A Few Good Reads

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

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

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

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

Moms, Your Secret Sacrifices Matter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. Sing with your kids everyday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Posts:
The Joy and Pain of Consistent Parenting

To the Parents of Young Children

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

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

A Few Good Reads

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

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

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

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

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

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

photo credit: array via photopin (license)

photo credit: array via photopin (license)

Our church sits in the most unchurched county in the state of Alabama. While “unchurched” and “Alabama” don’t seem like they should go in the same sentence, our churches have grown at half the rate of the population. Since 1990 the population has more than doubled and our churches have grown by only fifty percent.

We planted Chelsea Village Baptist Church almost seven years ago, and in that time I have had conversations with many men who want to plant churches. Because of the trends I have seen in church planting in our context in particular, and in the broader culture generally, the talk I have with potential church planters has changed significantly.

The Delusion of Church Planters

For the last decade church planting seems to have been in vogue. Aiding this phenomenon has been the success stories of men who started a church and saw explosive growth in a short amount of time. Enough people have heard these stories that it feels like the norm in church planting.

Many men have felt called into church planting thinking they will move to a town, put up a sign, and see hundreds fill the chairs on the first Sunday. They come convinced their preaching will be the most compelling people have ever heard and their “worship experiences” will wow people in a way they have never seen.

What many men don’t understand is that the “success stories” stand out because they are so rare. Many more men see their churches close than see the kind of growth in their churches that gets them invited to speak at conferences. Everyone who plants hears about the high body count, yet they somehow still think they will be the exception to the rule.

The Need for Church Planters

Millions of people in the United States do not know Jesus and millions more claim to know him but have no connection to a healthy local church. Many regions in our nation do not have enough churches to reach the large number of people who live there. Therefore, we need an influx of churches who will proclaim the Gospel to their communities, train disciples, and plant more churches who will do the same.

Unfortunately, for us to plant the kinds of churches we need to plant the men who feel called to planting must change their expectations and their definition of “success.” We cannot bear another generation of church planters who want to be the next big thing. Men hungry for acclaim will do nothing to make a dent in the number of people in our culture who do not know Jesus.

When numerical success becomes the primary benchmark for evaluating the success of a church, a man will sacrifice his principles and build his ministry on all the wrong things to achieve his goal. Churches built on hype, great music, and a charismatic personality may reach some people who do not know Jesus, but it will mainly pull Christians from other churches. We don’t need more churches characterized by this mentality; we need thousands less.

The Task of Church Planters

The task of planting churches who are faithful to share the Gospel, make disciples, and plant more church calls for an army of men who are content with no one knowing their names except the people in their community and those whom they shepherd. These men must be willing to move into communities and plant their lives there. This means they work, not just for their church to grow, but for the good of the whole community by being a good neighbor and a witness to the Gospel.

The task of planting churches demands we plant churches on a sound foundation so they will still be bearing fruit in fifty years if the Lord tarries. This involves consistent teaching from the Bible, discipling believers, developing godly leaders, helping believers connect their faith to their work, and building a good reputation in the community. Every ounce of this work must be fueled by fervent prayer, asking God to strengthen us for the task to which he has called us.

The man who plants this kind of church must be willing to do work that doesn’t make for interesting tweets. He must be a man who cultivates his relationship with Jesus, his wife, and children each and every day. He has to be willing to spend hours glued to his chair with his head in the Bible so he can faithfully teach it to others. This man will dedicate significant time each week to purposeful conversation with other Christians, helping them to understand how to follow Jesus.

We need the man willing to work in obscurity because the real task of church planting is not easy or glamorous. At the same time the task is worth every ounce of effort. What can compare with seeing men and women pass from darkness to light? How much joy does it bring to see young believers maturing and progressing in their faith? And how great a blessing is it to see people we knew as young Christians become faithful leaders who are called to plant churches as well?

I once heard Mark Dever say that men often overestimate what they can accomplish in five years and underestimate what they can do it ten. When our desire is immediate numerical success, we never stick around long enough to see the real glories of Gospel ministry. However, when we plant our lives in a place, doing the hard and anonymous work which must be done for the sake of the Gospel we have the opportunity to see great things happen.

The Challenge for Church Planters

When I talk to church planters who want to plant churches, the talk I have with them sounds something like this. “We need new churches because so many people need the Gospel, but we do not need any more churches that are going to try to be the next big thing. We don’t need any more big shows whose desire is to grow at all costs. If your plan is to build your church by luring as many people as possible from other churches, we have that already and don’t need more of it. However, if you are going to go and compassionately proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, build a church on the Scriptures, plant your life in the community so you can be an effective witness in it, disciple the new Christians God sends your way, and plan to plant more churches that plant more churches so more people can know Jesus, then please go and plant because our culture needs the kind of church planter you will be.”

We don’t need more rock stars. We don’t need more men seeking the lime light. We need more anonymous, plodding church planters who labor faithfully for the spread of the Gospel and the glory of King Jesus.

(This post is a revised and expanded version of a post I wrote in 2014.)

Related Posts:
What I Wish I Had Known about Church Planting Before I Started
Six Foolish Things I Used to Believe about the Ministry

For Further Reading:
Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by R. Kent Hughes

A Few Good Reads

April 14, 2016 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

When Ball Becomes Baal

Jim Elliff notes the increasing demands youth sports make on families, particularly pulling them away from needed family time and their weekly meeting with God’s people to worship. He offers clues to help us understand when sports have become too important to us and how we can approach it with greater wisdom. “You’ll hear, “But the team needs all the players. We can’t let the team down.” It never occurs to them that the church Body is being deprived of a necessary body part, or that God is marginalized and disobeyed. We are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, states God in Hebrews 10:25.”

Screentime is Making Kids Moody, Crazy, Lazy
This piece in Psychology Today is from last year, but it makes an incredible point- we are letting our kids have too much time with screens and it has negative effects on them. “Because light from screen devices mimics daytime, it suppresses melatonin, a sleep signal released by darkness. Just minutes of screen stimulation can delay melatonin release by several hours and desynchronize the body clock Once the body clock is disrupted, all sorts of other unhealthy reactions occur, such as hormone imbalance and brain inflammation. Plus, high arousal doesn’t permit deep sleep, and deep sleep is how we heal.”

How to Fix Politics
If you read these posts often you have probably noted my admiration of New York Times columnist David Brooks. His writing focuses on issues deeper than the merely political and points towards deep self-reflection. This piece on our politics shows how the issues which plague do not have answers that can only be answered on the national level. “Once politics becomes your ethnic and moral identity, it becomes impossible to compromise, because compromise becomes dishonor. If you put politics at the center of identity, you end up asking the state to eclipse every social authority but itself. Presidential campaigns become these gargantuan two-year national rituals that swallow everything else in national life.”

Why Trust the Bible
Christians face more questions about the truthfulness of the Bible than at any other point in our lifetimes. Greg Gilbert offers solid answers to crucial questions about the authorship, transmission, and trustworthiness of the Bible. Any Christian wanting to develop a greater facility with answering difficult questions about the Bible from skeptical friends would gain great benefit from his work. “The Bible stands at the heart of the Christian faith. But this leads to an inescapable question: why should we trust the Bible? Written to help non-Christians, longtime Christians, and everyone in between better understand why God’s Word is reliable, this short book explores the historical and theological arguments that have helped lead millions of believers through the centuries to trust the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.”

A Few Good Reads

April 1, 2016 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

Why Don’t We Follow All of the Old Testament Laws
“Do you eat shellfish?” How often have we heard this retort to appeals to ethical demands of the Old Testament? J.D. Greear wrestles with this question and offers a helpful answer. “So the next time someone starts saying that you’re arbitrarily picking and choosing from the Bible, arm yourself with the civil/ceremonial/moral. You aren’t being arbitrary. You’re being faithful. You’re reading the Old Testament how the New Testament teaches you to. So eat your shrimp without guilt, and don’t throw away your 10 Commandments just yet.”

How Should Christians Use God’s Law?
While we are on the subject of the law, I am enjoying Ryan Reeves blog on historical theology at the Gospel Coalition. In this post he discusses the three uses of God’s law. It’s helpful for those of us who follow Jesus to understand these distinctions. “For me, the question must start with defining what the Law is for Christians. How is it used? If we are no longer ‘under Law’, yet not free to live as Corinthians, how do we apply the Law to our lives? Does any attempt to obey the Law make us legalists?”

The Lost Art of Disagreement
We often think we live in the most divided culture in American history, but there have been times when the tide of division was higher. I do think we have reached a crescendo though in our inability to disagree with people and remain friends. Because of our digital age, it’s more possible than ever to build an echo chamber where everyone agrees with you. Samuel James writes about the relationship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, showing how their friendship in spite of their disagreements provides a model for us. “Honest, empathetic disagreement may not make for exciting talk radio or high cable ratings, but it is essential both for civic liberty and Christian mission. Persuasion is, after all, harder and less titillating than bombast, but without it, our heralding of both spiritual and political truth is undermined. We must not stray irretrievably far from the spirit of Adams and Jefferson. To do so would be to lose much more than an election.”

No, Trump Isn’t Actually Better than Hillary
It’s an election year, and so it’s inevitable that some political pieces are going to make their way into this list each week. As many have talked of not supporting the current Republican frontrunner, the two refrains often heard are “anyone is better than Hillary” and “choose the lesser of two evils.” David French argues against the prevailing conservative wisdom by asserting that we know how Hillary Clinton would govern but we have no idea what Donald Trump would advocate for as President. (I’m not sure if I fully agree with his argument, but it is worth hearing and thinking through.) “Yes, Trump has praised single-payer health care during this election, but trust him. He’ll do better than Obamacare. Yes, Trump has advocated touchback amnesty and increased legal immigration, but trust him. He’ll protect American workers. Yes, Trump has supported abortion-on-demand and gun control, but trust him. He’s changed. Yes, Trump has written large checks to leftist politicians, but trust him. He’ll fight them as president. Yes, his campaign team lives in the gutter, but trust him. He’ll appoint good people.”

15 Pieces of Writing Advice from C.S. Lewis
I enjoy C.S. Lewis’ writing immensely, both his fiction and non-fiction. Justin Taylor shares some great writing advice from a master craftsman. “Take great pains to be clear. Remember that though you start by knowing what you mean, the reader doesn’t, and a single ill-chosen word may lead him to a total misunderstanding. In a story it is terribly easy just to forget that you have not told the reader something that he needs to know—the whole picture is so clear in your own mind that you forget that it isn’t the same in his.”

A Peculiar Glory
Christians in the 21st century need to gain a fresh understanding of both the complete truthfulness and sufficiency of God’s word to meet the challenges we face. John Piper’s new work on the Bible will be a great help to us on this journey. “God’s peculiar glory shines through his Word. The Spirit of God enlightens the eyes of our hearts. And in one self-authenticating sight, our minds are sure and our hearts are satisfied. Justified certainty and solid joy meet in the peculiar glory of God.”

photo credit: The guys via photopin (license)

photo credit: The guys via photopin (license)

“Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.”
Proverbs 29:17

This morning I awoke at 12:30AM to the blood-curdling screams of my two-year old daughter. She wanted a new band-aid for her toe. Her screaming fit caused her one-year old brother to wake up as well. We got her back in bed and she continued to cry, and her brother did too. I had only been in bed for and hour and a half and needed to be up in four hours, yet I laid wide awake listening to my youngest two children cry on the other side of the wall. This has happened multiple times in the last few weeks. Parenting is hard.

This morning my youngest daughter came downstairs and into the dining room as I was finishing my breakfast and devotion. “Daddy, can we dye Easter eggs today?” “We dyed Easter eggs Saturday and don’t have any left. We’ll do it again next year.” “Noooooooo! I want to do it today!” “Please don’t start the day like this. Mom and Dad are tired.”

I tell these two stories from the last twelve hours of my life not to arouse your sympathies, but because I know I’m not alone in feeling too tired to be a faithful parent who lovingly teaches and correcting my children for the good of their souls. Persevering in loving, consistent, discipline and teaching is the hardest thing parents have to do. When our children disobey, either pretending like it didn’t happen or losing our temper with our kids feels like the easiest thing to do. We have homes to clean, jobs to work, projects to complete, rest to get, and unfortunately, phones to stare at. This all feel more pressing and important than consistent parenting.

Think about the words from Proverbs 29:17, “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” This verse holds out an important principle in parenting, if we persevere in parenting well we will reap greater benefits than if we take the easy way out of neglect or anger. “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest.” Children who are well-disciplined, as a general rule, cause less stress and heartache in the future. If we do the hard thing, we will avoid much harder things in the future.

“He will give delight to your heart.” Your initial thought may be, “don’t children always give delight to their parent’s hearts.” No, no children do not always give delight to the hearts of their parents. Sometimes our children disobey in incredibly embarrassing situations, cry in the middle of the night when we want to sleep, and display defiant attitudes when we just need them to cooperate. We get frustrated with, angry at, and weary from our children sometimes. Solomon holds out some hope here for us though. When we persevere in faithful parenting, we have a greater opportunity to enjoy our children for the blessings they truly are.

Persevere in Loving

Understanding that your child is your neighbor transforms your parenting. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We say we love our children, but often speak to them harshly, become impatient with them, and wave off things they want to say with an astonishing callousness. We need to repent of these things and love our children as we love ourselves. We must treat them with respect and kindness, looking out for their greatest good. Our children need to know of our love for them, as it provides an incredible security for them and opens their heart to hearing what we tell them.

Persevere in Recreating

The best way to grow in loving your children is to spend time with them when there is no agenda. This happens when you turn off your phone, shut off the TV, and go for a walk, play a game, or go outside together. These are the times that your children will always remember and your heart will cherish.

I cannot emphasize the getting rid of distractions aspect of this enough. When you are halfway home with your kids and halfway in your phone or laptop, you are not fully doing anything. End your day before you come home and then be home when you are home. It will lead to a lot less frustration for you and your children.

Persevere in Teaching

Parents, you bear the primary responsibility for teaching your children life’s most important truths. You need to have a plan for teaching your children about God, sin, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, grace, ethics, and how to treat other people. This means we should have regular times where we are reading the Bible with our children. We also teach according to the pattern of Deuteronomy 6 and use every opportunity life presents to positively convey important truths to our kids. Never, ever stop teaching. It lies at the heart of our role as parents.

Persevere in Correcting

When our children disobey or mistreat other people, they must be corrected so their hearts and behavior change. We correct, not in outbursts of anger, but with kindness, patience, and firmness. In this, it must be emphasized that we correct our children for disobeying the first time they do it. We count to avoid a confrontation or overlook it because we don’t feel like dealing with it. This cannot be, as we have a divine mandate to correct our children for the good of their own souls. We must give clear instructions to our children and there must be clear and reasonable consequences for their disobedience.

Persevering in our parenting can be difficult, which is why we cannot do it alone. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us so we parent well for God’s glory. Read your Bible, pray for help, and walk in fellowship with other believers who can encourage and challenge you. The Lord has called us to do this, so he will supply the strength we need, and in the end it will be worth it.

Related Posts:
A Letter to My Son
To the Parents of Young Children

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

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

We have arrived at the weekend when we remember the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Everything I’m sharing today focuses on these truths, and I these posts and articles help you meditate on the work of Jesus and increase the joy you have in him.

Holy Week: What Happened on Good Friday?
Justin Taylor points us to the Bible’s witness to the events of Good Friday. “With help from the ESV Study Bible, here’s an attempted a harmony/chronology of the words and actions of Jesus in the final week of his pre-resurrection life.”

The Beauty of the Cross: 19 Objections and Answers on Penal Substitution
Jesus’ substitutionary death on our behalf is at the heart of the Christian Gospel. Derek Rishmawy considers objections to the understanding of Jesus’ death as paying for our sins by his suffering under the wrath of the father in our place and offers answers to them. “The cross of Christ has always been a scandal and an offense. As a symbol of social shame in the Greco-Roman world, the idea of a Crucified God elicited scorn from the cultured elites. For 1st Century Jews, a crucified Messiah was a nonsensical contradiction in terms. Even today, speaking of Jesus’ death as the saving center of history provokes a quizzical response both in the pews and the marketplace. Beyond that, there has been a wide variety of debate around just how Jesus’ death saves us within the church itself. Historically, there has been no binding ecumenical statement on the issue comparable to those on of the Trinity and the person of Christ. The result is that many different approaches to explaining the way the death Christ exercises a saving function in the economy of the Triune God.”

What Do Propitiation and Expiation Mean
R.C. Sproul takes us through the meaning of two words often used to describe Jesus’ death. These two words have often been used in opposition and Sproul helps us understand how they can be used in concert. “Therefore, Christ’s supreme achievement on the cross is that He placated the wrath of God, which would burn against us were we not covered by the sacrifice of Christ. So if somebody argues against placation or the idea of Christ satisfying the wrath of God, be alert, because the gospel is at stake. This is about the essence of salvation—that as people who are covered by the atonement, we are redeemed from the supreme danger to which any person is exposed. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of a holy God Who’s wrathful. But there is no wrath for those whose sins have been paid. That is what salvation is all about.”

How to Preach a Terrible Easter Sermon
Pastors often struggle with what and how we should preach on Easter Sunday. Colin Adams has some great advice and shares mistakes to avoid. “If we cannot exhibit joy when preaching a tomb-conquering Savior, then when (O when) will we ever show it?”

How to Explain Easter to Your Children
This is a great post from Gloria Furman moving past only sharing the facts of Jesus’ resurrection and getting the heart of what he accomplished. Parents can learn much about sharing the truth of the Gospel with our children from this post. “Our goals are not merely intellectual, but supernatural. When we explain Easter to kids, we want the Spirit of God to enlighten the eyes of their hearts to see Jesus. We know that we could give the most biblically-faithful, age-appropriate, and creatively-engaging presentation of Easter, and yet our message could fall on deaf ears. We recognize that the giving of faith is not up to us, but God. Salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps. 3:8), and he is 100% effective at what he does. Pray for God to work!”

The Cross of Christ
John Stott’s beautiful exposition of Jesus’ work on the cross remains my favorite Christian book. He explains what Jesus accomplished on the cross in a way that both grows our understanding and moves us to worship. “I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. . . . In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?”

This year is my fourteenth year working as a full-time pastor and either served on church staff or was in Seminary for a few years before. When I look back on my younger years in the ministry I often shake my head as I remember things I said or attitudes I harbored which were completely wrongheaded. Thankfully God is gracious, working through us in spite of ourselves and helping us to grow and mature.

So that others can learn from them, here are a few of the foolish things I used to believe about the ministry. (In ten years I will write about the foolish things I believed about the ministry in 2016.)

Before I was in ministry I worked a secular job.

This is common parlance, but horribly wrong headed. When we speak of non-ministry jobs as “secular” work we subtly send the impression that pastors do holy work and everyone else does non-holy work. Farming, accounting, teaching, welding, and thousands of other jobs are not secular work. They fulfill the creation mandate to subdue the earth, provide for the common good, and bring glory to God. One of the greatest needs in our generation is helping believers connect their faith to their work, and we will not accomplish this while we speak of non-church jobs as if they are a lesser form of vocation.

If I preach well everything else in our church will fall into place.

Early in my ministry I assumed that good preaching fixed all of the church’s issues. If people heard and responded to God’s word, they would be counseled and discipled through it instead of needing one on one meetings during the week. As we walked through the Bible and saw what the church is and what it is called to be everyone would be on board with necessary changes because they have been listening to the preaching. If anything, good preaching creates more need and opportunities for the pastor to counsel and do one on one discipleship as the word exposes sin and the need for growth in Christian’s lives. When people ask questions about decisions the church faces it provides great opportunities for personal conversations about the Bible and the church. Then after having these conversations through counseling, discipling, and decision making helps the pastor have a greater understanding of what is people are facing when he prepares to preach each week. A strong pulpit leads to more personal ministry and personal ministry leads to stronger pulpit.

I want my church to be so mature that I never have to explain difficult concepts because they understand them already.

“I want our church to know the Bible so well that I can say ‘justification’ and they know what I am talking about without my having to explain it.” This sentence came out of my mouth. In one sense I was right because I want to see Christians growing in their faith and understanding of the Bible, yet I missed two vital issues. Even Christians who know what justification is need to hear it’s glorious truth laid bare before them so they continue to grow in the knowledge of who they are in Christ, worship Christ because of what he has done on their behalf, and gain a greater understanding of how to explain these glorious truths to others. Also, having a church full of people so mature that they don’t need theological truths explained to them assumes there are no new Christians, struggling Christians, or non-Christians in the room. A healthy church is not composed only of mature believers, but instead sees mature believers, growing believers, new believers, struggling believers and people who are not yet believers when it gathers together before God’s word.

Because I’m the pastor I have the best ideas of anyone in the room.

Unlike the previous point, this precise sentence never came out of my mouth, but my heart and attitude exuded this sentiment. Because I had studied theology, church history, and church ministry and was continuing to study these things I assumed my ideas and ministry plans were going to be better than the ones originating from people who were not devoting the time I was to these issues. This proved itself to be a false assumption time and time again. First I got to see many of my best and brightest ideas go down in flames before my eyes. Then I also saw what happened when we implemented ministries and changes originating with other believers in our church and they flourished. This reminded me that the church is a body and everyone in Jesus’ church is gifted for ministry. Because of this there will be many actively engaged believers who will not only put forward great ideas we need to implement, but who can also hear my plans and offer input so they become stronger and more effective.

New churches don’t have any of the baggage that established churches do.

Remember the idyllic days of the early 2000’s where we all possessed a romanticized view of the new churches we were going to plant which were free of the traditions and problems that exist in established churches? Walking through life with friends who were planting and then planting myself convinced me that new churches have just as many issues as established churches do. Unless you plant a church where you are the only person in attendance, you will have people with strong and competing ideas about what the church is and should be doing. Then, if your church plant survives for a couple of years you will have strongly entrenched traditions that people don’t want to change too. All faithful ministry is hard, all faithful ministry has the opportunity to make an impact, and all faithful ministry brings glory to King Jesus.

I enjoy my work so I don’t really need to take a day off.

Sometimes in Seminary men studying for the ministry imbibe the idea that there is some kind of glory in running on very little sleep. How few hours I have slept in the last four days somehow becomes a badge of honor that shows how hard I am working. This mentality easily transitions into our ministries where we work for weeks without an off day and tell ourselves that this is a good thing because we are doing it for Jesus. Not taking a day away each week from regular ministry duties depletes our energy, burns us out, causes us to neglect our families, and violates the principle of Sabbath rest. We need to labor each week to take 24 consecutive hours away from our pastoral work so we can devote ourselves to rest, time with our families, recreation, and work around our home. Making sure to take this time each week pays great dividends as it builds our family and restores us physically, mentally, and spiritually. (In addition to spending time with your family, yard work is a great thing to do on your day off. When you are a pastor it is refreshing to work at something which gives you immediate, visible results.)

Related Posts:
48 Scattered Thoughts about Pastoral Ministry and Being a Pastor

For Further Reading:
On Being a Pastor by Derek Prime and Alistair Begg

A Few Good Reads

March 18, 2016 — Leave a comment
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

The Non-Partisan Politics of Jesus
In this excerpt from his book Jesus Outside the Line, posted on The Gospel Coalition,  Scott Sauls causes us to think about how faithfulness to Jesus will put us at odds with both major political parties on different issues. Then he shows how people who have different political convictions and persuasions can be united by one great thing. “We should feel ‘at home’ with people who share our faith but not our politics even more than we do with people who share our politics but not our faith. If this isn’t our experience, then we may be rendering to Caesar what belongs to God.”

No, Not Trump, Not Ever.
Speaking of your faith putting you at odds with the party with whom you affiliate, David Brooks writes persuasively in The New York Times today about the case against Donald Trump. I have linked to Brooks’ writing often and do so here, not to try to make a political point, as much as to see an article returning us to a time when we thought character mattered in our leaders. While we are not electing a “pastor in chief,” a phrase which seems to be in vogue these days, we do have to think about both the moral character and emotional maturity of our leaders. Brooks provides a great example of how to think through this.

“History is a long record of men like him temporarily rising, stretching back to biblical times. Psalm 73 describes them: ‘Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. … They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.’
And yet their success is fragile: ‘Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly they are destroyed.’
The psalmist reminds us that the proper thing to do in the face of demagogy is to go the other way — to make an extra effort to put on decency, graciousness, patience and humility, to seek a purity of heart that is stable and everlasting.”

Our Children, Our Neighbors
I’m pretty sure I’ve linked to this post of Jen Wilkins’ before, but found it to be convicting to me again when I read it again this week. She explores what happens when we treat our children as the Bible says to treat our neighbors and through this offers a strong challenge to parents. “Because if children are people, then they are also our neighbors. This means that every scriptural imperative that speaks to loving our neighbor as we love ourselves suddenly comes to bear on how we parent. Every command to love preferentially at great cost, with great effort and with godly wisdom becomes more than just a command to love the people in my workplace, my church, my hair salon or the local homeless shelter.”

Reclaiming Conversation
The last time Beth and I were on a date I could see the couple at the table next to us from the corner of my eye and they appeared to be on their phones for the entire meal. Because we are constantly staring down, conversation has become a lost art. Media scholar Sherry Turkle helps us understand the central role of conversation in our lives and culture and also shows why these connections are so necessary. “Based on five years of research and interviews in homes, schools, and the workplace, Turkle argues that we have come to a better understanding of where our technology can and cannot take us and that the time is right to reclaim conversation. The most human—and humanizing—thing that we do.”