Monthly Archives: May 2013

GOT KIDS? Protecting their Heart

In my Sunday school class this past Sunday we took time to talk about wisdom and reaching the child who is living the life of a fool in rebellion. Our bent is to use the book of Proverbs and other sources as tools to modify their behavior and not look to the gospel meaning of God’s Word to reach their heart. To blast them with Scripture will only crush them or harden their heart. Jesus, in speaking to the Jews in John 5: 39, 40 states, You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

 To help our children in their rebellion, we need to bring to them words and questions that will reach in their heart and help them see how Christ offers himself as the means to fulfill what they are seeking. It is through the gospel of Jesus Christ that we find reconciliation, the forgiveness of sins and the mercy that is available and possible for both you the parent and for your child. 

 Here are some suggestions on getting to the heart:

  1. Remember that the power of God is Jesus Christ and the gospel (Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 1:18). A deeper understanding of the cross of Christ is the pathway to the heart. What tends to get in the way of the cross is moralism where thinking that if we just change some behavior, it will obtain the favor of God. This is just the opposite of the gospel where God’s favor is found in what Christ has done, not us. The parent’s task is not just to get your child to act right but is to bring the gift of Jesus Christ to them. Another obstacle is whose desires are they pursuing? We all are motivated to go after what we want but your child (and you) will need help to change those desires to God-centered desires and what God wants.
  2. Avoid the focus in your child’s training on the problem and be helping them see solutions. Problems need to be identified but the gospel brings to us the means of restoration. When solutions are determined, ask your child questions regarding what went right rather than focusing on what went wrong. For example, rather than “How did things go for you?” try “What went well for you today?” If they mention things that did not go well, have them think through some of the solutions they can employ.
  3. Help your child to learn the necessity of repentance and godly sorrow over sin. For the healthy Christian, this is our daily practice. We get to see the power of the cross when through repentance the obstacle of my sin is taken away. Repentance is a work of the Holy Spirit and though an apology may be part of the work of repentance, it is not the totality of it. Repentance is principally the acknowledgement of my sin, the impact of my sin to God and man, and the commitment to turn away from what is offensive to God and to others and move towards restoration. It is a new pathway and is not always a destination.

 Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) in his work, “A Cabinet of Choice Jewels,” wrote, All tears of godly sorrow drop from the eye of faith. Godly sorrow rises and falls – as faith rises and falls. The more a man is able by faith to look upon a pierced Christ – the more his heart will mourn over all the dishonors which he has done to Christ. The more deep and wide the wounds are, which faith shows me in the heart and sides of Christ-the more my heart will be wounded for sinning against Christ.

 

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Marriage Conversations

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John Angell James and Eternity in View for His Children

John Angell James was a British pastor and author of several books who lived from 1785-1859.  I present this as another motivation to preach the gospel every day to your children. The quotes are from his book “The Christian Father’s Present to His Children. ” He wrote:

AuthorityBut how it would embitter out last moments, and plant our dying pillow with thorns, to leave you on earth in an unconverted state; following us to the grave, but not to heaven. Or should you be called to die before us, how could we sustain the dreadful thought … that the very next moment after you had passed beyond our kind attentions, you would be received to the torments which know neither end nor mitigation? And when you had departed under such circumstances, what could heal our wounds or dry our tears…

What then, my children, are all worldly acquirements and possessions without piety? … Original genius, a vigorous understanding, a well-stored mind, and all this adorned by the most amiable temper and most insinuating address, will neither comfort under trials of life nor save their lovely possessor from the worm that never dies and the fire that is never quenched. O! No: They may qualify for earth but not qualify for heaven.

Tornadoes, Tsunamis, and the Mystery of Suffering and Sovereignty

This article regarding the tragedy in Oklahoma is by Sam Storms, Pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City and hopefully will help you to think through this topic and explain it well to your children.  Sam writes:

I’m inclined to think the best way to respond to the tragedy that struck our community today is simply to say nothing. I have little patience for those who feel the need to theologize about such events, as if anyone possessed sufficient wisdom to discern God’s purpose. On the other hand, people will inevitably ask questions and are looking for encouragement and comfort. So how best do we love and pastor those who have suffered so terribly?

I’m not certain I have the answer to that question, and I write the following with considerable hesitation. I can only pray that what I say is grounded in God’s Word and is received in the spirit in which it is intended.

I first put my thoughts together on this subject when the tsunami hit Japan a couple of years ago. Now, in the aftermath of the tornado that struck Moore and other areas surrounding Oklahoma City, I pray that those same truths will prove helpful to some. Allow me to make seven observations.

(1) It will not accomplish anything good to deny what Scripture so clearly asserts, that God is absolutely sovereign over all of nature. He can himself send devastation. Or he may permit Satan to wreak havoc in the earth. Yes he can, if he chooses, intervene and prevent a tornado, a tsunami, and all other natural disasters. In the end, we do not know why he makes one choice and not another. In the end, we must, like Job, join the apostle Paul and say: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).

(2) God is sovereign, not Satan. Whether or to what extent Satan may have had a hand in what occurred we can never know. What we can know and must proclaim is that he can do nothing apart from God’s sovereign permission. Satan is not ultimately sovereign. God alone is.

(3) Great natural disasters such as this tell us nothing about the comparative sinfulness of those who are its victims. Please do not conclude that the residents of Moore, Oklahoma, are more sinful than any other city that has not as yet experienced such devastation. Please do not conclude that we are more righteous than they because God has thus far spared us from such events. The Bible simply won’t let us draw either conclusion. What the Bible does say is that we all continue to live and flourish not because we deserve it but solely because of the mercy and longsuffering of God. Life is on loan from God. He does not owe us existence and what he has mercifully given he can take back at any time and in any way he sees fit.

(4) Events such as this should remind us that no place on earth is safe and that we will all one day die (unless Jesus returns first). Whether by a peaceful natural death at the age of 90, or by a sudden heart attack at 50, or in a car accident at 15, or by a slow battle with cancer at virtually any age, we will all likewise die. We are not immortal. The only ultimately and eternally safe place to be is in the arms of our heavenly Father from which no tornado or earthquake or tsunami or cancer or car wreck can ever snatch us or wrench us free.

(5) We should not look upon such events and conclude that the Second Coming of Christ and the end of history are at hand, but neither should we conclude that the Second Coming of Christ and the end of history are not at hand. What we should do is humble ourselves before the Lord and prepare our hearts for the day of his return, whenever that may be, whether in our lifetime or some distant date centuries from now.

(6) We must learn to weep with those who weep. We must pray for them, serve them, help them, give to them, and do all within our power to alleviate their suffering (even if their suffering is caused by God). We do not have to agree with them religiously or politically to shower them with the love of Christ. Jesus calls upon us to show mercy to those who suffer, even if they do not deserve it. The fact is, none of us deserves it. That’s why the Bible calls it mercy: it is undeserved kindness. Remember Luke 6:27 where Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”

(7) Pray that God will use such an event to open the hearts and eyes of a city and a state immersed in unbelief and idolatry (and I have in mind not merely Oklahoma, but also America as a whole), to see the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and turn in faith to him, lest something infinitely worse than a tornado befall them: Eternal condemnation. Eternal suffering.

HT:  samstorms.com

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO GAZE UPON THE BEAUTY OF THE GOSPEL

Newtown2By Tad Thompson, Harvard Ave Baptist Church, Siloam Springs, Arkansas

It is amazing to me that a Christian has to ask this question, “What is the gospel?” This is the one item of truth that ought to become the most crystal clear in our homes and churches. This is why we must never take for granted that our children know the gospel. One of my personal goals for my kids is simply that they are able to articulate the gospel. I not only want them to articulate the gospel, but I want them to be able to articulate the gospel in all of its richness and beauty as presented in the Scripture.

We have a small group ministry as a part of the church I pastor that we call growth teams. One of the exercises we are doing is taking turns sharing our life stories. The point of this sharing is to see how the gospel comes to bear in each of our lives, which helps us learn how to communicate our story in a way that demonstrates the gospel. One of the interesting aspects of this discussion is how various facets of the gospel are amplified in the stories of our people.

For some, the doctrine of adoption is very important because of their difficult upbringings. For others the focus is on the process of sanctification as they were raised in gospel-centered homes and churches. It seems that every story intersects with God’s sovereign design as we can each see how He has divinely orchestrated the events of our lives. We have discovered, in each of our stories, the richness of the gospel.

If we are going to saturate our homes with the gospel, we must learn to gaze upon the Good News in all of its beauty, as a jeweler might gaze upon the facets of a diamond. Below, I list six different facets of the gospel. This list is certainly not exhaustive, but it’s a place to start. Think about these truths and begin to meditate on the Scriptures. Look for opportunities to discuss the depths of the gospel with your children.

Sovereignty
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. “ (Ephesians 1:3-12)

Salvation
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:1-9)

Substitution
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us- for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”- so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:10-14)

Satisfaction
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

Sonship
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:15-17)

Sanctification
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:28-39)

GOT KIDS? Proverbs and Helping Your Children with Friendships

Friendships and community are important aspects of sanctification and gifts from God. Wise choices in friendships will lead you to people who will refine you and be willing to lovingly confront you when needed. See Proverbs 24:26, 27:6; and 27:17.

But why is a good friend so hard to find? The reason is that sinners often sin when sinned against and your friends will sin against you. We will disappoint each other, quarrel and speak hurtful words. Proverbs 17:9 and Psalm 3Saddle Up!2:1 speak of the power of forgiveness and overlooking certain offenses so that in relationships, we can live out the gospel in many forms of reconciliation with one another.

In helping your children make choices on friends, there is a principle from Scripture to consider. I call it the Haggai 2 principle from Haggai 2:11-13, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’” The priests answered and said, “No.”  Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.”

 To summarize this, holiness does not spread to others but foolishness is contagious. Now this does not mean that someone cannot influence for the good, but generally when a kid who is on a good path matches up with a kid on a bad path, the path of companionship often ends up on the wrong path.

A parent’s responsibility is to give guidance, instruction and if necessary, interfere with the choices their child makes in regards to relationships. See Proverbs 1:10-19 for the pleas of a parent and what might happen if they do not listen.

What are some characteristics of a potential companion that Proverbs warns us to stay away:

2:12-15 – someone with perverted speech and does perverse of crooked things

3:31 – a violent person

4:14 – a wicked person who is opposed to purity

20:19 – a gossiper, slanderer, or babbler

22:10 – the scoffer

22:24 – an angry person

23:20-21 – drunkard or glutton

24:21 – rebellious to authority

Proverbs 6:12-15 breaks down the wicked or worthless person into 5 areas:

  1. Walks with a false mouth (gossip, slander, lies, immoral words, swears)
  2. Sins with the eyes (lustful looks, mocking, fault-finding)
  3. Signals with their feet (where they go)
  4. Points with their fingers (sends messages)
  5. Has a perverted heart (mischievous, rarely serious)

Your children need for you to point them in the right direction. Friendship starts with Christ who showed friendship by laying down his life for his friends (John 15:13)

GOT KIDS? Proverbs and Picking Your Friends

Saddle Up!This week in our Got Kids? Proverbs for Parenting class we covered the topic of companions or friends. In defining wisdom, we know that ultimately Jesus Christ defines wisdom as he is our wisdom and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24, 30). In another sense, wisdom is the skill of living and making choices that are in accordance with God’s Word even when there is not an obvious rule to go by in that situation.

 Relationships are always complicated and call for wisdom. The model for friendship is found first in the relationship that God has within himself in the Trinity and the relationship that God has established with us. God commits himself to us as believers as in Exodus 33:11 he states, “I will be with you.” Jesus also states in John 15:15 that he is committed to us in friendship.

 Proverbs provides much guidance in the area of companionship as emphasizes the importance and influence of them. Proverbs 20:6 tells us that faithful friends are really hard to find. John 13:1 states that Jesus loved his disciples to the end and such love is rare in us.

 The importance of parents bringing wisdom to their children in the area of friends is found back in some of the lessons on the fool and the influence we have on one another. We as parents should always assume the fool in our children and ourselves. At best we make several decisions each day as simple fools and other decisions in the area of being the fool.

 The reality in most situations of the family is that as our children grow older, they are hearing other voices and beginning a process of breaking away from the nurturing care of their parents. The influence of peers and other models of life are impacting their decisions and conflicts of ethics set in. Your children will be influenced by their friends and so guiding and providing wise counsel is absolutely necessary.

 Tomorrow I will give some indicators from Proverbs to look for in the character of your children and in their friends to look for. Remember that you cannot pick your family but you can pick your friends.

How Do We Discern the Spiritual Conversion of Children?

I appreciated this article by Brian Croft, Pastor at Auburnville Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky as he addresses a common question. I would agree with his response so I pass it on to you for consideration.

Brian writes:

Had a Skype conversation with a dear pastor friend this morning that reminded me how important this issue is for us all to consider not just as pastors, but parents also.  Although I wrote on this topic a year ago, it bears repeating.  There are commonly 2 extremes as we all wrestle with this question.  The first is the careless lack of discernment of many churches who have an alter call for 4-5 year olds, ask them to raise their hand if they love Jesus, then baptize them as converted followers of Jesus.

The other extreme often results from the carelessness of the first.  This extreme prevents both parents and pastors to be willing to affirm whether or not a child is truly converted until they are adults and are completely independent of their parent’s authority and care.  I believe a middle ground must be approached if we truly desire to discern clear biblical evidence that a child, teenager, or young adult has become a new creature in Christ.

Knowing we are not God and cannot see the heart, I believe there are still evidences we can see and know to help us discern a child or teenager’s conversion in a similar way we try to do the same with adults.   In the spirit of Jonathan Edward’s 5 signs of true conversion, here are 5 evidences that I try to use as a template as both a parent and pastor in wrestling with this issue.

1)  A growing affection and need for Jesus and the gospel.

2)  A heightened understanding of the truths of Scripture.

3)  An increased kindness and selflessness towards siblings.

4)  A greater awareness and distaste for sin.

5)  A noticeable desire to obey parents.

In my experience as both a parent and a pastor, I have found that age is not the most important gauge to determine true conversion, but to genuinely look for these evidences in an age appropriate manner.  For example, we need to know that a child has a clear understanding of the gospel.  However, that will be articulated by a 10 year old differently than it should a 16 year old.  A desire to obey parents and a selfless spirit towards siblings will also show up differently in a 10 year old than they will in a 16 year old.

Nevertheless, they must be present in some way and I would strongly discourage any pastor or parent to affirm a child’s conversion without some kind of tangible evidence apart from their verbal profession.  On the flip side, I would also caution you from falling into the trap I have in the past in regard to demanding more from a child than can be observed.

This is tricky ground I realize.  So much so that as a pastor it must be approached on a case by case basis.  Many of us will be all around the spectrum, but the one takeaway from this post is be mindful to avoid the extremes that do exist on both sides.  Find I nice seat in the shade somewhere in the middle as a starting point.  Then, be wise, assess honestly, and pray that the merciful God who does regenerate adults, teenagers, and even children give you much discernment.

HT: practicalshepherding.com

Motherhood Summarized

Anita Renfroe gives this summary of what a mom does and says and why God has given them to children.

Thinking About Ascension Day. (It is Today!)

(This article is from Kevin DeYoung, Pastor at University Reformed Church, East Lansing, Michigan)

Did you know that today is Ascension Day in the life of the church, the 40th day of Easter (or 39 days after Easter Sunday). Celebrating Ascension Sunday (this coming Sunday) is not the issue (though Bucer and Calvin argued for retaining the “Five Evangelical Feasts” in the church calendar: Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost). Christians can disagree on how to remember the key events in Christ’s ministry, or if holy days are appropriate at all. But whether we remember Christ’s birth, death, resurrection, ascension, and pouring out of the Spirit-that’s not an option.

And is there any part of Christ’s life on earth that we think about less than his ascension?  Everyone knows about his birth—that’s what Christmas is for.  His death, burial, and resurrection are pretty well covered by Holy Week.  But who cares that May 9 was Ascension Day? Most of us know the stories of his miracles. We’re familiar with his sermons and parables.  We could talk about the people he healed, the demons he cast out, and the Jewish leaders he ticked off. We are well-versed in what Jesus did on earth. But who thinks about how he left this earth? Or why it matters?Newtown2

So how does Christ’s ascension benefit us? The Heidelberg Catechism (Question and Answer 49) mentions three ways.

First, Christ’s ascension benefits because we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1). Our Lord Jesus in heaven pleading our case, so that whenever Satan accuses us in our conscience or dates to lay a charge against us before the Father, Jesus, Christ, God’s own Son and our flawless advocate, stands ready to defend us and plead His own blood for our sakes. Think about that. Christ is our prayer partner in heaven. He intercedes for us before the throne (Rom. 8:34).

Second, Christ’s ascension benefits us because we now have our own flesh in heaven; our lives are hidden with Christ who dwells in glory above (Col. 3:3-4). Christ’s flesh in heaven is a guarantee that ours will be there too someday. Our hope is not an eternity as disembodied souls but real, resurrected, material human bodies in God’s presence forever. Christ’s body is the first one there, but not the last.

Third, Christ’s ascension benefits us because we get the Holy Spirit as a result. As Jesus Himself explained to His disciples, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). This was no knock on His own earthly ministry, but Jesus understood that as a man He was limited to one place at a time. But once He ascended to heaven, He could send another Helper (John 14:16) to give us power from on high and to be with us forever.

Think about the implications of Christ’s ascension. The ascension means we are in heaven, right now. Through union with Christ, we truly are not citizens of this world. Colossians tells us to set our minds on things that are above, because our lives are hidden with Christ who dwells there (3:2-3).

The ascension also implies that “asking Jesus into your heart” does not mean inviting a kind friend or comforting therapist into your life. It means—if we are using the nonbiblical phrase in a biblical way—that we are expressing our desire to be one with the king of the universe. The Jesus who lives within our hearts is sitting exalted at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

Most staggering of all, the ascension means that God has granted all rule, power, authority, and dominion (Eph. 1:21-22) to a man!  Yes, men have stumbled badly. Sin has wrecked havoc on the world because Adam reached for the fruit.  One with our flesh reigns in heaven. One from our race will return as King. A man sits on the throne, and the race of men will reign once more (2 Tim. 2:12).

The good news of this holy day is that Jesus Christ is exercising the dominion that man was made to have from the very beginning (Gen. 1:28). The ruin of the first Adam will be undone by the reign of the second. Because of Christ’s ascension, we know that the incarnation continues, Christ’s humanity lives on in heaven, the Spirit lives in our hearts, and a flesh-and-blood, divine human being rules the universe.

HT: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/