Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Wisdom in class - and other contexts

One of the greatest examples of true wisdom is knowing when and when not to speak.  That is particularly apropos in a classroom or small group setting.  Particularly challenging for a teacher or leader is the person with a good deal of knowledge who always feels the need to say something - whether its relevant or helpful or not.  Many of us who are natural talkers have room to grow in this area.  That may include you.  Obeying the following chart can help immeasurably.  Hopefully you'll find it as helpful as I have.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Devotion to gospel community

Last Sunday Acts 2:42-47 showed us what going deep in relationship for mutual sanctification looks like, and I gave some examples of that in my own life. True koinonia means more than mere encouragement. It means honestly, kindly and passionately engaging one another when we start to drift for our good and God's greater glory. Today's entry on Scotty Smith's Heavenward blog teaches us how to pray toward that end:

     A Prayer of Intercession for Sin-Entangled Friends

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Gal. 6:1-2

Heavenly Father, we come to your throne of grace this morning praying for wisdom and gentleness to love our struggling, entangled friends well. None of us naturally likes confrontation, and we decry self-righteous busybodies who show up in our lives like self-appointed prosecuting attorneys in the kingdom; but these words of Paul paint a different picture and present a different spirit.

Give us kindness and strength. If a friend loves in all seasons, that certainly must involve the seasons when we get entangled in sin. Sin brings death. We tend to forget this—death. If we saw a friend drinking poison, we wouldn’t hesitate to do something. If we saw a friend stepping close to a pit of rattlesnakes, we’d warn them. Help us hate sin enough and love our friends enough to risk getting involved. Better to risk the awkwardness and messiness, the anger and the defensiveness than to watch another life, marriage or family simply go down the drain.

Give us discernment and persistence. It’s not about a rush to judgment but about a journey to restoration. Help us to listen before launching. The goal in pursuing our disconnected friends must always be restoration, not just rebuke. Some entanglements take quite a while to get disentangled.

We may have to carry some of these burdens longer than we realize. Father, we need the power of the Holy Spirit and the love of Jesus. You promise to give us sufficient grace for all things, and we take you at your Word. We need great grace to do this hard work well.

Give us gentleness and hope. Those who remove specks the best are those who are most aware of the log in their own eye. Keep us humble and keep us aware of our own “temptability.” None of us is beyond the need of grace, and none of us is beyond the reach of grace. Keep us kind and keep us expectant. Our joy is in remembering Jesus is the great Restorer, not us. This is the law of Christ we are fulfilling; his yoke we are bearing; his story that’s being written. Fill us with hope. Fill us with the hope of the gospel.

Lastly, Father, we praise you for churches that are stepping up and are seeking to do this hard and heart work of discipline and restoration. Increase their tribe and bless their endeavors. It’s never easy, never. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ holy and loving name.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Marks of true love

Recently a friend sent me this short list describing biblical love.  It's worth more than pondering.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Raising sons

When does a boy become a man?  Few questions are more important for fathers of sons to understand for two reasons.  First, few questions are our sons internally asking more than this one.  They want to be men and want to know when they've passed through that 'golden doorway' of manhood.  The world has many answers, but its suggestions of physical and sexual prowess or the ability to legally drive a car or drink alcohol are no help to our sons.  They're in need of better answers, and those answers need to come from us.  Second, since we've been commissioned by God to train our sons to become men, we had better know what we're training them for.  Without a clear goal of true manhood, our sons will default to the world's goals, and that would be tragic.

Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, comes to our rescue in his short booklet From Boy to Man: The Marks of Manhood.  In it he lists thirteen elements which define true manhood:

1. Spiritual maturity sufficient to lead a wife and children.

2. Personal maturity sufficient to be a responsible husband and father.

3. Economic maturity sufficient to hold an adult job and handle money.

4. Physical maturity sufficient to work and protect a family.

5. Sexual maturity sufficient to marry and fulfill God's purposes.

6. Moral maturity sufficient to lead as an example of righteousness.

7. Ethical maturity sufficient to make responsible decisions.

8. Worldview maturity sufficient to understand what is really important.

9. Relational maturity sufficient to understand and respect others.

10. Social maturity sufficient to make a contribution to society.

11. Verbal maturity sufficient to communicate and articulate as a man.

12. Character maturity sufficient to demonstrate courage under fire.

13. Biblical maturity sufficient to lead at some level in the church.

Here are goals which truly define manhood, honor God and let our sons know they are no longer boys.  My oldest son turns twelve in a few days.  I know the gifts he would like to receive this year, but the best gift I can give him is intentional modeling and training in the areas listed above.  If you have sons, that's what they need, too.  To read Dr. Mohler's booklet in full, you may download it here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year (and every moment) stewardship

Today marks the beginning of 2013.  It is impossible on New Year's Day not to think about the year ahead. Questions and anticipations come to my mind: How will I grow in grace and the likeness of Christ in 2013?  Will my children exhibit greater godliness and spiritual sensitivity and personal maturity in the coming months?  In what ways will our church see growth in spiritual depth and breadth?  Will I consistently maintain disciplines of personal health in 2013 and become a more faithful friend and evangelist to my neighbors?  Similar questions race through your mind, no doubt.

One benefit of New Year's is how it highlights the reality of time.  God lives above and beyond time.  He is not bound by its constraints.  In contrast, God bounds our lives with time to remind us that we are mere creatures made to depend on and glorify Him.  New Year's forces us to thoughtfully examine the precious commodity which time is.  As Christians, we should be particularly concerned to steward time in a way which glorifies God and brings us and others maximum blessing.

In his book The Excellent Husband, Stuart Scott lists some biblical convictions about time which should be true of all believers (pp. 167-168).  May these prove helpful to you as we step into a new year.

Christian convictions about time:

  • Our days are all numbered by God, so we can trust His oversight of them (Ps. 139:16).
  • Our days will come to an end due to our mortality, therefore we should use them wisely (Ps. 90:12).
  • God wants us to spend regular time with Him in prayer and study of His Word (Mt. 14:23).
  • God promises us blessing when we make gathering for worship and fellowship with His people a priority (Acts 2:42ff).
  • At all times we should seek to glorify God and be a witness to Him (I Cor. 10:31, Acts 1:8).
  • We should make the most of the time God has given us in glorifying Him and blessing others, rather than being slothful or wasting our time on worthless pursuits (Pr. 24:30-34, Eph. 5:15-16).
  • We should proactively plan our days/lives for maximum impact (Pr. 16:9).
  • We have enough time to do what God wants us to do (Eph. 2:10).
  • We should plan our use of time by biblical principles, rather than following our feelings or the fads of our culture (Josh. 1:8).
  • When we consider how to spend our time, we must consider the chief responsibilities God has given us and the people He has placed in our lives for us to serve (I Cor. 4:2).
  • Since God is all powerful and all good, we can trust Him when He changes our plans and redirects our steps (Pr. 16:9b).
  • We should seek godly counsel about how best to order our time for God's glory (Pr. 15:22).
  • We should be at peace about the time in which we live and our future.  Since God is not worried about anything, we should not be either (Mt. 6:25ff.).
With God in control of history, we can know 2013 will be a great year.  Let's live each moment for His glory.