Are You A Protective Parent or A Pro-active Parent

How to shape the loves your child's life.

Most parents have a built-in instinct be protective of their kids. This is God-given and important. But like all good things, it can be excessively adhered to, in modern American life, I believe this is true. There are more products than ever protecting kids from putting things in electric sockets from bumping their heads on coffee tables, to the locking the cabinet doors the contain unsafe itemes.  In our right desire for protection, we have become obsessed with physical wellbeing to the neglect of the inward life of our children. The reality is that most formative thing that impacts our kids is not the physical dangers from without but the formation within them of the things they love most.

Brave New Church

Are we entertaining our kids to death?

In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World Huxley painted a grim picture of what our world would look like not with, sadness, pain, discomfort or solitude. He showed us his picture of a world in which happiness was the greatest goal. The results were shocking and a bit more like modern American than even Huxley imagined was possible 80 years after his book was published.
In reading Brave New World I started thinking that we need to ask better questions. Did you have fun is a question that should be asked in church but only till kids are 3 or 4 after that we need to change the questions we ask because we are reinforcing the idea that fun and happiness are the highest good.
The idea of did you have fun in church is unfortunately not limited to Children’s ministry. The model of church where fun is practiced and happiness is the greatest good has so thoroughly saturated our culture that if we are not vigilant it will even take over our sacred spaces with its pervasive grip.
I am not a curmudgeon I don’t think that church should be joyless on the contrary it should be the most joy-filled place on the planet. The issues are when we make fun the vehicle that brings us to a place of ultimate happiness. In church, everything we do should be infused with fun and whimsy but it should not be the basis of what we do. Asking a 9-year-old if they had fun is missing the mark. You are catechizing your kids into a brave new world where fun is the means to our ultimate good being our own personal happiness.

Christmas hope no matter how dark the darkness

Christmas is a paradoxical holiday it is filled with such joy and at the same time reminds us of great losses. When studying the other night, I came across a message by Tim Keller that talks about how the light of Christmas dispels the shadow of death. I found it convicting and encouraging. I hope that you who feel overwhelmed this Christmas can find your hope in the light the gospel provides. We have much to be hopeful for and rejoice about. We celebrate at Christmas how Jesus came close.

“As silent as snow falling, he came in. And when no one was looking into the darkness, he came.” – Sally Lloyd-Jones

Just before Bonhoeffer was executed, he wrote this to a friend: “Death is the supreme festival on the road to freedom.”

“Death used to be an executioner, but because of the gospel, Jesus has made death just a gardener. All death can do is plant me in his love and make me come up in ways I’ve never been before.” George Herbert

What is Bonhoeffer saying? What is that? A light dawned on Bonhoeffer. In spite of the fact that there was darkness all around him, the shadow of the fear of death, because he believed Jesus Christ was from that other world, born into this world, Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the debt the human race owed to justice, so when we died believing in him we can have no fear of anything we have done somehow stymying us or drawing us down so we don’t have to be afraid of death in any way, what did that mean?

Because Bonhoeffer wasn’t afraid of death, he wasn’t afraid of anything. Because Bonhoeffer was afraid of death, he didn’t care about comfort. He didn’t care about affluence. He didn’t care about power or pleasure or sex or money. He didn’t care. That’s why his people said, “You have it made. You can be a successful professor out here away from Germany. You don’t have to go back in there.”

He didn’t want to not go back. Why not? The shadow of death did not fall on him. He lived in a dark world, but because he believed in Jesus, a light dawned. Because Jesus was born in a manger, that means this world is not all there is.

If you let the knowledge of what Jesus Christ is and has done dawn in your life like Bonhoeffer, you can walk around in any part of the world, any century, any situation without fear.

Bonhoeffer is the exact opposite of the kind of person western Civilization according to Ernest Becker is producing. He wasn’t obsessed with romance and love. He wasn’t obsessed with money. He wasn’t being driven to be successful. There was nothing frantic about him. Because he wasn’t afraid of death, he wasn’t afraid of anything. Christmas means fear no darkness. Christmas means fear not. The angels are always showing up in all the Christmas stories saying, “Fear not, Mary. Fear not, Zechariah. Fear not. Fear no darkness.”

Spurgeon said it this way.

The coming of Jesus to us, when he does really come into our hearts, takes away the darkness of ignorance, sorrow, carelessness, fear, and despair. Our night is ended once for all when we behold God visiting us in Christ Jesus. Our day may cloud over, but night will not return. O, you that are in the blackest midnight, if you can but get a view of Christ, morning will have come to you! There is no light for you elsewhere, believe us in this; but if Jesus be seen by faith, you shall need no candles of human confidence, nor sparks of feelings and impressions: the beholding of Christ shall be the ending of all night for you.

C. H. Spurgeon

“The beholding of Christ shall be the ending of all night for you!” Powerful profound truths to ponder this Christmas season. Thank you, Tim Keller. Thank you,  Charles Spurgeon. May the light of Christmas dispel the shadow of death in your life. May the hope and joy of Advent fill your heart as you seek him!

8 Profitable Ways to Read the Bible

By J.C. Ryle

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.

1. Begin reading your Bible this very day. The way to do a thing is to do it; and the way to read the Bible is actually to read it! It is not merely meaning, or wishing, or resolving, or intending, or thinking about it , which will advance you one step. You must positively read. There is no royal road in this matter, any more than in the matter of prayer. If you cannot read yourself, you must persuade somebody else to read it to you. But one way or another, through eyes or ears, the words of Scripture must actually pass before your mind.
2. Read the Bible with an earnest desire to understand it. Do not think for a moment, that the great object is to turn over a certain quantity of printed paper, and that it matters nothing whether you understand it or not. Some ignorant people seem to imagine, that all is done if they advance so many chapters every day, though they may not have a notion what they are all about, and only know that they have pushed on their bookmark ahead so many pages. This is turning Bible reading into a mere ritual form. Settle it down in your mind as a general principle, that a Bible not understood is a Bible that does no good! Say to yourself often as you read, “What is this all about?” Dig for the meaning like a man digging for gold.
3. Read the Bible with child-like faith and humility.
Open your heart as you open God’s book, and say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening!” Resolve to believe implicitly whatever you find there, however much it may run counter to your own desires and prejudices. Resolve to receive heartily every statement of truth, whether you like it or not. Beware of that miserable habit into which some readers of the Bible fall, they receive some doctrines because they like them; and they reject others because they are condemning to themselves, or to some relation, or friend. At this rate, the Bible is useless! Are we to be judges of what ought to be in God’s Word? Do we know better than God? Settle it down in your mind that you will receive all and believe all, and that what you cannot understand, you will take on trust. Remember, when you pray that you are speaking to God, and God hears you. But, remember, when you read Scripture that God is speaking to you, and you are not to “dictate,” but to listen!
4. Read the Bible in a spirit of obedience and self-application.
Sit down to the study of it with a daily determination that you will live by its rules, rest on its statements, and act on its commands. Consider, as you travel through every chapter, “How does this affect my thinking and daily conduct? What does this teach me?” It is poor work to read the Bible from mere curiosity, and for speculative purposes in order to fill your head and store your mind with mere opinions; while you do not allow the book to influence your heart and life. That Bible is read best which is practiced most!

Knowing God’s Voice Comes from Knowing God’s Word.

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.

At Home:

  1. 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.
  2. Read the Bible to your kids. Don’t just tell them to read the Bible show them how.
  3. Do Family Worship – Read a chapter in the Bible, Sing one hymn and pray together. It takes 10 minutes.
  4. Have conversations about the Bible.

At Church:

  1. As a Pastor read the Bible yourself. The reason people don’t read their Bibles is that pastors don’t read their Bibles.
  2. Preach from a Bible, not a phone.
  3. Preach messages that are saturated with scriptures rather than relevant quotes.
  4. Commit to an ongoing plan of discipleship in small groups or classroom settings.
  5. 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?

  1. Read the Bible ourselves.
  2. 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.
  3. Be one Bible ahead of your kids.
  4. Read the Bible to them, then with them, then around them.
  5. 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.