Protecting Girls in a #MeToo World

If you aren’t familiar with the #MeToo head over to twitter and read some of the tweets posted by famous women, known women and women no one really knows. Their stories are gut-wrenching. I read through a few feeds of evangelical women I deeply respect and tears came to my eyes because of the pervasiveness of abuse and the destructive power of sin in our world. As a father of two beautiful girls, I don’t want this for them. As a father, it is my responsibility to protect them love them and model to them how men should treat them. As repulsive as the whole Wienstine thing is I pray that good will come from it, that women will speak up and the culture of abuse will be dealt a severe blow.

Our country has spent the last 60 years preaching and worshiping the god of sexual fulfillment at all costs and we are starting to see the devastating legacy of our unrestrained sexual ethic. We see it in the dissolution of the family, in the celebration of every kind of personal pleasure without a thought as to the effect our actions will have on the people we love most and even broader society. This is not a new problem but is rather an indication as to how far our country has slipped from the Christian values that used to guide and define us. In Roman times when Christianity was in its infancy one of the unique things about Christians was their sexual ethics and their high view of women and children. Tim Challies describes Roman culture in such a way that it sounds like the picture that is being painted of the celebrity Hollywood subculture specifically and of American culture increasing.

Rome was a culture of extreme promiscuity and inequality. Those who had power—male citizens—were able to express their sexuality by taking who and what they wanted. Their culture’s brand of sexual morality was exemplified in the Caesars who, one after the other, “were living icons of immorality and cruelty,” using sex as a means of domination and self-gratification.

Yet this system, evil as it looks to our eyes, was accepted and even celebrated by Rome. It was foundational to Roman culture. To be a good Roman citizen a man needed to participate in it, or at least not protest against it. To be loyal to Rome, one had to be loyal to the morality of Rome. To the Romans, the biblical view “would have been seen as disruptive to the social fabric and demeaning of the Roman ideal of masculinity.” What we consider odious and exploitive, they considered necessary and good.

So seeing that our culture is slipping further and further into the sex-crazed pagan practices Christianity opposed. How do we raise our kids and protect our daughters from a sick culture that objectifies women? 

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.

The Reformation for You and Your Family.

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. #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.
  2. #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.

How To Hear God’s Voice

Listening to Others

One of the things that many adults struggle with and most kids I’ve encountered, struggle with is the ability to hear God’s voice. Hearing God’s voice is not as easy as some simplistically explain and it’s not impossible as many believe.

Hearing God’s voice is made possible by a few basic practices;

  1. Listening to God starts with learning to listen to those you can see.
  2. Knowing God’s voice comes from knowing his word.
  3. Hearing God’s voice requires discernment.

Learning to listen is not a skill that is taught anywhere. It is a gift a few are born with, a skill most can learn, and is indispensable in our ability to hear God and love our fellow believers. The world we live in is crowded, loud, and chaotic. We are surrounded by digital noise that demands little focus from us. To truly listen to others is a difficult thing to do but is a practice we must grow in. To grow in our ability to listen we must understand the importance of it and must actively practice the discipline of it.

Why Listening matters so much.

  1. It is our primary duty as a Christian, loving our brother by listening to him. We have this insatiable urge to say the right thing when often times what people need most is someone who will truly listen to them.

    “The first service one owes to others in the community involves listening to them. Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them. God’s love for us is shown by the fact that God not only gives us God’s Word but also lends us God’s ear.”  – Bonhoeffer

  2. We must train ourselves to listen to our fellow believers or we will only know how to speak at people rather than listen to or converse with others. If we train ourselves to ignore our fellow man which we can see how will we ever listen to a God we can’t see.

    “Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians because these Christians are talking even when they should be listening. But Christians who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either; they will always be talking even in the presence of God.” – Bonhoeffer

Listening is something I think most people struggle with. It is something I have to consciously work on. In pastoral ministry, listening is something that you must learn. As a parent, if your kids want to hear God’s voice they need to learn how to listen to yours.

How do we grow in our ability to listen and teach our kids how to listen to others well.

  1. Listen with your face – don’t “Multitask” and believe you are doing your duty. You are not. In fact, you are not listening and you are also not focusing. Multitasking is a myth.
  2. Listen long and patiently – “Those who think their time is too precious to spend listening will never really have time for God and others, but only for themselves and for their own words and plans.” Bonhoeffer
  3. Fully listen, don’t think about a response while listening.
  4. Wait till the other person has finished before you begin to speak.
  5. Listening understands that our duty to our fellow believers is to hear their confession.

Few people have spoken out on our need to listen to others as clearly as Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his powerful book on the Christian fellowship. He offers this dire warning to those who won’t listen “The death of the spiritual life starts here, and in the end, there is nothing left but empty spiritual chatter and clerical condescension which chokes on pious words. Those who cannot listen long and patiently will always be talking past others, and finally no longer will even notice it.”

May we be as James says in his epistle  “Quick to listen and slow to speak.”