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So far Hal Bettis has created 438 blog entries.

Wisdom and Justice VS Lack of Wisdom and Injustice

So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong…So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this …for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart…1 Kings 3:10-12

As a parent, I will be called upon to make a myriad of decisions. Should my child take certain classes? Should he or she do this afterschool activity or the other one? When do I push them toward an activity that they don’t want to do, but I think will be good for them? In the midst of difficult situations, when do I make them persevere and when do I allow them to quit? Do I love them at this moment by listening or correcting? Truly parents need the wisdom of God!

But as an imperfect parent, I will err. There will be times that I will not make the wisest choice. As a person in authority, I will unwittingly have made a poor choice. No big deal, right? We all make mistakes, right?

Except that this verse highlights an oft-misunderstood principle by those in authority. In 1 Kings Solomon prayed for wisdom to administer justice. Why? Because when a leader is wise, his followers experience justice. But when a leader is unwise, those underneath him experience that lack of wisdom as injustice.

This principle not only applies to the leaders of countries but also to the leaders of families, the parents. When a parent is wise, his or her children experience a just and fair home. But when a parent lacks wisdom, his or her children will often experience this lack of wisdom as injustice. They feel our decisions as fundamentally unfair. Our innocent lack of wisdom can cause others pain.

So as we shepherd them through the myriad of decisions that come our way, let us cry out for the wisdom of God to lead our family. And let us sympathize with them when they feel the effects of our unwise choices. No, we will not parent them perfectly. Only the kingdom of Christ will bring in perfect wisdom and justice. But understanding this principle will help us treat them more gently, kindly, and compassionately.

Fighting for Unity: 12 Practices that Lead to Family (and Church) Harmony

Where two or three are gathered… there is conflict waiting to happen. So reads the back of Peacemaking for Families. But we can create a home culture where peacemaking is practiced. In fact I would argue that we should fight for unity.

I originally put the following list together for life together in the church. But as you will see, it also applies to the family as well. These are things to practice in our family and teach others. I cover much of this in Chapter 13 of The Disciple-Making Parent.

1. Pray for unity. Jesus is praying this way. In John 17 he prays that the Father would protect us from the evil one and sanctify us by the word. Then he prays, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you loved me.” Jesus prayed and is praying for the unity of his people. It is a witness to the world.

2. Forbear in small matters. (Ephesians 4:2, Col 3:13). To bear with or forbear means to overlook small things that will not change. Faultfinding is a real and common sin (see Jude 16). Replace it with thanksgiving and forbearance based on how much God has overlooked with you.

Charles Spurgeon said,  “We have all our own angles and edges, and these are apt to come into contact with others. We are all pieces of one puzzle, and shall fit in with each other one day, and make a complete whole; yet just now we seem misshapen and unfitting. Our corners need to be rounded. Sometimes they are chipped off by collision with somebody else; and that is not comfortable for the person with whom we collide. Like pebbles in the river of the water of life, we are wearing each other round and smooth, as the living current brings us into communion: everybody is polishing and being polished, and in the process it is inevitable that some present inconvenience should be sustained; but nobody must mind it, for it is part of a great process by which we shall all come into proper shape, and be made meet for endless fellowship.”

3. Get the log out of your eye first. (Matt 7:3-5). Are you demanding perfection of yourself or are you excusing your own sin? Can you point out the speck in your family member’s eye and miss your own? Be the first to ask forgiveness. Here is a penetrating quote from In Paradise Lost, Milton wrote regarding Adam and Eve’s relationship, post-Fall. I’m guilty. Are you?

“Thus they in mutual accusation spent
The fruitless hours, but neither self-condemning,
And of thir vain contest appeer’d no end.”

4. Forgive true offenses. Jesus placed forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer as a daily need (Matthew 6:12). There are things we must mark as forgiven based on how much we have been forgiven.

C. S. Lewis comments on the need for family forgiveness: “It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life—to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son—how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night, ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it means to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.”

Commands to All Three Parties – Offended, Offender, Observer
The next three commands are vital for unity. When there is a conflict there are often three parties who know about it. The offended, the offender, and third parties. Jesus speaks to all three parties by giving them some responsibility.

5. Resolve you will move toward hard conversations with pleasant words when someone sins against you.
Mt 18: 15 may be one of the the most violated verses of church and family life. “If your brother sins against you, go to him.” Do not go to other people. Do not let it simmer. Do not avoid conflict. If it is serious enough that you cannot over look, then Jesus commands you to go. The purpose is not to win the battle but to win your brother or sister back to the Lord or back to you. Make sure you practice this and are teaching your children this.

A simple way to start the conversation for something you have observed is this.

“I’ve noticed that you ___________ . Can you help me understand what’s going on? I am concerned about it.”

6. Resolve you will not let relationships whither when you feel someone pulling back. If we accidentally offend someone and we feel the relationship start to whither, Jesus commands us to go. Matt 5:23 – “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember your brother has something against you, leave your gift before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift.” Again, if we feel some distancing themselves from us, we may need to ask them about it.

7. Resolve that you will be a peacemaker not a gossip. Unfortunately too often, the parties involved in a conflict will not or cannot work it out on their own. Inevitably they end up talking with someone else. Jesus even gives a command to us when we are the third party. Blessed are the peacemakers. (Matt 5:9) Once we know about a conflict we can either calm it by urging the person to overlook it or work to see that they resolve it biblically. You might say something like, “Let’s go see your friend about this and see if we can work it out.”

Final Principles
8. Understand the difference between “good gossip” and bad gossip. Bad gossip seeks to tear down someone’s reputation by talking about them behind their back. This is not equivalent to “good gossip.” “Good gossip” is talking to a legitimate spiritual authority to seek resolution. It is not gossip to seek coaching from a spiritual leader. There are times we need to talk with spiritual authorities for help in the home.

9. Adjust your expectations and assumptions. Come ready to give to a sinful group of people – whether church or family. Agape love gives in spite of the attractiveness of the recipient Jean Vanier’s quote on community applies to our families as well: “Too many people come into community to find something, to belong to a dynamic group, to find a life which approaches the ideal. If we come into community without knowing that the reason we come is to discover the mystery of forgiveness, we will soon be disappointed.”

10. Discern the level of the issue. Mark Dever in the Compelling Community differentiates between several levels of issues. Some are issues of truth. But even these do not all have the same weight. Clear and Important issues are historically seen as essential to the gospel and gospel preservation. On these unity is secondary. However on other issues they may be either not clear or not important. Al Mohlers article on Theological Triage is particularly helpful here. A similar principle applies to issues of practice. There are practices that are primary, secondary, and tertiary. Most church and family squabbles are around third level issues.

11. Resolve to submit to mistakes on unimportant matters. Many times we balk at submitting. But all of us, men and women, boys and girls, church leaders, church members, employees, employers. are called to submit to others at times. Submission by its definition is doing what we don’t want to do. It is consciously (and happily) yielding to a decision we disagree with. This came home to me clearly a few years ago. On a church road trip to an event, the leader of our caravan insisted that if we drove through NYC we would not hit traffic. I resisted preferring the more prudent route around the city. Ultimately I did yield. And we did hit traffic. But at that point, it did not matter to my spirit. I had submitted to our caravan leader. We can teach our children to learn appropriate submission which is by definition doing what we don’t want to do.

12. Don’t mistake niceness for unity. Too many Christians say nice things to each other while conflicts go unresolved. Niceness is antithetical to Christian love. Paul confronted Peter. We are commanded to admonish each other.  We pursue holiness together and sometimes that means speaking to each other and listening to each other.

A Baker’s Dozen – One More
As leaders realize that our job is to calm conflicts that are unimportant and create conflicts that are important. Whether parents or church leaders, our sheep will squabble. We need to teach them to see issues correctly. Most conflicts in family and church are over unimportant issues. Our job as shepherds is to calm those. Help everyone symmpathize with the other person, seeing things from the other point of view.

On the other hand, as spiritual shepherds our job is to lead sheep to change. And none of us like change. So part of our job will be to lead our family and our church members to embrace change that God requires of his people.

Unity is important to our family and church. Unity is not lack of conflict but rather handling it biblically. Let’s pray that our families and churches will honor the Lord in this area.

 

 

The Family Shepherd|

David and Sally Michael of Children’s Desiring God/Truth 78

I was recently honored to sit down and talk with David and Sally Michael of Truth 78. I hope you enjoy these interviews as much as I did!

In this short conversation, Sally Michael talks about how the ministry started, an overview of the material, and a few stories of how God has used it.

  • How the ministry started
  • An overview of the material
  • A few stories of how God has used the ministry

 

In Part 2, David Michael discusses

  • Where God has led his family in the ministry
  • His heart for sharing the ministry with Pastors
  • Resources for families to bring the ministry home

 

Interviews, Podcast|

Monsters in the Closet and the BLAST Prayer

Scripture says not to give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:27).

Jesus specifically says about himself, that the devil had no place or hold on him (John 14:30).

When we have a sin habit, we give ground to the devil in our lives. There is a breach in our lives and Satan has a place in our lives that he can harass and tempt us more than he should. Think of it as an intruder that we allow to live in a closet in our house. The intruder has no right to be there. But we have allowed him in. From the base of the closet, he has greater access to harass us. Eventually, if we don’t oppose him, he will not be content with the closet but will want the whole room.

My mentor, Harold Burchett, has used the mnemonic of BLAST to walk through a prayer designed to take background given to Satan.

The BLAST prayer provides an effective formula to blast the devil out of an area he does not belong.

B – stands for the Blood of Christ. We name the sin by its biblical name and claim the blood of Christ over it.
L – stands for Lord. We declare that Jesus is Lord over this area of our lives.
A – stands for Authority. In the authority of Christ, we order Satan out of this area of our lives.
S – stands for Spirit. We ask for and claim the filling of the Holy Spirit in this area and in our lives.
T – stands for Thanksgiving. We start aggressively giving thanks for all that the Lord has done and will do.

I have used the closet analogy with my children to help them think of it and to remember it.

B – We confess that this closet is dirty and claim the blood of Christ to cleanse it.
L – We declare that Jesus is the Lord (Boss) over this closet (area) of our lives. It belongs to him. We give it back to him by faith and declaration.
A – In the authority of Jesus, we order the devil out of this closet in our lives. He must flee. It has been cleansed and Jesus is Lord over it. Satan must submit to the authority of Jesus.
S – We ask the Lord to send his Holy Spirit into this closet in our lives.
T – We start thanking the Lord for all he is going to do.

Are you having trouble with a sin area? Have you given over a “closet” in your life to the devil through habitual sin? It is in your house. Satan has to flee. Take back the ground through the blood of Christ. And let’s teach our children to do the same.

Power of Prayer|

Had I Been Joseph’s Mother – A Poem by Ruth Bell Graham

A Ruth Bell Graham Poem.

Had I been Joseph’s mother
I’d have prayed/ protection from his brothers
“God keep him safe./ He is so young,
so different from / the others.”
Mercifully, / she never knew
there would be slavery/ and prison, too.

Had I been Moses’ mother
I’d have wept/ To keep my little son;
praying she might forget/the babe drawn
from the water /of the Nile.
Had I not kept/ him for her/ nursing him the while,
was he not mine – and she/ but Pharoah’s daughter?

Had I been Daniel’s mother
I should have pled / “Give victory!
-this Babylonian horde / godless and cruel –
Don’t let him be a captive – better dead,
Almighty Lord!”

Had I been Mary,/Oh had I been she,
I would have cried/ As never mother cried,
Anything, O God, / Anything…- but / crucified.”
With such prayer importunate
My finite wisdom would assail
Infinite Wisdom. God, how fortunate
Infinite Wisdom / should prevail.

Ruth Graham Bell, Prodigals and Those Who Love Them (Colo Springs, FOF, 1991), 69

Connecting with Your Introverted Teen

At a recent conference I was urging fathers to press in and communicate with their children. One father asked, “How do I communicate with my 16 year old who is very introverted and doesn’t seem willing to talk?”

Here are a few of the things to consider.

1. Start by considering the environment. I would ask if this is a personality issue or has the lack of communication come about because of something that has happened. Is there an open communication dynamic in our home? Have I sinfully allowed him to turn in on himself because I was too busy or afraid to press in?

2. Prepare him for increased conversation. I would say something like, “Hey Alex, I have noticed that we struggle communicating. But we really need to connect. Especially as we are thinking about college. I know that sin affects our communication. Some people overtalk and some people undertalk. I think we are on the undertalk scale. But personality is not destiny. We can change in this way. In a week, we are going to go out and talk about college and what you are thinking. Specifically I would like you to think about: Question 1, Question 2. Etc.” In other words, warn him that the communication status quo is going to change.

3. I might give him another reminder the day before. “Hey I’m looking forward to going out tomorrow morning. Have you thought anymore about what I asked you?”

4. Prepare for the time to communicate. Too often we are haphazard in our communication. Set aside a time and place to talk. Come with prepared questions.There are different levels of communication – information, opinions, feelings, and heart-level transparency. If there has not been open communication, you want to keep it as the top levels of information. Coming with a prepared list of questions is often vital to a successful conversation. Put some time in and prepare!

5. As you go out, make sure you are communicating Christ-like affection. Pray for Christ-like love AND affection. You want him to feel your affection and support. If he feels those things, don’t be afraid to press in that he needs to communicate more. Yes, undertalking has personality components. But it also has sinful components. Sometimes the thought is – “I just don’t want to be bothered communicating with you.” We want to press against that.

6. To increase communication, seek to learn about things he is interested in. One well-known teacher relayed how his single mother had three bookshelves with books on psychology, engineering, and medicine. Why? Because those were the professions of her sons and she wanted to be able to talk with them. What is your child interested in? Ask for him to teach you. When I asked my college age son to teach me about art he told his professor. With tears in his eyes, the professor replied to my son, “My father has never asked me to explain art to him.”

7. Finally, realize that this is a dance. If you have not been communicating for a while then you cannot expect all things at once. You press a little and establish a new normal. Then wait for a time. And press in again. Trust, change, and communication will take time. Perhaps both of you will need to repent of sin in this area.

Community and communion only happen with communication. Keep pressing in!

Power of the Heart|

Thoughts on Meditation from Spurgeon and the Puritans

From Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Devotional

“I will meditate in thy precepts.” — Psalms 119:15

There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on his Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them.

Truth is something like the cluster of the vine: if we would have wine from it, we must bruise it; we must press and squeeze it many times. The bruiser’s feet must come down joyfully upon the bunches, or else the juice will not flow; and they must well tread the grapes, or else much of the precious liquid will be wasted. So we must, by meditation, tread the clusters of truth, if we would get the wine of consolation therefrom.

Our bodies are not supported by merely taking food into the mouth, but the process which really supplies the muscle, and the nerve, and the sinew, and the bone, is the process of digestion. It is by digestion that the outward food becomes assimilated with the inner life. Our souls are not nourished merely by listening awhile to this, and then to that, and then to the other part of divine truth. Hearing, reading, marking, and learning, all require inwardly digesting to complete their usefulness, and the inward digesting of the truth lies for the most part in meditating upon it.

Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord, and be this our resolve this morning, “I will meditate in thy precepts.”

 

And Tim Challies interviewed Joel Beeke on this subject here. This paragraph was particularly helpful to me:

Here is a method for meditation based on Puritan writings.
First, pray for the power to focus your mind on the Word with faith.
Second, read the Bible and select a verse or two.
Third, repeat those verses to yourself in order to memorize them.
Fourth, think about what those verses say and imply, probing the book of Scripture (other verses on the same topic), the book of conscience (how you have believed or disbelieved, obeyed or disobeyed), and the book of nature (how this truth appears in experience and the world).
Fifth, stir up your affections unto love, desire, grief, hope, zeal, and joy as appropriate. Preach the text to yourself with powerful application.
Sixth, arouse your soul to the specific duty which the text requires, making holy resolutions for the glory of God.
Seventh, conclude with prayers for divine assistance, thanksgiving for graces given, and singing psalms of praise to God.

Very helpful for parent, child, anyone. We encounter God through his word. Let’s meditate on it.

Power of the Word, Quotes|

My Family, My Growth: Five Characteristics of Godly Repentance

 

Children are God-given sanctification tools in our lives.

God gives us little children that we might nurture, train, and instruct them (Ephesians 6:4). But in that process of shepherding their souls, God also intends that we should grow. In fact, our children are one of God’s primary sanctification tools in our lives.

They will stress us and demand upon us beyond what we think we can handle. They will shine a floodlight on idols of our heart. But the reason God shines that floodlight is not to condemn us but so that we might mature and grow.

The first step in that spiritual growth involves repentance. Five hundred years ago, when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door at Wittenberg, he began with this, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

Christian maturity happens by repentance.
But it has been my observation that Christians often forget this command and habit to repent. Especially in the home, it is easy to blame-shift, overlook, or excuse our sin. Perhaps we have had a hard day or we have been given a particularly difficult situation in our family. And so we excuse ourselves.

Growth in Christlikeness will never happen as we excuse our sin.

Five Principles
Instead, Christians who grow the most put these five truths in practice:

1. Godly repentance understands God’s standard. Jesus has rescued us from the law by giving us his forgiveness and righteousness by faith. But then he send us right back to those commands to know how to please him. And by the power of the Spirit I can follow his commands. They are not burdensome.

2. Godly repentance involves self-awareness of falling short of that standard. I want to be aware of those times that I do not walk by the Spirit in obedience. Some times that awareness will come by my own self-reflection. At other times, it will come because someone points it out to me. Just asking myself, “Did I handle that situation like Jesus would? Did I handle it perfectly (Matt. 5:48)?” helps me see any way that I fell short. Asking these questions also helps me take responsibility for unintentional actions that affect others.

3. Godly repentance does not excuse that falling short for any reason. Once I realize a standard I am supposed to walk by and how I am off that standard, then my tendency will be to excuse my sin or blame others. After all, we might  say to ourselves, “I am only human.” “I think I am doing pretty well with having to live with a husband like mine.” “You don’t know the background I have grown up in.” But no temptation comes in my life beyond what I can bear and the Lord does provide a door of escape (1 Cor 10:13).

4. Godly repentance involves motivation to please God no matter what others do. Since I am not excusing my sin, I am focusing on pleasing Christ. I can’t control others, but I can walk in the Spirit now. No matter how tough things may get in my home, I want to please Christ. I live with the final judgment in mind. I want to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You walked well through that trial I gave you.”

5. Godly repentance involves a focus on myself first and foremost. Finally, as a corollary of #4, godly repentance means I focus on myself. This does not mean I will excuse the sin of others. Perhaps there needs to be a conversation about some issues. I will not smooth over sin that needs to be talked about. But I realize that the only person I can control is myself.

Repentance is absolutely crucial to growing to become a mature Christian. God is working in my family life to show me areas I can grow.
Want your children to follow Christ as adults? tap_dmp_cover_final

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Helping our Children Handle Suffering

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10

As a parent, I want the best for my child. But in wanting that best, I can become confused, using only human wisdom. I hate to see my child suffer in any way. And yet, following Jesus involves suffering. So, if I am going to call my children to follow Christ, then I am going to call them to suffer.

Perhaps the corrective on suffering needs to start in my own mind. Francis Schaeffer argued over 30 years ago that the majority of adult Christians are worshipping the idols of personal peace and affluence. We, the parents, want a Christianity that brings us a sense of tranquility and a greater standard of living. Unfortunately, the Sermon on the Mount topples those idols, teaching us that we are blessed when we are suffering for the sake of righteousness.

In fact, Jesus spoke of sending his disciples out like sheep among wolves (Matt. 10:16). We are not greater than our teacher. Since they persecuted him, they will persecute us (John 15:20). Why? Jesus teaches that we will suffer because of righteousness. This righteousness might be spoken words of truth or it might be actions lived in out. Nevertheless, righteousness will provoke a negative response.

Discipling our children to expect persecution will be difficult. Persecution cuts right to the heart of the temptation of every young person, love of popularity. To please Christ, they will have to displease those around them at some time.

So we need to be prepared and teach our own children a biblical view of suffering. Paul taught that suffering for Christ was actually a privilege granted to Christians (Phil 1:29)! And in that suffering for Christ, he actually came to know Christ better. He was able to say that one of his life’s goals was to know Christ, the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering (Phil. 3:10). Peter teaches us to rejoice in suffering because we are following the example of Christ.

How then shall we best attempt this difficult task?

1. Teach them not to seek suffering but to expect it. It is a sign you are doing something right. Since Christ left us an example to suffer, the question is not if but when you will suffer. Are you prepared to suffer? One of the best ways we can prepare our children is to prepare them to suffer. I want to encourage them to expect suffering as part of the abundant life that Jesus promised me. In fact, suffering for doing right is a seal of God’s blessing. It means I am doing something right (1 Peter 3:13).

2. Teach them to be willing to pay out suffering in little bits. Often the question is not, “Will I die for Jesus?” but, “Will I live for Jesus?” There are different types of suffering. Paul describes some of his own suffering in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. In this passage, he moves from physical suffering, “I have been in danger…” to emotional suffering. Here is how he describes the emotional struggle he has for Christ, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” Will we teach our children that it is good to be hassled for the kingdom? Will we put them in situations where they are hassled by serving others? Do we understand that the abundant life involves inconveniences?

3. Encourage them to stand up for Christ with their friends. The early Christians lived in a culture centered on emperor worship. To unite the diverse peoples, the Romans conquered forced worship of the goddess Roma, the spirit of Rome. The people were usually willing to do pay this small price since the Romans had brought peace and order to their area. Gradually this worship shifted to the emperor. Once a year, the subject of the Roman empire had to burn a pinch of incense to Caesar and say, “Caesar is Lord.” After they performed this “patriotic” duty, they were given a certificate and then could go and worship any god they liked. But it was this very thing that the early Christian refused to do. They refused to compromise on this one small thing and so paid the price of ostracism or even death.

4. Teach them that suffering is needed for propagation. Paul says that he filled up in his flesh what was still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of Christ’s body, the church (Colossians 1:24). Christ’s sufferings are not lacking in regard to their worth in terms of propitiation. His one sacrifice has paid for our sins. However, suffering is still needed for propagation. When we engage in suffering for the truth and for righteousness, we are continuing to participate in the ongoing (nonpropitiating) sufferings of Christ. For the message to go forth and the church to be built up, there must be suffering by the people of Christ. When we are suffering, we can rest assured the gospel is going forth.

All these principles are fine and good, but other than spontaneous exhortation and coaching, how can we put them into practice? One excellent way is to….

5. Engage in contact evangelism. Practically speaking, contact evangelism is an excellent means of training our children to stand up for their faith. Contact evangelism is not spontaneous relational evangelism that occurs when we speak to people in the course of our daily lives. Contact evangelism involves taking the initiative, in the power of the Holy Spirit and intentionally going out to share the gospel with people in a public forum. It involves a form of courage and suffering. Sharing the truth about Christ is going to provoke a response. And yet there is something that produces personal growth in that being “forced” to stand for their faith publicly.

The Communists understood this principle well. In his 1966 classic, Dedication and Leadership, Douglas Hyde details the means the Communist Party used to prepare workers willing to endure hardship and suffering. He says,

Quite deliberately, and with good reason, the Party sends its new members, whenever possible, into some form of public activity before instruction begins. More specifically, it is designed to commit the recruit publicly to Communism. Quite often this will take the form of being sent out to stand at the side of the street or in some public place selling Communist papers, periodicals or pamphlets. This may appear to be a very simple, somewhat low-grade form of activity. It is in fact of profound psychological significance…. Humble as the task may appear, to engage in it requires for many people a certain degree of moral courage….It requires another act of moral courage to remain in a fight for which, he by now realizes, he is not fully equipped. And moral courage is not a bad starting-point for future action.

My three oldest children have all engaged in some form of contact evangelism. The growth and excitement in them was palpable. One went overseas. The other two were involved in evangelism training and went out on sidewalks and parks. Adults were surprisingly receptive to talk about spiritual things with a group of high school students. Where are the youth leaders or the parents who will lead the children around them in strategic outreach?

Jesus finishes his kingdom manifesto with an assumption of courage and conflict. To be blessed is to have the inner fortitude to speak an unpopular message and live an unpopular life. May this be true of us! May this be true of our children!

 

 

Painful Love and Forgiveness

Blessed are those that mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4

Our families will never be perfect. We will sin against each other and be sinned against. Relationships invariably involve pain. That is the way of love. How we choose to react to that pain will depend on our perspective.

C. S. Lewis makes clear that the choice is between loving and having a hard heart.

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

And when your heart is wrung out, to use his words, what are you to do? Forgive. In fact, part of the reason God put you in this marriage (or family) is so that you can learn forgiveness. Forgiveness is a skill we need to teach our children (and ourselves). Jean Vanier had this to say:

Too many people come into community to find something, to belong to a dynamic group, to find a life which approaches the ideal. If we come into community without knowing that the reason we come is to discover the mystery of forgiveness, we will soon be disappointed.”  ~~ Jean Vanier, Community and Growth

Put these thoughts together and you realize that to love is to open yourself up to pain. But to refuse to love is to harden your heart. And it is only when we are wounded that we can learn the grace of forgiveness. When we learn the grace of forgiveness, we have learned a little more of the costly love of God in Christ. And we have become a little more like Christ.

Are you hurting from loving someone? Do you realize that God is helping you discover the mystery of forgiveness?