Friday, April 30, 2010

How the gospel affects parenting

This Sunday we begin a two week exploration of the theme of wise parenting in Proverbs. In preparation, we have stocked our book table with some of the best resources on parenting from a decidedly Christ-centered perspective we could find. I hope you will take advantage of them. The best new book on this topic, in my estimation, is William Farley's Gospel-Powered Parenting. At one point he helpfully lists seven ways in which the gospel affects parents and parenting. May you profit from them as much as I have.

1. The gospel teaches Christian parents to fear God.

2. The gospel motivates parents to lead by example.

3. The gospel centers families in their male servant leaders.

4. The gospel teaches and motivates parents to discipline their children.

5. The gospel motivates parents to teach their children.

6. The gospel motivates parents to lavish their children with love and affection.

7. The gospel is the solution for inaequate parents.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Four Key Questions

Want to jump-start your heart and challenge your spiritual life? Take a few minutes to deeply ponder the following four questions. Even better, talk them over with your spouse, best friend, children and small group.

1. What are you most loving and devoting your affections and attention to these days? What gets you most excited? If you asked the people who know you at work, school, your neighborhood, Facebook, etc. to tell you what they think your greatest loves are, what would they say? How would their answers compare with Matthew 22:37? (look it up)

2. The Bible draws a direct connection between our practical, visceral grasp of the depth of our sin and unworthiness and how much we prize its antidote - the gospel of God's grace to us in Christ (see I Timothy 1:12-17). To what extent are you investing time and building relationships in order to further expose the depth of your mutual sin and exalt the glory of the Cross and Who Jesus is for you?

3. Are you (and your spouse and/or children if you're married) pursuing the most godly, Bible-saturated, gospel-loving people you know as your best friends and closest confidants? See Proverbs 13:20.

4. Are God's non-negotiable priorities the 'sun' of your life, marriage and family around which everything else revolves? Do you quickly sacrifice your earthly pursuits when they're in competition with or threaten to marginalize eternal ones? See Matthew 6:33 & Hebrews 10:23-25.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Limited to the glory of God

"Every human being is essentially subject to three foundational limits. We are limited in wisdom, in power and in righteousness....Knowledge and acceptance of these three limits is essential to productive living in this fallen world....None of us should give way to the smug assurance of arrival. All of us should be living as students, desiring to be truly wise. And all of us would benefit from the commitment to listen more, study more, question more, and speak less."

- Paul Tripp, Broken-Down House, pp. 69-70

What we can learn from an athiest

So, who's more off target - a notorious athiest or the adherents of liberal 'Christian' churches? Find out here.

HT: Ron Molzahn

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Male Crisis?

For a number of years from various quarters I've been hearing about the increasing lack of male commitment to the church, gospel zeal and willingness to sacrifice for the sake of Christ's Kingdom. Our missionary church planter in Toulouse, France, Michael Gibbons, weighs in on the topic and its impact on contemporary missions here.

Do you agree that most young, Christian men today are little more than grown up kids committed more to X-Box and their hunting buddies than the gospel and Christ's church? Or, have twenty and thirty-something Christian guys always been this self-absorbed and willing to let the ladies take the lead for the Kingdom's advancement? How would the Scriptures direct us to address this crisis? What role might God be calling you to play?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

She smiled at me!

That thought struck with humbling clarity this morning as I made my way through WalMart. On my way from the cash register to the door, I passed an older lady who smiled at me. Amazing!

How so? What's the big deal about a person's passing smile? Quite a lot in light of what Romans 3:10-12 says about who I naturally am:

None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good, not even one.

In light of that text, that lady had more reason to hit me with her cane than smile at me. In spite of my sin (and yours), God has flooded our world with marks of His grace - including the passing smile of a stranger in WalMart.

Our flesh is wired to complain about what's going wrong in our world today. Instead, let's silence its God-dishonoring lips with the awestruck wonder of seeing and delighting in the many, many evidences of God's kindness to us. The sun didn't have to shine in Minot today, but by God's grace it is. What a display of His love! Did your car start this morning? Amazing! Did your children wake up this morning, instead of dying in the night like your sins deserve? Yet another display of God's grace. It surrounds us like an ocean of love. Unfortunately, because we swim in it every day, we so rarely see it. Let's make this day different. Before today is done, let's take time to notice the little gifts from God (like how our hands coordinate perfectly with our brains) as well as the big ones (like how our convinction of sin drives us back to the Cross) and let our Godward, awestruck praise flow!

Friday, April 16, 2010

God cares, so should we

One the too rarely discussed and prayed for topics among American Christians is the global crisis of sex trafficking, the wholesale exploitation of women, girls and boys in the developing world. Here are some facts we need to consider:

  • The US State Department estimates that close to 800,000 women and children are trafficked against their will across national borders every year for sale/exploitation.

  • UNICEF states that from two to four million women and children are currently in the sex trade system

  • Every year $32 billion is spent by commercial sex trade 'consumers

  • 16,000 'sex slaves' are imported by the US every year

  • Sudan - where our African sister church is located - is one of the most prolific nations for sex trafficking
James 1:27 states, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

What can we do?

1. Pray. God alone has the power to overthrow the international sex trade to His glory. Pray that God would raise up courageous national churches in the developing world to stand against the sex trade and do their part to rescue and give a new life to women, girls and boys who are enslaved to this system of destruction. In particular, pray for the development of a new sex trade rescue center called Mukti in Calcutta, India which is being led by EFCA Indian partner churches.

2. Learn more. In order to pray more specifically and, perhaps, for you to get involved in a tangible way at some point in order to help eleviate this God-dishonoring system in the developing world, educate yourself more fully through the following websites:

To receive the newsletter from our TouchGlobal missionaries working with sex trade victims in Asia, send your request to

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Christianity powerfully explained

I have recently come across the clearest, most compelling article explaining the gospel and its transforming, liberating power for sinners I have ever read. It is worth not only pondering deeply but sharing with our yet unbelieving friends. Read it here.

HT: Dawn Talley

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The goal of evangelism

I recently attended a promotional event for a Christian camp. According to the various speakers, the camp is a successful ministry and is being mightily used by God because such and such a number of campers 'made decisions' to follow Christ. That's a predictable scenario at Christian fundraising events, but we need to ask ourselves if this is a good and biblical measure of ministry success. More to the point, are 'decisions' the goal of Christian evangelism? Tim Keller helpfully answers this question as follows:

"The 'Great Commission' is not just a call to 'make disciples' but to 'baptize'. In Acts and elsewhere, it is clear that baptism means incorporation into a worshipping community with accountability and boundaries (cf. Acts 2:41ff.). Much traditional evangelism aims to get a 'decision' for Christ. Experience, however, shows us that many of these 'decisions' disappear and never result in changed lives. Why? Many, many decisions are not really conversions, but often only the beginning of a journey of seeking God. (Other decisions are very definitely the moment of a 'new birth,' but this differs from person to person.) Only a person who is being evangelized in the context of an on-going worshipping and shepherding community can be sure of finally coming home into vital, saving faith." (source unknown)

Only one on-going, worshipping and shepherding community is presented in the Bible: the local church. Therefore, even if a person comes to faith in Christ outside of the local church, they should be quickly and deeply integrated for their dicipleship and maturation. The Bible simply offers no category for a believer (new or old) who is disconnected from the local church.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Remembering who we are

"I am not what I ought to be;
I am not what I want to be;
I am not what I hope to be in another world;
but still I am not what I used to be;
by the grace of God I am what I am."

- John Newton

Friday, April 9, 2010

The logic of election

"I can choose to eat whatever food I prefer. I cannot, however, choose my preferences. In the spiritual birth, we are given new 'taste buds' so that for the very first time we can choose to do good things [including responding to the gospel with faith and repentance] because we have been given new desires, or preferences, for the good."

- Rod Takata, Ruling elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dating's Downfall

In recent years some strong critique against traditional dating has been marshalled by conservative Christians in favor of a more old-world, courtship model. I won't dispute the many benefits of replacing dating with courtship. At the same time, unless courtship faces up to the fundamental sinfulness of both parties and their desperate need for the gospel, courtship, as much as dating, may add up to a form of false advertising and portend future heartache on both sides. Paul Tripp agrees:

"Honestly, most dating [or courtship] is only about half a step from used-car sales. Stay with me here! To put it bluntly but accurately, the idea in Western culture dating is to sell yourself [or, in courtship to sell your son or daughter]. The last thing you want is for the other person to really get to know you. Consequently, a man who doesn't like to shop will suddenly be saying things like, 'Sure honey, I would love to go to another twelve stores to look for those special shoes you have in mind.' A woman who doesn't appreciate sports will find herself volunteering to watch sports with her date and his buddies for hour upon endless, grueling hour.

Having presented one another with only their best behavior, the man and woman each convince themselves that they have found a nearly perfect person. As they move toward that day when they will actually begin living together in the world's most comprehensive relationship, they do not factor into their expectations the difficulties of life in this broken-down house of a world. Then, when the marriage takes an unexpected turn they are shocked, saddened, and utterly unprepared. Six months after the wedding, the wife is crying and saying, 'This is not the man I married!' But, of course, he is. He is precisely the man she married. It's the guy she dated who was the fake."

- Paul David Tripp, Broken-Down House, pp. 27-28

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Job's key to unlock Philippians 2:3-4

We're all wired to 'think more highly of ourselves than we ought' (Rom. 12:3) and consider others' needs/desires primarily when its to our advantage or convenient. Therefore, Philippians 2:3-4 is one of the most challenging texts in the Bible:

"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."

We only need to keep reading to discover the primary, theological key to winning this war against selfishness as Paul, in vv. 5-11, holds up the ultimate 'exhibit A' of other-centered sacrificial service: Christ's incarnation and death on the Cross in our place.

This morning as I was studying my Bible I came across a second key to unlock selflessness toward others in Job 31. Verse 15 reads, "Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?" In the process of defending his fair treatment toward others, Job bases his pattern of selfless, other-centered service on the fact that the people in his life were made by God every bit as much as he was. They have hopes, dreams and a mission in life from God as much as he does. They were made in the image of God as much as he was. Therefore, it would be wrong to put his agenda ahead of theirs or act like they exist to serve his desires. No, their lives were every bit as valuable as his. Consequently, he devoted his life not only to serving God (see Job 1:1) but to serving others.

Who in your world are you tempted to marginalize or manipulate to serve your agenda today? All of us have someone we generally take for granted or treat more like a possession than a person. Let's not only use Paul's picture of Christ the Servant in Philippians 2 to fight our naturally selfish instincts today, let's use Job's example of remembering that the people in our lives are every bit as important as we are. They, too, were made by God.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The danger of going too far

For decades the debate over our interpretation of the creation account in Genesis 1 & 2 has been lively, not only in American culture but within conservative Christian circles. A number of hermeneutical issues are at play, including debates over genre, language, literary context and theological intent.

While there may be room for differences of opinion regarding some of these interpretive elements, we must be careful to hold with an indefatigable grip to the historicity of the account and the reality of Adam, Eve and the serpent. Considering the fact that Paul grounds our justification in Romans 5 and our glorification in I Corinthians 15 by assuming a literal Adam (our federal head in death) failing God's test in a literal garden, setting the stage for our salvation in a literal Jesus (our federal head in life), the historicity of the persons and events of Genesis 1 & 2 must be maintained.

In light of that, I am saddened and concerned by recent comments made on this subject by one of my scholar-heros. Watch and consider carefully if he is not giving away too much in his pursuit of scholarship: