Blog

Aug 08

2013

0

comments

A Great New Book: Delighting in the Trinity

I just finished reading a new book, Delighting in the Trinity, that filled me with a fresh awareness of the wonder and majesty of our God. Michael Reeves did a wonderful job explaining the incomprehensible truth of God as three in one in a way that is accessible to the average Christian reader.

The subtitle, “An Introduction to the Christian Faith,” gives a better description of what Michael accomplishes in this short, but powerful book. Michael helps the reader understand who God is and how our Trinitarian God is different from all the gods of the world. We uniquely have a relational God, who in his very nature lives in love and fellowship. Our relationships with each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, parent to child, and husband and wife all reflect who our God is at the center of his being. Here is the publisher description, along with a few key endorsements:

“In this lively book, we find an introduction to Christianity and the Christian life that is from start to finish rooted in our triune God–Father, Son and Spirit. Not only do we understand the person and work of Christ through the Trinity, but also prayer, the church and every aspect of our faith.

With wit and clarity, Reeves draws from church history down to the present referencing a wide range of notable teachers and preachers. Here is a rich and enjoyable portrayal of the basic beliefs of Christianity that opens up the profound and life-changing truths of our faith.”

“Reeves . . . has produced a powerful and concise treatment of the trinity in Delighting in the Trinity. One of the strengths of this volume is its practicality and accessibility. One of the most exciting aspects of this book is Reeves’ skill in helping readers understand what it means to enjoy God and understand the doctrine of the trinity to be a demonstration of ‘the beauty, the overflowing kindness, the heart-grabbing loveliness of God.’”

—R. Albert Mohler Jr., Preaching, March/April 2013

“Even many Christians find the Trinity confusing, but Delighting in the Trinity is the clearest and best written explanation I’ve ever read.”

—Marvin Olasky, World Magazine, June 29, 2013

Jun 22

2013

3

comments

ABC (and D?) of Gospel Presentation

A few weeks ago Mike Leake, a Southern Baptist Pastor, wrote an open letter to Life Way to discuss the challenges to using an ABC gospel presentation in their VBS curriculums.  He raises some great points and cautions us to be careful with a response-driven presentation of the gospel.

If you are using an ABC approach to sharing the Gospel (Admit you are a sinner, Believe in Jesus, and Choose to follow Jesus), it is helpful to add a letter “D”–Do with your life what you say with your words.  By adding the letter “D” you take away the immediate need to declare a child “saved” who prayed an ABC prayer.

The apostle Paul in his defense before Agrippa gave us a window into how he approached sharing the gospel when he said. ”“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” (Acts 26:19-20).  Notice the importance Paul places on performing deeds in keeping with their words of repentance.

Adding the letter “D” to your children’s ministry or VBS gospel understanding removes any pressure to press the children for an immediate response and helps focus on proclaiming a thorough gospel message without any pressure.  We will never hinder God’s saving work with a cautious approach to affirming conversion in kids, but we can create false assurance if we accept a young child’s response to an ABC presentation without giving them time to prove their repentance by their deeds.

For more information on this topic, you can read my mini book on this subject entitled Leading your Child to Christ: Biblical Direction for Sharing the Gospel.

Jun 04

2013

0

comments

Two Lessons From a Leper – Teaching NT Lesson #25

There are two lessons we learn from the leper in Luke 17:11-19, a small lesson and a big lesson. The small lesson is the first one we think of when we read the story. There were ten lepers who called out to Jesus for healing, but only one who returned to give Jesus thanks. But if all we come away from this story with is a fresh conviction to be more thankful, we’ve missed the bigger lesson.

The second, bigger, lesson that we learn from this story is found in reading what the one leper who returned did before he said thank you. Luke tells us that he “fell on his face at Jesus’ feet,” (Luke 17:16). If you want to pique children’s interest when teaching this story, tell them the second lesson we learn from the leper is that we need to “fall on our faces.” They will laugh but they will also remember your lesson if you say, “When your mom and dad ask you what you learned today, tell them the most important thing to do is fall on your face.”

The reason the leper fell on his face before Jesus was that he recognized that Jesus was more than a man. His act of faith-filled worship was immediately recognized by Jesus who said, “Rise and go your way, your faith has made you well.” You see, if we come away from this story with the charge to say thank you but miss our need to fall at the feet of Jesus and worship, then we have missed the most important part of the story.

The lesson of the leper who returned is more than one of thankfulness; it is one of worship.

May 08

2013

1

comments

You Get More of What You Encourage

It is too easy as parents to spend the bulk of our time correcting our kids. Considering their hearts are sinful from birth, there is going to be a need to train, adjust, and correct. But there are often two ways to train them in righteousness. We can correct, or we can encourage.

As a dad teaching my children to drive, I’ve made the mistake of too much correction and not enough encouragement. Perhaps you’ll recognize what I mean–Don’t drive so fast! Put both hands on the wheel like I told you! Why didn’t you use your turn signal? Now if I stop to think for a minute, my son was driving at just the right speed for twenty minutes but I never said, “Good speed, you are following the speed limits carefully.” He had both hands on the wheel most of the way and used his turn signals all but once–and I was there to point it out.

Parents of young children can fall into the same trap. Your kids are playing nicely all morning, but you never pull them aside to let them know. Then as soon as a fight breaks out, it is easy to jump in and tell them where they got it wrong.

Another way to encourage your children in the midst of their mistakes is by confessing your faults. Your child brings a school assignment home with a poor grade, and you know she wasn’t diligent in working hard on the assignment. Rather than bring a strong correction, share where you lacked diligence growing up and how you had to learn the hard way that you reap what you sow. Sometimes we lead our children to believe we are perfect, and we demand they be perfect too.

A good equation to consider is that if you add up all your encouragements and your confessions of weakness to your children, they should outnumber your corrections. To put it simply, encourage more than you correct. If you have a strong-willed child or a rebellious teen, you may be thinking there isn’t much to encourage. Yet, if we back off the constant correction we are tempted to employ and ask God to help us see things we can encourage, there is something to be thankful for with even the most difficult child.

Paul recognized the need to consider each situation and not just bring correction to everyone when he said, “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all,” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

The next time you ask your kids to clean their room or do their homework, don’t start with pointing out the part they forgot to do–start with encouraging them for all they accomplished. You might just find out that you get more of what you encourage.

Apr 16

2013

0

comments

Be Filled With the Spirit

This is the last of our blogs on teaching your children about the work and help of the Holy Spirit for our lives. In Ephesians 5 Paul exhorts the church to be “filled with the Spirit.”  This is an expression that we also see used to describe the men chosen to serve the widows in Acts 6, but how many of our children have “being filled with the Spirit” as a goal for their lives?

Consider what Paul said to the Ephesians about being filled with the Spirit.

Ephesians  5:15-21  “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

When was the last time you prayed and asked God to fill you with his Spirit? Paul seems to indicate the resulting fruit of being filled with the Spirit is to be overflowing with joy, encouragement of others, and having a fresh thankfulness for all God has done in your life which results in wisdom and obedience to the Lord. Is that something you want for your life? For your children’s lives? If it is, then start praying earnestly for God to fill you with his Spirit.

What would it be like to walk with Jesus for a day, asking him what advice he would give you to help you with your parenting? That is exactly what you have in the Holy Spirit, a direct connection to Jesus. So meditate on the above verses and start praying to the Holy Spirit. Ask him to fill you, to help you set your mind on him, and to walk in his ways. Interact with the Spirit of God as you read the Bible and be asking the Spirit of God how to apply the scriptures to your life, as you walk throughout your day. Then, share your experience with your children, so they too can develop a hunger to know God personally through his Holy Spirit.

Remember, God is the ultimate antidote to the world. We can spend our time pressing a list of rules into our children over and over again, or we can entice them with the amazing fact that if they believe in Jesus he will send his Spirit to come and live inside them, write his law on their hearts, and fill them with his Spirit so that they can live for God.

Apr 11

2013

1

comments

Keeping in Step With the Spirit

This is our second blog in a series designed to help you teach your children about the work and help of the Holy Spirit for their lives. We spend a lot of time disciplining our children to help them to live upright and moral lives. But unless our children are born again and the Spirit of God comes to live inside them, we are fighting an uphill battle.

Christian parents have sometimes been surprised that once their perfectly obedient teenager went away to college they turned away from God to a life of rebellion. The answer? They probably did not have the Holy Spirit, and their obedience was largely outward. That is why it is important as parents to help our children understand that outward obedience is rejected by God. Jesus told the Pharisees that outwardly they looked beautiful but inwardly they were full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness (Matthew 23:27).

Consider what Paul tells the Galatians God has provided to help them live a holy life:

Galatians 5:16-26  “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

What does it mean to walk by the Spirit, live by the Spirit, or keep in step with the Spirit? Are those expresssions in your vocabulary when it comes to helping your children in their battle against sin? Do your children know what the acts of the flesh are in comparison with the fruit of the Spirit? Help your children understand that when Jesus causes them to be born again, he writes his law upon our hearts and gives us the Spirit of God so that we can know right from wrong, good from evil, and what pleases God and then make choices aided by the Spirit of God to live for Jesus and not for ourselves.

We want our children to grow up knowing they must live obedient lives, but also knowing there is no way they can obey apart from the work of the Spirit in their lives, both through regeneration and his work in ongoing sanctification.

Apr 09

2013

2

comments

Teach Your Children About the Holy Spirit

How often do you speak about the Holy Spirit with your children? Have you ever prayed for the Holy Spirit’s help in their presence? Do your children know that it is the Holy Spirit with whom we are to fellowship as we negotiate life’s challenges? Do your children know what it means to be filled with the Spirit, set your mind on the things of the Spirit, to be led by the Spirit, or to be convicted by the Spirit?

Many parents score low in answering the above questions. While the vast majority of Christian homes are trinitarian in theology (they believe there is one God in three persons), they are binitarian in practice (they only relate to Jesus and the Father and do not actively pursue the fellowship of the Holy Spirit in their families.)

Consider what Jesus told the disciples, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: 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). Imagine telling your children, “Aren’t you so glad that Jesus went back to heaven and sent us his Spirit?” Instead of having to fly by airplane to Jerusalem and wait in line with millions of other Christians who want to talk to Jesus, we can meet with him in our living room by praying to the “Spirit of Christ.”

The truth is that many Christian parents do not have active fellowship with the Holy Spirit themselves and have very little then to offer their children. Over the next three blogs I will highlight three scriptures on the Holy Spirit’s work that you can meditate on and use to teach your children about the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:5-9 “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.”

What does it mean to set your mind on the Spirit or the things of the Spirit? Have you ever thought about that for your life? Jesus said the Spirit of God would teach the disciples all things and bring back to their memory what Jesus taught (John 14:26). So, the Holy Spirit is all about exalting Jesus and helping us understand his teaching and bringing back to our memory the Word of God that we’ve read. That is something we want to practice and teach our children. Imagine reading a Bible verse and then sitting down with Jesus and asking him, “What does that mean?” That kind of access to Jesus would be incredible. Yet everyone of us can interact with God that way simply through prayer and asking the Holy Spirit to help us understand what we read in the Bible and how it applies to our lives.

 

Mar 20

2013

0

comments

The Invisible Parenting Tool

The most important tool in our parenting toolbox is invisible.  As a result, we too often fail to put it into use until the last moment when we’ve tried everything with no success.

I had a husband and wife come to me and share that their five-year-old child refused to remain in bed after they tucked him in.  Every night they went through a long routine of repeated encouragement, admonishment, and correction that lasted for upwards of an hour while their son again and again voiced excuse after excuse for why he couldn’t go to sleep.  They tried waking him very early, the reward system, looking for the idol in his heart, and even allowed him to stay up late till he wanted to go to bed, only to discover the same result tucking him at midnight.  They were at their wits end.  ”What else can we do?”  They lamented in my office with tears.  ”We have tried everything.”

They were wrong, they forgot the invisible tool at their disposal.  I noticed they hadn’t mentioned it and so I asked.  ”Have you tried prayer?”  They were quiet as they dealt with the immediate embarrassment of the moment.  After all, no respectable Christian wants to forget prayer.  They remembered a few desperate prayers but admitted that they largely were trying to fix the problem on their own.  So I encouraged them with two things.  First, God was probably working in their lives through this trial and helping them to learn to depend on him in it.  Secondly, they didn’t have to walk alone but could pray and ask God to help them persevere and give their son more immediate rest.  We only had one session–the problem resolved itself shortly after they began praying.

So what about you?  How quickly do you reach for the invisible tool of prayer for your family? God is able to help us in our time of need and strengthen us for the trials we are in through prayer.  In prayer you are conversing with the very same God who created the universe and keeps our planet spinning.  If that is the case then he is able to care for us in our little needs.  The problem is that we are too self-sufficient and full of unbelief.  We trust in ourselves until God allows us to fail, leading us to cry out in desperation for his help.

When one of our daughters was around ten, my wife and I began to notice a serious pattern of sloth in her life.  I’m not sure why we picked prayer as the answer.  I think I reached back to the parenting tool box without looking and grabbed for a tool.  I pulled prayer out, and my wife and I gave it a try.  We prayed consistently for God to remove sloth from our daughter’s life and help her grow in diligence.   We prayed for a while but then suddenly one day, after she took initiative to clean the house without being asked, we realized God had completely changed her.  Today, she is one of our hardest working kids and doesn’t procrastinate at all, working diligently to get things accomplished.  The change was so dramatic my wife and I see it as a miracle of God.  No other tool could have accomplished the same result.

Not every prayer results in the same kind of dramatic change in the circumstance. Sometimes prayer changes us in the midst of our circumstances so that we are better able to minister to our children and guide them effectively. Whatever your challenge, don’t forget to pray.  Make a list of all that you want God to do in your life and the lives of your children and pray.  Pray believing God is able to do more than you ask (Ephesians 3:20) and that he knows your prayers even before you ask (Matthew 6:8).  God won’t answer every prayer to suit our desires, but he will hear every prayer and give us what is best. Prayer is not a last resort, but our greatest tool.  Yet because it is invisible, we too often don’t believe it is there until we are forced to trust it.  The next time you run into a problem pull out prayer first and then expect God to move.

Mar 04

2013

0

comments

More than a Coin for the Master

The Bible is clear that we are to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20).   But how many of us take this invitation seriously?  It was in thinking about what treasure (or lack thereof) I had laid up in heaven that I imagined this parable of sorts.  As you read it consider how well you’ve done in heeding Jesus’ words to store up treasures where moth and rust will not destroy.

 More Than a Coin for the Master

The heat from the flames surrounded him with a tenacious roar that billowed as if blown by a blacksmith’s bellows to fire the coals.  The man traveled with lightning speed, propelled by some unknown force.  A blanket of air protected his body from the flames lapping over his legs.  Then without warning the fire consumed his clothing and singed his hair.  Instinctively he understood the flames were a judgment burning away everything worldly, yet he was preserved.

In the midst of this furnace, he did not experience pain or fear.  He felt a deep cleansing–a removal of filth, vanity, and pride.  Though the flames engulfed his body, he escaped through the flames in the perfect of time.  Only a moment more, and he himself would have been destroyed.

Though his passing through the flames lasted but seconds, it seemed like hours.  Time slowed as all of his life played before his consciousness like a movie on a screen.  As the film displayed his life, he experienced sorrow for his poor choices. Deep regret overwhelmed him, as he realized like never before how much of his life was a loss.

As the flames retreated, he felt a glowing, refreshing warmth coming from within his clenched fist and within his heart, a pleasure unspeakable like nothing he could remember.  Slowly he opened his hand and drew his arm upward revealing a small coin.  This coin minted of gold glistened finer than any gold of earth, its purity such that though it appeared almost transparent, it seemed also solid and heavy, reflecting the brilliant light into a kaleidoscope of color.

This single coin brought him as great a fulfillment as he had ever known. Instinctively he knew it was a reward from his Master, the one who ordered him into and ushered him through the flames.  With his great joy came also regret. It was all he had to show for the entirety of his service on earth to the Master, for he lived nearly all of his life in service to himself.  He felt glad for the coin, but knew now how much he lost serving his own purposes and loving earthly treasures.

Looking up he noticed others like himself, escaping through the flames.  To his left arrived another, who landed on solid ground shrouded by a thick mist.  As the fog cleared he saw a man, standing at the edge of a fertile field holding a sack so large, his eyes barely popped over the top to see.  His bushel–so full as though it should burst any moment–was filled with gold, diamonds, and other precious gems. And though this man was thin and unassuming, he carried his load without strain.  The fellow looked confused and gazed into the light flowing from a golden throne.

It was obvious he stood perplexed, wondering what of his life should deserve such a reward.

Suddenly he spoke out, inquiring of his treasure, and why it had come to him, a poor sinner.  Though the throne’s distance seemed miles away, with perfect sight and hearing did the Master’s reply come, as if only across a room. The treasure, the Master explained, was awarded for one special moment, on one famous day, when this man’s son broke a large window while playing with a hard ball inside the living room.

Suddenly the moment played in three dimensions before us.  The father corrected his son’s foolishness but without anger, following his reprimand with a story of his own failings and finishing the correction with a host of hugs and kisses of reassuring love.  Instead of anger, the Master explained, the man quickly forgave his son, counting opportunity to train more important than the value of the glass.  The son never forgot the lesson, nor did the Master.  When the commendation ended, all of the heavens joined in a chorus of applause, both for the man standing holding the treasure and for the Master whose grace enabled him.

After the clapping grew quiet, the Master again spoke, directing the man to turn around.  With that everyone looked to see sack upon sack of treasure laid out all the way to the horizon of the land on which he stood.  All this was his reward, and the Master explained each one.

When ten thousand earth years or more passed, and the ceremonies were complete, both men with their treasures still stood quite puzzled.  “What need for treasure with streets paved in gold?” they questioned themselves.  But no answer was needed, for instinctively they knew.  Both began to walk, as an urging from their spirit drew them up to the throne.

Joining countless others in procession, treasures in hand, they worshipped the Master with song and an offering.  Some cast their crowns, and some cast their gold, and one man hurled rubies to the base of the throne.  The bright light originating from the Master, whiter than snow, shone through jewels and reflected and glistened with a spectrum of color like nothing seen since Noah’s first rainbow.

The man with the coin, eager to cast, hurled it throne-ward with a great burst of joy.  The man with the sack couldn’t open it fast enough.   He tossed his gold, his silver, and sapphire crowns and more.  As joy flowed out hilarious with praises and spontaneous songs, he danced before the Master.

The man with the coin, glad for the display, felt no envy or jealousy.  Rather, he shared a deep gladness, for the glory belonged to the Master.  At the same time, he realized a deep nagging loss for the treasures he once wasted, rewarding himself. The loss was not self-focused.  Rather it was simply that deep in his heart, he so desired to have more than a coin for the Master.

“ If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,  his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.   If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.   If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

Feb 26

2013

0

comments

Take a Time Out for Your Kids

If your family is like mine, your children seem to wait until you start an important project to ask you to do something.  Ten minutes into Turbo Tax and your kids will ask you to read them a story.  Fifteen minutes after you start an outdoor project, your kids want to play tag. Now of course you can’t always stop what you are doing to entertain your kids.  But if you are like me, you allow far too few interruptions.

One way to avoid the “Can’t you see daddy is working” syndrome is to plan for three timeouts during any project.  Football teams allow each side to take three timeouts per half. Why not allow your kids to push the pause button on your project?

Recently, while I was pruning the trees in my front yard, my youngest daughter asked if she could help. After moving a few branches, she started collecting berries.  Before long she wanted me to see her bounty–bright red berries on an orange frisbee.  Now I thought of telling her, “can’t you see daddy is up in a tree with a chainsaw?”  But instead I asked her to wait for a minute and allowed for a timeout. (If the truth be known, I needed a rest.)  She held the frisbee up, proud of her harvest.  The second timeout occurred after she turned the berries into a pretend stew.  The third timeout came soon after when she offered me a pretend burrito made out of the stuff.  The interruptions didn’t take too long and I was able to finish what I set out to do.  Whenever you start a project around the house, make sure you allow for important interruptions by your kids.  They might not seem important to you, but they help your kids know that you are not too busy for them.  That’s more important than pruning your trees.