One of the most insightful and practical preacher theologians I have ever read is J.C. Ryle his insights are deep his love for Christ is palpable. My only regreat in reading all the things he has written is that I didn’t find him when I was younger. Of all past theologians, I am most confident that J.C. Ryle would have had a blog his passion for truth and his ability to speak the truth plainly would have demanded it. I pray that you are encouraged by his practical insights and deep love for Christ as I have been over the years.
In my first post, I discussed how listening to others serves our brother and sister but also trains us to be quiet and listen to God. How does God primarily speak? I believe that if you want to listen to the voice of God you need to develop a love for the Word of God. The reason many people struggle with hearing God’s voice is that many Christians don’t read God’s word. The primary way that God communicates to us is through the Bible. Almost every Christian would agree with this statement. The problem is a gap between what we believe and what we practice is massive. Al Mohler on his blog says “Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put the problem squarely: “Americans revere the Bible–but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.”
When you have conversations with Christian teenagers their basis for the decisions they make are based on personal experience and personal feelings rather than an external standard of truth. According to Lifeway research, 53% of Americans have only read a few verses of the Bible. How can you recognize a voice that you have never heard? Many Christians think they hear God’s voice but if you don’t know God’s word how will you be able to tell the difference between the noise around you and the voice within you?
How do we move from reverence for the Bible to actually reading the Bible? It happens through decisive action at home and at church and with our kids.
- Read the Bible yourself. – Don’t think about it, agree that it’s good, actually do it. Let your kids see you read your Bible.
- Read the Bible to your kids. Don’t just tell them to read the Bible show them how.
- Do Family Worship – Read a chapter in the Bible, Sing one hymn and pray together. It takes 10 minutes.
- Have conversations about the Bible.
- As a Pastor read the Bible yourself. The reason people don’t read their Bibles is that pastors don’t read their Bibles.
- Preach from a Bible, not a phone.
- Preach messages that are saturated with scriptures rather than relevant quotes.
- Commit to an ongoing plan of discipleship in small groups or classroom settings.
- Preach exegetically – People need a systematic understanding of scripture not a sprinkling of verses from around the Bible.
How do we help kids love the Bible?
- Read the Bible ourselves.
- Answer questions they have about the Bible. Someone recently said that if your kids are not asking questions about the Bible they aren’t reading it.
- Be one Bible ahead of your kids.
- Read the Bible to them, then with them, then around them.
- Teach your kids to meditate on scripture not just speed read it.
One of the questions kids ask me most is why they don’t hear God’s voice and how do they hear God’s voice. The first thing you must do is to model for them the love of God’s word, find a church that preaches God’s word.
Tuesday we celebrated the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. It was 500 years ago an Augustinian Monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg Germany. It was a small protest against the corruption in the church that has had ripple effects that are still being felt today. Many people argue that what Luther started was not good because it has created disunity in the church but the more you read scripture, the more you read Luther, and the more you realize that the Reformation was a clarification of the gospel far more than a reputation of the church of Rome.
We needed reformation then and we certainly need reformation today. So I thought it would be helpful to tackle a few of Luther’s 95 Theses that have particular relevance for us as well as for the kids we teach.
- #1 When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent”, he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance. – This is fundamental and primary. Kids need to know what repentance is and how their lives should be marked by the daily practice of repentance. Kids that don’t understand their need for repentance will never experience the sufficiency of Christ in His lavish forgiveness. More than ever our kids need to see repentance modeled to them and need to be called regularly to repentance.
- #92 Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people “Peace, peace” and there is no peace. – Our culture and sadly many even within the church are preaching and prophesying that the highest goal of Christian life is peace and personal happiness. This is a pernicious cancer in the very fabric of Christian life. To seek joy is a very different thing than pursuing happiness. Joy is understood in scripture as being founded in the person of Christ. It is Incorruptible because it is found in Christ who is eternal. Happiness is a feeling, it is personal it is undefinable, it is easily lost because we are fickle and this life is fleeting.
Have you ever read a book and it’s like the author is reading your mind? Well, I am 40 pages into Gospel Powered Parenting and so far I keep calling my wife over and telling her to read whole sections. It has to be one of the best parenting books I have ever read.
“I am convinced that the gospel is sufficient to answer all our parenting questions.”
I found this quote on the first page of the introduction of William P. Farley’s Gospel Powered Parenting and was immediately captivated.
Really? All of them? A colicky newborn, a defiant preschooler, and a prodigal teenager? The gospel has the answers I need as a parent to deal with all these situations and more?
Farley submits that it does, and he does not disappoint unpacking how in this fantastic book. Honestly, this is the book I’ve been waiting for as a kid’s pastor. A book that never leaves the foot of the cross, and sees there in the gospel the wisdom and power we need to parent our children.
If you’re looking for a how-to manual, an index of sorts of how to handle specific and unique situations, this is not your book.
In Farley’s own words, “The emphasis of this book differs from that of many other Christian books on parenting. Most emphasize techniques. By contrast, Gospel-Powered Parenting will emphasize the parents’ relationship with God, with each other, and with their children, in that order. The emphasis of this book is that parenting is not primarily about doing the right things. It is about having a right relationship with God – a relationship informed by the Gospel.” –p. 51
He adds to that same idea later, “Have you ever noticed most books on parenting – Christian and secular – emphasize technique? … This book will take another approach. I want to change your thinking, especially how you think about God and yourself. If I’m successful, the techniques will take care of themselves. That is because what we do is a by-product of how we think. People change their behavior as their understanding of God and man change.” –p.69
2 things I love about this book
#1 Gospel, Gospel, Gospel.
It’s in the title, it’s on every page.
For example, Farley says that the fight against the world’s influence on our children will be won or lost based on parents understanding of the Gospel.
He says, “We change their hearts by teaching the gospel, modeling the gospel, and centering our homes on the gospel. The Gospel, rightly understood and modeled, makes Christianity attractive. Effective parents make the gospel so attractive that the world cannot get a foothold on their children’s hearts.” –p. 24
#2 Mom and Dad, it’s on us.
“God is sovereign, but parents are responsible. –p.22
And Farley really focuses in on dads, their presence, and their love of the Gospel. “When men abdicate, their children suffer. When men assume their proper role, parenting thrives.” –p.126
He continues “God holds fathers accountable for parenting because he has given them inordinate influence over their children. The Bible presumes, in the language of the Puritans, that fathers are a mirror in which their children look to out on their spiritual dress.” –p.129
The Nashville Statement is a creed that was developed by the people who lead the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The Nashville Statement was really just a more modern restatement of the historic orthodox position on the authority of the Bible and of the Biblical view of sexual ethics.
There was a lot of disagreement and anger from the Progressive Evangelicals over this statement. In a recent blog post as to why she signed the Nashville Statment Rosaria Butterfield goes after the progressive wing of modern evangelicalism. Progressives who ultimately value their experience above the explicit truth within the word of God. They twist the Scriptures out of their conception of what it means to be loving but with out regard to what the Bible defines as Love.
There was also some dissent from people I find really biblically solid. This group is those who take issue with a couple of the more nuanced points about the statement, for instance, calling only single people to live a life of chastity rather than celibacy. Chastity should be practiced by all not just singles. For married people, chastity is fidelity for singles it’s celibacy. They don’t like some of the wording of the Nashville Statement. To me that isn’t enough to be against it, in the world we live in. The real argument is that the progressives see the Bible as historic and flawed those who drafted and signed statement this see the Bible as authoritative, flawless and sufficient. For me, if lines are going to be drawn I will always stand on the side of Scripture even when Scripture offends me. Because I believe deeply that when Scripture offends me the problem is always me and never the Bible. That is why I support the Nashville Statement. If you, as a Christian, are offended by the sexual ethics of the Bible the problem is always you and not the Bible.
What does this mean for our kids and the teams we lead? The way I see it the stakes are high. We can and must teach the Bible purely and consistently. We must teach our kids how to value and apply the Bible to their own lives. There is always need for creativity and innovation in the church but if we don’t get this right if we don’t ground our kids in the authority of scripture we are no longer taking creative ideas from Disney we are ideologically no different than Disney. The reformation that needs to take place is the church and in Christian homes is once again the battle cry of Sola Scriptura. Our kids need to be primarily grounded in the gospel secondly they need to be aware and emersed in the history of our faith. In the faith and the traditions as Paul says “that have been handed to us and taught to us.” Let us as teachers and educators prepare our kids for the world that will be rather than the world that is. May we never sway from the Scriptures as the primary authority in our lives.