About Me

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Evangelist, Baptist, Husband, Father, Mid-30's.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

An American and a Lebanese man go to a Mexican Restaurant in Germany

I continue to not believe in coincidences, I believe God puts us exactly where he intends when he intends. I recently missed a connecting flight due to weather and was the recipient of a nine hour lay-over. I knew that God would somehow use that layover to his glory and so I prayed fervently to be an obedient servant.

I recently read the biography of Brother Andrew, and while I admire his boldness, his “derry-doo”, and his consistency, the constant mysticism of the book wore on me. Simply defined, Andrew’s mysticism frequently told him to go to embassies for visas, call a certain young lady, and visit specific people. That is not the way we hear from God and, while I don’t doubt Andrew’s veracity for a moment, I think such writing leads others to wonder why God is not speaking so specifically and accurately to them. That said, on my rescheduled connecting flight just after takeoff I had the very definite mystical feeling that I would not survive the flight. It was creepy to say the least, and it led to an excellent time of prayer including confession, commitment of my family to God’s sovereign care, and an inventory of my ministry and affections.

Needless to say, I survived the flight and my feeling was not a premonition from God. But I determined to redeem my layover, and indeed my entire trip for the glory of God. Landing in Frankfurt I purchased a train ticket to the city centre, I missed the first train by seconds and had to wait twelve minutes for the next. It is nice to know when the end of a public sermon is coming for the sake of time and brevity and clarity, and so I waited until a crowd formed on the platform for the next train and, using a tactic of Brother Andrew, I gave them greetings from the United States and from the Kingdom of Heaven. When the train arrived I was less than thrilled with the response, but several dozen people heard the gospel and then boarded the train.

Arriving at the city centre I was impressed with the city planning and the beautiful small parks throughout, but there were no crowds, so I made my way towards a Frankfurt landmark I recognized from somewhere, a beautiful round glass building. To my surprise and happiness I also found the river, which has a long meandering park on either side of its bank. I walked a few hundred yards until I found people lounging on the grass in any direction, and I preached on the authority of the Christian to preach and the imperative of the hearer to be reconciled to God from 2 Corinthians 5. While many listened, I was again disappointed with the response.

I knew I could spend the entire day on this expanse of river so I walked down about a half mile until I found a large crew unloading trucks into a large pleasure yacht for what looked like a sizeable and expensive party. I set up facing the yacht in hopes that my voice would echo from the yacht for greater distance. As I preached many stopped to listen, and as I finished my new friend Thorsten Winters approached from the newspaper and asked if he could ask me some questions. On the plane I literally had just read Albert Mohler’s wisdom on the broadcast power of the news media. Not only had my voice echoed off the yacht, but it was also going to reverberate from a newspaper! See Thorsten's Article Here. After a quite pleasant conversation I decided I would find something to eat then continue my circuit down the river.

But as I came up into the city centre again I found a beautiful park that has the largest metal EU (European Union) logo I’ve ever seen firmly posted on stilts at the entrance. There were Japanese tourists, Chinese tourists, Arabic tourists, and many locals drawn to that giant logo. The park was crowded so I started to look for my best location, when I noticed a beautiful little hill almost directly at the center. As I ascended the mount I was pleased to note that the wind would at my back if I was facing the largest concentration of people and thus carry my voice over the crowd.

As I preached the response was what every open-air preacher hopes for. Everyone turned their attention towards me, passers by stopped walking and sat on benches or in the grass. At least three listeners started to record the sermon. I preached on peace with the Kingdom of Heaven, and after I called for repentance and faith I thanked the recorders for recording the sermon and encouraged them to watch it again later and post it to the internet. I concluded that I would love to have a reasoned conversation with anyone who would like to and that I had approximately four hours to catch my flight. A group of four middle-eastern college aged young men who I thought at first were hostile to the preaching all gave me enthusiastic thumbs ups.

I considered heading over to them when a young man named Eddins waved and called me to speak with him. Eddins was in his mid-20s and spoke English quite well, I expected him to be hostile because his first question was what I thought of the United States Army. But he was ready for a reasoned conversation and we both agreed that the lack of faith in the United States Army has led to terrible outcomes. A young Christian jumped into the conversation and encouraged me for the sermon but also rebuked me to spend more time forming relationships. I half laughed and said, “Brother, I have nine hours to preach to this whole city.” He saw my point and I encouraged him to keep building relationships and preaching the gospel and that faith comes through hearing and hearing the Word of Christ.

Eddins professed to be a Muslim, but admitted that he had not found time to read the Koran. We spent quite a bit of time on textual criticism of both the Bible and the Koran. He said he found the Koran too hard and deep to understand, to which I responded that the Koran itself claims to be a light and perspicuous book. We both agreed that it is not. I helped him to understand that the Bible we are reading today is the Bible that was originally written thousands of years ago. He seemed pleased but didn’t want to let the conversation go, so I invited him to lunch (it was now dinner time).

As we were eating I did form a relationship with him, talking about his upbringing and his career and his aspirations, all the while answering and discussing the things of God. He told me that the name Eddins is a variation of Adam, but that he did not know why his parents had named him that because he had no family members named Eddins. I took him to the story of Zechariah naming his son Johannes despite having no ancestral precedent for it, but that God would be gracious to John in the future. I asked Eddins what he knew about Adam and he knew the story of the fall, then I asked him about the Second Adam, of whom he did not know that was a title of Isa, the Christ. I implied that perhaps his parents had named him Eddins on God’s promptings so that someday he would put his hope in the Second Eddins.

It was then that Eddins told me he was supposed to leave Frankfurt the day prior but his bus had broken down, and that he had been sitting in the park wondering how he would spend his afternoon before his bus left at the same time I needed to get on a train for the airport. He was very pleased that we had met and he told me he didn’t think it was a coincidence.

I don’t think it was a coincidence either. Pray for my friend Eddins!

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Church Nursery Help for Inconsolable Children

We made this video to help church nursery workers console young children who are missing their parents and who need some reassurance that they'll be back, and that their emotions are understood.



If this song doesn't help then there is much more work to be done, consider a previous article, Pay Attention to Your Kids!

Please send any feedback, helps, or questions!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Pay Attention to Your Kids!

One of the most unexpectedly beneficial books I have read is called How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber. It is far from a biblical book, but it makes the point that many meltdowns from toddlers come from feeling not listened to and not being able to communicate.

That leads into this article, that one of the most important things we can do in our lives and for our children is focus our attention. I’m writing this article in the solitude of a cafĂ© waiting for my next meeting at work, my attention is focused on writing. Human beings, despite our pride, are not—and never will be—good at multitasking. When I’m teaching or playing with my kids I make every attempt to be there fully, not pulled between work or my phone or writing. I recently attended an online conference for work and at several points I had to lock the door to the office because by dividing my attention between kids running in and the speaker on the screen led to both getting far less than even 50% of my attention.

Attention is so important in my life that I’m writing a dissertation on teaching it to the church. My primary text is Nehemiah 8, “And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law…Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people…and as he opened it all the people stood.” Long story short, the best way to hear God is by really being attentive to his Word, to remove distractions, and to realize the value in hearing, responding to, and applying it. This is reiterated over and over throughout the Bible, many preachers have pointed out that they have seminary degrees in preaching, but no-one ever receives a degree in listening, when the Bible teaches much more on listening than preaching (Boice, Piper, MacArthur, etc). Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Luke 8:8).”

The importance of undivided attention cannot be overstated when listening to the Word of God. But that is not the only place you should learn to focus your attention. When interacting with people it is important as well. A child who doesn’t feel listened to is a child who is prone to feel out of control, unloved, and hopeless. Try it the next time you have a temper tantrum, hold the child until they are calm, then work through what they wanted and see if you can’t figure out how they were asking for it. 

One of the greatest joys in our life was the day, not so long ago, when our twins learned to buckle their own car seats. This is only partial hyperbole, it truly is a burden lifted not to always be climbing into the back of the car to latch them in. On Wednesday my attentive wife pulled out of the driveway and Titus cried out, “Oh no! You’re driving!” and proceeded to lose his little mind. It took a few moments but my wife encouraged him to use his words and all he could get out was, “I’m going to die!” A little more prodding and she discovered that, “I’m not buckled!” She was then able to pull over and get the troublesome latch buckled and he did not, in fact, die.

Now, being attentive to your spouse, your kids, your coworkers, and your Saviour can play out in a million ways and I’m not going to try to
nor could I—give you an authoritative list of do’s and don’ts. But I will give you a couple and some principles.

Notice in Nehemiah 8 the full attention of the people led them to “stand up” when the Word was read. This was not, as some have surmised, “out of respect for the reading of God’s Word”, this was to focus their attention on what they were about to do. Always stop what you’re doing when something worthy of your attention arises. 

Always stand up when greeting someone, always put your phone down when someone asks you a question, pause your podcast and remove your headphones (both!) if you need to speak to someone, close out your last conversation/project before starting the next one. Don't be easily distracted from an important task or conversation.

My two-year-old is in the “Come with/Come see” stage and she lifts her little hand up and squeezes to say grab my hand! I don’t want to squash that in the least so I happily grab her hand and go see. Just because it might not be groundbreaking to me doesn’t mean it’s not important to her, and I want to be involved in her growth and let her know that I pay attention to what is important to her.

So, beloved, take every opportunity to be focusing your attention, reject multi-tasking, and love your kids by listening to them and participating in their lives.

Friday, May 10, 2019

A Brief Thought on Children's Devotionals

When it comes to children’s devotions or books on the Bible there are no lack of options, but unfortunately, finding a good one is a difficult task. Charles Spurgeon said, “It does seem to me as if some people say, ‘Here is a place of worship. There is sure to be a sermon, let us go in and hear it.’ Ah! but all that is preached is not Gospel and it is not all hearing that will be valuable to your souls.” It does seem to me that many people say, “Here is an illustrated book on the Bible for children, let’s open it and learn some truth.” But not all that is drawn or paraphrased is Gospel and not all children’s books are valuable for your children’s souls!

I'm writing this post to encourage you in my three favorite resources, and to warn you against one of the most popular.

The One Year Bible for Children  V. Gilbert Beers

First, by far the best from an under-10 year-old standpoint is The NLT One Year Bible for Children by V. Gilbert Beers. This is an illustrated book working through the Bible in chronological order over one year, it lays a good foundation of Bible stories and most importantly it continues to tell the Bible story in one contiguous narrative. Quotations are taken directly from the Bible and I’ve yet to find a devotion that was not biblical.

The illustrations are phenomenal, and I don’t use that word lightly. Even if you don’t have children I’d recommend this book purely from an artistic value. When Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River bed the painting clearly depicts dry dust coming up from the feet of those crossing. This level of detail is one that is repeated in many of the stories. It’s not my intention to tell you all of the awesome paintings in this book, but be sure there are many that will astonish you.

The application in the Old Testament is sometimes lacking, but the stories are always faithfully told. Many times the quality of the story has taken us to places that a wooden application would have constrained us in. For example, yesterday’s devotion was on the men who stayed back with the baggage when David destroyed the Amalekites. The application mentioned nothing about the different members of the body or the different members of the church or different roles we all fulfill, but that’s where we went and had an entertaining and beneficial conversation about if we were made up of only eyes or ears or feet.

The greatest failing is that Jesus is almost always left out of the Old Testament. Especially in the story of the Bronze Serpent lifted up by Moses I though that Beers should have at least mentioned that the story was quoted in John 3. I could almost defend him however, that maybe he is considering that if children know the Old Testament reference then when they are reading the New Testament they will draw their own connections instead of being explicitly told about it.

So, I recommend this book with the caveat that you need to be prepared to share the application or at least help your children flesh out the Gospel story. Each lesson is short, ten minutes or less, but the quality of the content makes it beneficial if you only read it to your children, or if that reading leads into a much deeper conversation.

Long Story Short – Marty Machowski

The second devotional I recommend is Long Story Short by Marty Machowski. This book is for older kids, I’d say this one really works for kids over five, and that might be a tad too young. Long Story Short takes a single narrative and spends five days fleshing it out. This really drives the point of the story home and adds on it every day.

Parents, where this book is not easy is that you can’t just pick it up and go, it requires some preplanning and some sort of preparation. For example, one lesson requires you to have a trumpet or a kazoo (or anywhere in between) to blow at the walls of Jericho. I found this out after we started reading that particular devotional and had to scramble to make something work. Of course, the kids loved the trumpet played in the house and trying to make it make noise itself, but if you’re looking for a book you can just pick up at the end of the day and let it do all of the work, this book will not work for you.

I love the idea of this book and the depth, but I think five days is too long for a children’s devotional. When we pick it back up in a year or two we’ll modify it a bit, either compressing each story into three days, or intertwining them so that it’s not always the same story.

However, the emphasis on the Gospel is wonderful and it introduces children to the depth of Bible study in a way that is both fun, engaging, and most importantly, memorable.

Built Upon the Rock – Brooke Snyder

My third favorite is Built Upon the Rock: Devotions for the First Years by Dr. Brooke Snyder. Now, I have to confess that Dave and Brooke Snyder are dear friends of ours and our copy is not only signed, but was a gift. But, it is also masterfully written and comes with a passion for child rearing that is not manufactured just to write a book, but because the Snyder’s truly love their children and want them to know Jesus, and want to help you help your children known Jesus.

Built Upon the Rock is written on the premise that we don’t want there ever to be a time in our child’s life where they did not hear the name of Jesus in the home, or know the power of the Gospel.

Unlike the other two books, this is not a yearly devotional, but a collection of great ideas to teach deep spiritual truths to growing minds. However, Brooke identifies that if you take one devotional a week, it will cover a year. It has been several years since I read this book, and in writing this it has spurred me to read it again, but the truly important thing that I have taken away from this book is that you are never too young to be building a spiritual foundation.

Recently my kids were playing with playdough and because of this book I though it would be a great time to consider spiritual things. We grabbed a rock of similar size to a lump of playdough and took turns trying to form the rock and the playdough into something. Readily enough my kids learned the meaning of a malleable heart. But then we took that playdough and pulled it in every direction and learned why being too pliable, pulled around by every influence, is bad as well.

While I don’t think this is a devotion from the book, the idea of it certainly came from Brooke’s influence in my life, and for that reason I’ll be forever grateful.
In order to set your heart, dear parent, on spiritual training of your children, I recommend this book to you.

The Jesus Storybook Bible – Sally Lloyd-Jones

Arguably the most influential children’s devotional of recent times is The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones. This is one of my least favorite devotionals, and one I want to caution you from reading to your children.

First, though, the Jesus Storybook Bible does make a very good point that Jesus can be found in every story of the Bible. I know at least one person who has been deeply helped by this point and I am glad for that.

Second, some of the details are very useful, especially the mention of the little girl of 2 Kings 5:2 who sent Naaman to God's man for help. There are gleanings from this devotional.

However, the most important thing about this book is that it is NOT a Bible. It makes no effort to follow the biblical dialogue and regularly injects unbiblical language. Second, it is far from exhaustive, it spends a lot of time in the Pentateuch and a spackling through the prophets, but then BAM, you’re in the New Testament without any mention of the Bible that has been left out.

But most importantly, Sally Lloyd-Jones has arguably ridden into the lime-light on the power and credibility of her last name. Only recently has there been any discernible effort to make the distinction that she bears ZERO relation to Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones. Her theology, her writing, and her understanding of the Gospel fall far short of the Doctor.

Cody Libolt has written a masterful argument about this devotional and that the main theme of God’s glory, grace, and wrath is utterly missing from Lloyd-Jones’ book. I encourage you to read his article called, The Core Theme of the Jesus Storybook Bible is Wrong.

The Bible

Finally, I know more than one family who have opted to read from the source itself, the Bible, to teach children. Beloved, I think there is great wisdom in this, but also a great danger. The first time I tried to read the Bible I was sixteen and started in Genesis 1. I don’t think I got past about Genesis 5 before setting it down. Why? Because I was not spiritually discerned. Neither are our children. Keep that in mind as you take them through the Bible, they aren’t able or interested in knowing the nuances of who begot who or who married who or the exegetical jewels of the book of Leviticus, or the intricacies of eschatology.

My five year old, three year olds, and two year old don’t like steak. It blows my mind, if I cut it up really fine like it’s hamburger then they’ll eat it, but my five year old recently told her grandmother, “I don’t like steak, my daddy likes steak, but I don’t like steak.” She even made a terrible face to drive the point home...Thank God for her candor. My two year old, on the other hand, practically lives off of milk. She drinks so much milk you’d think she was a calf. This is exacerbated by the fact that she recently learned to fill up her own cup.

Conclusion

So, as you’re teaching your kids from the Bible or a devotional, keep in mind that the most beautiful fillet mignon of a Bible study served up to a toddler is going to end up picked at, discarded, and asking for a snack later. Whether you're cutting up the Bible yourself so that your kids can digest it, or you're hiring someone to help you, keep in mind that children think like children, so teach them in a way that they can grasp but that points them to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I like The One Year BibleLong Story Short, and Built Upon the Rock because they have served up the Bible in small bite-size chunks for your kids to digest, enjoy, and move towards those meaty studies that will come later in their lives.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Daddy Tax!

Today marked an Easter Egg Hunt which provided each of our children with about 2lbs of candy. As they started to tear open wrappers and sort chocolates from sweets from sours from gum I saw my chance. Not just my chance to have some candy, but my chance to instill a lifelong lesson on generosity and the source of all good things.

“Daddy Tax!” I declared as I picked out some of my favorites from the candy buckets. Only the littlest one looked at me with a scowl before it quickly melted into a smile. All of the rest know the routine.

I’ve been doing this for a while, but I’ve been consistent in it since early 2016 when we were providing care for a five year old girl. She asked for a snack and I happily gave her some gummies and Goldfish®, then, out of habit, I said, “Daddy Tax”, and helped myself to a few fish and gummies from her plate. Her wrath was quickly kindled, “Hey! That’s mine.” Words fail me to describe her meltdown that ensued. After gaining some semblance of calmness I asked, “Did you pay for these?” “No.” “Did you go to the store and bring them home?” “No.” “These aren’t yours, these are mine, and I’ve decided to give you some because I care about you.”

This is a vital lesson to teach your children, that everything they have, from their snacks and candy all the way to the air they breathe belongs to God. Not a single thing we have has come from a source other than God. He explained during the rebuilding of the temple that it wasn’t small or unassuming because God couldn’t afford a better temple, but because it’s what he intended, “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine (Haggai 2:8).” Elsewhere this is reiterated, “He is not served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything (Acts 17:25).”

You may come up with a better name than I have, I tried variations on “tithing” but they just didn’t stick for the kids. It is meant to be silly and fun in one sense, but it is also meant in another sense to turn their hearts to the realization that is God who gives them every good thing.

After Notre Dame burned earlier this week over $1B was pledged to the rebuilding. There was some very strange entitled backlash against those pledges. Some said, “The fact that billionaires have pledged…to fix it just really puts into perspective how easily rich people could help solve world issues if they cared (cited from the Public Domain).” I hope to be teaching my children that the problem with the world is not a lack of stuff or money or food, because God has lavished on us every thing we need, but the problem with the world is a matter of hearts that rebel in every way against Heaven and put their hope in everything but God.

My children’s problem (and yours and mine) is that our natural heart inclination is that we can be sufficient in and of our own selves, that if we only had more, owned more, knew more, lived more, were given more, held onto more...then we would be happy. "Daddy Tax" is one effort to teach that every good gift we have comes from above, and that God gives us much more than we can ask or imagine. If he gave us his Son will he not give us graciously all things?

For further reading, see 2 Corinthians 8 and 9!

You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way! ~ 2 Corinthians 9:11

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Importance of Routine


We have an evening routine that goes like this:

1. Read
2. Sing (Hymnal or Otherwise)
3. Pray
4. Sing (Bedtime)
5. Hugs and Kisses

Having a routine is a hard thing to do. I am tempted to say, “In today’s day and age” but I believe routine has always been hard to do, and I won’t give you or I the excuse that our smart-phones are to blame. If we’re not redeeming our time and planning our lives then we have ourselves to blame first.

I am far from perfect in this regard, but I see the value in it. I recently heard someone say that the first step in teaching a boy to resist the temptation of pornography starts years before when we teach them that bedtime means bedtime. I see the truth in this, it is training a child in the way he should go, so that when he is old he will not depart from it.

Your routine doesn’t have to look like our routine, as long as it looks like your routine.
We start our bedtime routine about forty-five minutes before bedtime. We begin by reading something, future articles will address some of the books we’ve especially enjoyed and some different Bible devotionals, but the important thing here is that you are reading to your kids. This teaches them to sit down, focus their attention, and that there is more to learn and hear than mom and/or dad can offer in the world. I would only recommend to start that you pick something you agree with, but within only a few months I believe it’s fine to read books that need to be discussed.

Then, we sing a song or two. If I’m especially prepared then I’ll have something prepared that matches the reading, but I’m not usually that prepared. For example, we recently read about the Bronze Serpent lifted up in the wilderness and then sang “Set Your Eyes” by Jonathan and Emily Martin. We have two hymnals, the Baptist Hymnal, and Hymns of Grace, and we employ both regularly. We also assign each child a hymn that we have chosen for them, and then they usually choose one for themselves also. Our oldest daughter for example was assigned “Before the Throne of God Above” but she chose “Joy to the World” as her personal hymn. We usually allow dancing during the singing, but we really encourage singing along. Sometimes we throw in a silly song like Baby Shark or 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed (since that song is about our middlest daughter).

Then we pray about the events that happened that day and for the events coming up. The age of your kids and their discipline level will dictate how long your prayer is, as well as the other parts of your routine, but we usually keep ours less than two minutes as our kids are pretty young. Sometimes I encourage a child to pray, and if they leave some things unsaid then either Tina or I will pray. The routine of prayer is what is important, not necessarily what is prayed about.

Then we sing two songs, what is called the sleepy-time song and the doxology (Ironically the doxology was meant to start the day, but it works better as a bedtime song). In a future blogpost I’ll share the sleepy-time song which needs some revision, but the routine certainly tells the kids it is bedtime.

Finally, everyone is encouraged to love on each other and then we head for bed. All snacking/drinking/chores are expected to be accomplished before this routine so it should truly close out the day. I have experimented with visiting children in their bedrooms to review the day, and sometimes this is well received and other times it riles them up. Like I said, your routine should be your own.

These routines are doing more than establishing that it is bedtime. I hope that they will be fostering discipline, displaying order, ensuring there is a time for reading and prayer in the day, and encouraging bonding.

These especially help when one of us cannot be at bedtime, such as for work or other commitment. The routine doesn’t take the place of the absent parent, but it establishes a precedent that just because something is different, the plan is the same. God’s plan is perfect, and while our circumstances and location may change, our relationship with God and our worship should continue in Christ. Even when we need to fly through this routine in a few minutes it still has the desired effect of establishing bedtime.

When Daniel was in exile and the law came down that no-one could worship anyone other than the king, he did not hesitate to pick up his routine of praying (Daniel 6:10), because it was what he had trained himself to do, and it had fostered a courage in God that could not be shaken. I pray that my children will forever read their Bibles, sing praises to the true King, pray, and love each other, no matter what else in their life changes.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Punishment Versus Correction

You should never punish your children. That is not a cunning statement, don’t read it any other way than it is written. You SHOULD NEVER punish your children.

We have a “Get Along Chair” sometimes called a “Work it Out Chair” where many a time you can find two or more of our children banished from their freedom in order to enjoy their sibling and talk in a reasoned and close conversation. Is that punishment? Heaven forbid they would equate spending time with one another and working through struggles as punishment!

If my children grow up to see that chair as punishment, then I will have failed. It is CORRECTION, DISCIPLINE, REPROOF, CHASTISEMENT, and it is meant to take an unacceptable behavior—such as disagreeing with your sibling and resorting to violence to get your way—and replace it with an acceptable behavior aimed at the heart—in this case talking through problems, recognizing that their relationship with their brother or sister is more important than a toy, and that reconciliation is better than strife. Likewise, your children should not see your discipline as punishment, and you ought not be punishing your children. The discipline of a parent should always be aimed at correcting behavior and emphasizing grace, mercy, and justice in the child’s life.

And what does God say about this? A lot, unsurprisingly.

First, punishment is not meant for correction, punishment is purely punitive and sums up the justice in the quip, “Justice is when we get what we deserve, mercy is when we don’t get what we deserve, and grace is when we get what we don’t deserve.” Every sinner deserves justice, and your children should know well the commands of Leviticus 20:9 and Deuteronomy 21:18-21 concerning the stoning of disobedient children. Justice demands punishment, but love covers a multitude of sins. Someone will or already has paid for your child’s sin, either your child will pay for it for eternity, or Jesus paid for it on Calvary. Note the way Jesus speaks of Hell, “and these will go away into eternal PUNISHMENT (Matt 25:46, emphasis mine).

Next, punishment is not your job. “Vengeance is mine: I will repay (Rom 12:19, et al)!” says God. Your job is to describe God’s law, his grace, and his wrath and to provide goading correction along the way. Even if it were your job to punish your child, your punishment is weak and unjust and ineffective and incomplete and imperfect, Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul, rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Hell (Matt 10:28).

Thirdly, your job is to keep your children from punishment. "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the Living God (Hebrews 10:31)!" It is your job to teach them God's law and his grace so that they will hear and respond to the call of Jesus Christ to come. It is your job to teach them that there are consequences for disobedience and that someday God will no longer strive with them and that the patience of God is a temporary salvation granting them opportunity to find lasting salvation in the cross of Christ.

Lastly, punishment is not loving, it is entirely devoid of love and is entirely wrath, thank God that for all of the responsibilities he has bestowed on us, this is not one of them. Remember, there is no fear in love, because perfect love casts out all fear, why? “Fear has to do with punishment (1 John 4:18).” Your job is to love your children, and punishment is devoid of love. Rather, listen to what Jesus said of some severe affliction he was placing on his church, “those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent (Rev 3:19)!

This is not a systematic theology on discipline and punishment, there are far more passages to study and consider (cf. Hebrews 12:5-11ff, Prov 13:24, Prov 23:13, etc, etc). However, beloved, this is an exhortation to consider how you are responding to your children. Do they consider it harsh punishment (there is a whole sermon there on how Cain received his reproof (Gen 4:13)) or do they consider it painful loving discipline?

Do they welcome correction or do their scorn it? One of your jobs is to teach your child to love correction and so that when he receives it from men he will be better for it, and when he receives it from God he will repent and rejoice that he has a heavenly father who cares for his eternal soul.

And please remember, you should never punish your children.

Reprove a wise man, and he will love you. ~ Proverbs 9:8

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Discipline Starts in the Parents

This is the first in a long line of parenting posts I have been considering. It will deal with where child raising begins, which is in the parents. I have been convicted and have been praying about changing the direction of my webpresence. Historically I have focused on theology and evangelism with a bit of application sprinkled in. I have decided to change the focus to an application driven blog laid on a foundation of theology.

One of the reasons this transition has been so long in coming is because in my own authority and wisdom I am not a perfect father, far from it. But in the grace of God, and by his authority, and through his Word, and the godly wisdom of great saints I have been endowed with the authority and wisdom to offer some advice and administer some commands to parents struggling with parenting or who recognize that they have room to grow.

This blog is inspired and titled by my dear pastor from Florida, Randy Kuhn. He told me on more than one occasion and it has stuck, “Discipline starts in the parents.” Let me tell you again, if you only get one thing out of this: Discipline starts in the parents!

I’ve read more parent-help books than I’d care to admit, and very few have been without something helpful, but I’ve noticed the trend that they are all focused on the child’s heart, or the child’s behavior, or correction techniques, or tips & tricks, or presenting the Bible in just the right way. I am not against these things, but they are not the fix you’re looking for, and it’s why so many parents have “tried the techniques” and are still not seeing results in their children.

I recently came to an epiphany—if you can come to an epiphany—that teaching discipline is not a feat that can be accomplished by listening to one sermon, attending one Bible study, writing one dissertation, or talking with one family that has it right: it requires training of the heart that is made effective through practice (cf. Philemon 6, Deuteronomy 6:7, Proverbs 22:6). This applies to parents and to children, and requires constant practice, and Christian parents have a benefit that children rarely have, and that being the Holy Spirit (cf. Philippians 1:6). One of the wonders of Christianity is that God uses the personalities of men in conjunction with the working of his power, and those personalities are formed long before we walk with God. I am blessed to have a work ethic that was ingrained in me from a young age. I remember being four years old building a house with my father, and throughout my entire childhood working on all sorts of equipment with him, and as an adult working well into the night to finish a tile floor just days before I joined the Air Force. But get this, my father is not a believer (I am deeply appreciative of your prayers for him), and neither was I until my third year in the Air Force. But I still see that work ethic (honed in the gospel) find its way to the forefront of my life time and time again.

I am daily tempted to not hold my children to a high standard considering that they are little sinners enslaved in their sin who daily scorn the Saviour’s love. But, beloved, my temptation is not the truth! Throughout scripture we read of fathers training up children in the truth long before they met Christ. Time would fail a full list, but I will briefly name Jacob, Manasseh, and the prodigal Son who were well served by godly upbringings prior to their reconciliation with God. I chose to include Manasseh on that list, and would also put forward Samson, as examples who went far astray, but who returned to the God of their father’s before the end. I cannot promise you an easy upbringing of your children, but I can promise you the peace beyond all understanding that comes in knowing and resting in Christ and his work, and walking the path he laid out before time for you.

This discipline must be constant and predictable. I am in a slightly more elevated observation point than many in that we have six children. If you have one or two you might not notice the damage done by letting a child get away with an infraction because it probably doesn’t instantly cause other issues. But with six, if I let one disobedience slip I’ll see the instant ramifications in one of two ways, either the other five will start to act up, or one of the other five will complain about the unfairness of the injustice.

Loved ones, if you follow a Tedd Tripp book or an Elizabeth Krueger book or a Focus on the Family book or a Ken Ham book or a Ray Comfort book…or any other book…what I would ask you to do is stick with the principles in those book(s) that align with the Scriptures (namely Proverbs which spends much more time in childrearing than most parents realize). You’re not going to find a trick in any of those books (even Proverbs) that is going to give you a quick fix, and it is bordering on provoking your kids to anger to continually change tactics, requirements, and methods on them. Speak with godly counsel, read Proverbs, and make your plan, then stick with it. There is, of course, room for modification, but not a single discipline method can work if you don’t have the discipline to stick with it.

Discipline in the parents requires you to be disciplined in three areas: 1. Striving to grow closer to Christ yourself. 2. Training your children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. 3. Providing correction when they sin.

In closing, I want to emphasize that this is not easy and there is no checklist, you must make this decision now to be disciplined in your parenting. Matt Chandler exhorted fathers once that it is a father’s job to be exhausted. Having that mindset has been freeing to work hard and press through tiredness; likewise it is your job to be disciplined and administer discipline. Don’t worry about what this does to your friendship with your children, you’re called to lead them to Christ, not to be their friend. You can be their friend when they are your brother or sister in the faith, but now you are called to embark on the exhausting, relentless, and rewarding journey of being a disciplined parent.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Love the Local Church

Introduction

I love the local church and I want you to as well. Over the past week the same theme keeps coming up and so I need to take a break from a very heavy project to write about something that is very near and dear to my heart. This topic is loving and suffering the local church for the glory of Christ and y’alls (plural of your) sanctification.

Loving the church is not just a personal preference, it is a mandate from Heaven and a blessing to your soul. Is the church perfect? No, absolutely not, far from it, and God has a special tool designed into it to make sure it is never perfect on this side of Heaven. That special tool is called “conversion” which makes sure that just when you get your church on the road to sanctification you meet a person who just met Jesus and has a thousand temptations to work through with no experience. Is your ideal church full of 5-point sola saints who have all of the right answers and orthopraxy that looks just like yours or is your ideal church full of single moms, fatherless children, ex-drug addicts, repentant homosexuals, former pagans, and enlightened scientists etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. who love Jesus in their own gifting, fall often, and need your help and the help of the church to follow Christ and publish his peace to their part of the world?

I intend to convince you to love the local church as well by showing you that it is vital that you are strengthening the weak, gathering together with Christ followers, growing with others, obeying the gospel, loving your congregation, sharing in the sufferings of Christ, and believing in total depravity and unconditional election.

Strengthen the Weak
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. ~ Ezekiel 34:4
God is not at all fond of the shepherd who fails to care for his sheep. I include this here because a few years ago when it was incredibly popular to claim that your church was online, on television, or in a para-church ministry I noticed that most of the people who were in this rebellion considered themselves to be super-spiritual and capable of shepherding the flock better than any pastor. Despite the fact that their ordination was self-imposed and not recognized by other men, it was apparent that pride was the driving force behind many leaving the local church. So, if you think in any degree that you are a shepherd, then I call you to the local church for this reason first: Not every sheep is healthy or wise or necessarily even in the fold. God designed it this way, both for a diversity in the local church, but so that the shepherds would have a continuing ministry and could be proved to the rest of the flock as true to be followed or a hireling to expel.

So, I call you to love the local church, especially if you consider yourself spiritual, that you may seek out the weak sheep, the broken sheep, the wandering sheep, and help them along the way. It’s not just a nice thing to do, it is the difference between obedience and disobedience to God. If you read the rest of Ezekiel 34 (as well as Zechariah 11) you’ll see that these shepherds are not long for life or ministry.

Gather Together
So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. ~ Ezekiel 34:5
In order to know and minister to the weak you must spend time with them. This is ideally done in the local church setting. This is for their sake, but more importantly for you in this verse, it is for your sake.

Separating yourself from a shepherd and a flock makes you a target to every wolf, bear, eagle, and poacher who comes along. Do not console yourself thinking that just because you’ve left a local shepherd that the Good Shepherd may come looking for you (Luke 15:4), for that local shepherd may be God’s man who he has been calling to you through.

It is not a few of the “my ministry is my church” men whom I have observed run off into charismania or Sabellianism or Arianism…who knows which temptation Satan has crouched at your door waiting to devour you, but apart from the flock, you will be easy prey, no matter what your pride says otherwise.

Grow Together

My beloved pastor this morning spoke truth when he talked about those who are not running the race well and look the same today as they did twenty years ago. It was a tragic illustration but a true one. We have a vagrant who visits our church occasionally, he is proud that he has visited pretty much every church in our metropolitan area, but the man, though he has much Bible knowledge, has no sanctification and no fruit keeping with repentance. I did have a deep heart-to-heart with him the last time he visited, probably a year ago, and encouraged him to join a church and grow there. I hope he took my advice, because the local church is where you won’t necessarily learn more than you already know, but where you will be held accountable to bear fruit.

John Calvin agrees with me, “We have not come to the preaching merely to learn what we do not know, but to be incited to do our duty.”

In this we are obeying the gospel to be a repentance changed people who believe that God is working in and with broken people redeemed by Christ. How can we visit our brothers in the hospital if we don’t know anyone in the hospital? How can we meet one another’s needs if we don’t know each other’s needs? One of the places we grow most readily is when we suffer with our brothers and sisters and with our Saviour.

Share in the Sufferings of Christ
He marveled because of their unbelief. ~ Mark 6:6
If you want an example of someone who was let down by men and who marveled at their lack of understanding, you need look no farther than our Saviour. He did not abandon those whom failed and betrayed him so often, he did not leave them to go find other, less hard-hearted or stubborn people, he bore their burden and gave them his, and called them his friends.

Read the story of Moses, a man who originally did not want to lead Israel out of Egypt for their stubbornness, but whom by the end of his life was pleading for them, loving them, and guiding them to a land of promise that he himself could not enjoy. How did Moses go from practically despising the people of Israel to counting them his brothers? He suffered with them in the wilderness and rejoiced with them in the oasis.

How will you ever grow to love a congregation with whom you have not suffered with? More importantly, how will you endure the sufferings of Christ which bring forth a fruit of righteousness, fellowship, character, and hope, if you flee from every suffering?

Love Your Congregation

And if you have in your heart to flee, then from every church you will flee.

You would never be caught dead in the sexually deviant church at Corinth. (1 Corinthians 5:1)

You would never grace the doors of those lazy preterists (resurrection-deniers) in Thessaly. (2 Thessalonians 2:2, 3:10)

You would scoff at those legalists in Galatia. (Galatians 3:1)

You would wonder at the saints who could worship in Ephesus which was so overwrought with wolves. (Acts 20:29)

You would cringe at the comfort seekers in Dayton.

You would sigh for the postmodernists in Seattle.

You would cry over the charismania in Atlanta.

Etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

Believe in Total Depravity and Unconditional Election

What’s worse is that many of these church abandoners claim to be reformed in their understanding of mankind and grace. But at the first sign of depravity they are out the door. Beloved, do you believe that your heart is naturally inclined towards sin, can you sing that great hymn that says, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it”, can’t you recognize that even saints need seeking and saving sometimes? Don’t you love the lost even when they are in a building with a steeple?

Has God sanctified you beyond the point where he needed to unconditionally elect you, and now you are in a place to judge the election of those you are called to have unity with? Is your denomination/community failing? I could point you to JC Ryle (Anglican), or Charles Spurgeon (Particular Baptist), or Al Mohler (Southern Baptist Convention) who nearly watched their traditions fall apart around them, but they stayed, and the church has been immensely blessed because of their faithfulness.

Stop pretending there can be a perfect church on earth or a church that is full of people who deserve to be called. If there were a perfect church it would quickly be contaminated because of the members inviting their unsaved and recently saved friends. But you won’t find it, and not only will you suffer the consequences of continually looking, but you’ll miss opportunities in which God has called you to bless his beautiful local church.

Conclusion

I love the local church even though the local church is going to hurt me, even though I’m going to hurt them, and together we’re going to grow together in love and holiness and compassion as we seek to serve Christ and spur one another towards good works.

Did I leave a church when I was younger when it was imploding? Yes. Do I regret it? Yes. That is a discussion for another day, this article is part of my repentance, and my life in the local church from here to eternity is my fruit. I love the local church, I’m committed to the local church, and I will defend, with my words and my life, the local church. Afterall, it is Christ’s body.

Let’s strengthen it, mend it, add to it, and live—as much as is possible—in unity in it.

I remain committed to you and the local church,
Canyon

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

My Worth is Not in What I Own

I remember in disbelief reading part of the recantation biography of Jim Bakker called, I Was Wrong. In it he talks about watching on television his home in Tega Cay, South Carolina, burn to the ground from a prison cafeteria. The lavish $1M (in 1989 money) home represented much of what was wrong with his first ministry, and his response to much of what is wrong with his latter ministry. In his biography he agonizes over the loss of the home and what it represented in his life and family. His statement is telling, "Sitting in that prison TV room watching my former home crumble in flames was one of the most traumatic times of my life."

I read the entire worthless attempt at repentance with a judgmental eye, but I was especially exacerbated by the chapter idolizing his home. How someone could lose his ministry to the consequences of sin, his wife to an unfaithful friend, and his son to the secular culture and yet claim that the losing of his home (that didn't even belong to him at the time) was amongst the most traumatic events of his life was clearly a sin that had not been repented of.

But then Hurricane Michael happened. And I realized I had a log in my eye at least as big as Jim Bakker's.

Hurricane Michael slammed into Panama City last week. I called Panama City home for four and a half years, I met my wife there, my twins were born there. I purchased an old run down home near the Air Force base for half of what it was worth, and over four years spent countless hours and quite a bit of money repairing things that previous owners had neglected, and improving other things. I carried my wife across the threshold, my middlest daughter and both twins learned to walk there, we taught Bible Study almost every Monday for years, we transformed the office into the girl's room. I discipled young men in the living room, two dear friends helped renovate the garage and make it a useable space. I came to love the home there, which, albeit small, is jam packed with memories.

But then Hurricane Michael hit, and though we already sold the home and moved far north, it was still a crushing feeling to know that a house right on the bay would not survive the hurricane unscathed. And then a dear friend sent this picture:

It shows the garage decimated, a water pipe burst that has flooded the driveway, the roof damage almost guarantees that everything we did in the kitchen is destroyed. Even though we no longer own the home, it still uncovered a level of affection I have for this world that I did not even know I was still holding onto.

For my entire time in Panama City I was blessed to be a member of Carlisle Baptist Church in Callaway. I married my wife there, I was blessed to fill the pulpit several times, I watched young men and women transformed by the gospel, and I baptized one of my best friends there. But the roof couldn't handle a Cat 4/5 hurricane, and the church structure we enjoyed and loved is gone forever.

But a dear friend from that church said it best, "The church is the people, not the building." And that is true, the church building will perish sooner or later, but the living church will endure forever.

So why am I so downcast over the destruction of two buildings? While I would not say, like Bakker, that it is amongst the most traumatic events of my life, I will say that it is quite traumatic. And I'm not even there, or have a monetary stake in it, and as far as has been reported, all of our brothers and sisters have survived the storm.

My hope is not in what I own, and thankfully so, because in my life I've seen things that I have built or maintained (F-15E S/N 304 that I worked on a few years before it crashed in Libya) that I thought would last forever, but have quickly fallen apart. As a young man it was merely the words of Jesus that I was trusting when he said, "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matt 6:20)." As I've gotten older I've now experienced that verse and I trust it both because Jesus said it, and because I've experienced it at a far greater pace than I ever imagined.

The late Adrian Rogers defined human life in three epochs of temptation, the first being the temptation of the body (lust, laziness, violence, drugs/alcohol), the second being the temptation of possessions and position, and last being the temptation of fear and doubt.

I suppose I have officially transitioned into the middle epoch, and having identified it I must lift my eyes to Heaven to seek the kingdom that is to come. We seek a city to come, for here we have no lasting city.  My mind is a jumble in writing and recalling so many facts, but I remember that when prorating a house the insurance companies generally assume a house is a usable structure for 55-70 years. That is quite a short time span for a kingdom which we invest so much of our lives building. Let us then build up, with living stones, a kingdom that will endure for eternity, and will not be shaken.

Let us pray with Keith and Kristyn Getty, "When I cling to what I have, please wrest it quickly from my grasp. I'd rather lose all the things of earth to gain the things of heaven (Simple Living, 2011)." But at the same time, let us seek what will truly last:

Rescue the perishing
care for the dying
Jesus is merciful
Jesus will save
Church, open your eyes once more
and see what Christ died for
Jesus is merciful
Jesus will save. ~ Billy Foote, Rescue the Perishing, 2003