, but maybe you should dial it back some. Take a walk, go to the park, or play a game. Do fun things with your children. They’re funny, fun to be around, and these years go by faster than I can bear to admit. Enjoy it with them.

Related Posts:
‘You’re Going to Be Broke:’ Some Thoughts on Having Three Daughters
Teaching Proverbs to Your Children

For Further Reading:
The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

photo credit: Light Brigading via photopin cc

photo credit: Light Brigading via photopin cc

The recent events in Ferguson, MO have reignited discussions about white privilege in our society. Many people misunderstand what is meant by the term “white privilege.” No one is saying white people should repent for being white or that individual white people do not struggle against systemic difficulties in our culture. It simply means that in our society there are ways people benefit from being white that others do not have. The reason people call it privilege and not racism is because often those in white culture are blind to the privileges they enjoy. (Before you start yelling about reverse racism. Yes it exists in some quarters, but that is not the purpose of this post. Plus we have to be honest that much of what we call “reverse racism” is in response to the reality of white privilege and our inability to admit its existence.) For example, I have been pulled over double digit times for traffic violations in my twenty-one years of driving. (Thankfully there have only been two in the last decade.) During those times I was never questioned about anything other than the offense in question. My car was never searched and I was not asked why I was in the neighborhood I was in. Often men of color who are the age I was when I was pulled over would have faced a more diligent interrogation. Also, I have never had to worry that my words or actions would validate or invalidate an entire ethnicity in the minds of the people around me. No one has heard me speak and act surprised that I was “articulate.” When I was hired for a job, I’ve never wondered if I was a token hire. Simply put, this privilege exists and I never noticed until people told me I should think about it.

What I find most interesting is why many white conservative Christians want to deny this reality when it seems to be so plain. The only explanation I can come up with is that we refuse to acknowledge any facts which might give an inch to our adversaries in today’s polarized political culture. To acknowledge white privilege exists means we might have to admit that Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton have been right about something. If we admit they are right about something it validates them and gives them more political power. Therefore we must oppose them on this issue. We refuse to speak, refuse to acknowledge, and get angry about this because we don’t want our side to lose.

Conservative Christians in America need to face a stark reality and ask ourselves some difficult questions. Have we allowed conservative talk radio to shape our thinking and agenda more than the Bible? You may wonder what the Bible has to do with acknowledging white privilege. When we fail to admit our part, even if it is not purposeful, in a system that marginalizes and oppresses others, we are failing to practice repentance. And the truth is that white Christians in America still have issues with ethnicity we must work through. We hold latent attitudes that we must repent of. We need to listen and learn from our black brothers and sisters so we can learn how to love them in a way that brings glory to Jesus. We want to see our lives and churches begin to reflect the beautiful diversity of the Kingdom of God. This will not happen while our worldview is being shaped by combative voices with agendas to gain power instead of the Bible.

This is important for Christians to think through because ethnicity is a Gospel issue. All men and women are created in God’s image and possess dignity and worth. Every person from every ethnicity has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, standing under his judgement. Jesus died in the stead of men and women of every race, color, language, and tribe. We come back to God the same way- through repentance and faith in Christ. Those who trust in Christ, of every race and ethnicity, are the adopted children of God and joint heirs with Christ. How can we for one second stand silent about issues that treat our brothers and sisters in Christ as less than us? To see the existence of the vestiges of racism and to nothing about them is to deny in practice the Gospel we claim to believe. Is the Kingdom of Jesus not of greater value than the Republican Party winning the midterm elections?

For Further Reading:
Bloodlines by John Piper
White Like Me by Tim Wise

1 Samuel for You

August 17, 2014 — 1 Comment

1-Samuel-for-YouMost Christians struggle when they read the Old Testament. The causes for this are many- lack of understanding of the biblical storyline, lack of familiarity with the culture, and lack of knowledge about how to apply the message of the Old Testament to their lives now. This is why I’m thankful for resources that help Christians understand the message of the Old Testament and live their lives in light of its truth. 1 Samuel for You by Tim Chester is such a resource. The “God’s Word for You” series, of which this is the latest offering, gives insight into the message of the biblical text while providing practical insight from the text of Scripture itself.

Chester explains and applies the message of 1 Samuel in 31 chapters. Each chapter begins with a walk through the passage, explaining some interpretive issues and thinking through the theological message. When Samuel anoints David as King in chapter 16, Chester explains the details of the text and shows the parallels with other sections in the Old Testament and the New Testament. For example, Chester shows the links between the passage and Ezekiel 34, as well as the commonalities with Micah 5 and Jesus’ birth narrative. He closes the section with a practical word about what it means to represent Jesus the King.

Chester’s treatment of David and Goliath provides the high point of the book. Seeking to apply the message of the passage to our hearts, he encourages readers to identify with the Israelite crowd instead of David. The Israelites did not win the victory. They watched their God sent deliverer win the battle against their seemingly unbeatable foe. The crowd enjoyed the benefits of their deliverer’s victory. In the same way, Christians bask in the glow of Christ’s victory. Rather than needing to summon up the courage to be David and fight against the giants in our lives, we labor through the strength God supplies. Chester makes it clear that this does not make us passive, but that it changes the way we fight our battles. “We often find ourselves facing the hostility and scorn that David faced. But we can fight bravely because the victory is ours in Christ. We can have faith because of the faithfulness of our Champion.”

1 Samuel for You could best be described as a devotional commentary. It avoids many technical discussions that are addressed in other commentaries because that is not the purpose. He introduces the reader to the contents of 1 Samuel and provides some hooks for working through how to live in light of the passage’s truth. A Christian who had never read through 1 Samuel could read this book along with it and it would help them not only understand what the text means, but how it is meant to change them.