Thursday, January 27, 2011

Applying the gospel to your sinful child

I recently wrote up a step by step outline to help Christian parents respond to the sins of their children in a way that takes them to the Cross and makes it a positive opportunity to praise Jesus' grace vs. a fight for mere behavior modification. I hope you find it helpful.

Bringing the gospel to bear on your child’s heart

A. When your child is not sinning

1. Thank God for giving him ‘obeying grace’.

2. Praise him and help him praise God for ‘obeying grace’.

3. Enjoy who God has uniquely made him, and don’t mistake immaturity for sin.

B. When your child is sinning

1. Control your reaction. Be calm and don’t be surprised by his sin.

2. Go to him and tell him that you need to meet with him privately.

3. Engage with the positive/hopeful attitude that this is a gospel opportunity.

4. Gently point out his sin. Use the Bible and be as specific as possible.

5. Help him understand that his sin offends God and hurts others and himself.

6. Help him feel the pain of his sin via corporal discipline or some other ‘pain’.

7. Help him understand his natural inability to please God without saving grace.

8. Pray with him (him praying too) with words of hope in Christ’s kind grace.

9. Do not harbor the incident in your heart or bring it up ever again. It is forgiven.

10. Thank God for your child often and enjoy the evidences of God’s grace in his life.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ebook advantages

Trust me, I'm not being paid by Amazon or Apple to promote their Kindle or Ibook electronic books, and perhaps you will always be old school in your reading methods and demand a hard copy in your hands. I sympathize with you.
Still, one profound advantage to taking the plunge into the world of ebooks is the veritible treasure trove of older books (many of which are more thoughtful and thought-provoking and sometimes life-changing than most new books) available either free or for very low rates. I may not be a shameless promoter of the Kindle Reader or Ipad, but I am a shameless promoter of the English Puritans, and their works, for the most part, can be had at incredibly low prices in electronic form. For instance, check out the difference between most of the books by the eminent Puritan preacher Thomas Watson in hard copy vs. ebook form sold on Amazon here.
I am not encouraging buying books if you, in all honesty, are not going to read them. Save your money - or donate it to someone who will. But if you are a lover of great books and are looking for the best books at the best possible price, consider the new wave of ebooks now available.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The logic of election

This week in I Thessalonians 1 we're going to hear the apostle Paul glory in God's sovereign, electing grace, which gave him assurance the the Thessalonians' faith was real and would persevere. Many people have a hard time with the Bible's teaching that Christ only died for some and not for every single person in history. Though election challenges our modern notions of fairness, it is necessary for upholding God's justice.

The great Puritan John Owen explains it this way: If Christ died for all on the Cross (if He actually paid for their sins), but not all are finally saved, then those unbelievers who suffer God's condemnation at the final Judgment suffer unjustly, since they receive from God a second payment for their sins (the first having been paid by Christ on the Cross). The only way out of this scenario of unjust, double jeopardy is the biblical doctrine of particular atonement, that Christ actually died for some (the elect) and because the sins of the elect have been fully paid by Christ on the Cross, no future condemnation for them is possible.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thank God for the Fall?

Have you ever found yourself wishing you could go back to the Garden of Eden before the Fall? Even a vacation there sounds good, doesn't it? Think again. According to Genesis 2:8-17, though prefall Adam lived in the Garden without the effects of sin, he lived under the continual condition of having to live up to God's law of prohibition regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. According to Romans 5:12ff., Adam did not merely live under the pressure of continual obedience to avoid death and God's wrath for himself but for all who would come after him. Adam's obedience before the Fall not only put such pressure to perform on him, his achievement (until he fell) made him an object of self-gained glory. Suddenly, life before the Fall doesn't sound too great.
In contrast, what a blessing it is to live on this side of God's gospel promise in Genesis 3:15 where Christ (the second Adam) perfectly performs in our place both fulfilling God's law and dying for our sins. And our current context, in contrast to life in the Garden, turns the spotlight of glory fully on Christ where it belongs.
So, the next time you wish you were in the Garden of Eden, think again. Life in this fallen world for those of us who enjoy God's grace isn't so bad after all. Heaven, though, will be best of all.

A global vision

In about a month Michael Gibbons, our missionary in Toulouse, France will be at Trinity for a visit. This morning as I was praying for the Gibbons' ministry, I felt a rush of joy at how intentionally strategic they have become in recruiting Christian workers from non-western contexts to reach the diverse populations in Toulouse, which is the fastest growing city in Europe. For instance, three workers from Hong Kong are due to arrive in Toulouse this year to target the growing Chinese student population in the city's universities. Michael has been training other missionaries from Bulgaria, Mexico and Columbia to effectively assimilate into French culture in order to plant a biblically healthy church there.

Missions is changing. God seems to be raising up workers from all over the globe as American missionaries increasingly find themselves in leadership, training and support roles in order to unleash the young churches from the developing world on the mission field for maximum effect. I am humbled that we as a church get the opportunity to watch this exciting transition taking place before our eyes through the Gibbons' ministry. Take some time today to pray for God's work in and through them.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pray for Sudan

As Kevin mentioned on Sunday, the referendum (vote) for independence for Southern Sudan is taking place this week. Though here in the US it takes us just one day (most of the time) to hold an election, there it will take all week since many will have to walk or ride bicycles to distant polling places. Our missionary Tony Frietas has been in contact with the Sudanese pastors we work with and reports that the reforendum is going smoothly in the far south near Labone, but fighting has broken out on the border farther north. Please pray I Timothy 2:2 which instructs us to intercede for national leaders so the church might exist in peace and expand God's kingdom. If you'd like to read a first hand account of the referendum by a World Vision worker in Juba, Sudan, you can find it here.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Understanding the Pharisees

It's pretty common in Christian circles for us to think of the Pharisees as religious folks who were too concerned and nit-picky about the Jewish Law, in contrast to Jesus Who came to wave the banner of grace. In the following brief interview with Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan (the teacher of my recent class at Reformed Seminary in Jackson, MS) helpfully clarifies how this common understanding misreads the Pharisees and leads us to unintentionally misunderstand the Mosaic Law. Very helpful stuff!