"Grand Canyon" by John Fowler. Available at Flickr  (license)

“Grand Canyon” by John Fowler. Available at Flickr (license)

Monday at SBC Today Dr. Michael Cox asked the question, “Is Calvinism Spiritual Racism?”. (http://sbctoday.com/is-calvinism-spiritual-racism/) If you are unfamiliar with the terms, Calvinism is the nickname for a theological position which exalts the sovereignty of God in the process of man’s salvation. At its heart, the Calvinistic position understands God created the world and made human beings in his image. While the first humans were holy and happy, they fell from their original innocence through breaking God’s command and all humanity was plunged into sin through their transgression. Left to ourselves, no person would come back to God because we are “dead in our trespasses and sins.” Thankfully, God determined before the world began to save a people for himself by sending his son to die in the place of sinners. Those whom he chose will hear the Gospel and respond in faith, being justified before God, forgiven by God, adopted into God’s family, filled with God’s Spirit, and given an everlasting inheritance with Christ.

Dr. Cox believes these doctrines share more in common with Hinduism and Racism than Christianity. His most basic point seems to be showing how these doctrines create a spiritual caste system where one group of people is superior to another because they have been chosen by God. Then he says those who embrace the Calvinism, or the doctrines of grace, embrace “spiritual racism” because they view one group of people superior to another. In addition he says this view is fueled by pride which he sees as a necessary byproduct of believing you have been chosen by God for salvation.

While many things could be said about Dr. Cox’s post, I want to focus on his contention that Calvinism produces spiritual pride. My reading of Scripture and personal experience have led me to the opposite conclusion. Nothing has humbled me more than knowing my salvation did not originate with me. In fact, there are three distinct ways the doctrines of grace have impacted me personally which stand in stark contrast to what Dr. Cox says.

The Doctrines of Grace Smash our Pride

Romans 9 stands as one of the classic texts for discussing the truth of election. Dr. Cox maintains the person who believes they have been chosen by God for salvation will promote prejudice, pride, and elitism. While discussing how Christians can be confident God’s promises have not failed, Paul alludes to Jacob and Esau to show God’s purpose of election stands, “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Notice an important line, “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad.” God’s choice of Jacob was not based on anything he had done but by God’s mercy alone.

Paul follows this with the example of Moses and Pharaoh, applying it to our own salvation. “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” Human salvation is not an act which depends merely on an act of the human will. It ultimately depends on God who shows mercy. When we understand humanity in its depravity, we know no one would come to Christ on their own. God, in his mercy chooses to show mercy to a multitude of people and pursues them by his grace.
Rather than increasing human pride because the person received a “spiritual elite” status, the sovereignty of God’s mercy smashes our pride and increases our humility. No Christian can stand up and say, “I am a Christian because of the things I have done” or “I am a Christian because God foresaw something good in me,” but every Christian from every age in every place joins in a chorus and sings, “I am a debtor to mercy alone.”

Are there many who believe the doctrines of grace who become arrogant and look down on those who believe this truth? This is absolutely true and I went through this the first few years I believed these truths. However, this pride was not produced by the doctrines themselves but by my sinful heart believing I had found a reason to boast about knowledge I learned. Those who believe the doctrines of grace must continually think about how these truths must shape the attitude of our hearts. If we believe we are saved by grace and mercy alone apart from our goodness, how can we respond in arrogance to those who disagree with us? When we believe these truths and are shaped by them, we will show profound humility, gentleness, and patience to the people around us.

The Doctrines of Grace Increase our Love

This point is closely related to the previous one. One of the greatest evidences of a person’s spiritual maturity is the way they treat other people. The Apostle John says if we claim to love God whom we have not seen we will love our brothers we have seen. The doctrines of grace help a person grow in this because they reveal God’s overwhelming love for us. The person who has grasped these doctrines knows he has not earned the favor of God by his good works or by conjuring up the good sense to believe in the Gospel. Instead the doctrines of grace remind us we have been saved by God’s grace alone. Paul reminds us of this truth in 2 Timothy 1:9 when he says God, “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”

Knowing we have not earned earned our salvation, but instead received it by faith through God’s grace changes the way we feel about and act toward others. The person who believes the doctrines of grace should show greater grace to the people around him. He knows he is saved by grace, so he should be becoming more gracious as he comes to a greater understanding of grace. In the same way the doctrines of grace help a person to be patient with the failings of others. The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints teaches us that God remains faithful to his promises and keeps us to the end. He continues to be faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to him. How can a person who has experienced God’s perfect patience be impatient with the weakness, sins, and ignorance of others?

Many people who say they believe these doctrines become arrogant and treat other believers with contempt. This kind of attitude is not produced by the doctrines of grace, but by our sinful hearts twisting God’s word for our own purposes. If you hold to the doctrines of grace and find yourself constantly running other Christians in the ground, please take a few minutes and remind yourself of the things you claim to believe. Then ask yourself if they way you treat your brothers is in line with the truths you confess.

The Doctrines of Grace Destroy Racism

Far from creating a group of people who see themselves as a spiritual elite, the doctrines of grace open a person’s heart to love across lines of ethnicity, language, and social status. The Calvinist understands all people are made in the image of God, so there is no hierarchy built into creation. He also understands all people are born in sin and spiritual bondage. Each person experiences the gripping effects of sin in every aspect of their lives. No person and no ethnic group is free from this curse and no group experiences the sting of sin more deeply than another. Finally he knows the full benefits of salvation are available to every person who believes and there will be people who believe from every tribe, tongue, and nation on earth. Therefore the person who believes the doctrines of grace knows the family of God encompasses people who may be from different ethnicities but are being built into one new man through the Lord Jesus Christ. Before the world began, the Father set apart a people from every ethnic and linguistic group who would be trophies of his grace and would gather around the throne to sing “worthy is the Lamb.”

Because the person who believes in the doctrines of grace knows what he does about the image of God, the fall, and salvation through grace alone he seeks to put to death every vestige of racial superiority in his heart. He knows every person has dignity and worth in the eyes of God. He lives with the realization that no ethnic group is more or less sinful than another. He is gripped by the Bible’s picture of God building a worldwide people whom he will redeem for his glory to forever belong to him. Because he knows these things the Calvinist loves and pursues brothers and sisters from other ethnic groups. He does not look toward them with an eye of suspicion, but welcomes them in as brothers and sisters.

Related Posts:
The Gospel is Better Than ‘God Gives Second Chances’
How I Learned about Forgiveness

For Further Reading:
Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul

A Few Good Reads

July 13, 2015 — Leave a comment

 

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

Behold, the Beta Males Who Feel Good About Watching a Man Die
On July 4 a man was stabbed by a teenager on a DC metro train while ten people stood and watched in horror. This crowd included several men who were larger than the attacker and have recently said they were glad they did not intervene because it meant they did not get hurt too. John Daniel Davidson bemoans their both the lack of intervention and the relief at not getting involved. He asks what happened to our spirit of protecting others even if it means we get injured as well. “That no one did displays not just cowardice but also a callous and unthinking selfishness. The Reddit eyewitness had no idea at the time how many more people Spires would kill, no idea if he would attack the 52-year-old woman or an elderly passenger. He just let him walk off the train into the subway, covered in Sutherland’s blood.”

The Surprising Benefits of Marrying Young
Brett and Kate McKay married in their early 20’s and just celebrated their tenth anniversary. While many people advocate marrying later in life, the McKay’s list some of the benefits of early nuptials. “When you marry young, you and your wife have less exes, old flames, comparisons, and retroactive jealousy of each other’s past relationships to deal with. You can start life together with more of the guileless freshness that lends itself to unabashed and lasting romance.”

Is a Gay Man Suing Bible Publishers for $70 Million?
Rumors and misinformation circulate quickly through social media. This week I saw many people link to a story about a gay man suing Zondervan for $70 million. Did this happen? Yes, in 2008 and the case was dismissed several years ago. Aaron Earls gives a rundown of the story so we can get our facts straight. “So no, this is not the result of President Obama’s policies or the Supreme Court’s ruling. This happened while President Bush was in office and before the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.”

Pray

photo credit: A Haven via photopin (license)

Too often Christians neglect the privilege and duty of prayer. We either believe ourselves too busy to pray or we simply forget to pray. When we remember what prayer is and why we should pray, we see its central importance in our lives. Here are three overwhelming reasons you should pray today and everyday.

The Son Represents You

The New Testament writers stress the Christian’s access to God the Father and ability to come before him because of Jesus’ death for us. Paul says of Christ in Ephesians 3:12, “in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him” and in Ephesians 2:18, “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” The writer of Hebrews speaks of Jesus’ sympathy for our weaknesses and concludes “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” In addition the writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus lives to make intercession for us before the Father.

Because of our sins there was a relational and judicial barrier between us and the Father. We stood before God guilty of our sins and stood apart from him as strangers. Jesus’ death paid the debt for the sins of his people in full. Through faith alone in Christ we are justified before God and reconciled to God. No barrier exists between God and the Christian.

Christian, this should compel you to pray. Jesus died to bring you back to God and you now have unfettered access to the throne of God. You do not stand like a servant outside the door, but you get to come into the throne room as a son. Tim Keller summarizes this well, “The only person who dares wake up a king at 3:00 AM for a glass of water is a child. We have that kind of access.”

The Father Invites You

Paul writes in Philippians 4:6-7 “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This incredible command should produce prolific prayer from the Christian. Every person faces anxiety and worry, but God urges the Christian to bring their anxieties to him. He offers to carry our anxieties and worries for us. In exchange he offers us his peace. This exchange seems too good to be true. We bring our anxieties to God and in turn he gives us peace.

Peter encourages us along the same lines when he says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” This encouragement comes with the reminder of God’s love for us. What Father does not want to hear the cares of his children? If this is true of sinful human fathers, how much more is it true of our perfect heavenly Father? We can come and bear our hearts to him knowing his loving ear is inclined towards us.

Where else in your life do you have someone inviting you to lay your burdens on them? Isn’t everyone else preoccupied with their own burdens or trying to find more burdens to add to your current list of burdens? The creator and sustainer of the universe invites you to bring your most difficult burdens on him. He gives you peace and is the one alone who can really help you.

The Spirit Empowers You

Anyone who spends any time in prayer knows the frustration which can accompany prayer. Sometimes you don’t know what to pray for and other times it feels like your prayers don’t get past the ceiling. We also experience the feeling of grief so deep we cannot produce words during prayer. In Romans 8 Paul addresses this, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Christian, if you don’t know what to pray the Spirit helps you pray. Anything God calls you to do the Spirit will empower you to do. This is true with prayer as well. He prompts you to pray and gives you the words to pray as you pray.

The words inspired by the Spirit also help you know what to pray for. Don’t think of your Bible reading as something divorced from your prayer time. Read your Bible and pray in response to what you are reading. Look for something to thank God for, repent over, or ask for help with. Pray through the Psalms if your prayer times have been stagnant. The words inspired by God will help you in your prayers to him.

Related Posts:
Planning to Pray
When Prayer is Difficult

For Further Reading:
Alone with God by John MacArthur
Praying with Paul by D.A. Carson

This is the fourth post in the “How to Grow as a Husband” series. You can click the links to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.)

One of my favorite lines about communication between significant others comes from the movie Dumb and Dumber. When Harry explains to Lloyd why a girl broke up with him he said, “She gave me a bunch of crap about me not listening to her enough or something. I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.” Unfortunately this hits way too close to home for many husbands. Default mode for us often means halfway listening to our wives, waiting on them to finish so we can talk, talking over them, or not really listening to what they are saying and jumping to improper conclusions.

The art of patient listening is not foreign to the Christian husband. He experiences patient listening every day of his life. Because Jesus has given his life for us and sits at God’s right hand making intercession for us, God hears us when we come to him. He invites us to come near to him and inclines his ear to hear us. Christians also experience the patience of God as he encourages us to bring our requests to him continually. In addition God patiently forgives us when we ask and has been forgiving the same sins in many of us for a long time. God’s patience towards us is not begrudging. We are his children and he delights to hear us and be patient with us.

In addition husbands heed the command to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Many times this sacrificial love does not mean taking a bullet for our wives, but loving them everyday in a sacrificial way. This means we listen when we are tired, empathize when we have difficulty understanding, and patiently seek to understand before we jump to conclusions. This kind of listening is not a burden for the Christian husband, but rather should be something we seek to do from a joyful posture towards our wives.

Give Her Your Full Attention

Men, when your wife wants to talk to you be sure you give her one hundred percent of your attention. Mute the television, shut off your phone, or put down the book you are reading. Look her in the face and show you are hearing what she is saying. This does not mean fake nodding, but a posture which lends itself towards active listening.

For many men this means we need to learn how to leave our work at the front door when we come home. Pick a spot on your commute where you will turn off the radio and take a few minutes to pray. Ask the Lord to help you be fully home when you get home. Leave your laptop in the car if it will be a distraction. Put your phone on a shelf or plug it in if you are tempted to scroll instead of talking. When you are at work be completely at work. Then when you come home be there completely.

Give Her Your Ear and Not Your Mouth

Resist the urge to jump into the conversation with your opinion about what your wife should do or how she should feel. Too often we formulate our next sentence while she is still speaking. Instead, resolve not to speak until you have fully heard what your wife is saying. Ask her appropriate follow up questions so you know you understand what she is saying. Hold off on your opinion until she invites you in.

I realize this sounds like something our second grade teacher would tell us about listening to another person, but how many of us have developed poor listening habits? Maybe this is a good time to work on our listening skills with every person, but our wives in particular need our listening ear.

Conversations with our wives are a joy and are not a burden. In his book The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller says “Your spouse has got to be your best friend, or on the way to becoming your best friend, or you won’t have a strong, rich marriage that endures and that makes you both vastly better persons for having been in it.” Our marriages should be marked by a growing friendship, and we build friendships through talking and shared time together. The discipline of patient listening grows our marital friendship and produces joy in our marriage.

Related Posts:
Why the Bible Doesn’t Have Much ‘Marriage Advice’
What Happens When Your Marriage Doesn’t Have an Eject Button

For Further Reading:
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller
The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler
When Sinners Say “I Do” by Dave Harvey

A Few Good Reads

May 27, 2015 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

Page: Obama’s comments on poverty disappointing
Many accuse evangelicals of only being concerned about abortion and gay marriage, particularly to the detriment of caring for the poor. President Obama recently echoed this criticism at a panel discussion hosted by Georgetown University. David Roach’s story on a recent interview with SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page shows where this criticism falls short. “Southern Baptists ‘have the third largest disaster relief ministry in the world,’ Page said. ‘Who do you think is involved right now in Nepal? Well, we are. We were there before the government was. When the government leaves, we’ll be there. We were involved in Hurricane Sandy.'”

Contentment is a Work of Grace
Christians struggle mightily with contentment. We find it hard to be thankful for where we are in life and what we have. Erik Raymond helps us understand what it takes to grow in contentment and how the Gospel fuels our contentment. “We are a people who struggle with contentment, but thanks be to God that he does not leave us there! Christ comes to save people from their sin—including discontentment. What’s more, Christ not only paid the penalty for our discontentment but he provides the power to make us truly content!”

You are not special
I have pointed to several articles over the last several months about our growing cultural narcissism and how it fuels many of our cultural issues. The Economist reviews David Brooks’ new book The Road to Character and unpacks how thinking less of ourselves is a service to those around us. “The ultimate sin, for the Oprah generation, is to be repressed. Nonsense, says Mr Brooks. Dwight Eisenhower spent his life repressing his inner self, and it helped the Allies win the second world war. He “spent the nights staring at the ceiling, racked by insomnia and anxiety, drinking and smoking”. Yet “he put on a false front of confident ease and farm-boy garrulousness” to raise the troops’ morale. He was splendidly inauthentic. Later on, as president, he was willing to appear tongue-tied if it would help conceal his designs. Indeed, he was happy to let people think him stupid, which ‘is how we know he was not a New Yorker’.”

1397712689920.cachedBy now many reading this have heard about the scandal revolving around the Duggar family and Josh’s actions when he was 14. Since the news broke, Josh resigned his job with the Family Research Council and TLC has pulled the family’s show from the air. The opinions around this scandal have been heated. Some were shocked by the revelations about Josh’s behavior and others seemed to be thrilled the family had a secret they were hiding. In light of this scandal and some of the discussions taking place, I want to offer a few pastoral reflections.

Hold out the Hope of the Gospel

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The Lord Jesus Christ came to earth, lived a perfect life, died on the cross as a substitute for the sins of his people, was buried in the ground, raised on the third day, ascended into heaven where he makes intercession for his people, and will come again one day. Because he died for sins once for all, God forgives the sins of those who call upon the name of Jesus. In addition he clothes us with the perfect life of Christ. The one who trusts in Jesus has experienced a great exchange, they traded their sins for the righteousness of Christ.

In the next point we will emphasize sin’s heinous nature, but in doing so we cannot forget to proclaim the reality of the Gospel. The death of Jesus covers the worst of our sins and the person who has lived in the most scandalous sin can come to Christ and be accepted by the Father. This must control the way we look at people who have taken part in scandalous sin, especially if it is in their past and shape the way we look at people involved in a lifestyle of sin now. There is great hope for any person if they will repent and believe in Christ who gave himself for them. They stand before God completely righteous and freely forgiven with no asterisks or caveats.

Avoid Minimizing the Seriousness of Sin

Unfortunately Christians often speak of forgiveness as if it provides an end run around temporal consequences for our actions. Nothing could be further from the truth. Christians who commit crimes and indecent acts experience God’s forgiveness, but still must face penalties from civil authorities and rebuilding trust with people who know about their actions. Forgiveness also does not mean a person gets restored to their place of ministry or continue to have the same platform to speak to issues.

Christians must further remember the price of our forgiveness. To make our salvation a reality the perfect Son of God had to come to earth and give his life for us. Because of this truth we cannot speak of sin as something to simply be glossed over. We can both hold out the promise of forgiveness and remember the serious nature of sin. The New Testament, particularly the book of Hebrews, sternly warns Christians against continuing in sin after coming to Christ and trampling under foot his blood.

Do Everything Possible to Protect Children and Care for Victims

Too often we hear about these types of scandals and automatically think about how it affects our standing in the culture wars. We forget about the victims of these atrocities because we get too focused on defending people on our team. During these times we must focus our efforts on providing genuine help to victims of sexual abuse and assault. God offers hope to the victimized, healing them of their shame and pain. They need a safe place to work through their pain and discover this hope in their own timing without other people imposing an artificial timeline on them.

The coverup of sexual crimes cannot be tolerated. Churches and church leaders must realize the necessity of calling the proper authorities without trying to do our own investigation first. This is not our place. We can learn what happened later and decide what disciplinary and discipleship measures may be needed in a person’s life later, but the authorities must be notified first. Paul’s words in Romans 13 mean we do not get to negotiate on this point. In addition, coverup and delay usually lead to more victims, so protection of the vulnerable necessitates our immediate action.

Look to Yourselves Lest You Fall into Sin as Well

We should be scandalized by the sexual exploitation of young girls. If hearing what happened to these young girls turned your stomach, it means you still have a conscience and this is a good thing. The temptation we face when we hear about scandalous sin is to assume we are not capable of heinous and deplorable sin as well. Every person has the capacity for horrid evil within us and the only thing restraining us is God’s grace, the resolve not to walk in a pattern of sin, lack of opportunity, and/or the fear of consequences.

The temptations you face most likely are not the same as the ones Josh Duggar faced, yet they are just as real and the moment you proclaim what you would never do becomes the moment you are most likely to fall. Remember how you too must war against sin in your own life. Remember the Gospel, spend time in God’s word, pray often for God’s help, and walk in close community with other Christians. The New Testament writers remind us we are at war with the world, the flesh, and the devil. The wise Christian remembers these enemies and wars against them everyday.

End the Cycle of Christian Celebrity

In an effort to have family entertainment options and spokespeople who reflect our values, Christians quickly thrust people into a spotlight they might not be ready for. We watch their shows, buy their books, share their status updates, and point to them as a great example, often forgetting they have feet of clay. Then they fall or say something embarrassing and we wonder why people view Christianity with increasing skepticism.

The advancement of the Gospel does not need baptized celebrities. Jesus did not say “the world will know you are my disciples if you have spokespeople with a cable show and a fat book deal.” He said, “the world will know you are my disciples if you love one another.” The Gospel advances through ordinary Christians living their ordinary lives for the glory of God as they love and serve the people around them. Your unbelieving neighbor is more likely to impacted through the witness of the Christians he encounters everyday than he is by the Christians on television. Instead of inviting our neighbors to watch a family on television, we should invite them into our daily lives where they can hear and see the Gospel in real life.

In closing we need to remember Josh Duggar is a real person and so are the people he abused. He has real sin, they have real pain, and all involved need real redemption only Jesus can give.

Related Posts:
Your Worst and Best Days Don’t Define You
What Does ‘Judge Not’ Mean

For Further Reading:
Rid of My Disgrace by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb
Is it My Fault? by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

A Few Good Reads

May 14, 2015 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

Stephen Curry and the Culture of Mistrust
Bethany Jenkins writes about the evident humility of Stephen Curry compared to the “The gospel transforms our notion of self-worth and identity because it invites us to embrace a sense of meaning and purpose that’s bigger than ourselves. In Christ, we we’re not demoralized by failure or overly impressed by narrow ideas of success, like football tackles or MVP awards or prestigious scholarships and degrees.”

Is Christianity Dying?
A new Pew Center study on religious affiliation received lots of attention this week. The talking points seem to center around the increasing number of unaffiliated and the decreasing number of Christians. Russell Moore analyzes the report and offers some important reflections about what they mean. “Bible Belt near-Christianity is teetering. I say let it fall. For much of the twentieth century, especially in the South and parts of the Midwest, one had to at least claim to be a Christian to be “normal.” During the Cold War, that meant distinguishing oneself from atheistic Communism. At other times, it has meant seeing churchgoing as a way to be seen as a good parent, a good neighbor, and a regular person. It took courage to be an atheist, because explicit unbelief meant social marginalization. Rising rates of secularization, along with individualism, means that those days are over—and good riddance to them.”

Why Plant a New Church in the Bible Belt?
I often hear people say we don’t need more churches in the South. In this post Jeff Lawrence answers this objection by showing the great need for new churches in the Bible Belt. “A recent article in The Oklahoman claims that Oklahoma City area, where I pastor, is growing by 1729 people per month. Yes, per month. How will the church keep up with population growth? Numerically, we need to add nearly a new megachurch per month just to keep up with all the new people moving into the area. Add into the equation the hundreds of thousands already here who do not know Jesus, and you start to get a sense of the burden we should feel for planting new churches.”

Persevere in Parenting

Photo by Rachel Morris Photography

My wife and I have four children ranging in age from nine to three months. We spent most of the last decade learning how to be parents. I realize you are a parent whether you know what you are doing or not, but our desire has been to learn how to parent our children well.

One of the things I noticed in our time parenting is the tendency for things to go well for a season and then for things to go completely haywire for a season. For a while, we spend quality time with our kids and then we get into a busy season where it feels like our kids get the short end of the stick. We see have family devotions consistently and then all of a sudden I can’t remember when our last devotion was. We discipline our kids consistently for a while, taking the time to talk to them about their behavior and not letting offenses slide by. Then we go through a period where we overlook things and speak to our kids in a frustrated way rather than taking the time to teach them.

Did you catch the key word in the last sentence? Consistently. Knowing how to teach and pray for your kids is not as hard as we think it is. Our instincts about the best way to discipline our children are usually correct and most parents want to spend quality time with their children. The hardest aspect of parenting is rarely our lack of understanding, but our failure to persevere. As parents what we need the most is the perseverance to continue doing the right thing after we know the right thing to do. There are three particular areas where parents need to persevere.

Persevere in Quality Time

This may not always be the case, but it seems our children want us more than they want stuff from us. In fact I cannot help but wonder how often our giving children “stuff” is our attempt to help them find to occupy themselves so we can have time alone. Now, I completely agree parents need time alone to recharge and also to connect with there spouse and I also agree we need to teach our children to occupy themselves. At the same time we also need to realize our children’s need for time with their parents. Fishing, hiking, taking a walk, throwing a ball, playing a game, and sitting around a fire roasting marshmallows provide great opportunities to connect with our kids.

Our children will be more receptive to our discipline and teaching when we spend regular time with them because it flows from our relationship with them. When children are young, you parent mostly out of authority. If you find them playing with something they shouldn’t be playing with, you can simply take it away from them or pick them up and move them. As they grow older, you still parent from authority but your relationship with your children becomes a much bigger component in parenting. They tend to listen better and be more receptive to our parenting when we spend consistent time with them.

This will also be a joy to you. God gives us children as a gift. Quality time together creates lasting memories and leads to fun, laughter, and joy. Each of your children have unique personalities and are fun and funny in their own way. Time together brings this out. Stop thinking you will magically “find time” to spend with them. Make the time.

Persevere in Discipline and Teaching

The Bible calls parents to consistently teach and discipline our children. Moses’ words from Deuteronomy 6:7 provide important insight for how this should be done. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Much of our parenting takes place in the context of ordinary life. We teach, correct, instruct, and discipline our children while we are doing all of the basic things we usually do. This includes answering our children’s honest questions. Are there times we should tell them “you get one more question?” Yes, but within reason we should answer their questions because it builds trust with our children and they will come to us with their progressively harder questions as they get older.

In addition to teaching as we walk through life, we need to set aside time for teaching through family devotions. Family devotion is not and should be dad preaching a twenty minute sermon to the kids. (If you have small kids, it can’t and won’t be this.) Don Whitney offers a simple method for family devotion anyone can do whether they know the Bible well or not- read, pray, sing. Read a portion of the Bible. If your kids are small this can be from a children’s Bible like The Big Picture Story Bible or The Jesus Storybook Bible and as they get older progress into reading a section from your favorite translation. Depending on where your children are, you can work on memory verses or a catechism together. Then spend some time in prayer together and sing a song. These can be simple children’s songs like “Jesus Loves Me” or simple hymns like “Come Thou Fount” or “Be Thou My Vision.”

We must also discipline our children. Truthfully I find it difficult to separate discipline from teaching because they go together hand in hand. We do not discipline our children to punish them for what they have done, but to instruct their hearts so they will be different in the future. Discipline should not look the same all the time, but should be tailored to the situation and the bent of our children. Whether or not we discipline though is not up for debate. God commands children to obey their parents and we should expect them to obey what we tell them the first time we tell them to do it. Anything other than this must result in discipline for the sake of your children’s souls and your future sanity.

Persevere in Prayer

Finally parents need to persevere in praying for and with our children. Pretend for a second you could do a perfect job parenting your children. You always kept your cool when they disobeyed and told them exactly what they needed to hear in every situation. You read the Bible to them every day and spent the perfect amount of quality time with them. You led them to friendships with the right kids and gave them every opportunity they needed. Even if you did all of these things, it would not guarantee anything about your child’s heart or their future. Only the grace of God can take your parenting and make it effective, so you must pray.

Pray for your children and for your parenting consistently. Pray God would cover your efforts with grace, forgive you where you fail, and empower you to persevere in your parenting. Pray God would change your child’s heart by the power of his Spirit and raise them up to follow him and bring him glory. You need God and your children need God, so daily bring them before the throne of grace.

We should also pray with our children. By doing this they learn how to pray and about what they should pray. They get to see your family pray for things and how God answers those prayers. Also our parents should hear us pray for their salvation. Our prayers teach them what we value the most and they will consistently hear about their need for Christ.

For the parents who read this, write Galatians 6:9 over all your parenting. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” May God show his grace to us as we raise our children for his glory.

Related Posts:
Recovering the Family Dinner Table
How to Have Family Worship

For Further Reading:
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
A Neglected Grace by Jason Helopoulos
Family Worship by Donald Whitney

Blind Spots

May 10, 2015 — Leave a comment

Blind SpotsIf you were to ask me what the most important characteristic is in a church, I would tell you it is what the church believes. My bias leans toward churches leading with theology. They need to know what they believe, why they believe it, and be upfront about it. This makes perfect sense to me because I believe God has spoken clearly in his word and we need to be serious about what he has said. Then when I look at church history I see how a lack of seriousness about doctrinal truth leads the church into compromise and decline. Then church history shows other times when God’s people took his truth seriously, proclaimed it boldly, and saw large numbers of people come to faith in Jesus. The primary place of good theology seems obvious to me and have a difficult time understanding why anyone would say anything else is the most important element in a church.

In his new book Blind Spots, Collin Hansen addresses Christians like me who don’t understand why other Christians don’t emphasize the things I emphasize. He explains how Christians have often vilified each other because we have failed to see our different emphases and appreciate each other instead of biting and devouring one another. “We all have blind spots. It’s so easy to see the faults in someone else or in another group but so difficult to see the limitations in ourselves. Unless you learn to see the faults in yourself and your heroes, though, you can’t appreciate how God has gifted other Christians.”

Hansen explains three different types of Christians and the aspects of Christian faithfulness they emphasize. Courageous Christians cling to sound doctrine and godly living, not backing down in the face of societal pressure. Commissioned Christians understand the need to share the Gospel with every person in a way that connects with them. Compassionate Christians know the needs of people in our culture and are ready to meet those needs.

The bulk of Blind Spots deals with these three different types of Christians. Hansen explains the unique contribution each of these emphases makes within the Christian church, but also unpacks the blind spots the people in these groups will wrestle with. For example, in the chapter on courageous Christians, he helps the reader understand why courage is needed in as the church wrestles with our current cultural climate. Then he leads courageous Christians to understand the particular temptations they will face because of their particular bent. Courageous Christians face the temptation to idolize eras in the past and not see their heroes as flawed and fallen men like the heroes of Scripture. So courageous Christians must understand these temptations, praying and seeking that God would temper our courage with humility and grace.

The call to embrace these three varieties of Christian emphases should not be mistaken as a call to abandon doctrinal distinctive in the name of going along and getting alone. In the first chapter Hansen states, “when you lose the distinctive doctrines of Christianity- starting with the resurrection of Jesus- you lose everything.” He fights the assumption that we have to choose between biblical faithfulness, evangelism, or social justice. Instead he shows how we must have a biblically faithful, evangelistically zealous, and need meeting Christianity. No one is asked to leave doctrinal commitments at the door, but they are called to hold those commitments with charity recognizing which ones are essential to cooperation with other Christians and which ones are not.

Blind Spots by Collin Hansen reminds all Christians of an important truth- we need each other. Courageous Christians need to be reminded not to sit in the corner defending the truth, but to proclaim this truth in word and deed so people will be impacted by the Gospel. Compassionate Christians must remember in their acts of charity to keep the Gospel at the forefront of what they do. Commissioned Christians should hear the call to focus on the care of the whole person and not just the soul, remembering at the same time not to water down the message of the Gospel so more people will appear to accept it. The only way Christians will remember these things is by listening to the emphases of other followers of Jesus. The church is a body with many members, and we need all of those members playing their part for the sake of the Gospel. Not every person has the same calling or is passionate about the same issue or cause; but we have one great passion, the glory of God in Christ, to which we subordinate all of our other passions.

Christians who are tempted to snark, suspicion, and sarcasm toward other Christians will benefit from the message of Blind Spots. We need to be reminded we wrestle with temptations from our emphases, and our brothers and sisters can help us see them so our lives bear greater fruit for the glory of God.

You can read my other book reviews and notes here.

(I received a copy of Blind Spots in exchange for an honest review of the work.)

 

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

What the Media Isn’t Telling You Regarding the Arguments Over Same-Sex Marriage
As the debate over same-sex marriage heated up, conservatives warned a move in this direction would lead to a loss of religious liberty and open the door to the legalization of other types of sexual relationships. Michael Kruger helps us see both of these issues as he analyzes the transcripts of last week’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court. “The logic being used to promote same-sex marriage could be used to support a variety of other sexually questionable forms of marriage.” (Emphasis Original)

“What is Your Purpose?”
I have always enjoyed the thoughtful writing of David Brooks. His writing lately raised the question of our moral vocabulary and noted how our moral debates have been politicized. In this piece he ponders the meaning of life, noting our need to make space for discussing life’s most important issues. “The shift has meant there is less moral conversation in the public square. I doubt people behave worse than before, but we are less articulate about the inner life. There are fewer places in public where people are talking about the things that matter most.”

“Split Images
Madison Holleran appeared to have everything a college freshman could want. She had been a successful high school student athlete and now ran track at an Ivy League school. Her Instagram account detailed the life of a girl who looked to be happy and enjoying life. Kate Fagan at ESPN tells a different story though; one only a few people knew. Madison battled severe depression and ultimately took her own life. This piece details what everyone saw from a distance versus what was really happening inside. (Warning: This is a beautiful and moving piece of writing, but it also details what happened when Madison took her own life.) “Madison was beautiful, talented, successful — very nearly the epitome of what every young girl is supposed to hope she becomes. But she was also a perfectionist who struggled when she performed poorly. She was a deep thinker, someone who was aware of the image she presented to the world, and someone who often struggled with what that image conveyed about her, with how people superficially read who she was, what her life was like.”

“Best, Brightest, and Saddest”
Frank Bruni of The New York Times explores the reasons behind a string of teenage suicides in Palo Alto, California. He zeroes in on the pressure teenagers in this city face to excel in school and get accepted into Stanford. (Warning: This piece is informative, but discusses teenage suicide.) “And while mental health professionals are rightly careful not to oversimplify or trivialize the psychic distress behind them by focusing on any one possible factor, the contagion has prompted an emotional debate about the kinds of pressures felt by high school students in epicenters of overachievement.”

Good Deals on Kevin DeYoung’s Books
I’ve benefited from Kevin DeYoung’s writing the last few years and his books Crazy Busy, Don’t Call it a Comeback, Taking God at His Word, and The Hole in Our Holiness are discounted for Kindle this week. You should pick them up and give them a careful read.